SIDE EFFECTS

 

"Ow. Ow. Ow."

The doctor's lips twitched upward, his hazel eyes sparkling with amusement as he tossed the needle into the sharps disposal bin. "That wasn't so bad now, was it, Mr. Sandburg?"

Blair rubbed the back of his thigh as he hopped off the table, keeping his injured right arm close to his body. The hospital gown flapped closed in the rear, giving him back a measure of privacy. "Easy for you to say. You're on the other end of the needle."

The doctor's smile broke through. "Yes, this job does have its perks."

"Ha. Ha." Blair used his good hand to grab his jeans from the chair next to the exam table. "Can I get out of here now, Doc?"

"As soon as I put that arm of yours in a sling. That wound is pretty deep, and you'll have to change the bandages regularly and keep it clean."

Blair nodded. "No problem. My roommate was a medic."

"That's good to know." He pulled out a small prescription pad from the pocket of his lab coat. "I'll write you a prescription for some pain killers, antibiotics, and prednisone, which is a corticosteroid. It'll help with the inflammation. You take one pill in the morning with your meal for three days. Then take half a pill in the morning for another three days."

Blair nodded. "Roger, ten four, and all that." He flashed a grin. "Thanks, Doc."

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

Jim paced the small waiting room, glancing at his watch for the third time in less than twenty minutes. Sandburg had been admitted over two hours ago, and, although the doctor had been willing to let Jim in with the young man, Blair had obstinately insisted that Jim go to the cafeteria and get something to eat and drink.

"I know you haven't eaten since breakfast, man," Blair had said. "So go on and git. When I'm done, I'll meet you in the waiting room. I am a big boy, you know. I haven't needed anybody to hold my hand at the doctors in a long, long time."

Jim had clenched his jaw and put up a meager protest, but Sandburg had continued to shoo him off, even as he seemed in the process of bleeding to death on the tile floor of triage from the six-inch stab wound in his bicep. A stab wound caused by Johnnie Motelli, a twenty-two year old punk on his fifth armed robbery of a convenience store. Jim and Blair had just pulled up, intent on picking up beer and a few other supplies, when Motelli ran out the front doors and onto a semi-crowded sidewalk, a 9 mm clutched in his hand.

Jim reacted, pulling his own gun while telling Blair to get back into the truck. It was too late, though. Motelli fired at Jim, and Jim couldn't risk a shot with all the pedestrians around.

Sandburg took action. While Motelli was firing, the anthropologist lunged forward and knocked the weapon out of the perp's hand. Jim sprang from his protected position behind the truck as Motelli drew a knife and plunged the blade into Blair's arm.

Jim had almost fired right then, but a gun outmatched a knife, and the paperwork would be a headache. Instead, he moved forward, sidestepped a blind slash of the knife, and disarmed the young man. Then he cuffed him and shoved him face-first on the ground.

The threat neutralized, he looked for Blair and spotted him sitting on the ground, his back against the truck's front tire, his eyes glazed as he clutched his right arm with left hand, blood pooling on the sidewalk beneath him.

A door opened, jarring Jim from his thoughts, and Blair shuffled out, yawning as his eyes searched for and found Jim's. The young man smiled, his right arm in a sling and a piece of paper clutched in his left hand.

With a relieved sigh, Jim hurried over to his partner. "What took so long? What did the doctor say? Did they give you stitches? A tetanus shot? How --?"

Blair smiled and held up his good hand with the piece of paper. "Slow down, Jim. I'm fine." He yawned again. "But he did give me a pain killer and a shot of antibiotic." He waved the slip of paper in front of Jim's face. "And a couple of prescriptions to pick up."

Jim took a deep breath and snatched the paper out of Blair's hand, giving the list a quick read. "Is the pharmacy here still open?"

Blair nodded. "Doc says 'til nine."

Jim glanced at his watch. They had a little over half an hour. "All right, Junior, let's go." He placed a hand on Blair's left shoulder and steered the young man toward the front doors. Blair swerved a little to the right, but Jim grabbed his good arm and guided him back on course.

"You sure you can make it, Chief? How 'bout you sit down here --" He steered Blair to a vacant chair and pushed him gently into the seat, "-- and I'll go pick up the meds for you. Okay?"

Blair leaned back and gave in to a long, deep yawn that brought tears to his eyes. He managed a dopey smile and waved casually at Jim with his left hand. "'Kay. Thanks." He slid lower in his seat and tilted his head back. "Jus' wait right here for ya."

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

The next morning, Blair woke to a hot, throbbing pain in his right arm. He groaned and opened his eyes to a bright room. His brow furrowed as he glanced quickly at the clock perched on his bureau.

12:04 p.m.

He shot up and swung his legs over the side of the bed. "Oh, man." He'd missed his ten o'clock class. Pushing himself to his feet, he hurried out of the room. He'd turned toward the bathroom when he spotted the note taped to the glass pane of his door.

Sandburg,

You're cleared for the university today. I don't want to see  your face at the station, either.
Stay home. Rest. I'll bring home dinner.

                    Jim

Blair smiled and detoured to the phone. He dialed the social sciences office at Rainier. A familiar female voice answered.

"Rainier Social Sciences Department."

"Hi, Sally. It's Blair."

"Oh, hi! How are you feeling?"

"Fine. Did Jim call in for me?'

"Yep. He said you stopped an armed robber yesterday and got stabbed in the arm. Guess we have a bona fide hero in our department now."

He almost blushed. "He's exaggerating, but thanks. So, there's nothing I need to take care of today?"

"Not that I know of. Rick covered your ten o'clock, and Dianne's getting your one o'clock. We posted a sign saying your office hours for the day are cancelled and students can reschedule. So you just rest up and don't worry about anything."

"Thanks, Sally. You're too good to me."

"Don't I know it." She chuckled. "Remember that on my birthday. April 16th, by the way."

He laughed. "Sure thing. Thanks again. See ya Monday."

"Bye!"

He hung up the phone, a smile lingering on his face, and shuffled toward the bathroom. He spotted his white prescription bag on the kitchen table and grabbed it with his left hand as he passed.

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

Jim pushed the loft door open and tossed his keys in the basket, a large take-out bag from Joy Luck Chinese Food in his free hand. He saw Blair slumped on the couch, nestled against the arm, his legs curled along side him. Some wildlife program played on the television.

Sandburg lifted the remote and turned down the volume, then looked at Jim. "Hey. How were things at the station?"

"Slow." He smiled and lifted the bag. "Dinner as promised. Orange chicken. Mandarin beef. Rice. Egg rolls. Even fortune cookies. I hope you're hungry."

Blair grinned. "Starved." He uncurled and pushed himself to his feet, giving in to a shallow yawn.

Jim raised an eyebrow, a smirk tugging at his lips. "Busy day?"

"Hey, man, you told me to rest. I rested. Thanks for calling the university, by the way."

"No problem. So how's the arm?"

Blair gestured to the sling. "A little stiff and sore, but not too bad."

Jim set the take-out on the table and grabbed a couple of dishes and some silverware from the dishboard, then set the table. "After dinner how 'bout I unwrap it and take a look?"

Blair nodded and slid into the chair in front of one of the plates. "Sure, if you don't mind."

"I don't mind." He flashed a small smile and opened the bag. "Think you can manage the food one-handed?"

"Not a problem." Blair dug into one of the bags and pulled out a white box. "I'm a man of many talents."

"So I've discovered. Just don't get sauce on the table, or the floor."

Blair sighed heavily. "Don't worry, Jim. I'm not a kid. I can eat without making a mess, you know."

Jim raised his eyebrows, taken aback by the suddenly caustic tone in Blair's voice. Gee, had he really offended the kid? Or maybe Blair was just in a foul mood from the pain. He decided to keep his mouth shut for the time being and enjoy his dinner.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Blair rolled beneath the covers, glancing at his clock. It was just after three in the morning, and he hadn't gotten any sleep. He was tired, no question about that, but he couldn't seem to fall asleep. He felt inexplicably anxious, as though something bad were heading his way, but he didn't know what.

Giving up on sleep -- at least for the moment -- he got out of bed and shuffled into the kitchen. Maybe some Valerian Root tea would help. He filled the kettle with water and placed it on the burner, turning the flame to high. As he waited for the liquid to boil, he prepared his tea, stuffing the raw Valerian Root into his tea ball and clipping the dangling ball to his mug.

Just as the whistle started, he turned off the flame and grabbed the kettle, pouring the hot water into the mug. Then he moved to the refrigerator and retrieved some lemon slices and honey. He turned toward the table, but a large, dark figure startled him, and he jumped back, slamming into the refrigerator. The hot water spilled over the rim of his mug and burned his hand.

He dropped the mug, and it clattered to the floor, spilling scalding liquid over his feet.

"Shit!" He jumped away from the heat and away from the figure, his heart pounding, his feet and hand on fire.

"Jesus, Chief."

Light flooded the room, and Blair stumbled, falling to his rear, his burnt hand clutched against his chest. He blinked up at Jim.

Jim. He swallowed. It was just Jim. Of course.

Of course.

Anger bubbled in his chest, and his eyes flashed. "Damnit, Jim! What the hell was that? Turn on a fucking light when you get up, for chrissakes! Make noise. Anything. I don't need this covert ops shit at this time of night."

Jim dropped to his knees in front of Blair. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to startle you." He reached out and gently grabbed Blair's hand, pulling it toward him and inspecting the flesh. "This doesn't look bad at all. You might not even feel it in the morning." He turned his attention next to Blair's feet, inspecting the right one closely. "We'd better get some ointment on this one."

Blair lurched to his feet, shrugging off a helping hand from Jim. "I can do it. The water wasn't that hot. I turned it off before the whistle started."

"You only have one halfway good hand at the moment..."

Blair turned his back to Jim and hobbled toward the bathroom. "I can manage. I don't need your help, man."

Jim grabbed Blair's good arm and turned him back around. "What the hell's with you, Chief?"

"Nothing!" Blair yanked away. "I'm just tired, okay? Tired and cranky and now in even more pain than I was before. So just back off." His eyes darted to the mess on the floor. "I'll clean that up. You just go back to bed."

Jim shook his head. "No, I'll clean it up. You get the ice pack and put it on your foot. I'll get the ointment."

"I said I can do it myself! Man, don't you listen?"

Jim took a deep breath. "I don't know what bug is up your ass, but I'm going to ignore the attitude because I know you're not feeling well. Now, this is what's going to happen. I'll clean up the mess. You get the damn ice pack before that foot of yours gets any worse."

Blair's jaw twitched. "Fine. Whatever." He spun to the freezer and yanked the door open. "You're a real pain in the ass sometimes, you know."

"Yeah, I do. I'm looking at an even bigger pain in the ass right now."

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

Monday afternoon, Blair left the university and headed to the station. An hour later, he found himself a reluctant passenger in Jim's truck, going 80 miles per hour down a busy expressway. He closed his eyes as Jim swerved the vehicle around a Ford Explorer. When he opened them again, he saw the fleeing black Mustang weaving through traffic a few feet ahead.

The chase lasted a few more minutes until the Mustang screeched to a skidding stop in front of railroad tracks and a speeding train. The doors on either side opened, and two men dashed out, taking off in opposite directions.

"Call it in, Chief!" Jim flung open his door and bolted into a run after one of the suspects.

Blair grabbed the police radio and alerted dispatch to their location. He saw Jim disappear into a five-story, brick building with FOR LEASE signs hanging on several dark windows.

Only a minute later, two gunshots sliced the air, causing Blair to flinch. His chest tightened, and he opened the door. He grabbed the radio and got out a shaky, "Shots fired," before sliding out of the vehicle. He kept his eyes on the front doors leading into the building. willing Jim to make an appearance. Several seconds passed in silence, and Blair's worry blossomed to panic.

He broke into a run.

Inside, he saw a staircase set behind a doorway with no door. His breath caught when he spotted the large drops of blood on the steps. They traced a path upward. Blair followed, his heart pounding fiercely. By the time he reached the roof, he was shaking. The door to the outside hung a few inches open, and Blair saw more blood on the cement of the roof.

Carefully, he pushed the door open, peeking outside. He spotted Jim crouched behind a large, protruding vent, his left arm held close to his side. His right hand held his gun, but it wasn't trained on anything.

Blair scanned the roof, searching for the other man. He didn't see him, but he heard the shot ring out and saw the top portion of the vent in front of Jim take a hit.

Jim ducked instinctively, peering quickly around the side of his metal shield and firing off a shot. "Give it up! No one needs to get hurt, here!"

Another gunshot answered him, but the bullet missed the vent completely. Then another shot followed, and Blair watched in horror as the gun flew from Jim's hand, clattering into the open on the rooftop. Jim shook his hand and hunched down, a sizable hole in the vent where the gun had been.

Blair's eyes dropped to the discarded gun. It was only a few feet away from him. He had no idea whether it had gotten damaged beyond firing ability, but he knew he couldn't leave Jim out there weaponless with an armed gunman. His decision was hastened when he saw the guy step into view from around the corner.

Blair lunged into a roll, slamming his right arm against the cement and stifling a scream even as he kept his focus on the gun. His left hand closed around the weapon just as another gunshot rang out. He felt the bullet whizz past his temple, and his heart leapt into his throat. He came out of the roll onto his knees, raising the gun toward the perp and firing blindly.

The guy ducked, taking cover again. Blair fired off another shot to keep the guy back, then hurried to Jim and handed him the gun, embarrassed to see his hand shaking so badly.

The expression on Jim's face was a mixture of disbelief, anger, and overwhelming relief. "Thanks, Chief. But if you ever..."

He was cut off by another gunshot. His eyes darkened, and Blair recognized the icy resolve in the detective's face. Jim handed the gun back to Blair and whispered, "Keep firing. Keep him busy. I'm going to circle around."

Blair swallowed and nodded as Jim turned and took off in a low-crouch run behind the stairwell walls. Taking a deep breath, Blair fired off another shot. Then another. He got two quick answering shots, then fired off another of his own, hoping to God he didn't actually hit the guy -- or worse, Jim.

He kept firing for several seconds, but the guy must have caught onto something. Blair saw the man take a step out from his hiding place and look back, then swing the gun wildly around and fire off a shot to his left.

No. Jim!

Blair shot out from behind the vent and started firing at the guy, still trying not to actually hit him. He just wanted to shift the assailant's attention from Jim to himself. His plan worked. The guy spun around and fired back, crouching further out from his hiding space and running toward the stairway door, firing blindly in Blair's direction.

Blair hurried back toward the vent, feeling one bullet nick his left shoulder, leaving a trail of hot pain in its path. He continued to pump the trigger, but the bullets stopped discharging.

The clip was empty. The assailant spun toward Blair, moving away from the stairway door just as Jim rounded the corner.

The next few moments passed in a blur. Blair saw the gunman charge toward him at the same time Jim yelled something indecipherable. Desperate, Blair threw the gun at the guy and took off, but he felt the man's heavy weight slam into him, sending him crashing hard to the rooftop.

The breath shot out of his lungs, and it felt like he was pinned beneath a truck. A very heavy truck. Then, suddenly, the weight lifted, and Blair heard Jim's voice.

"You have the right to remain silent..."

He almost sobbed in relief, rolling onto his back to see Jim slap the cuffs on the guy. The sentinel looked at Blair, worry in his eyes, and pushed the perp to his knees.

"You okay, Chief?"

Blair nodded, though, in fact, he thought he probably wasn't okay. He was shaking to the point of convulsions, and sweat snaked down his neck and traced a path along his spine. He sat up and scooted a few feet away from the gunman. The squawk of a bird turned his head, and he was met with the dizzying sight of clear air above a bustling city several stories below.

"Oh God." He froze, his eyes locked on the drop, the mad rush of blood thundering in his ears.

"Chief?"

He felt a hand on his shoulder, tugging at him. Other voices rose in the background, and he thought he saw the movement of black-suited men in the periphery of his vision. Had backup arrived?

"Blair, buddy, come on. Let's get you checked out."

He tried to move, but his muscles wouldn't cooperate. He knew he looked pathetic -- sitting by the edge shaking like a puppy -- but the fear wouldn't let go. His chest tightened further. He couldn't breathe.

"Blair, come on." The tugging was more insistent this time, and Blair felt himself being turned around. His eyes, however, remained locked on the expanse below.

A hand grabbed his chin and forced his head around until his eyes couldn't hold the view. Jim's face snapped into view, blue eyes pinched with concern. The spell of the drop was broken, and air rushed into his lungs -- so fast, it hurt. He found himself gasping for air, golden dots of light dancing across his vision.

~~~~~~

"Come on, Blair. Easy. Don't do this." Jim crouched lower in front of Blair, his concern shooting up a notch when Blair started gasping, his face losing all color.

"Come on." Jim pulled Blair forward, wrapping an arm around the kid's waist, but Blair resisted, pulling back in a panic and flattening himself against the rooftop ledge.

"No." Blair shook his head violently, shaking uncontrollably. He scooted back, his eyes wide and darting wildly over the rooftop. "No. No."

A coldness crept into Jim's gut. He recognized the wild look in Sandburg's eyes. "Blair? Look at me, Chief."

Blair didn't seem to hear him. He continued scooting back, shaking his head, denial written all over his face. He now seemed totally oblivious to the danger just behind him. A few more inches, and he'd be over the edge.

"Okay, Chief. That's enough." He grabbed Blair's left arm in a tight grip and pulled the young man roughly away from the edge.

Blair resisted, then turned violent, kicking and screaming. Jim took the blows, but kept his grip. Two uniformed officers rushed along side of him, one reaching for his handcuffs.

"Put those away! He's my partner!" He looked up briefly at the young patrolman, but didn't recognize the kid.

Surprise flickered over the young man's face. Blair continued to kick and scream, but his strength seemed to be fading. The second officer grabbed Blair's legs and pinned them to the rooftop. Jim nodded a quick thanks to the guy, then scooted around Blair and wrapped his arms around the young man in tight, secure hug.

"Easy, buddy. It's okay." Jim looked up at the two bewildered patrolmen. "Get an ambulance here." He kept his voice low, but the urgency in his tone spurred the two men into action.

The guy who had earlier reached for his cuffs got his radio first and barked in the request. The second officer moved to the cuffed prisoner sprawled face-first on the pavement and hauled him to his feet. He glanced back at Jim. "I'll take this guy downstairs and direct the paramedics up here."

"Thanks." Jim kept a tight hold on Blair, though the young man no longer struggled.

But Sandburg was still trembling violently, his ragged breathing hitching with sobs. Low, mumbled sounds escaped Blair's throat, and Jim could make out a few painfully familiar words.

Ashes.... Alive.... No.... No.... Fire....

Jim closed his eyes, feeling the hard pounding of Blair's heart against his own chest. In the distance, he heard the reassuring wail of sirens.

~~~~~~~

"Jim, what the hell happened up there?" The question rushed out of Simon's mouth the moment he entered the waiting room and spotted Jim slumped in a padded chair against the wall.

Jim looked up and straightened automatically, offering a small shrug. "I'm not really sure, sir. I chased the suspect to the roof after some exchange of gunfire. Blair followed. The guy almost got the drop on me, but Sandburg interfered. Grabbed my dropped gun, shot at the guy, then circled around to me. I told him to keep firing while I went after the perp. The guy spotted me, took a shot. Blair kept firing, but then he ran out of ammo and the guy came after him. I managed to tackle him, but we landed pretty hard on top of Sandburg. The kid was shaking like a leaf, started scooting toward the edge. He looked over, froze, then started freaking out... talking about ashes and fire." His throat caught. "Golden flashback, or something, obviously. I had to restrain him."

Simon remained silent for several seconds, stunned and disturbed by the news. So, the day had come... He and Jim had wondered whether Sandburg would have the dreaded 'Golden Flashback' the doctor had warned about after the young man had started on his road to recovery from the near-overdose.

He sighed and sank into the chair next to Jim. "I got a sketchy report from the uniforms, but all I heard was that you and Sandburg confronted a suspect on the roof. You got shot in the arm -- are you okay, by the way?'

Jim nodded tiredly. "Only three stitches and a bandage."

Simon glanced at the hole in Jim's sleeve, seeing the tell-tale white underneath. "I see. Anyway, they said Sandburg freaked out, but that's all I knew. I just thought it had something to do with his fear of heights."

"Maybe it did. Who knows? He had a lot of adrenaline going through his system. First the gunfire -- and he also got nicked on the arm, but when the paramedics checked him out it didn't look bad. Just a scratch. Then looking down. It probably all caught up with him. You remember what the doctor had told us -- times of high stress can induce flashbacks. Well, he was definitely under stress. This whole damn job is stressful."

Simon sighed. "Jim, you can't shelter Blair from stress. It's a fact of life for everyone, even academics."

"But not fight-for-your-life kind of stress, sir."

"Maybe, maybe not. But --"

He was interrupted when a door opened, revealing a graying doctor in a white lab coat. The man looked at Jim and hurried to him. "Detective?"

Jim rose to his feet. "You have good news to tell me about my partner?"

The doctor nodded, offering a tiny smile. "I think so. I consulted with the physician who saw him a few days ago for his stab wound. I've also spoken with Mr. Sandburg, who is now much more coherent, but still a bit anxious, understandably. I think we've got a pretty good idea what happened to him." He gestured to Jim's empty chair. "Please, have a seat."

When Jim complied, the doctor sank into the empty chair next to Jim, opposite Simon. "Mr. Sandburg was put on prednisone for his injury. In some rare cases, prednisone can cause severe side effects -- anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, and even hallucinations."

Jim stiffened, his eyes flashing with anger. "You're telling me that his doctor put him on something that can cause hallucinations when his Golden exposure is listed clearly in his medical records. Hell, he was seen in this very hospital for his Golden overdose. What the hell kind of idiot doctor would --"

"Detective," the physician interrupted, "these particular side effects, as I said, are very rare. Yes, in hindsight perhaps his treating physician should have at least informed him of the possibility of those side effects, but, again, such reactions are fairly rare. The most common side effects are weight gain and increased urination, and the benefits of prednisone more than counter those relatively minor side effects."

Jim rose to his feet, towering over the doctor until the older man stood up himself. "Listen, Doc, I don't care what excuses you make. My partner almost died today because of some stupid side effects to medication he never should have been put on."

The doctor took a step back, nodding sympathetically. "I understand your being upset. For now, what's done is done. We now know to keep him off prednisone." He gestured to the doors leading into the emergency room. "Would you like to see him now? He's been asking about you."

Jim nodded, brushing past the doctor without another word.

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

Jim tried to home in on Blair's heartbeat, but the ER was too crowded for him to isolate Sandburg's among the crescendo of other heartbeats. Instead, he focused on scent, trying to pick up the familiar odor of Blair's shampoo. He also stretched his hearing in case Blair was feeling up to his usual nurse-charming antics.

He rounded a corner and practically ran into Sandburg sitting on an exam table, his back braced against the wall and his legs stretched out in front of him.

"Blair, hey." Jim stopped abruptly before bumping into the bed.

Sandburg looked up sharply, his eyes rimmed with red. Deep lines of fatigue framed his eyes and mouth, and he looked like a man who'd gone a week without sleep. "Hey, Jim." He managed a shaky, somewhat shy smile.

Jim perched himself on the edge of the exam table. "How're you feeling?"

Blair shrugged. "A little shaky. Jittery." He swallowed. "Embarrassed as hell."

Jim smiled gently and slid his hand around the back of Blair's neck. "What about? Saving my life up there on the roof? Taking on a gunman? Making me look bad?"

Blair managed a shallow smile. "Actually, more about the whole freaking out thing. More fuel for the precinct gossip underground, I'm sure."

"Don't worry about the two uniforms. It wasn't your fault. Did the doc tell you his theory?"

Blair nodded. "Yeah, the medication. I can see me on the stand now giving the 'prednisone defense.' Put me up there with that Harvey Milk guy, or whatever his name was, and his 'sugar rush' defense. Or whats-her-face with the prozac excuse." He took a deep breath. "And, the good news is I get to wait weeks before this crap is completely out of my system."

Jim gave the back of Blair's neck a quick squeeze, then slid his hand around to pat the young man's cheek. "Look on the bright side, Chief."

Blair's chin shot up a fraction, and his eyes narrowed with irritation. "What bright side?"

Jim shrugged. "Well, uh... give me until Monday and I'm sure I can come up with one, or two, or three.... or maybe even five."

Blair cocked his head, the irritation in his eyes fading. "What are you getting at?"

Jim grinned. "Playing hooky. How 'bout we work through Wednesday, then take Thursday and Friday off and go for a four-day fishing weekend? See how many we can catch."

Blair raised his eyebrows, a surprised smile touching his lips. He nodded. "Yeah, I think I can get away with Thursday and Friday if I play up this scratch on my arm into something doing honor to a bullet wound."

"I'll get the doc to write you a firm medical excuse. You'll look good showing up Tuesday and Wednesday."

"What about Simon? Can you get it off?"

Jim nodded. "I've got enough sick leave accrued. No problem."

Blair grinned. "Great. Fishing sounds really nice, actually... though I don't think my arm is up to doing much. You'll probably have to catch them all, but I'll gladly help you eat them. You'll also have to do the packing, and set the tent, and..."

Jim thwaped the young man lightly on the side of the head. "I get the picture. You're gonna milk this, aren't you?'

"For everything it's worth."

~~~~~~~

The End

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