Significant Decision

By Debbie Tripp

EMAIL: Debbie

Summary: With his ride-along authorization in limbo, will Blair decide he's had enough and concentrate on his dissertation and abandon Jim? An epilogue to 'Finkelman's Folly'.

Acknowledgements: I want to thank Mary Browne for the beta job on this story. Her beta services was one (of several) items I won during the 2006 Moonridge on-line auction.

 

 

Blair hadn't been back to the PD since the return of Simon Banks and Captain Finkelman's announcement of her new command. He had told Jim he had too many commitments at the university and couldn't spare any time at the station. Jim didn't totally buy Sandburg's explanation. He decided to confront Blair that evening during dinner.

Blair walked inside the loft, surprised to see Jim already there, and fixing dinner.

"Hey, man! How did you get home before me?"

"I had some comp time I needed to take and Simon approved it. We need to talk, Blair."

"Uh-oh, you called me Blair. What did I do wrong this time?"

"You didn't do anything wrong, Chief. Get washed up, dinner's almost ready."

Blair slipped out of his coat, hanging it up on one of the hooks there, and then took his backpack and placed it inside his bedroom. He then made a detour to the bathroom to wash up for dinner. All the time, he was wondered what Jim wanted to talk to him about. He didn't remember anything over the last several days that he had done to irritate or piss off the Sentinel. Of course, with Jim's heightened senses, it could have been anything. Blair knew he wasn't always the most considerate when it came to thinking about Jim before he did something, although he tried to be better at it. He looked into the mirror and knew he had to face Jim to find out just what was going on.

Blair walked out of the bathroom and went to set the table for dinner. Jim was finished putting the beef stew in a serving dish and brought it over to the table. Blair went back and got out beers for each of them, setting them down on the table. Both men sat down and Jim dished up his food first, grabbing a couple of slices of fresh bread and then passing the basket over to Blair. Blair dished up his food, buttered a piece of bread and started eating.

Halfway through the meal, Jim spoke. "Do you think you can make it to the station tomorrow? H has accused me of keeping you away and Rhonda misses your charming sense of humor. Even Simon is wondering where you are."

Blair looked down at the table and didn't say a thing. Jim heard Blair's heartbeat increase.

"Is something wrong, Blair? C'mon, you know you can talk to me. Did someone say something? If they did, just tell me who and I'll deal with them…"

Blair raised his head. "No, Jim. No one said anything. I can't go back to the station. I have no authorization. Remember? Finkelman pulled my ride-along authorization, along with my pass and credentials. I had to turn it all in. I never did get them back. Not that it matters, since they're overdue and outdated. It was never cleared up." Blair put his fork down and stood up from the table, walking over to the door.

"Blair, wait! I'm sorry. I forgot all of that in the heat of the case and catching Sabin. Finkelman had authorized you to continue to ride-along. Look, I'll talk to Simon tomorrow and get it all cleared up. I'm sure you'll be issued a new pass and credentials and ride-along authorization. Why didn't you say something sooner?"

Blair turned around to face Jim. "It's okay, Jim. I really did have stuff to do at the university. Do you know how hard it is to juggle teaching, take classes, run tests on your senses and help you with cases, all at the same time? No wonder I don't get the sleep I need, I don't eat regularly or know if I'm coming or going half the time."

"Why don't you sit back down here and finish your meal? At least you can eat regularly for this one meal."

"Don't patronize me, Jim! I don't need it."

"Look, I said I'd talk to Simon and get it cleared up. I'll see if they'll let you have open-ended credentials and ride-along authorization. I think that for as long as you've been there, you deserve it."

"Look, I'm going out for a while. I need some air. Some time alone with my thoughts."

"C'mon, Sandburg! You don't have to leave your own place."

"You mean YOUR place, right?" Before Jim could come up with something else, Blair grabbed his coat and keys and was out the door.

Jim thought about going after Blair, but understood his need to be alone. He didn't quite understand Blair's anger towards him. He supposed Blair blamed him for not remembering about the ride-along pass. But Blair could have said something. Jim finished eating and then cleaned up the dishes. He put the leftovers in the refrigerator, hoping Blair might be hungry when he got home.

+++++

Blair was surprised Jim didn't follow him. He suspected Jim knew he was upset. How could Jim have forgotten about the ride-along pass and the credentials? Jim had stood up for him when Captain Finkelman had threatened to pull his ride-along pass. A day later, Jim had told Blair that Finkelman had to turn in his ride-along pass and his ID for the station. Blair reluctantly handed them over to Jim. At that time, Jim had promised Blair things would be worked out once Simon was back in command.

Then the whole incident broke over Finkelman trying to deal with Sabin and Jim catching her doing it. And, in the jubilation of Simon resuming his command and Finkelman getting her own command, Blair had been lost in the shuffle. Blair did admit to himself that he did nothing to remind anyone about his ride-along status. He did have things to catch up on at the university and he just assumed Jim would remember. After all, they had been partners for three years. You would think Jim would remember something like that.

Blair got into his car and started driving. He knew he wasn't really mad at Jim. Not really. It's just it had been several weeks ago and he didn't know how Jim could have just forgotten.

Blair ended up at Rainier. It really didn't surprise him. He still had some notes he wanted to jot down for a class he was going to teach next semester and now would be as good a time as any. He parked in the lot beside Hargrove Hall and got out of his car. But before he reached the building, two men attacked him, leaving him bleeding and hurt on the sidewalk.

+++++

Jim called Blair's cell phone, his office at Rainier, and the few friends of Blair's he knew where Blair might have gone. But none of Blair's friends had heard from him and there was no answer to the cell phone or the phone in his office. Jim wanted to give Blair the space he needed, but he also wanted to reassure Blair that he'd get his ride-along credentials back as soon as possible.

Jim couldn't believe that he had forgotten about that. But in light of capturing Sabin, getting Simon back on active duty and the regular cases that were always involved in Major Crime, it had slipped Jim's mind. And he knew Blair had to attend Rainier for a certain amount of time so as not to get into trouble, which had happened in the past. Jim had been trying to develop a tolerance of Blair's academic life, even though it sometimes interfered with Blair helping Jim on cases. Jim had to remind himself that Blair was not a cop, didn't have the training to be a cop and was only doing his ride-along to get information for his dissertation on Sentinels.

Jim sat in the living room of the loft and realized just how much Blair had paid already for his information. He had been shot, drugged, kidnapped, beaten up and harassed over the three years he had been linked with Jim and the Cascade PD. It was a wonder Blair wanted to continue. Jim was starting to wonder if another ride-along pass was such a good idea. Keeping Blair out of the main thrust of action Jim encountered every day would be more advantageous for both of them. It would prevent Jim from worrying every time they went into another situation as to whether or not Blair was going to get hurt again. And it would assure that Blair would be kept out of the worst of the worst and out of the line of being hurt.

Now, Jim wasn't sure what to do. Get Blair his ride-along status reinstated or continue to let it lapse and explain to Blair that it just wasn't worth the cost when he got injured? After all, Blair was a civilian and shouldn't be subjected to so much violence and hands-on police work, since he wasn't sufficiently trained to deal with circumstances that came up on a daily basis. Jim decided to talk things over with Simon, see what he thought and then get back to Blair about his ride-along status.

Jim was brought out of his thoughts by the phone ringing. Jim walked over to the phone, thinking it was probably Blair calling to check in.

"Ellison."

"Detective Ellison, this is Roger Morgan, campus security at Rainier. It appears as if Mr. Sandburg has been attacked and beaten."

Jim could feel the lump in his throat and a tightening in his gut. "Is he okay?"

"They're transporting him to the hospital now. He was bleeding profusely from a head wound and it appeared as if he had been beaten over his body. I'm not sure about the extent of his injuries."

"Did you catch who did it?" Jim growled into the phone, his anger growing by the minute.

"We don't know who it was. Mr. Sandburg was unconscious when he was found. We have called a crime scene unit from the Cascade Police and they are here gathering evidence. We knew you'd want to be notified when we discovered who it was."

"Yes, you're right, Morgan. Thank you. What hospital was he taken to?"

"County Hospital."

"Thank you, Morgan. Can you make sure the crime scene unit sends me a copy of their report and that I get one from campus security also?"

"Of course, detective."

Jim hung up the phone and cursed the fates above. Then he left to go to the hospital.

+++++

Blair came to, groggy and confused. He looked around, spotting the nurse and the doctor. A hospital. Great. He wondered why he was here this time. He tried to remember why, but the effort hurt his head even more. He moaned, unaware that it was out loud until the nurse and doctor turned to him.

"Mr. Sandburg? Are you awake?" The nurse inquired.

Blair wanted to say 'No, just leave me alone', but he knew they had heard him. "Yeah." The word was soft and croaked out.

"Do you remember what happened to you?" The nurse continued with the questioning.

Blair didn't feel he had the strength to say anything more. He only shook his head slightly, hoping they left him alone.

"You've suffered a moderate concussion, a broken left arm and bruises all over. Including some spectacular bruising on your abdomen. We'd like to keep you at least overnight for observation."

"Sure. It's fine with me." Blair still hadn't opened his eyes, knowing it would take more effort than he had to give.

He could hear the movements around him, as the doctor and nurse treated his injuries and placed his arm in a cast. He drifted off further, wondering what had happened to him. He soon gave in to the ministrations of the hospital staff and the pain.

+++++

Jim waited for word about Blair. He had been told about the injuries and that Blair was going to be transferred to a room as soon as one was available. He recognized the nurse coming out of the examination room. She was the same nurse who had spoken to him earlier. He walked over to her, hoping to find out more information.

She held up her hand before Jim could speak. "We've treated your friend's injuries. We are going to have to keep him down here until a room is available. He seems to be drifting in and out of consciousness. We've given him a light dose of pain medication. Dr. Harvey said you can sit with him, as long as you don't disturb him too much."

"I promise. He'll want to know that I'm here for him. We're friends." Jim followed the nurse to the examination room and he was left alone with Blair.

Jim took in the sight of his friend. Blair's face was puffy and the bruises were evident. Jim found a stool over in the corner and rolled it over to the side of the bed and sat down. He gently patted Blair on the right arm. Blair's eyes remained closed and Jim determined he was asleep at the moment.

As he sat there, Jim went over the words they had exchanged at the loft. If he hadn't of forgotten about the ride-along pass… Jim shook his head and looked back at Blair lying there. If the kid would have said something, to anyone, they would have made sure his ride-along credentials were up to date. All it would have taken was word from Blair. Blair had never been shy about expressing himself since Jim had known him. Jim wondered if something else had happened that Blair didn't want to talk about.

There was a moan from the bed and Jim patted the arm again. "Just take it easy, Chief. It looks like you're going to make it, but you'll be in pain for a while."

"'im?" It was said low and soft, but Jim heard it just fine.

"Yeah, buddy, it's me. Just try to get some more rest. You'll be placed in a regular room soon."

"a gang…" Blair was able to get out before another moan. He was moving around in the bed.

Jim placed his hand over Blair's chest to stop the movements. "Just lay still, Blair. No one's going to hurt you."

Blair calmed down with the combination of Jim's touch and his words. Jim knew eventually Blair would have to give his recollection of what had happened at the university, but now was not the time. Jim vowed to stay with Blair until he was sure he was safe and sound in a hospital room.

It was close to three hours later when a room became available. Jim followed the orderlies who transferred Blair to his room. Jim even stayed a short time after Blair was situated, just to make sure the younger man was comfortable. Blair didn't move around in the bed and Jim determined he was asleep and probably out for the rest of the night.

Jim placed his hand on Blair's chest again and whispered, "Rest easy, Chief. I'll be back later."

+++++

Jim returned to the loft, noticing how quiet it was as he did his nightly routine of checking the locks and the windows. Usually, Blair's myriad of sounds, not just his voice, permeated the atmosphere, lending itself as a blanket calming effect over Jim. It wasn't obvious to the Sentinel, except when his Guide wasn't there. The void was obvious. Jim shook himself out of his contemplation and went upstairs to his room, getting ready to go to bed. Before he lay down, he switched on the white noise generator Blair had given to him. It helped to fill the void somewhat.

As he lay down, Jim's thoughts were still on Blair. This latest attack only proved that not all of Blair's injuries were related to his tag-along work with Jim. Maybe it was as Jim had always suspected -- that Blair was a trouble magnet, finding trouble wherever it may be. Although, that label wasn't fair to the young man either. As far as Jim knew, Blair never had a lot of injuries growing up or when he used to go on anthropological expeditions during his pre-Jim days in academia.

As he finally drifted off to sleep, Jim decided to talk to Simon tomorrow when he got to the station and see if there was any way to get Blair an open-ended ride-along pass and credentials that wouldn't expire. Jim definitely didn't want this happening again. He didn't want anyone at the PD questioning Blair's right to be there or the reason he was there.

+++++

Jim reached the station around 8:00 AM the next morning. He saw the report from Rainier campus security, along with the crime scene investigator's report, on his desk. There had been nothing significant found at the scene by the investigator. Two campus security officers had canvassed the campus, asking if anyone had seen who had attacked Blair Sandburg. There had been no witnesses. Jim knew that only left Blair as a potential witness. Jim noted the case had been turned over to Robbery. Of course, Jim knew he couldn't become personally involved in the case since it involved Blair. But that didn't mean he couldn't talk to Robbery and maybe even be there when they interviewed Blair.

Jim noticed Simon was in his office. He needed to talk to Simon about several things. Jim walked towards the office, knocked on the door, and heard Simon's gruff 'Come in'. Simon was always gruff first thing in the morning. Get two to three cups of coffee in him and he mellowed somewhat, depending on what was going on in his department.

Jim walked into the office and smiled at his captain. Simon was pouring himself a cup of coffee right now.

"That smells good, Simon. Too bad I didn't bring my cup with me."

"I don't remember offering you any, Ellison. What can I do for you?"

"Well, there are a couple of things. First off, Blair was involved in an incident at Rainier last night. He was beaten up pretty bad and he's in county hospital."

Simon's head shot up to look at Jim. "What happened?"

"I'm not sure. Campus security called me and a crime scene unit. I have both reports on my desk. Nothing conclusive was found at the scene. Robbery is going to go question Blair later. I'd like to be there with him, if that's possible?"

"Of course, Jim. Tell the kid I hope he's feeling better soon. By the way, did you ask him about coming back to the station? And why it has been weeks since he's been here?"

"That's the other thing I need to talk to you about, Simon. When Captain Finkelman was filling in for you, she pulled Sandburg's ride-along pass and credentials. She actually had me get them from Blair and give them to her. They were outdated by over a year and a half. None of us realized that. We took it for granted that he was here and everything was fine. It took an outsider to come in and push the regulations. I got Blair approval to ride-along when I caught Finkelman bending the rules somewhat. I told Blair we'd get everything squared away legally afterwards." Jim paused, looking down at the floor. He gradually looked back up at Simon. "Well, the bust went down, Finkelman got her promotion, you came back, and I forgot about the ride-along authorization. Blair didn't mention it at all. He kept claiming he had work to do at the university and I didn't want to question him not being at the station. He's gotten in trouble before for focusing too much on the PD and not enough on his classes and studies. I asked him point blank about it last night. I can't believe I forgot, Simon!"

"Calm down, Jim. It's easily remedied. When Blair gets out of the hospital, bring him by the station and we'll get his ride-along authorization updated."

"I was wondering, Simon… could we do more than that?"

"What do you mean more, Jim?"

"Is there anyway to give him permanent ride-along status? Appeal to the Chief or whoever that Blair is a vital member of Major Crime."

Simon smiled at Jim. "I'll see what I can do. We definitely don't want to lose his contributions."

"I was sure you'd want to keep him, Simon." Jim left the office before Simon had a chance to yell at him.

+++++

Jim arrived at the hospital shortly before the detectives from Robbery said they would arrive. He walked into Blair's room to see the young man awake, but in obvious pain. Blair forced a smile on his face as Jim approached the bed.

"How are you feeling, Chief?" Jim noticed the bruises had darkened in color.

"Lousy. The doctor can't give me much pain medication because of my concussion. What are you doing here at this time of day?"

"Two detectives from Robbery are going to be stopping by shortly to get your statement about what happened."

"Why can't you? Or Rafe and Brown?"

"Sorry, you're associated with Major Crime, so we're excluded. But I thought I'd be here to give you moral support."

"Thanks, man. It means a lot to me." Blair closed his eyes and Jim knew he was trying to endure the pain.

"Are you up to talking to them? If not, I can get them to come back later."

"Nah, it's fine. I might as well do it now, get it over with. Although, I'm not sure how much I remember."

"Just tell them what you do remember. You know the drill." Jim smiled at Blair when he opened his eyes again.

"Yeah, I know the drill. I've given the speech myself many times. It's almost like I'm a cop…" Blair stopped abruptly and looked away from Jim.

Jim patted Blair on the knee. "Hey, it's okay, Chief. I also talked to Simon this morning. He's working on remedying the ride-along authorization. He's more than happy to do it. He doesn't want to lose your contribution to the department."

Blair chuckled. "You're kidding, right?"

Jim shook his head, covering his heart with his hand. "I swear to God. Those were his words. You can call him yourself if you want."

"Nah, that's fine. I believe you. Thank you, Jim. And I'm sorry I ran out last night. Maybe if I hadn't of done it, I wouldn't have been beat up."

"A distinct possibility. But that's what happens to trouble magnets."

Before Blair could come back with a retort to that, the door to his room opened and two men walked in. They looked vaguely familiar to Blair.

"Mr. Sandburg? I'm Detective Davidson, this is Detective Martin. We need to talk to you about the attack on the Rainier campus last evening." Detective Davidson looked over at Jim. "Will you be staying, Detective Ellison?"

Blair answered before Jim could. "I would prefer Detective Ellison stay, if that's okay with you?"

The detectives nodded. Davidson got out his notebook and he and Martin found chairs to sit on. Jim stayed put by Blair's side.

"Okay, Mr. Sandburg, just tell us what you remember."

"I had just arrived at Rainier, parking in the lot beside Hargrove Hall. I got out of my car and I was walking on the sidewalk towards the building when two men attacked me from behind. I didn't get a look at them because they were behind me and it was dark." Blair paused, looking from Detective Davidson to Detective Martin. He avoided looking at Jim.

"Can you give us any indication of their size or any physical attributes?" Martin asked the question, looking at Blair.

"Well, I know that they were both taller than I was which doesn't mean much I know. Once they had me on the ground, they kicked me. One of them had boots on, hiking boots. I have a pair just like them, the Timberland Trail Seekers. You remember those, right, Jim?"

"Yeah, I remember those, Chief. Anything else helpful you can remember?" Jim urged Blair back to the matter at hand.

"Not really. Look, I'm sorry. I'm really in pain here and I don't know who it was that attacked me. I'd like to help, but I can't."

Both Davidson and Martin looked at each other. Davidson spoke first. "Okay, Mr. Sandburg. We totally understand. If you think of anything else, you can give either of us a call." He pulled out his card, placing it on the table there.

"I'm sorry I couldn't help you more." Blair peered at them as they got to their feet.

They left the room without another word. As soon as the door closed behind them, Jim turned towards Blair. "You don't remember anything more than what you told them?"

"I told them all I remember, Jim. Can you leave, too? I really should get some rest." Blair turned slightly away from Jim.

Jim got the clue. He stood up and patted Blair on his shoulder. "Just call if you need anything." Jim walked away from the bed.

"Thanks, Jim."

Jim stood outside the door, listening inside. He was unwilling to leave just yet, thinking Blair needed something more. He had seemed ready to tell what he had seen, but then claimed not to have seen anything. Jim wondered what the problem could be. Somehow, he knew he wouldn't be able to get it out of Blair right now, if ever. Things had definitely taken a turn for the strange since the whole Sabin case.

On the one hand, Captain Finkelman had praised Blair and in the next instant, had pulled his ride-along authorization. No wonder Blair had been shocked and just a little cautious. But Jim had assured Blair everything was being handled. Now it seemed as if Blair was willing to play the victim, not worrying about his attackers or if they were caught. Jim knew Blair observed more than he had given to Davidson and Martin. Maybe Blair didn't want to continue on with the partnership and the ride-along. Jim was sure he and Blair would have another long talk soon.

+++++

It was 5:30 PM the next day before Jim was able to get to the hospital to see Blair. He was surprised to see the young man asleep in the bed, the meal tray on the rollaway table, untouched. Jim cautiously lifted the covering off the plate, unable to determine by sight what the meat was. From the aroma, he could detect it was chicken. Jim wondered how long Blair had been asleep. He tried shaking Blair's right shoulder, but he remained asleep.

Jim moved a chair over beside the bed and sat down to wait. A nurse came in about half an hour later to check on Blair's vital signs.

"How long has he been asleep?" Jim inquired.

"Most of the day, according to his chart. He asked for a pain shot shortly after the doctor came in to check on him and he's been resting most of the day. It's really the best thing, considering what I heard about how he got hurt. He needs to regain his strength and rest is the best way to do that."

"Yeah, I guess you're right." Jim got to his feet, ready to leave Blair in peace. "If he comes to and asks about Jim, just tell him I was here, but he was sleeping."

"Sure enough, Jim. He'll be more aware and awake once he starts to heal."

Jim followed the nurse out of the room. On the ride in the elevator, Jim reflected on Blair being asleep. Blair was always the one wanting out of the hospital immediately, even if he was in pain and hurt. But he seemed to take this whole stint in the hospital differently than any Jim had observed in the past. It just added another point to talk to Blair about once he was healed enough.

+++++

Blair found out the doctor was willing to give him as much pain medication as he needed to get through the day. Usually, he was one to eschew medicine to alter his mental state, but the pain was really intense and he needed relief from it. The added benefit was that he was able to sleep and to forget about what had happened.

He couldn't tell Jim, Simon and the rest of Major Crime that he had about reached his limit. With being the target of the criminals, of not being recognized for his contributions and for the constant refrain of 'You're not a cop'. He couldn't just tell Jim he was abandoning him like so many others before him. He wanted to be able to stick things out and continue to help Jim with his senses, be a guide to Jim's sentinel. Blair also wanted to write his dissertation. It had been true when he told Jim he had enough information to write his dissertation. Back then, he had stalled because he enjoyed the adrenaline high, the excitement and the fact that he thought he was making a difference. Things had a way of changing though, when one thought about the long-term effects of being hurt for no good reason.

He knew he'd have to confront and talk to Jim about his future. He just didn't want to do it now. He wanted to heal from his latest injury and then talk to everyone.

+++++

Jim caught Blair awake the next day, when he stopped by during his lunch hour. He walked in just as Blair was spearing the unidentifiable piece of meat on his lunch plate. It looked like Blair had eaten some of what had been brought to him.

Blair looked up from his plate when Jim walked in. "Hey, man! You're just in time for the mystery meat of the day. It looks like something you'd buy at a fast food joint."

Jim got closer to look at the congealed lump of food there. "Um… no thanks, Chief. I don't even think I would eat something like that. How are you feeling today?"

"My head still hurts. The doctor wants to cut back on the pain medication because of the concussion. It seems all I want to do is sleep." As emphasis, Blair let loose a big yawn.

"Any indication when you're going to get out of here?" Jim was expecting Blair to be clamoring for release by now.

"Not really. I sort of like just laying around, no responsibilities and no worries. I called the university and spoke to the department chair. He assured me that the chancellor has no problems with me taking as much time as I need and all of my classes are being covered and I'm being given extensions on the work required in the classes I'm taking."

Jim frowned and looked at his friend. Maybe Blair had gotten hit on the head harder than anyone realized. Surely, Blair didn't want to stay in the hospital? It just wasn't like him to want such a thing.

"Well, I was thinking about talking to your doctor to see if you could be released so you can recover at home, in your own bed, with home cooking and me waiting on you hand and foot." Jim smiled, but the smile wasn't returned.

"I don't want to burden you, Jim. You have cases to handle at the PD and Simon needs his best detective available. I can fend for myself once I'm released from here. I don't need you hovering over me."

"I just thought…" Jim stopped, not wanting to sound needy.

"I'm a grown man, Jim. I know you like to think of me as a kid, but you can't be a kid forever and I think it's well past time I grow up. I was going to wait to tell you this, but I think I better tell you now. I'm going to start concentrating on my dissertation. I've been putting it off long enough. And if I start working on it, I won't be able to be around the station, or you, as much as in the past. I'll have to prove myself to the university. I hope you understand."

Jim felt as if he had been kicked in the gut. But he hid his feelings from Blair. No use starting something here in the hospital. "So, where does that leave me and my senses?"

"I'll be available to help, Jim. But I won't be able to do it full-time. I've got to have something that's going to pay me. I can't freeload off you the rest of my life. I think the week is finally up."

Jim frowned and the fear was growing. "You're not… moving out?"

"Nah, I can't afford to do that. Not yet at least. I know how hard this will be for you to accept, Jim, but I can't stay in your shadow. I need my own life, my own accomplishments." Blair looked up at Jim, hoping the older man understood.

"Fine. Whatever you need to do." Jim's words were short and clipped and he turned to leave the room. He ignored Blair's yelling his name.

+++++

"Damn fool Sentinel anyway!" Blair hissed the words out while trying to ignore the pain he felt. "I should have known he'd take it the wrong way! I didn't even have the opportunity to tell him I reached my limit."

Blair closed his eyes, drifting off asleep again. The last case with Sabin and Captain Finkelman occupied his dreams. Blair quickly realized that he wasn't a cop and all that he was doing was playing like he was. Which, he had proven, was a dangerous situation. Not only did it place him in danger, but it also placed real cops in potential danger also.

+++++

Jim returned to the station in a foul mood. He practically growled at Brown and Rafe when they greeted him. Jim ignored everyone there. He sat down at his desk, booted up his computer and spent the rest of the afternoon engrossed in the files on his desk.

At around 4:00 PM, Simon came out of his office and walked over to Jim's desk. "Do you have an update on the Richardson case?"

Jim basically ignored Simon, not even looking up from his computer. Simon frowned and decided to try again. "Detective Ellison? I think I asked you a question."

This time, Jim did look away from his computer screen at his boss standing there. "I'm working on the Richardson case right now!" The words were snapped out in anger.

"Something going on you want to fill me in on?" Simon knew he had to try to get Jim to open up about whatever was bothering him. "Is it Sandburg? Is he worse off?"

Jim let a humorless chuckle escape. "As if that was all it was. You can forget about what we talked about, Simon. The stuff about Sandburg's ride-along credentials. He's told me he's not going to be around the station."

"What the heck did you do, Ellison?" Simon took a few steps closer to Jim.

All of a sudden, Jim got to his feet. "I didn't do anything! It was his decision! Something he's been thinking about for a while now!" Jim stalked off out of the bullpen, leaving behind surprised colleagues.

Simon knew it was tempting fate, but he felt the need to follow Jim and find out just what had happened between his best detective and his favorite observer. It was hard to fathom that Blair was considering chucking it all.

Simon found Jim at the end of the hallway, looking out the window there. Simon approached cautiously, well aware of the wrath of Jim Ellison's anger. Simon was able to reach Jim's side and place a hand on Jim's shoulder, squeezing it slightly.

"Let's go to my office and discuss this like two rational human beings, Jim." Simon tried not to make it sound like an order.

"Sure, why not." Jim accepted the inevitable. He followed Simon back to his office, and closed the door behind him. He sat down in the chair in front of Simon's desk, staring at the floor.

"Okay, Jim. I know you went to see Sandburg at lunch. Would you care to tell me what you talked about?"

Jim didn't look up. "I asked him about when the doctor was going to let him out of the hospital. He gave me some cock and bull story about liking the lying around he was doing with no responsibilities and no worries. He told me he had called the university and that his classes were being covered and he had gotten the time off. I thought maybe he had hit his head harder than anyone realized." Jim ran his hand through his short hair, letting out an exasperated sigh. "I mentioned to him about being released, healing at home and me waiting on him hand and foot. He responded by saying he didn't want to be a burden, that he could fend for himself. He also said he was a grown man and was going to start focusing on his dissertation. In reality, he's distancing himself from me and the station."

"Jim, you don't know that for sure. Maybe he does want to work on his paper. After all, this has been his dream for years."

"He indicated he might be moving out. He's going to leave me, Simon!" Jim had glared at Simon.

"He is a grown up, Jim. So, I don't have to get his ride-along credentials updated?"

"When I talked to you the other day about that, I was really going to ask your opinion about the idea of Sandburg even continuing his ride-along? I mean, he's been kidnapped, shot, beat up, drugged and numerous other things. Maybe he shouldn't be my ride-along."

"You don't really believe that, do you, Jim?" Simon studied Jim's face.

"I do now. Sandburg told me that himself." Jim shook his head, wondering where he had gone wrong.

"How about I go and talk to him, ask him about his intentions?"

Jim's face lit up. "You'd do that, Simon?" At Simon's nod, Jim smiled. "Thanks. Yeah, that would be a good thing." Jim's smile disappeared as suddenly as it had appeared. "He seemed to have it all worked out when I talked to him. Like he had been thinking about it for some time."

"I'll run by the hospital after I leave the station."

Jim got to his feet, leaving Simon's office. His disposition was less gloomy than it had been.

+++++

Simon couldn't believe what Jim had related as to what Sandburg had told him. He wanted to get the story straight from the source. He stopped at the hospital and went to Blair's room. The young man was talking with a nurse when Simon walked in.

The nurse turned to face the visitor. She turned back to Blair. "Thank you for the recommendation, Blair. I'll look into those classes for the summer."

"If you need anything else, Gretchen, just call. You have my office number on the card I gave you."

The nurse made a quick retreat, smiling as she left the room. Simon walked over to the bed, looking down at Blair there.

"How are you feeling, Sandburg?"

"Well, the doctor says my concussion is slowly getting better. But the lights are still a little too bright and I tend to get sick easily."

"So, you're going to be here for a little longer?" Simon tried to figure out Blair's mood. The young man seemed tired and in pain.

"Yeah, the doctor says a couple more days, maybe even until Monday. It's okay, though. I've talked to Rainier and they've granted me leave and time off. For once, I can properly heal from an injury."

Simon heard what Blair didn't say -- that he didn't have that luxury with Jim and being in the loft. "Jim told me you were going to concentrate on your dissertation."

"Yeah, I had wanted to tell both you and Jim at the same time. Jim won't understand this, Simon. I'm not a cop. I know, you've told me that, Jim's told me that, various other officers have mentioned it to me over the years. To top it all off, Captain Finkelman reminded me that I'm not a cop during her tenure in Major Crime. I'm sort of surprised criminals haven't realized the fact and told me the same thing. Or my professors at the university, the chancellor or even my students. I know I've been more of a hindrance than a help."

Simon frowned at the young man. "That's not entirely true, Blair. From what I have observed, you've been a great help to everyone during cases. And I know you've helped Jim with his heightened senses. You're not thinking of abandoning him, are you?"

"Of course not, Simon. I told Jim I'd help him with any problems he had with his senses. I want to be able to continue to help Jim with his abilities. We've only just started to tap into his potential. After all, he is the subject of my dissertation. It is an on-going project. I'm not going to abandon him. Is that what he thinks I'm going to do?"

"He didn't say. I'm just trying to figure out things myself. You know, it would be a shame for you to abandon the PD completely."

"Thanks for the vote of confidence, Captain." Blair yawned and closed his eyes.

Simon got the hint. "I'll leave you to get some rest, Sandburg. Just don't do anything rash."

"Never, sir." Blair was fading fast.

+++++

Blair remained in the hospital until Monday. Of course, by the time he was released, it wasn't possible for him to call Jim to take him anywhere. He had a nurse call a cab to pick him up and he waited inside the doors of the hospital, waiting for the cab.

Blair went immediately home to the loft and got inside. He walked over to the couch and sat down, his reserve energy depleted. He wanted to make a call to Jim, to let him know he was home. He would do that after he rested for a while. The doctor had given him a whole list of things he was supposed to do, things he was supposed to avoid, and things he had to watch for during his recovery. It was all in a folder on the cushion beside him on the couch.

There had been another visit by the detectives from Robbery the other day, asking if he had remembered anything else about the attack on him at Rainier. Blair had been less than cordial towards the two men and no doubt, the word had gotten back to Jim about his sunny disposition. Although, to his credit, Jim hadn't mentioned anything to him on his latest visit to the hospital. In fact, Jim mentioned very little on his visits to Blair. No mention of his ride-along status, his updated credentials or any cases Jim was currently working on.

Blair figured it was going to be very interesting when the two of them were together for more than a few minutes at a time in a hospital room. Blair closed his eyes, relaxing on the couch, determined not to fall asleep. It would be embarrassing for Jim to find him lying on the couch, doing nothing. Jim thought he should be working, either at the station or on his dissertation, as Blair had mentioned to Jim that he wanted to do.

+++++

Jim paused as he made his way down the hallway to #307. He heard breathing inside the loft. He immediately pulled out his gun, wondering who would be stupid enough to invade a police officer's home. A quick check of the door handle found it locked. That was definitely strange. Jim pulled out his keys, using his left hand to unlock the door. He swung open the door, prepared to meet whoever was invading his home. But there was no one obvious when he walked in.

He zeroed in on the breathing and noted it was coming from the couch. He walked over, seeing Blair sitting there sound asleep.

"Damn, Chief! It's not good to surprise a cop with a gun," mumbled Jim as he put his gun back in his holster.

Jim went to sit down beside the younger man, wondering how he got home, why he hadn't called Jim and why he was sleeping on the couch. Jim reached out, gently shaking Blair on the shoulder. Blair roused slightly, opened his eyes a bit and looked in Jim's general direction.

"What are you doing on the couch, Chief? And how did you get home? And why didn't you call me?"

"Wha's this, an inter-oga-tion?"

"Sorry, Chief. It just threw me to come to my own home and detect someone inside."

Blair opened his eyes a little further and stared at Jim. "Oh. Sorry about that, man. I guess I should have called. I'll go to my room. I didn't mean to fall asleep on the couch. Isn't that House Rule #15? Or something like that?"

Blair didn't make any mention about Jim saying 'his' home instead of 'their' home. No use getting into a fight his first night home. Blair struggled and got to his feet, swaying slightly but waving off Jim's presence by his side. He moved slowly towards his bedroom, closing the doors behind him in an obvious show of wanting to be alone.

Jim, who followed Blair as he moved towards his bedroom, turned around and headed back towards the couch. He saw the folder sitting there and picked it up. It was a list of doctor's orders, no doubt for Blair to follow. Jim placed the folder on the table in front of the couch and leaned back.

"Damn, Chief! I didn't mean to scare you off. What is going on between us?" Jim shook his head, wondering just what was going on in Sandburg's mind. Was he still pissed off about the ride-along credentials? Or was it the attack at the university? Jim wasn't sure what exactly was going on. Simon had indicated to Jim that Blair seemed like he just wanted to concentrate on his dissertation for a while, but he'd still be available to help with the Sentinel stuff. Simon hadn't indicated Blair was thinking about moving out or leaving Jim high and dry. It was just that Blair seemed *different* somehow and Jim couldn't put his finger on what was different. "We're going to have that talk, Chief. Soon."

+++++

When Jim got up the next morning, he discovered Blair was sound asleep in his bed. He took a minute to open one of the doors leading to Blair's room.

"Let's hope you stay here and get your rest, Chief," Jim whispered as he silently closed the door, leaving Blair to his sleep.

Jim wrote out a note, leaving it on the kitchen table in plain view. He put Blair's name on the outside. He left to go into work. Simon had been asking him for a clarification about the ride-along status, so Jim decided to leave a note for Blair and he could call Simon himself and give him the answer. Jim was tired of being the go-between.

+++++

Blair woke up and looked over at the clock on the bedside table there. It read 10:30 AM. Blair gingerly got out of his bed, careful of his bruises and his broken arm. He needed one of his pain pills. He looked around his room, but didn't spot the bottle of medication. He racked his brain, trying to remember where he had put it when he came home.

It suddenly came to him. He had sat down on the couch when he came home, had fallen asleep and Jim had found him there. He must have left everything out there. Blair left his room and spotted the prescription bottle on the table in front of the couch. Blair made a detour to the kitchen to grab a bottle of water and then spotted the note sitting on the table. He grabbed the note, made his way to the living room, slumped down on the couch and opened the note. It was from Jim.

"Chief --

Simon needs to know if you're ever going to return to the station and if he needs to proceed with the ride-along credentials. Please let him know ASAP. Rest up and don't take any unnecessary trips. I should be home on time.

Jim"

Blair balled up the note and threw it on the table there. He reached out and grabbed the prescription bottle, shaking out one of the pain pills. He swallowed it with some of the water and leaned back on the couch.

"I'm not going anywhere, Ellison. Except maybe to find my own place. You don't seem to realize I'm a big boy, and I've been on my own for almost half my life. I can take care of myself."

Blair finished the bottle of water and then got to his feet, grabbing the prescription bottle, the balled up note and the folder with the doctor's instructions from the table. He walked over to the kitchen, leaving his things on kitchen table as he passed it. He threw the note from Jim into the trash and then picked up the cordless phone. He dialed the number to the station, asking to speak to Captain Banks. He took a deep breath -- this would be the hardest action he ever took.

+++++

Simon answered the phone when it buzzed. "Yes, Rhonda? Oh, really. Thanks. Line 3?" Simon wondered why Blair was calling him. He had heard Jim explaining to the bullpen crew that Blair was home from the hospital. He hoped it was good news. It was hard telling by the expression on Jim's face. It was best not to keep Sandburg waiting. He pressed down the line button flashing.

"Sandburg? What can I do for you?"

"Well, Jim left me a note before he went into the station. Something about telling you about my intentions as far as the ride-along credentials. You don't have to worry about renewing them, Captain. I won't be going along with Jim on any more ride-along cases or immersing myself into the police department."

"I thought we had an understanding when I talked to you in the hospital, Sandburg? You remember, don't you? The part about not doing anything rash."

"With all due respect, Captain, I'm not doing anything rash. I've been thinking about this for some time. I'll be honest with you -- I've reached the limits of my endurance. I have to admit, it was thrilling for a while there. However, I am not a cop, as so many people like to remind me. I think it best I return to the academic world and leave the police world to the ones trained for that."

"What about Jim?"

"I'll deal with Jim, Captain. That's none of your concern." Blair really didn't want to get into a long discussion with the captain, especially about Jim.

"It is my concern, Sandburg. Jim is my best detective and at various times over the years, both he and you have claimed that with his heightened senses he needs someone with him to help keep him grounded so he doesn't zone. Was that all just a snow job, Sandburg?"

"I may have overstated my importance, sir. Jim is doing much better with handling his senses on his own. He doesn't need me to hold his hand, so to speak. As long as Jim knows the score, he'll respond accordingly. I will talk to him about my decision."

"Okay, Sandburg. If you are sure about this…"

"I'm sure, Captain. I won't change my mind."

"Okay, then. Sorry to lose your services, Sandburg. Despite what you think, you were an asset to the department."

"Thank you for the compliment, Captain. I best go. I'm supposed to be getting more rest. Goodbye, Captain."

"Goodbye, Sandburg."

Simon hung up the phone and sat there. He looked out his window there, noticing Jim sitting at his desk. He wondered if he should say anything to Jim about the phone call. He decided not to, to let Sandburg deal with telling Jim.

+++++

Jim walked inside the loft at 5:30 PM. He determined Blair was in his room, and from the heartbeat and breathing, he was probably asleep. Jim walked over to the closed doors, opened one and peered inside. Blair was facing the door, sound asleep. Jim could see the pain lines on Blair's face. Jim closed the door silently and went towards the kitchen.

He reviewed his conversation with Detective Davidson of Robbery, who had contacted Jim to let him know two men were arrested after another attack on the Rainier campus. The victim had been able to give the police and campus security a detailed description of the attackers. Davidson was still questioning why Sandburg hadn't been able to give a description or any real assistance in the apprehension of the attackers when it was obvious it could have prevented another attack on campus. Jim dismissed Davidson's claims that Blair was holding back, saying Sandburg didn't have any reason not to tell everything he knew. Jim knew he had to stand up for Blair, but privately wondered if Davidson had hit on something. That maybe Blair knew his attackers and didn't want them arrested or something along those lines. It didn't seem plausible, but with the way Sandburg had been acting lately, anything was possible.

Jim decided to call for take-out, wake Blair up and have that talk he wanted to have for over a week now. He called for Chinese take-out, getting both of their favorites. He then returned to Blair's room, gently shaking Blair's shoulder.

"Hey, Chief. You want to wake up. I've called for take-out and you need to wake up here."

Blair slowly opened his eyes, seeing Jim standing over him. He blinked his eyes a couple of times and then kept them open. "I was sleeping in my room."

"Hey, buddy. I don't care where you sleep. But you need to wake up now. How long have you been asleep?"

"I came in here after lunch. I called Rainier and told them I'd probably be able to come back next week. I hope I can reduce the pain pills by then. Those things really knock me out."

"Did you call Simon?"

"Yeah. I saw the note you left me, Jim. By the way, we need to talk."

"Glad to hear you say that, Chief. I agree with you 100%. I'll leave you to get out of bed on your own."

"Gee, thanks," Blair mumbled as Jim left the room.

"I heard that, Sandburg!"

'Sure you did, Jim', thought Blair as he got to his feet. 'I'm surprised you can't hear my thoughts also.' Blair weaved his way out of his bedroom and over to where Jim was sitting at the kitchen table. There was already a bottle of water at his place at the table. Blair sat down, unscrewed the cap on the water and took a grateful swallow.

"Thanks, you must be a mind reader." Blair chuckled at his choice of words.

"I know how medications make you thirsty. We've done this a time or two."

"Yeah, about that, Jim. I need to talk to you about my ride-along status at the station."

Jim narrowed his view, looking straight into Blair's eyes, wondering just what the younger man was going to say. Maybe now they could get everything out in the open.

"So, what did you want to tell me?" prompted Jim when it appeared as if Blair had lost his train of thought.

"I called Simon and told him not to renew the ride-along authorization. I'm not going to be going out on any more cases, stakeouts or anything else related to the Cascade Police Department. As I told you before Incacha was killed, I have enough information for ten dissertations. That's what I really want, Jim. My PhD. I want to write my dissertation, get my degree and to teach. I'm not cut out to be a cop wannabe." Blair paused to take another drink from the bottled water.

"Okay, I understand, Sandburg."

But Blair recognized the displeasure in Jim's voice. "I'm sorry to disappoint you, Jim. I'll tell you what I told Simon. I've reached the limits of my endurance. I've never been fond of having guns shoved in my face, being beaten up, kidnapped, and drugged and the other numerous things I've had to endure since hooking up with you. I know a lot of it was my own doing, but if I return to Rainier, teaching and concentrating on my studies, the likelihood of that happening is reduced significantly." Blair looked at Jim, trying to judge his reaction. But the sentinel was very good at masking his true feelings.

"Is that why you didn't tell Davidson and Martin everything about your attack?" Jim's voice was level and accusatory.

"What? I told them all that I saw! I didn't get a clear view of my attackers! Are they accusing me of something? Or is it just you?" Blair was agitated.

"Whoa, whoa! Calm down there, Chief. Davidson called me and told me two men were arrested after another attack on the campus. It appears as if the latest victim was able to give a very detailed description of the attackers. An arrest was made based on the descriptions."

"And you thought I…" Blair got to his feet, walking towards the living room. He didn't turn around to look at Jim. "You assumed I didn't want the attackers caught." The last sentence was said whisper soft. Not even Jim could hear it.

"Blair, I didn't think anything. Although, the thought did cross my mind. I know you'd never intentionally sabotage an investigation. But I also know that you have great observation skills and notice even the most minute, unimportant bits about something or someone. You didn't do that this time."

"I was just tired, Jim. We had just fought and I just wanted to get to the sanctuary of my office. Plus, I had a lot on my mind about the whole ride-along status and I was questioning my coming back to the station."

"Why didn't you tell me?" Jim turned to look at Blair.

Before Blair could answer, there was a knock on the door. The take-out had arrived. Jim gave a little curse, got to his feet and went to pay for the food, giving the delivery person a generous tip. He brought the food over to the table, set it down and went to get more bottled water for the both of them.

Blair turned around, walked back to the table, and sat down. He opened the various bags and cartons, pleased to see Jim had ordered all of their favorites. There was an advantage to living with someone. He knew your likes and dislikes and made sure you took the time to eat.

Jim sat back down and they started eating. Blair was still thinking about Jim's last question. About halfway through the meal, Blair had formulated his answer for Jim.

"I was trying to determine the best way to approach you about all of this, Jim. I knew you would think I was abandoning you and I don't want you to feel that way. I will be here if you have any problems with your senses. Although, as I told Simon, you have a great handle on your senses and you are capable of doing this on your own."

"What about spikes and overloads?"

"We've worked on those, Jim. You just have to remember to keep you senses on an even keel when you're at a crime scene and cautiously raise the dials when it's most comfortable for you. I have every confidence you can do this. If you start to have troubles, then you may have to get a partner who we can train to watch out for trouble and to help you at crime scenes. A fully trained partner."

"But… you're my partner, Sandburg. You're my guide. You are the one who can come up with an answer on the fly. A fully trained partner won't be able to do that."

"You don't need someone to come up with an answer on the fly. You'll just need someone to help you focus and to get things under control. I'll still be available to come up with any answers you need."

"I don't want another partner, Chief. I've just gotten you broken in and I'm used to your ways and quirks."

"Like I said, Jim, I'll still be here. Don't worry, Jim. I won't desert you."

+++++

TWO WEEKS LATER

Blair was typing away on his computer when the phone rang. He looked up at the clock, noticing it was only 9:45 AM. He wondered who was calling him -- no one at the university knew he had snuck in on his supposed day off. He picked up the receiver.

"Blair Sandburg."

"Sandburg, it's Captain Banks. I need you to get to Cascade General ASAP. It's Jim and it's serious."

"Jim! What happened? He told me he was going to be working on reports most of the morning! What happened, Captain?"

"I'll explain things when you get to the hospital. Do I need to send a patrol car to drive you?"

"No, Captain. I can get there on my own."

Blair hung up the phone and sat there for a few minutes. "Damn, Ellison! What did you do this time? I swear if this is Banks' fault, he'll never hear the end of it!"

Blair shut down his computer, gathered his backpack and coat and left his office. He went to the parking lot, getting into his car and drove to the hospital. He tried to calm his racing heart on the drive to the hospital, but it was next to impossible with not knowing what had happened to his friend. He should have known this was inevitable. He should have pushed harder for Jim to get a permanent, trained partner to help as a backup. He should have…

Blair stopped his thoughts as he pulled into the parking lot of the hospital. He got inside the ER waiting room and looked around for someone familiar. He spotted Henri over by a row of chairs. He walked over to the detective.

"H! What's going on?" Blair's eyes were darting around the area.

"Hairboy! What are you doing here?" Henri seemed surprised Blair was there.

"Captain Banks called me, telling me to get here ASAP. What happened, Henri?" Blair's patience was running thin.

"There was an attack at the PD. Both Bri and Jim was hurt, taken hostage by a couple of escaped criminals from Homicide. They were up there, coordinating a joint task force on a series of murders. By the time control was restored, there were numerous injuries."

"Where is Jim?" Blair was anxious now.

"They took everyone into the examination rooms. I haven't heard anything about the conditions of anyone."

"Damn!" Blair stomped over to the nurse's station, asking for updates on Jim Ellison when they were available. He tried not to be too demanding. But he was finding it hard to keep his temper.

It was about ten minutes later when Simon Banks walked into the ER. He spotted Henri and Blair. He noted Blair pacing back and forth and a frown on the young man's face. That wasn't good at all. But Simon didn't regret calling Sandburg and knew if he hadn't called, he'd never hear the end of it. Simon saw Jim after the incident was over. Jim was complaining about a headache and the lights being too bright. Simon suspected that was only part of Jim's complaints. Jim had told Simon not to call Blair, not to disturb him with something like this. But Simon knew better than that.

Simon walked over to the two men. "Any word yet?"

"Nothing yet, Captain," answered Henri, sparing a glance at Blair.

Simon walked over to stand in front of Blair, stopping Blair's pacing. He looked up at the tall captain. "How was Jim?"

"He had been shot in the leg, lost some blood. It looked like he had been hit a couple of times upside his head. He was complaining of a headache and that the lights were too bright. I think there was more than that, though."

"I told him to get a permanent, trained partner. Someone available at the station to help if…"

"Whoever it would have been wouldn't have been with him when this happened, Sandburg. It was Jim and Brian. And the detectives in Homicide. There would have been no contingency for this scenario."

"Damn!" Blair realized he had been saying that several times over the last almost hour. "I would have been with him. I would have gone with him. Just because I would have."

At that time, a doctor approached them. He looked at Henri. "You're here for the police officers?"

Simon spoke up. "I'm Captain Simon Banks. Detectives Jim Ellison and Brian Rafe are my men. How are they?"

"We'll be releasing Detective Rafe. He has a slight concussion and should rest. I'd have someone keep an eye on him for the night, if possible."

Henri spoke up. "I can do that. I'm Bri's partner. He can stay with me and I'll watch out for him."

"Good. We'll be taking Detective Ellison up to surgery soon. We need to remove the bullet in his leg and it might be a tricky operation. He was asking if a Blair… Sandburg was here."

"Um… yeah. I'm Blair. Jim and I are good friends. Can I see him?"

"Yes, he's in examination room 4. It'll be a little while before we take him up to surgery."

Blair made his way to examination room 4 and walked inside, seeing Jim lying on the exam bed, eyes scrunched closed. Blair walked over to the bed, placing his hand on Jim's shoulder. He looked down at the bullet wound in Jim's left thigh. Blair knew first hand how much it had to hurt.

"Dial it down, Jim. I'm here." Blair rubbed small circles on Jim's chest, visibly noticing when things became more bearable for Jim. Blair smiled and quickly swiped his other hand across his eyes before Jim opened his.

"Thanks, Chief." Jim hadn't opened his eyes. "I told Simon not to disturb you that you were typing up parts of your dissertation. I'm glad he didn't listen to me."

"Yeah, Jim. So am I. This is where I belong."

+++++

Blair sat waiting for Jim to come out of surgery. Simon was with him. Henri and Brian had been there for a while, until Brian started getting tired and Simon ordered Henri to take Brian home. Once they were alone, Blair spoke.

"Thanks for calling me about Jim. He told me he told you not to call me."

"I knew if I didn't call, I would hear it from you. I figured your wrath was greater than Jim's was. Secretly, I think he's probably glad too."

"Yeah, I'm sure he is. I was able to get his senses under control before they took him up to surgery. He'll be able to control things while in surgery and when he gets into recovery, I'll be able to help him gradually bring things back to normal. I do want to talk to you about something, though."

"And what would that be, Sandburg?" Simon had an idea what Blair wanted to discuss.

"I was wondering if there was any way for us to revisit the ride-along situation."

"And why would you want to revisit it, Sandburg?"

"Because I've realized my place is by Jim's side. He doesn't need a permanent, trained partner. He needs me. I need him. We need each other. It has to do with the Sentinel/Guide situation. I know you don't like all of that, Captain, but it is what it is."

"You know, Sa… Blair, with you and Jim, I totally understand it. Not that I'm comfortable with the prospect that my best detective has to rely on a neophyte as his partner."

"Well, I don't know about neophyte, Captain. I mean, I have picked up things over the years I've been with Jim. I've learned a lot in fact. As much as a rookie just out of the academy I would hazard."

"Don't push it, Sandburg. A rookie just out of the academy at least has firearms training."

"I'll call for backup. I won't jump into trouble." Blair crossed his heart, looking at Simon.

"Come into my office tomorrow. Of course, you'll have to get a pass when you come into the building. You can fill out the paperwork and surprise Jim."

"Thank you, Captain."

+++++

ONE WEEK LATER

Blair helped Jim into the loft, having just sprung him from the hospital. He helped Jim over to the couch, easing him down.

"I'll get you some water, so you can take a pain pill." Blair moved over to the kitchen, grabbing two bottles of water from the refrigerator and going back over to sit down beside Jim on the couch. He handed Jim the water, shook out a pain pill from the prescription bottle and handed that to Jim.

Jim swallowed the pain pill with some water. "Thanks for bringing me home."

"No problem, Jim. It's what partners do for each other."

"How's it going with your dissertation?"

"I'm working on it steadily."

"So, when do I get to come and celebrate Dr. Sandburg?"

"Um… not for a while, Jim. Look. I forgot I have someone I need to see. Are you going to be okay alone for about an hour?"

"Sure, Chief. I'm a big boy. Go. But can I ask a favor?"

"What favor, Jim?"

"How about some ice cream when you come home?"

Blair laughed. "Sure, Jim. I can bring you ice cream. Remember; don't run around without your cane. In fact, why don't you just stay on the couch? Unless, you need to… you know."

"I'll be fine, Chief. Go. Chocolate ice cream."

"Okay, Jim."

+++++

It was odd getting a visitor's pass to get through the police station, but Blair didn't want to chance being seen as a troublemaker. He clipped the pass onto his lapel and got into the elevator, going up to Major Crime. Simon had called to tell him his ride-along authorization had been approved and he could pick it up.

Blair greeted Henri, Rafe, Rhonda and others when he walked into the Major Crime bullpen. He made his way to Captain Banks' office and knocked on the door, respecting the captain, unlike his early days at the PD. He heard Simon's gruff "Come in!" and Blair opened the door, walking inside the office.

"Sandburg. Glad you could make it. Did you get Ellison home okay?"

"Yes, sir. I didn't tell him about the ride-along pass yet. I just told him I had to go see someone. He wants me to bring him home chocolate ice cream. I suppose I'll indulge him just this once."

"Have a seat, Blair." Simon smiled at the young man and Blair wondered what the older man was doing.

Blair warily sat down in the chair in front of Simon's desk. He looked at the older man, trying to decipher what he was going to say. But he wasn't a mind reader.

"So, Blair. Do you really want this?"

The question took Blair by surprise. He sat there for a few moments, thinking about the question. Of course, he really wanted this. He had to do this. It was his responsibility to Jim.

"Yeah, Captain, I really want this. Jim needs me. I need Jim. I told you that in the hospital. I'll just have to stay on the roller coaster a little longer."

Simon frowned at the non-sequitur. "Stay on the what?"

Blair chuckled. "Oh, it's just something I told Jim a while ago. I was comparing the action of the police department to the non-action of my academic life."

"You'll make sure Jim understands why you're doing this?"

"Yeah, I'll talk to him while we're having ice cream. We'll be good."

Simon handed over the ride-along pass and the paperwork. He smiled at the young man sitting before him. "It's good to have you back, Blair."

"Thank you for the second chance, Captain. I won't let you down."

"Just make sure you don't let your partner down."

Blair got to his feet and left Simon's office. "I won't let him down."

+++++

Blair hummed as he walked into the loft. Jim looked over from his perch on the couch. "It must have been a girl you went to see."

Blair was in the kitchen, dishing up the ice cream into bowls. "Nope. I've got good news, Jim."

When no other clues were forthcoming, Jim spoke. "So, are you going to tell me the good news?"

"Just a minute. I'm dishing up your ice cream, man. Hold on a few minutes."

Blair brought the ice cream over to the couch, handing Jim his bowl and then sat down in the chair by the couch. "I actually went to see Simon."

Jim frowned. "Simon? Why would you go see Simon? I'm off work for at least three more weeks."

"He did me a favor." Blair pulled the ride-along pass out and showed it to Jim.

Jim smiled. "You're coming back?"

"You can't keep me away, partner."

They ate their ice cream, savoring the future together.

END