Devastated

by: Debbie

EMAIL: debbie020556@yahoo.com

 

This is my offering for Paula C. for her themefic. She wanted the following:

One of the guys is close to finding their perfect mate, but something happens, either she dies, is murdered, or just finds it's not what they are looking for. The other has to support him through it.

 

WARNINGS AND POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD!!

 Warning #1: This is a DEATH STORY!! No deaths of any major characters, just the deaths of OFC.

 Warning #2: Inclusion of OFC to some extent. In this story, Blair has found his perfect mate. But something happens to destroy it all.

 Warning #3: This story deals with drunk driving and the results of that.

 Warning #4: Jim and Blair are not together in this story. Each has established their own lives separate of each other.

 This story is filled with pain and angst. And some bad language. Continue at your own risk. You have been sufficiently warned.

 Feedback would be greatly appreciated (especially after how hard it was to finish this) Shameful plug for myself.

 

Devastated

 

 Blair and Jennifer Sandburg had been on their way to Cascade to visit friends and Jennifer's brother, John, Jr. Blair had called Jim the night before to let him know they were coming.

"Hey, Jim. I thought I'd call to let you know Jen and I are coming to Cascade tomorrow. We'll probably be there by early afternoon. I thought maybe we'd treat you to dinner at Jacques'. Jen wants to go there. We have news."

"What news, Chief?"

"Nope, you're not getting it out of me that easily. You'll have to wait until we get there. Believe me, it's good news."

"Okay, Chief. I guess I can wait until tomorrow. So, what are you going to do until you see me tomorrow night?"

"We plan on stopping by Jen's brother's place just outside of Cascade first. And then we'll come into the city. You'll be at the station, right?"

"Yeah, some of us actually have a job to do."

"Funny, Jim. Jen and I both got a long weekend and we wanted to come and visit friends in Cascade, along with Jen's brother. It's been some time since we were there. We'll do the tourist thing and then stop by the station around 4:00 or so. If that's okay?"

"Yeah, sounds good, Blair. So you won't tell me what your big news is?"

"Tomorrow, Jim."

But, tomorrow never did come. The report of the accident came into the Washington State Patrol District 1 at around 10:30 AM. The state patrol units reached the accident and assessed the damage. There were two vehicles involved --one 1969 Volvo and a semi-truck with a trailer behind it. Also arriving on the scene, were rescue units and ambulances. It was obvious the semi had crossed the center line, slamming into the car, impacting mostly the passenger side. From the skid marks, it appeared as if the car had tried to swerve to avoid the accident, but hadn't been successful. There had been two people in the car, a man and a woman, husband and wife, or so the state patrol deduced from the IDs found on them. The woman, the passenger, was pronounced dead at the scene. The man, the driver, was unconscious, trapped in the car, but still barely alive. There was only the driver, a man, in the semi, who was also alive and it was obvious he had been drinking from the empty bottle of whiskey on the floor of he truck and the smell in the cab.

The driver of the car and the driver of the semi were taken by ambulance to Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia, Washington. The passenger of the car would be taken to the morgue in Olympia, pending notification of relatives and next of kin. The occupants of the car were from Portland, Oregon and the state police started the grim task of notifying relatives to relay the facts about the accident. They were able to find the dead woman's parents in Portland and contacted the Portland Police Department to have them break the news that Jennifer Sandburg was dead and that her husband had been taken to a hospital in Olympia.

John and Mary Gordon were devastated by the news delivered by a Portland police officer arriving at their door. Mary had to sit down as the impact of the news hit her. John made the necessary telephone calls to Sheila and Pat, Jennifer's sisters and John, Jr., her brother to break the news that their sister had died in an automobile accident and that Blair had been unconscious at the scene. The Portland police had asked about any family for Blair. John had told the officer that Blair had many acquaintances in Cascade, where he and Jennifer had been headed. John Gordon offered to contact the appropriate people in Cascade to break the news about Blair and Jennifer.

John Gordon found the telephone number he was looking for. Blair had given him the number shortly after Blair and Jennifer had been married. If there were any problems John was to call Detective James Ellison at the Cascade Police Department. John didn't want to make the phone call, but he knew Jim Ellison and the others who cared about Blair in Cascade needed to know about Blair and Jennifer. The telephone was answered after the second ring.

"Detective Ellison, Cascade Police Department, Major Crime."

"Detective Ellison, this is John Gordon. I'm Jennifer's father?"

Jim could hear something in the other man's voice. "Yes, I remember you. Can I help you?"

"I'm calling because...be -- cause...Jennifer's dead." John Gordon's voice dissolved into sobs and tears into the phone.

On the other end of the line, Jim was stunned. It couldn't be. If...Jennifer was dead, where was Blair? And what had happened?

"Mr. Gordon? What happened? Do you know anything about Blair? Does he know? Where is he?"

"I'm sorry, detective. Blair was taken to a hospital in Olympia. It was the nearest city to the accident."

"Accident?" Jim could feel his gut starting to clinch and twist.

"A semi-truck slammed into their car. Jennifer was pronounced...dead at the scene. Blair was taken to the hospital. I'm not sure of his condition. I've got to go. My family needs me."

"I understand, sir. I'm sorry about your loss. And thank you for calling and letting me know."

Jim replaced the receiver of the phone onto the base and stared out in front of him. An accident? Jennifer dead, Blair taken to a hospital in Olympia. Jim had to go to Olympia and check up on Blair. They had been on their way to Cascade. The accident had occurred about halfway there from Portland.

Jim looked around the bullpen. There was hardly anyone else there at the time. Jim automatically got to his feet and walked towards Simon Banks' office. He knocked on the door before opening it and walking inside. He closed the door behind him.

Simon looked up when the knock came to his door and was just about to answer when Jim walked inside, closing the door behind him. Simon noticed the blank look on Jim's face and wondered what was wrong. Instead of saying anything, Jim sat down in one of the chairs in front of Simon's desk and was looking anywhere but at Simon.

When it appeared as if Jim wasn't going to say anything, Simon decided to take the lead. "Something I can do for you, Jim?"

"Um...yeah. Ah...well, ah..."

"Jim? You want to tell me what's going on?"

Jim looked up at Simon at that time and Simon saw the hurt and pain in Jim's eyes.

"I just got a phone call. From John Gordon, Jennifer's father. Jennifer is dead and Blair's been taken to a hospital in Olympia. Some type of accident. I had just talked to Blair last night. They were coming to Cascade to see Jennifer's brother and friends here. Blair said they had news. He sounded so happy and carefree." Jim's eyes darted around the office, anywhere but directly at Simon. "I need to go to Olympia. I have to find out what happened."

All of a sudden, Jim jumped to his feet and crossed over to the windows, looking out on the city.

"God, Jim! Any idea if Sandburg knows?"

Jim didn't turn back to look at Simon. "I don't know. That's why I have to go. He'll need someone with him...to help."

"I understand, Jim. Go. And keep us updated as to the circumstances and if we can help."

Jim turned from the window. "I will, Simon. Thank you. You'll tell the others?"

"I will, Jim."

Jim left Simon's office, and left the bullpen, taking the stairs to the garage. Once in the garage, he reached his truck, getting inside. He sat there, the impact of the news just hitting him. Blair would be devastated.

Blair and Jennifer had only been married for just over a year and had moved to Portland afterwards. Blair had secured a teaching position as an anthropology professor at Portland State University. Previous to that, he had worked in a book store in Portland. He had decided to move to Portland since Jennifer had been teaching in the Portland public school system for several years.

They had met when Blair had gone to Portland for an anthropology seminar two years ago, shortly after he had received his doctorate degree. It was pure chance they had met at the restaurant. It was actually Jennifer who had hit on and pursued Blair and initiated the contact between them. And for Blair, it was love at first sight. He had gushed on and on to Jim about Jennifer when he got back to Cascade. Jim had teased Blair that he was going to run a background check on Jennifer. But Jim had been able to prevent Jim from doing that.

Jennifer kept in touch and had even entertained the idea of trying to obtain a teaching position in the Cascade public school system until Blair had decided to go to Portland for Jennifer. That's when Jim knew it was serious. There had been a long discussion of the fact that Blair wasn't going to leave unless Jim allowed the other detectives of Major Crime in on his heightened senses and what he was able to do. Jim agreed to the condition and Blair made sure that everyone in Major Crime understood about Jim's abilities and the risks of a zone out. But he always told Jim he'd be available if needed.

Blair had proposed to Jennifer and had moved to Portland, getting the job at the book store, while looking for a more permanent position. He got the position as a professor at Portland State University in the anthropology department when the opening came available.

Jim had been Blair's best man. The wedding had been beautiful and Jennifer had been breath-taking. It had been held in Portland, where most of Jennifer's family still lived. Everyone close to Blair from Cascade had made the trip to Portland for the wedding. A real show of support.

Blair would be devastated.

Jim drove to the loft to pack a bag. He didn't know how long he would be gone, but he was going to stay until he knew Blair's fate and found out exactly what had happened. It was inconceivable to him that Jennifer was dead. She was such a kind and gentle soul, so full of life and so in love with Blair. They had made the *perfect* couple. Jim had been excited and relieved when Blair told him that he was in love and that he thought it was the *real* thing. And Jim had seen evidence that it was the *real* thing.

Jim drove to Olympia, wondering what hospital Blair had been taken to. First off, he'd contact the state patrol and find out about the accident. He stopped at the detachment office of the State Patrol in Olympia, flashed his badge, explained about his relationship to Blair Sandburg, and asked for the report about the accident. Of course, there was only the preliminary report and there were still officers at the scene, gathering evidence and going over the area. But the officer that spoke with Jim told him it appeared as if the semi driver was drunk and had lost control of the rig, crossing the center line and slamming into the Sandburg vehicle, hitting the passenger side, killing Jennifer Sandburg almost immediately and trapping Blair Sandburg inside the vehicle. Jim found out Blair had been unconscious at the scene, had been cut from his vehicle by rescue personnel and transported to Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia. Jim was given the address and directions to the hospital. Jim thanked the oficer and left the office.

He stood by his truck before getting inside. He hoped against everything that Jennifer hadn't suffered and that Blair hadn't been a witness to her death. Jim got into his truck and drove to the hospital, parking in the visitor's lot. He sat in his truck for the longest time, before getting out going to face what he had to face.

He asked at the information desk about Blair Sandburg and was told he was in Intensive Care on the fourth floor. Jim walked over to the row of elevators and pushed the up button. He had to wait a few minutes before an elevator came to take him up to the fourth floor. When he got off the elevator, he walked to the nurse's station. That's when he spotted John Gordon standing outside one of the rooms. He walked over to the man.

"Mr. Gordon?"

John Gordon turned to face the person who had said his name. He recognized Jim Ellison right away. He walked to close the distance between him and Jim.

"How are you, detective?"

"I'm in shock. I came to see how Blair is. Why are you here?"

"Mary wanted to stop in to see Blair. And we had to make an ID on our daughter."

"I'm sorry Jennifer died. I had just talked to Blair last night when he called telling me they were coming to Cascade for the weekend."

"Yes, they wanted to tell John, Jr. in person that they were expecting. Jennifer was four months pregnant."

Jim closed his eyes and wondered how things could get any worse. He opened his eyes again and looked through the window into Blair's Intensive Care room. He saw Mary Gordon standing there, whispering something to Blair, and patting his arm. Jim didn't even try to listen in to what she was saying to Blair. It was private, between Mary and Blair. She came out after a few minutes, wiping away her tears. She smiled when she saw Jim there.

"I am sorry to hear about Jennifer." Jim looked straight into Mary Gordon's eyes.

"Thank you, Jim. I was telling Blair that he has two guardian angels looking out for him now in Heaven. He's got to survive."

"Thank you for looking in on Blair. Do you know the prognosis?"

"They wouldn't tell us anything other than he's in a coma, and he has several broken bones. I'm glad he has someone here for him now."

"I plan on staying for a while. Blair will need someone once he comes to."

"We'll let you go in to see him. Can you let us know when he comes to? He's still family. Now more than ever."

"Sure, I can do that."

Mary pulled Jim into a hug and Jim returned the hug, sorry that this wonderful family had been torn apart. Jim watched as Mary and John walked hand in hand out of the Intensive Care Unit. Jim turned back towards the room where his best friend lay, fighting for his life. He paused at the entrance and then walked forward, taken aback by the sight of Blair Sandburg lying in the bed there. He looked small, surrounded by every conceivable machine and piece of equipment to keep him alive. Jim got as closed to the bed as he could, taking Blair's left hand within his. It was the one without an IV hooked up to it. But there was a cast on the left arm. As well as one on Blair's left leg, ending just before the ankle. Jim glanced at the readings from the machines, able to make sense of most of them, where they indicated Blair's heart rate was a little fast, his temperature was a little high and his respirations were normal. But he was also hooked up to a respirator, which kept an even flow going in and out o his lungs.

Jim tore his eyes from the machines and monitors to get a good look at his friend. There were several dark bruises on Blair's face, one on his forehead and the other on his left cheek. Jim noticed bruises on Blair's right arm and around the chest area. There was only a sheet covering the lower part of Blair's body, as there were IV lines and other leads attached to Blair's chest. Other than the casts, there were bandages around Blair's midsection.

"I'm sorry, Chief --" Jim sobbed out the words as the tears that had formed in his eyes finally fell down his cheeks. Jim stood there, unable to move or say anything else. It was such a loss and such a devastating turn of events.

Jim left the room about ten minutes later. He would be able to find out Blair's medical condition. He still had the medical Power of Attorney papers that Blair had signed several years ago. There hadn't been any change in that since the marriage. Jim was grateful for at least that. He would have a say so with Blair's medical treatment.

Jim spoke with Blair's doctor and found out there appeared to have been a hard impact as a result of the crash. Blair was in a coma, which wasn't necessarily a bad thing at the time, considering the pain from the accident and the reality of what had happened to Jennifer, waiting for Blair when he came to.

Jim also found out the driver of the semi had tested over the legal blood alcohol limit when admitted to the hospital and had been charged with vehicular homicide and had been arrested already. He was going to survive and had not been badly hurt. He was going to be transferred soon to the hospital wing of the local jail.

Jim contacted Naomi to let her know about the crash and Jennifer's death and Blair's extended hospital stay. She was arranging to arrive as soon as she could.

Jim also contacted his lawyer back in Cascade and arranged to sue the driver of the semi and the company he worked for on behalf of Blair Sandburg for wrongful death and apin and suffering. The lawyer, John McMurray, seemed to think there was a very good case and the company would probably settle for whatever they would ask for. Jim knew no amount of money would replace Jennifer, but it was the principle of the act.

Naomi arrived in Olympia a couple of days later, and was able to go in to see her son. She spent as much time by his side as she could, trying to encourage him to come to. She also went to Portland to be with Jennifer's family. Jim stayed in Olympia, not feeling a part of that family. His family was still in a coma, struggling to survive. Jim continued to stop by the hospital daily, getting periodic updates on Blair's condition. It didn't seem as if anything was changing.

It had been a week since the accident and Blair had no idea what had happened to his life.

Jim stepped up to offer his condolences to Jennifer Sandburg's family after the funeral service. John and Mary Gordon, her parents, two sister, Shiela Fountain and Pat Morrison, and her brother, John Gordon, Jr. Also there, were aunts, uncles and cousins. Jim spoke with all of them. Most of them asked about Blair. Jim stood there stoically and explained Blair was still in a coma, still on life support in an Olympia hospital.

Naomi had also attended the funeral, commenting on the beautiful spot where Jennifer's grave was. It was at the top of a small incline that overlooked the rest of the cemetery with a small lake nearby. It was peaceful and calm there. Naomi stood with Jim, to keep him company. Jim found her presence oddly comforting. She told him she had to leave after the service, but she would keep in touch. Jim understood Naomi didn't want to hang around waiting for an uncertain future.

Jim finished speaking to the Gordon family. He had felt it was his place to be there, for Blair. Even though Blair had no inkling of what had happened. Jim wanted to make sure to be here, so he could tell Blair all about it when he came to. And he would bring Blair to Jennifer's final resting place when Blair felt up to it. It was a beautiful place.

Jim got into his truck and prepared to make the journey back to Olympia. Blair was still in a coma, but Jim was thinking about asking Blair's doctor if Blair could be transferred to Cascade. Jim had already missed the better part of a week of work. And while Simon understood, the chief of police wasn't as understanding. Having Blair in Cascade would make things easier. Once he came to and started rehabilitation. To recover. Both physically and mentally.

Jim wondered if Blair would recover mentally. This would be such a blow to Blair -- to lose the love of his life. And the baby that was growing inside of her.

Jim remembered the conversation he and Blair had just before the wedding, as they were waiting for the ceremony to begin.

Blair had looked at Jim and smiled.

"You'll spoil my kids for me, won't you, Jim?"

Jim returned the smile and patted Blair on the shoulder. "You'll make a wonderful father, Blair."

"And you'll be the favorite uncle."

"I'm happy for you, Blair. You seem to have it all."

"Maybe you'll get lucky in the future."

"We'll see. If not, I'll spoil your kids."

Jim was brought out of his memory as he pulled out of the cemetery and prepared to leave Portland. He grabbed his cell phone and called Simon in Cascade.

"Yeah, Simon. It's Jim. I'm just now leaving Portland. Yeah, it was a somber occasion. Everyone was asking about Blair's condition. I'm going to stop by the hospital and look in on Blair and see if I can speak to his physician to see if Blair can be transferred to Cascade. But I will be at work tomorrow."

"You know, if it was left up to me, Jim, you could stay there as long as Blair needed you."

"I know, Simon. And I appreciate it. But I don't know how long it's going to be until Blair comes to and can start on his rehab. And I have no idea what Blair's state of mind is going to be when he finds out the news."

"Any word on the lawsuits against the semi driver and the company?"

"I haven't heard anything yet. That's another reason why I need to come back to Cascade. I need to talk to my lawyer and find out where things stand. And to find out if that driver is going to stand trial."

"I thought that was a forgone conclusion?"

"Well, there was talk of him taking a plea bargain and avoiding the trial. But I haven't heard anything about that either. My lawyer was going to keep track of that also."

"Well, I'll see you tomorrow then."

*****

Jim arrived at the hospital and walked inside. He took the stairs up to the fourth floor, needing to rid himself of pent up energy. He greeted the nurses on the Intensive Care floor and asked if Blair's doctor had been by yet today. He was told no and that the doctor would probably be by int he next hour or so. Jim walked into Blair's room, noticing the nurses had shifted Blair int he bed from yesterday when Jim had been there. Blair was still hooked up to all the machines and monitors. Jim stood by the bed and ran his hand over Blair's forehead, noting the bruise had faded over the week.

"Hey, buddy. I just came from Jennifer's funeral. I know you would have wanted to be there, but I was there for you, Blair. And so was your mom. Everyone asked about you. You have a whole other family that loves you in Portland. I spoke to several of your fellow professors at the university and they're looking forward to you returning when you recover. I'm going to ask your doctor if you can be transferred to Cascade. I need you closer, Blair. You need someone with you when you come to. And I've decided it should be me. If the roles were reversed, you'd be here for me." Jim moved his hand from Blair's forehead to his hair, playing with several of the locks there. "I want to help you through this, Blair. I don't know how you'll take it, but you need someone with you."

Jim tried to determine whether there was any significant change in Blair from the first time Jim had seen him. But Jim couldn't determine any difference. The doctor had told Jim that the life signs were consistent over the week since Blairhad been brought in to the hospital. And no one could predict when Blair was going to come out of his coma. Or if he was going to come out of his coma. Of course, Jim didn't want to entertain the idea that Blair wasn't going to come out of his coma. It was only a matter of time. Of course, with each day that passed, the chances of a full recovery diminished. But it had only been a week. And Jim had been there every day to talk to Blair, to encourage him to come to.The doctor stopped by about an hour later. Jim asked to speak to him after his examination of Blair. After the doctor was finished, they went to a small waiting room.

"What can I do for you, Jim?"

"I was wondering if Blair could be transferred to Cascade."

"I thought he lived in Portland?"

"He does now, but previously he lived in Cascade. Blair and I are best friends and as you know, I have medical Power of Attorney over his case. I have to return to work and it would be easier to have Blair in Cascade where I could keep a closer eye out for him."

"I don't suppose there would be any harm to transferring him to Cascade. I can send along his medical files and treatment schedule. I would like to know when he comes to and his recovery schedule."

"Of course, Dr. Post. Thank you for letting me transfer him."

"Well, I'm of the belief that patients, especially coma patients, need family and friends around to help them recover. And add on the additional problems Blair will face when he comes to, he'll definitely need his friends to help him."

"We've been there for each other over the years. I'm not about ready to abandon Blair now."

"I'll help with the arrangements to have Blair transferred to Cascade. What hospital will he be going to?"

"Cascade General. Are you sure there's no harm in transferring him with life support?"

"We transfer patients all of the time, Jim. We'll have a registered trauma nurse with him and we have a specialized ambulance to transfer patients with life support."

"Okay, thank you again."

Jim went back to Blair's room after talking to the doctor. He took Blair's left hand within his.

"I'm getting you transferred back to Cascade, Blair. That way, I'll be able to be there every day. And I can enlist the rest of Major Crime to come and see you also. They've been asking about seeing you. You have a loto of friends who want to help you with all of this, Blair. Now we just need you to come to. I know you might think this is a better way to deal with things, but you have to face reality sometime." Jim gently rubbed the skin on the back of Blair's hand. "I'll see you when you get to Cascade General."

Jim reluctantly left the hospital to return to Cascade himself. He had called Jennifer's parents to let them know that he was transferring Blair back to Cascade. Jim promised again to keep them up to date on Blair's condition and when he came to. Jim understood the connection with Jennifer's family had to maintained also. This just wasn't Jim and Blair alone anymore. It hadn't been that for a long time.

*****

The next day, about 3:30 in the afternoon, Jim got confirmation that the transfer had been successful and Blair had been placed in the Intensive Care Unit at Cascade General Hospital, under the care of Dr. Morgan. Jim left the station early to go by the hospital and check on Blair. He relayed the informatin about the transfer to Simon, who in turn told the rest of Major Crime. There would be a steady stream of visitors to Blair Sandburg's room at Cascade General.

Jim walked into the room where Blair had been placed. There didn't seem to be any change in Blair, although his fever seemed to have lowered. Jim stood by the bed, looking down at his best friend.

Jim had noticed, both here and in the hospital in Olympia, that when he came in contact with Blair, his senses had cleared up. He hadn't told Blair that he wasn't using his heightened senses on the job anymore. It just wasn't the same without Blair there to help. And even though Blair had explained to the other members of Major Crime about Jim's abilities and what needed to be done to help Jim use his senses optimally, it hadn't worked out. It wasn't the same as with Blair. So Jim had decided on his own to not use his heightened sense to have an advantage in the field. He was a good enough detective without his heightened senses. Just as he had told Blair many times over the years.

But, being around Blair again had seemed to kick his senses on-line again and he was able to distinguish things he hadn't been able to without Blair around. Jim smiled to himself and reached out to gently touch Blair on the head. He caressed Blair's curls, noting Blair had cut his hair again.

"Hey, Blair. I brought you back to Cascade. You can yell at me about it when you come to. That's the only condition I've got here. You've got to come to. It's not acceptable that you make anything less than a full recovery. It was hard enough to find out about Jennifer and your baby. I don't want you to perish also. You've got to fight, Blair. Even if you don't feel like it."

Members of Major Crime, including Simon Banks, stopped by. All of them encouraged Blair to come to.

For the next week and a half, there was no significant change in Blair's general condition. It took a lot of effort for Jim to walk into the Intensive Care Unit room day after day and see no change in his friend. The others had basically slacked off as to how often they stopped by. Some days, Jim stopped by in the morning and in the evening. And on the weekends, he was there almost all day.

Then on the following Wednesday, as Jim arrived for his morning visit, before he went into the station, there was a slight change in Blair as he opened his eyes fractionally. Jim jumped on the movement.

"Blair? Are you coming to? Can you hear me?" Jim looked down at Blair's face. There really didn't seem to be any recognition there and the eyes weren't focused on anything in particular. But Jim went ahead and buzzed for the nurse, telling her what he had seen. She came to the room and saw it also and went to contact Dr. Morgan. Jim stayed in the room, still talking to Blair. To let him know he wasn't alone.

"I knew you'd come to, Chief. It will be okay. Don't try to talk, there's a tube down your throat. But now that you're awake, I'm sure they'll be able to remove that. You worried me this time, Blair. And there's a lot we have to talk about. But I'll save that for later. We don't have to deal with it now." Jim had noticed Blair's eyes had closed and he seemed to have drifted off again. But as Jim had said, it was okay. They had time to deal with everything. Now.

Jim was forced to leave a short time later when Dr. Morgan arrived to do his own examination of Blair. Jim took the opportunity to find a pay phone and call into the station to inform Simon that it appeared as if Blair was coming to and that for the foreseeable future, Jim was going to remain at the hospital. Simon approved of the leave of absence from work and told Jim he would pass on the good news to the rest of the department.

Jim returned to stand outside the Intensive Care Unit room. He listened as the doctor conducted his examination of Blair. But the intubation tube wasn't removed. Jim was a little concerned about that. The doctor ordered several scans and tests to be done and then came out to talk to Jim.

"Is he okay?" It was the foremost question in Jim's mind.

"He's partially aware. We'll leave him on the respirator until he regains full consciousness, which will probably be in a couple more days. Since he was in the coma for almost three weeks, it will take some time before he's fully aware. There's no rush to push Blair into doing anything he's not comfortable with. I've ordered several scans and I want to make sure his concussion is healing. It was the most serious injury he sustained. But his reactions were normal for the most part. We'll continue to monitor him for the next couple of days and make sure he continues to improve."

"I understand, Dr. Morgan. Can I go back in with him?"

"Give them a little time to do the tests I asked for. A couple of hours. He probably won't be too alert anyway. He still needs to recover physically from the impact of the accident. Does he know about the fatality?"

"No. Well, at least I don't think he does. He was unconscious at the scene of the accident and he wasn't aware since then. As to the moment of the accident and what he realized or knew, I'm not sure. That's why I'm here with him. I'm going to break the news to him."

"I don't envy your job, Jim."

Jim waited until the tests were done and then walked back into the room. As the doctor said, Blair was asleep there. Jim got a chair and sat down beside the bed, just in case Blair came to. But Blair remained asleep throughout the night.

Jim actually left the hospital sometime after 1:00 AM. He left word at the nurse's station that he be notified if there were any significant changes in Blair overnight.

Jim drove home to the loft. He was grateful the elevator was working when he arrived. He unlocked the door to the loft and stumbled through the opening. He didn't turn on any of the lights there, not needing the illumination. He walked over to the living room, sinking down onto the couch there. His eyes focused on the shelving unit ther and the row of pictures. Once in particular caught his eye -- a picture of him and Blair on the day Blair received his doctorate from Rainier. His hard fought doctorate.

Unexpectantly, the tears formed in Jim's eyes and fell down his cheeks. The battle was just beginning. Jim knew that for a certainty. And if Blair couldn't handle the mental anguish, then Jim didn't know if Blair would heal physically. The two were often interlinked and Jim knew there was a fine line between the two. Jim knew he had no right to expect Blair to handle it all, but he hoped Blair would want to.

*****

The respirator was removed two days later. Blair had been making frantic movements with his hands and Jim had given him paper and pen. Blair had asked repeatedly what had happened. Jim had been able to successfully put Blair off until the respirator was removed. So, now was the day.

Jim walked into the room after the respirator had been removed. Most of the machines and monitors had been removed also since Blair had come out of his coma. It had been three weeks since the accident. Two weeks since the funeral of Jennifer Sandburg.

Blair's bed was raised to that Blair was practically sitting up in the bed. He gave Jim a tentative smile when the older man walked into the room.

"Hey, Jim. I need some help here."

"What's the problem, Blair?"

"I don't remember what happened. Nothing. Why am I in the hospital? They've told me about my injuries and that it was an accident. They said you were here. Can you tell me?"

Jim heard the mixture of fear and apprehension in Blair's voice and really wished he didn't have to destroy Blair's life. But he had to be told eventually. And if it wasn't from Jim, it would probably have to come from someon in Jennifer's family. Jim looked all around the room before focusing again on Blair. He looked lost and desperate.

"Jim?" There was a slight whine to the voice.

Jim decided to find out what Blair remembered. "What's the last thing you remember, Blair?"

"Talking to you, last night."

Jim wasn't sure he could do this. He wasn't sure he wanted to do this. But he owed it to Blair to tell him the truth.

"Jim?" Blair questioned Jim's silence and hesitancy.

"It wasn't last night, Chief. It was three weeks ago. You had an accident on the highway, just outside of Olympia."

The implications of those words penetrated Blair's mind. "Jen? Is she here? Jim?" Blair's voice increased in volume as he was becoming hysterical.

"Calm down, Blair." Jim tried to be the voice of reason.

"NO! I DON'T WANT TO CALM DOWN! WHAT HAPPENED?" Blair shouted out the request.

Jim had to dial back his hearing from the assault on his ears. He looked at Blair again, seeing how worked up Blair had become. Jim knew it was a result of the uncertainty of what exactly had happened.

"Jennifer...she...died in the accident. It would have been almost instantly. That's what...her...parents said the coroner said. I am so, so sorry, Blair." Jim's voice was calm and almost whispering at the end in sharp contrast with Blair's outburst. Jim finally had to look away from Blair's scrutiny.

Blair could only stare at Jim. He didn't say a word. He wasn't expecting what Jim had told him. After several minutes, Jim looked back at Blair and spoke.

"Blair? Did you hear me?"

"No. It can't be." Those words had been spoken softly. Blair looked up at Jim, anger showing. "It's not true! Get out! You just don't want me to be happy! Why would you say such things? I don't believe you! GET OUT!!" Blair looked away from Jim, his tears falling.

"Blair, I wouldn't lie to you. And I do want you to be happy. Why would I make up such a thing? I wouldn't hurt you like that. Why would I not want you to be happy?" Jim had let his emotions get the better of him over this and his tears formed in his eyes, seeing the hurt and pain Blair was enduring.

"Get out!! Dammit, just leave me alone!!" Blair was sobbing openly now.

"Blair?" Jim reached out to touch Blair on the shoulder. Blair flinched away from the touch and pulled away as far as he could. He closed his eyes, effectively shutting Jim out.

"Blair?" Jim tried once more. He had to try once more.

But there was no response from Blair. Jim didn't want to leave Blair alone to deal with his hurt and pain. Blair had become unresponsive and Jim had been the cause of the hurt and pain. Jim turned from the bed and left the room. He went over to where the nurse stood outside the room.

"I take it didn't go well?"

"That's an understatement. He's in denial. I think it would help for him to talk to someone professionally. Can that be arranged? He needs to realize this is the truth."

"I'll make a not to mention it to his doctor. It's normal for a person to be in denial. Does he need something to calm him down?"

"You could hear him?"

"Oh, yeah. The whole wing could hear him."

"He's calmed down somewhat. In fact, he took to ignoring me before I left. After he told me to get out. It hurts me to see him hurt. I didn't want to be the bearer of devastating news."

"He needs time to accept what happened. He didn't remember it, and since it is such devastating news, it seems unreal to him. Eventually, his mind will accept the reality of the situation and he'll start to deal with things. The doctor is hoping to move Blair to a regular room tomorrow."

"I hope he'll want to recover physically, not that he knows about what happened. He and Jennifer were very happily married. I was Blair's best man. They were the perfect couple." Jim sounded about as devastated as Blair was.

"We'll watch out for him, Jim. And I'm sure he'll want, and need, you to come back soon."

"I hope so. But I think I'll give him some time to *process* what I told him."

The nurse patted Jim on the arm. "I'll check up on him, Jim. And we'll make sure he's doing okay."

"Thank you. All of you. If you need to contact me, you have my number."

"We'll call if there are any problems."

Jim didn't want to leave, but he knew Blair needed the time alone. He looked once more through the window at Blair there. He still had his eyes closed and Jim could see the tears still falling down the younger man's cheeks.

That was the image Jim Ellison carried with him as he left the hospital, getting into his truck and driving to the police station. He had arrived there, before he even realized what he was doing. He needed to talk to someone. Simon. He knew Simon would listen to him, not judge him. Understand what he had to do and why he had to do it.

*****

"...and he yelled at me. It hurt me to see him in such pain. Enduring such suffering."

"I understand what you're saying, Jim. But someone had to give him the information. And eventually, whether he wants to or not, he'll have to face up to the reality of what has happened. He'll need his friends even more then. And he'll forgive you."

"I know. I didn't even know Jennifer was pregnant until I spoke to her parents at the hospital in Olympia. That was the news Blair said they had. Blair was so looking forward to becoming a parent. Of becoming a father. I can't even imagine the pain Blair is going through over this."

"And we'll all be there to help him through it."

"If he'll accept our help. He didn't want mine." Jim let his disappointment taint his words.

"It would have been the same with anyone else, Jim. You just happened to be the bearer of the devastating news."

"Yeah, lucky me. I may have destroyed our friendship forever."

"Give it a couple of days to sink in and let Blair talk to the psychiatrist. He had no memories of what happened at all and the shock of it all is going to be overwhelming. Probably for some time."

"Well, thanks for letting me unburden myself to you, Simon. And for offering to listen to me."

"Both you and Blair are friends of mine. I don't want to see him hurting any more than you do. Maybe I'll go by the hospital and see if he'd be willing to let me visit him for a while? Maybe he'll talk to me."

"Sounds like a good idea, Simon. But I would give it a couple of days. And I'm going to discourage the others from bothering Blair right now."

*****

The nurses noted Blair Sandburg ignored all attempts at conversation and only answered with one-word answers to questions. He even avoided eye contact most of the time. He barely acknowledged anyone's presence in his room and didn't really help wieh he was transferred to a regular room. And he refused to start on any type of therapy. They noted he seemed depressed and mentioned it to Dr. Morgan. He arranged to have the psychiatrist stop by to see Blair, in hopes that he would open up.

John, Jr., Jennifer's brother, stopped by the hospital after receiving the telephone call from Jim Ellison telling him that Blair had come to. He wanted to see Blair. Ellison had explained how Blair had kicked him out of his hospital room after receiving the news about the accident and Jennifer's death. And the death of the unborn child.

John walked into the regular hospital room, noticing Blair's eyes were closed and he appeared to be asleep. But the nurses had told him Blair hadn't been sleeping very well. So he suspected Blair wasn't asleep, but pretending to be asleep to keep out unwanted visitors. He hoped he wasn't on the list of unwanted visitors.

"Blair? I came as soon as I heard you were out of your coma. Our whole family has been worried about you. I won't stay if you don't want me to. I just want to tell you that you are in my family's thoughts and prayers. Jennifer was a very special person and she loved you completely."

Blair opened his eyes at that time, seeing John, Jr. standing there. There was a family resemblance between the four Gordon children. John and Jennifer had the same dark brown eyes. Blair wiped at his tears, which hadn't stopped falling since he had received the news about the deaths and the accident from Jim.

"I-I...c-can't..."

"It's okay, Blair. You don't have to say anything. It was a beautiful memorial service. Your friend, Jim Ellison, was there. Along with your mother. Jim told us you had been transferred here to Cascade. He called when you came out of your coma. I know it's going to be a long, hard journey to get through this." John's tears had also started to fall.

"I loved...her. With all my heart and soul and being. I'm lost...without her."

John stayed for some time and he and Blair talked about Jennifer and Blair's now extended family of the Gordon clan.

*****

Dr. Suzanne Frederick read over the report from Dr. Morgan. The patient's name was Blair Sandburg. He had been brought to Cascade General in a coma and had just ocme out of the coma. He had been in an automobile/semi accident with a drunk driver in which his wife and unborn baby had died. The news had been given to him by his *best* friend, James Ellison, the same person who had him moved to Cascade from the hospital in Olympia. Over the two days since he had found out about his wife's death, Blair Sandburg had been very quiet to the staff, barely eating anything, refused to go to physical therapy and had refused to discuss his future with Dr. Morgan.

Dr. Frederick knocked on the door before opening it and walking inside. She noted Blair Sandburg lying in the bed, eyes closed. There were no sounds in the room, no television on, no radio offering the usual background noise. Dr. Frederick peered at Blair, noticing the tear tracks down the young man's cheeks.

"Mr. Sandburg? I'm Dr. Frederick. I'm..."

Before she could continue, Blair spoke, still not opening his eyes. "You're the hospital shrink. Dr. Morgan told me you were going to stop by." Blair had opened his eyes after he finished talking, looking at the doctor. "With all due respect, thanks but no thanks. I don't want to talk. I have nothing to talk about. I still don't remember anything of the accident. Or the death of my wife. Dr. Morgan says I'll probably be released from the hospital in a few days. I just want to go home to Portland and resume my life." During his short speech, Blair had shifted his gaze to the blanket on his bed, finding it the most fascinating thing in the room.

"It always helps to discuss things, Mr. Sandburg. You haven't been talking to anyone. Keeping your feelings all bottled up inside is not a healthy thing to do. Eventually, those feelings will need an outlet and have to be released." She was trying to get him to open up.

"I understand, Dr. Frederick. I minored in psychology in college. To be honest, I don't know how I feel. It just doesn't seem real at all because I don't have any memories of what happened." Blair chanced a look towards the doctor.

She looked back at him. "I understand you yelled and kicked out your best friend?" There was a slight note of humor in her voice that Blair detected. Blair allowed a slight grimace to come across his face.

"Um...yeah, I did." Blair looked back down at the blanket on his bed, fiddling with the edge. "I thought he was lying -- not understanding why he would do that." Blair looked up again at Dr. Frederick. She saw the devastation expressed in the bright blue eyes, the tears ready to fall once more. "You're good at your job, Dr. Frederick. You got me to open up when it was the last thing I wanted to do. I didn't want to say anything." Blair took a swipe across his eyes, not surprised his hand came away wet from the ever constant tears that had been his companion over the past two days.

Blair continued to speak in a slightly shaky voice. "Jen's, my wife, her brother, stopped by the day after Jim told me the news. John lives just outside of Cascade, and had heard, from Jim, I had been transferred here and had come to. He confirmed the news and we shared memories and a long cry. Most of it from me. He told me about the memorial service and Jim being there." Blair paused, looking around the room and shifting in the bed. "I've got a lot to make up for to Jim." The last line was whispered softly as Blair wiped across his eyes once more and closed and opened them.

"I'm sure Jim understands why you acted the way you acted, Mr. Sandburg."

"Please, just call me Blair. Okay?"

"Sure, no problem, Blair. Your hurt and pain and inability to remember what happened is a very powerful reaction and reason for what you did. Death of a loved one is a personal and private hurt. And finding out about it from someone else is not an easy thing to deal with. But you have to take care of yourself first, Blair." Dr. Frederick continued to look at Blair, to gauge his reactions to her suggestions and words. It was a breakthrough that Blair Sandburg was even paying attention to her and had opened up, expressing his feelings. He seemed to accept what she was saying.

"Do you remember anything of the accident, Blair?"

Blair suddenly avoided Dr. Frederick's gaze. "No. The last thing I remember is talking to Jim on the phone the night before we left Portland to drive to Cascade. Dr. Morgan says it's highly unlikely I'll remember anything else because of the hard hit my head took in the accident. Chances were good that I passed out shortly after impact." Blair looked back at Dr. Frederick. "That's why it all seems so unreal. I lost the accident and three weeks after while I was in the coma."

Dr. Frederick smiled at Blair and looked straight into his eyes. "Can I come back tomorrow, Blair? So we can talk more?"

"Sure. You can come back. I have to deal with this. But I suppose it won't truly be real until I go to Jen's grave site." The sob came out of Blair's mouth unintentionally. He looked away and closed his eyes.

Dr. Frederick patted him on the shoulder. "I'll be back tomorrow, Blair."

She left when there was no response from Blair. It was at least a start. Blair opened his eyes after Dr. Frederick had left. This was going to hurt for a long time. And Blair was sure it would never lessen and never get better. There was no way it could.

*****

It was early evening when Simon Banks stopped by the hospital. He had mentioned to Jim that he was going to look in on Blair, offer his condolences and let him know he still had friends in Cascade.

Blair looked up when Simon Banks walked into his hospital room. He was curious as to who was coming in. He had already had his physical therapy, deciding to at least go forward so he could leave the hospital eventually. He had just finished what he had wanted to eat off his dinner tray.

"Captain."

"San --, Blair. I'm sorry about what happened."

"Thanks. It hurts terribly. Jen...and -- m-my ba--by..." Blair started crying, unable to deal with the reality at this point in time.

Simon didn't waste any time as he moved over to the bed, sitting down on the edge and pulling Blair into his arms, into a hug. They stayed that way for an inderminate amount of time, Blair crying against Simon's shoulder, grateful that Simon didn't chide him for such a display of emotion. After a time, Blair pulled out of the embrace.

"Thanks, Si--imon." Blair plastered a smile on his face that he didn't feel. "I was m-mean to--wards Jim."

"It's okay. Jim told me that. He didn't want to be the bearer of the devastating news. But he knew you needed someone with you. And someone to tell you who would stay with you."

"He's right. I need to call him -- apologize. I'll need someone -- to -- take me back -- to -- Portland."

"You're going to return to Portland?"

"I have to, Simon. It's where my life...is. Was. I've got to go back and...pick up what's left. Decide what to do..." Blair looked up at Simon, hoping he understood what he had to do.

Simon patted Blair on the arm. "I understand. I just want you to know you have friends here. People that care about you and your welfare."

Blair looked away from Simon and blushed. "Thank you. I don't think I can face a lot of people right now. Maybe sometime later..."

"They understand, Blair. They don't want to stifle you. They understand you have to deal with things."

"Thank them all for me, Simon. Tell them I'll talk to them eventually. Just not now."

"I'll give them your message. I best go and let you get some rest. Take care of yourself, Blair." Surprisingly, Simon pulled Blair into another hug before getting up.

"Th-thanks again, Si--mon." Blair returned the hug.

After Simon left, Blair got on the phone, calling Jim at the loft. The phone was answered after the first ring.

"Ellison."

Hearing Jim's voice was like a balm for Blair. He let another small smile flit across his face. "Hey, Jim. I-I need t-to t-talk to you." Blair paused, and then continued softly. " 'm...sor--ry."

"I know you are, buddy. I can stop by tomorrow."

"Is there any way you can come...to--night?"

Jim could hear the tears in Blair's voice and the desperation evident. He knew he couldn't refuse Blair. No matter what the circumstances.

His mind made up, Jim spoke. "I'll be there shortly, Blair."

"Th-thank -- you." Blair hung up the phone. He hoped Jim would forgive him for what he had said and done.

Jim drove to the hospital, knowing Blair wanted to apologize for his words and deeds the other day. But Jim didn't blame Blair for either his words or his actions. After all, Blair had just been told he had been in an accident, had been in a coma and had lost his wife and unborn baby. It would cause *deviant* behavior in anyone. Even Blair.

Jim stood outside Blair's hospital room. He extended out his senses, relishing the ability to do this after so long a time. He was still amazed how clear things had been since Jim had been around Blair. Jim had fibbed to Blair, telling him Megan, Henri, Brian, Joel and Simon were keeping Jim's heightened senses in control. Truth was Jim didn't use his heightened senses anymore. But he couldn't tell Blair that. Blair would chide him for not using his *gifts* like he should. Jim realized it wasn't about him at all. He'd keep his news to himself.

Jim could distinctly hear Blair's heartbeat and smell Blair's tears. He opened the door and saw Blair in the bed. Blair looked up and over at Jim and smiled. But Jim knew it was a forced smile. The smile didn't even reach Blair's eyes. It wasn't genuine.

"Thanks for coming, Jim. I -- am -- really sorry for what I said. And for kicking you out."

"Its okay, Blair. There's no reason to apologize. I'm sorry for what happened."

"I've got a favor to ask. But if you don't want to..." Blair looked away from Jim.

Jim reached out and turned Blair's head back to face him. He kept his hand on Blair's chin. "What favor, Blair?"

Blair looked up into Jim's eyes, seeing sincerity and love. "I need someone to -- take me home to Portland."

Jim released Blair's chin. "Sure. It's the least I can do. Since I forced you to come back to Cascade."

"Why did you do that?"

"It was because you didn't have anyone else. And I needed to get back to work, but needed to keep an eye on you. Plus the fact I still had Power of Attorney papers on your medical care. I suppose we should change that."

"We don't have to right now. Thank you for being there. For being here. For caring about me."

"No thanks are necessary. We're friends. We do it for each other. I'll take you back to Portland. Are you going to stay there?"

"For the time being. I can't leave the university. And there's the house..."

"When are you being released from here?"

"Dr. Morgan says a couple of days. I started rehab after being deviant about it. I'm talking to a psychiatrist and it's really helping. I just wish I could remember something more. I hate to think of Jen dying all alone. That I didn't know."

"Blair, you know I'm sorry about Jennifer. I wanted you to be happy. I was happy you were happy."

"I know, Jim. It hurts so badly. I don't know sometimes if I can go on. I've lost my life..."

"Blair, you are still alive and life is precious. Especially your life. Yes, you have lost a lot, but you still have your life and your memories of your life with Jennifer. And I've got more news to tell you."

"More news? Bad news?"

"Well...a little of both. Probably mostly bad. I'm having my lawyer sue the driver of the semi that hit you and his compnay. The driver is being charged with vehicular homicide. He had tested over the legal blood alcohol limit. He'll stand trial."

"...over the legal blood alcohol limit?" Blair sounded dazed and a little confused. "Oh...God! Drunk?" The tears were falling again. Blair didn't think he'd ever stop crying. He made a swipe at the tears and looked over at Jim.

Jim could only nod his head, not knowing what else to say. He had done it again -- he had hurt his best friend. Probably ex-best friend.

"Can I -- go -- to the trial?"

"You don't need to be there, Blair."

"But it's my life, Jim! I want to be there."

Jim could hear the determination in Blair's voice. "You're right, Blair. It is your life and you deserve to know the outcome. I could get the time off and be there with you."

"Thanks, but no thanks, Jim. It's my family and my situation. I'll let you know the outcome." Blair wiped away the last of his tears. For now.

Jim heard more determination in Blair's voice. He wanted to tell Blair he didn't have to be strong and handle this all by himself. But it was obvious that's just what Blair wanted to do. And he had grown some since getting married.

"If you need me for anything, let me know. I'll have my lawyer keep you informed about the lawsuits pending."

"Thank you for helping me with this matter. I'm lucky to have such friends."

"Just don't forget your friends, Blair. We all want to help however we can."

*****

Jim resumed his visits to the hospital. Most of the times letting Blair talk about whatever he wanted to talk about. Most of the time it was about Jennifer.

Jim brought Blair a pair of oversize sweats to wear home from the hospital. Upon further examination, Blair realized they were a pair of Jim's sweats. He looked over at Jim when he placed them on the bed. "These are yours, Jim."

"So? You need something to go home in, something you can get over the casts. I know for a fact that they'll be big enough. It's no big deal, Blair."

"You'll be here mid-morning tomorrow?"

"Yeah, I got Simon to give me the day off. We can take our time driving to Portland."

"That's something else I'll have to look into. Getting a new car. Mine's scrap metal."

Jim didn't offer to help Blair in his search for a new car. After being shot down on other offers of help.

*****

It was two days later when Blair was released from the hospital. Jim arrived just when Dr. Morgan was giving Blair his final instructions. Blair didn't notice Jim standing there with the nurse and the waiting wheelchair.

"...make sure you check in with your local doctor in Portland. I'll have your medical file transferred as soon as you contact us with the information."

"I'll call as soon as I get back to Portland. Thank you for everything."

"I am sorry about what happened, Blair. And remember, don't try to force any more memories."

"I won't, Dr. Morgan. I know it's futile. Believe me, I've been trying. There's nothing there."

At that time, Jim made himself known, along with the nurse with the wheelchair.

"You ready to leave here, Chief."

Blair looked up and over at Jim, then shifted his gaze to the nurse and the wheelchair. He sighed, nodded his head, got off the bed and walked over to the wheelchair, sitting down, and trying to get comfortable. He pushed up the sleeves of the too big sweatshirt. Jim smiled at him.

The journey to the front entrance of Cascade General was made in silence. Jim could sense Blair didn't want to talk. This was a radical departure from the norm.

As they reached the entrance, Jim turned to Blair, looking down at him. "I rented a car. It'll be easier for you to get in and out of."

Blair looked over at Jim and then outside. He noticed the non-descript gray sedan parked at the curb. Blair got to his feet, grateful he didn't have to use crutches as a result of his broken leg. Blair turned and gave the nurse a sad smile. Jim didn't miss the gesture.

Jim activated the automatic doors and watched as Blair slowly shuffled outside the hospital building. Jim then moved to open the passenger door to the sedan as Blair got situated inside. Jim closed the door and then went over to the driver's side, getting in. He started the car, launching their journey.

Blair was silent on the trip home to Portland. He avoided looking at Jim, preferring to look out the passenger side window or stare at the hem of the too big sweatshirt. Knowing it was Jim's sweatshirt, made him feel special. But then he started to wonder why he should be allowed to feel special. He had lost his foundation, his love, his child. He vowed not to cry anymore. He was getting better at controlling when he cried and how long he cried. Of course, that didn't mean his heart wasn't still broken and his life shattered. He was trying to determine the best way to pick up the shattered pieces of his life. And he didn't feel like sharing with anyone, not even his best friend Jim.

Jim respected Blair's self-imposed silence. He knew Blair probably had a myriad of emotions, thoughts and feelings churning around in his head. And, whereas Blair had always been a person to express himself openly and without fail, it seemed like the accident and the deaths he had endured had taken their toll on Blair's bravado. He was hurting deep inside his heart and soul and very being and Jim knew there was nothing he could do to alleviate the pain and suffering. Blair had decided to handle things on his own and Jim knew he had to respect Blair's decision to do that. And to make sure he was there, just in case.

As they neared Portland, Blair spoke his first words, still not looking directly at Jim.

"Can -- you -- go -- by -- the..." The words were broken, the pain very much in evidence. "cemetery?" The last word was spoken in a breath.

Jim was able to hear the request just fine.

"Sure. I didn't tell you, but I went to the funeral. And Naomi was there also."

"I know. John mentioned it. Thank you. I'll have to call my mom and talk to her."

"She was in Olympia for a while. After the accident. She told me she couldn't stay. I left a message saying you had come to. John?"

"Yeah, Jen's brother...um, he stopped by the day after I kicked you out."

"Yeah, I let the whole family know you had come out of the coma. They all asked about you at the funeral."

Jim drove the car to the cemetery. He heard clearly Blair's sharp intake of breath as Jim made the turn into the driveway of the cemetery. Jim slowed down and turned to face Blair.

"Are you sure about this, Blair?"

"Ive got to, Jim. I -- just -- have -- to."

"Okay." Jim meandered the vehicle around the curves of the roadway that went through the cemetery. Jim stopped the car near a small incline which overlooked a portion of the cemetery and included a small lake nearby."

Blair looked out of the window and then looked over at Jim.

"Here?" His tears were threatening again.

"Up on the hill. It was picked out by Jennifer's parents."

Blair got out of the car and walked to where the marker was, near the top of the small incline. Blair looked around the surrounding area. Jim allowed Blair his privacy. But he didn't miss the tears falling from Blair's eyes again. Jim wanted to do nothing more than turn back time to before the accident and before the death of Jennifer Sandburg. There was no way Jim could do that. Blair eventually knelt on the ground, somehow able to not fall with the cast on his left leg. He moved around until he was in a sitting postion and stayed there.

After several minutes, Jim got out of the sedan, but didn't move towards Blair. This was Blair's time, Blair's shelter. Jim would be the guardian, giving Blair this time alone. Jim could barely pick up the soft mutterings. coming from Blair. But Jim didn't actively listen in. They weren't for Jim's ears.

After several more minutes, Jim heard the call. "Ji--im?"

Jim slowly made his way to Blair's side. Blair looked up at Jim, tears still falling from his eyes.

"C-can you...?" There were several sniffles from Blair. "Help -- me -- up?"

"Sure, Blair. You just let me do all the work."

Blair only nodded, wiping his right hand over his face. He gave himself over to Jim totally. Jim knelt down beside Blair, placing one hand around Blair's waist and was able to easily lift Blair to his feet, making sure Blair had his balance before releasing him from the hold. Jim continued to stand beside Blair, his hand on Blair's shoulder.

Blair looked over at Jim, glad Jim was there. To help him through this.

"Thank you for being here. With me." Blair wiped away more tears.

"There's no where else I'd be." Jim gently squeezed Blair's shoulder.

"I should go home." Blair turned from the marker and walked back to the car. Jim followed.

Jim drove to the house Blair and Jennifer had purchased together shortly before their marriage. Jim had helped Blair to move his things from Cascade to Portland. Jim had commented at the time how big the house was. Blair had joked about Jim moving in after retiring from the police department in order to become a live-in babysitter. Now, Jim wondered if the offer was still available. He wanted to stay with Blair. He felt Blair needed someone.

Jim pulled into the driveway and turned off the motor of the car. He started to get out of the car until Blair's words stopped him.

"No. Jim. Please."

"But I can go in with you..."

"No! I need to do this. I'll be fine."

"If you need to talk, call me. Okay?" Jim punctuated his words by patting Blair's shoulder.

Blair looked directly into Jim's eyes. "Sure. I have your number. And I'll probably call. Thank you once again. For being here. For being with me."

"Anytime, Blair. Remember, I'm just a phone call away."

Blair nodded one last time before opening the door and getting out of the car. Jim watched as Blair walked towards the front door of the house. Jim didn't want to leave Blair on his own, but he also knew he couldn't force himself onto Blair. His days as a Blessed Protector were over. At least the incarnation that had existed in Cascade. Blair wanted to make a point that he could handle this on his own. Jim vowed to make sure he was available when Blair would need him the most.

Jim stayed just a few minutes until he had determined Blair had settled down in the living room. Jim could smell it as another round of tears had begun to fall. Along with that, were several large sobs and catches. It hurt Jim to hear that; he pulled back his hearing and left the house.

On the drive back to Cascade, Jim debated about letting Blair know about the reality of his heightened senses. How everything had immediately cleared up as soon as Blair was back in his life. Jim knew deep down he couldn't pull Blair backwards. Blair had a whole other life in Portland and it would be selfish for Jim to expect Blair to give up Portland for Cascade. Jim would keep quiet. Blair had enough to deal with without adding Jim into the mix.

*****

Blair's eyes had caught the painting as soon as he walked into the house. It was a painting Blair had commissioned for Jennifer's birthday. The painting was of Blair and Jennifer taken from a photo from their wedding. It had been a complete surprise to Jennifer when Blair had presented it to her on her birthday. Just two months ago.

The sobs and tears came as soon as Blair caught sight of the painting in the entryway just inside the house. He stumbled his way to the living room, slumping down onto the couch there. He allowed himself to continue to cry, sob out loud and let himself go in the privacy of his own home. At the cemetery, the reality of it all had started to sink in. Blair leaned his head back and rested it against the back of the couch. He closed his eyes, continuing to cry over his loss.

"God, Jen! I don't know if I can survive this! You were my soul and my life. And our baby girl...baby Jamie. I didn't tell Jim we were going to name our child after him. He's been my rock, my strength through all of this. I'm going to make sure the driver of the truck that hit us pays for his crime." Blair had suddenly used up all his energy and he fell off to sleep still sitting on the couch.

*****

Jim arrived back in Cascade around 5:00 in the afternoon. He drove to the loft. He took the stairs up to the third floor. He'd return the sedan tomorrow. His mind was still on Blair and how they were now separated by over three hours. Jim knew Blair wouldn't openly ask for help -- he wanted to prove to everyone he could do this on his own. The separation hadn't been so bad when Blair had established his own life and future. But now that the future had been shattered and destroyed, Jim's Blessed Protector radar was on alert again. He had seen how devastated Blair had been over the news of the death of his wife. Jim couldn't even imagine such a loss. And the baby made the whole thing even more heart-wrenching.

After Blair had gotten married, he kept in contact with Jim and they had visited each other when time and their respective jobs allowed. But Jim had immediately noted that Jennifer had been a good influence and getting married had been a good move for Blair. Jim was so sure Blair would be a wonderful father, not having to live up to his preconceived notions of what a father was, since he had never known his own father. One thing Jim had been certain about was Blair would spoil his children in the sense of giving them whatever they wanted. Jim had seen Blair around kids before and he bent over backwards to make sure they were included in the group as a whole.

Blair Sandburg was sensitive to the needs and wishes of others. Jim was a first-hand witness to this, both to him and to others in Major Crime, students, faculty and workers at Rainier and just to the common person on the street on occasion. He always put his needs and wishes secondary to others. It had even occurred when he got married, when he had made the sacrifice to go to Portland so Jennifer didn't have to make the sacrifice to try to find employment in Cascade.

Jim wasn't sure what was going to happen now, but he was going to make sure he would be available to Blair if he did ask for help. If he decided his needs and wishes and life was now of primary concern.

*****

Blair jerked himself awake, yelling "JEN!" at the top of his lungs. He looked around, noting he was alone. The dream/nightmare had seemed so real, as if he could just reach out and touch Jen and his daughter. But reality soon transposed itself over the dream/nightmare. Blair rubbed his right hand over his face and slowly got to his feet, walking somewhat unsteadily towards the kitchen. He flipped the light switch, bathing the room in light. Everything was the way they had left it the day they left to go to Cascade.

Blair opened the refrigerator, immediately getting a whiff of the spoiled food inside. He ignored it for the time being, grabbing the bottle of beer off the bottom shelf. He popped the top off the beer and took a long swallow. He had to have a game plan, a plan of action. That's what the sane part of his mind was saying.

But another part of his mind, the insane(?) part, was telling him to just lock himself away here in this house and never come out again. He didn't want to do anything right now. And he suspected that no one would fault him if he didn't do anything right away. But he had lost four weeks of his life. And that made him think that he should be doing SOMETHING. But he didn't know what to do first.

So, he sat down at the kitchen table and finished his bottle of beer. He wished he had enough beer to get drunk and forget all about what had happened. He knew there wasn't enough beer in the world for him to do that.

He cursed the fact that both with his anthropology and psychology backgrounds, he knew exactly what to expect as he moved forward. He had learned about the five stages of grief -- denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, and knew that each person was unique in how they went through the stages and how long it took to go through the stages.

Blair had realized he had experienced several stages already. And in his heart, he was still firmly in the denial stage. Only because he had no first-hand knowledge of the accident, having only heard accounts from other people, mostly Jim and John, Jr. He wondered if he could get a copy of the accident report. He wondered if it would hep him or cause things to be worse. Maybe he could make some inquiries in the next few days and see what he could get.

He knew he couldn't hole up in the house forever. He wasn't a self-destructive man, although the hurt he had to accept had pushed him to the very limits of his endurance.

Blair finished up the bottle of beer and got to his feet, grabbing the notebook they kept by the telephone. He squinted to look at the time on the microwave -- it read 12:30. It was dark outside, so it was AM. He had slept about eleven hours. The most sleep he had gotten since coming out of his coma.

He made several lists: people he had to contact, a grocery list, things to do around the house, and places he had to go. He looked over the lists after they were complete, deciding to start with the list of things to do around the house. Number one on the list was to clean out the refrigerator. He could do that. It was just a small step, but all great journeys started with a small step.

*****

The phone rang before JIm had a chance to get out the door. He looked at the clock -- he was a little early. He answered the phone, thinking it might be Blair.

"Hello."

"Jim? It's John McMurray. I wanted to let you know that the trial is going to start in Olympia next Monday. I'll be there to monitor things."

"I have a favor to ask, John. Can you call Blair and let him know the particulars of the trial? He expressed wanting to be there in person. I'll give you his number in Portland."

"Sure, Jim. And I've been told that there will be a settlement from the company after the trial."

"Sounds good. You may want to mention that to Blair also."

Jim gave Blair's phone number to John and thanked him again for handling this. John told Jim he'd keep him up to date.

Jim left to go into the station; surprised Blair hadn't called, but understood his new found indepence and need to handle things on his own.

*****

Blair dragged out most of the contents of the refrigerator in the garbage bags he had filled up. It had taken him better than an hour to finish the task. But he crossed it off his list as soon as he got back inside from taking out the garbage. It was a sense of accomplishment. Blair could revel in the small things. At least for a while.

Blair surveyed the emptiness of the refrigerator now that task number one had been accomplished. He needed to go shopping. He found the grocery list, adding several more things. He went to find his keys and it hit him -- he had no car. the grocery store was several blocks away and there were no way he could carry the load he had to buy back with him.

Blair walked over to where the spare kyes were kept and saw the keys to Jennifer's Mustang there. The tears stung Blair's eyes. The vehicle was in the garage. Technically, he could drive the Mustang. There were still so many little details that had to be taken care of. A whole other list came to Blair. All of Jennifer's possessions. He had forgotten to put that on a list. Definitely a by-product of denial.

Blair found the address/telephone book that was kept by the telephone. He found John and Mary Gordon's phone number. He hadn't even called Jennifer's parents yet to let them know he was back in Portland. He grabbed the cordless phone and started to make the phone call. But then he realized it was 2:00 AM! He placed the phone back on the base and shook his head. He'd call at a more decent hour. He didn't want to appear as if he was ready for the loony bin. Even though he felt it as each minute went by.

He plucked the key ring off the hook and decided to go to the 24-hour grocery. He made sure the house was locked before he left. He opened the garage and saw the midnight blue Mustang sitting there. It had been Jennifer's pride and joy -- the first car she had been able to afford totally on her own. And she was fiercely possessive of it, hardly ever letting Bair drive it. Blair felt like he was doing something against God and the Heavens as he got into the car to go to the grocery store.

There was an advantage of going to the grocery store at 2:00 AM. Not very many people and definitely nobody who recognized Blair or even knew who he was, was there. He took his time going through the store, relishing the familiarity of the action.

By the time he got back home and got the groceries inside, it had used up another two hours. He put everything away, discovering he had bought more than he had on his list. Probably more than he would ever eat.

Once he finished putting the groceries away, Blair fixed himself scrambled eggs. He was hungry and he knew he couldn't neglect himself. He still had a sense of sel-preservation. There was still an overwhelming amount to do, but as long as he did it in small increments, he could handle it. He'd finish the household chores that needed to be taken care of and then make the phone calls he needed to.

He was finishing putting the last load of washing into the dryer when the phone rang. He answered the phone from the extension in the basement where he was.

"Hello?"

"Mr. Sandburg?"

"Yes." Blair was just a little cautious. "Who is this?"

"I'm John McMurray. I'm Jim Ellison's attorney. I think we've met before."

"Yes, Mr. McMurray. I remember you. Jim mentioned to me that you were handling the suing of the semi driver and the company he works for."

"Worked for. I understand from my sources that Peter Chambers no longer works for the company. But the company is still willing to settle the lawsuit after the trial. Jim told me that you were interested in attending the trial."

"Yes, I feel it's something I need to do. Can you give me the particulars?"

"The trial is slated to begin in Olympia next Monday. It will be held at the county courthouse there. It's not hard to find. I'm going to be there also."

"I'll see you there, then."

"I was sorry to hear about your wife, Mr. Sandburg."

"Thank you, Mr. McMurray. I know sending this Chambers to jail won't bring back Jennifer, but at least it will give me a small measure of closure."

"I'll see you next Monday."

"Thank you for the update."

Blair hung up the phone and calculated how many days until the trial began. It was Thursday now, so it was four days away. It would give him time to get a few more items accomplished on his list. Tomorrow, he would venture out into the city of Portland. He'd stay close to home for now. It gave him his greatest comfort zone.

As he brought the last of the wash upstairs, the front doorbell rang. Blair looked out the peep hole and noticed his neighbor, Joseph Maxwell. Blair opened the door and saw that Joseph was carrying a large paper bag full of what looked like letters and other pieces of mail.

"I noticed you were home yesterday, Blair. We were all shocked and stunned when we heard about the accident and Jennifer's death. I appointed myself the official watcher of your house and I picked up the mail daily and the newspapers. I decided to wait until today to invade your privacy and I'm not going to stay very long. I just want to give you the mail. I had to put it into a big paper bag." Joseph handed over the bag to Blair.

"Thank you, Joe. For everything. I'm finding I have friends all over who want to help me."

"I'll leave you be, Blair. But, if you need anything, just stop by. Either Sharon or I will be home."

Joseph Maxwell turned and walked back to his place, to the right of the Sandburg home. Blair smiled and closed the door. The paper bag was heavy and Blair noticed it had been stuffed full. He carried it to the dining room, placing the bag on the table there. He sat down and started pulling out envelopes and magazines. He started to separated the mail into what was obviously bills, what appeared to be probably condolence cards and letters, and what looked like junk mail. It took him some time to get through it all. He had started making several other sub-piles as he went along.

Once he was finished going through the whole bag, he left it all on the dining room table. He got up and walked to the kitchen, remembering he wanted to call John and Mary Gordon. He found the number again and called, carrying the cordless phone to the living room to sit down on the couch there.

"Hello."

"Mary? It's Blair. I came home yesterday and I wanted to let you and John know I was here."

"How are you doing, Blair?"

"I'm taking one step at a time. I've made several lists of things I have to do and I'm doing them one at a time. It's hard. It hurts so much! I didn't even get to say goodbye. And I'll never know my daughter. I am sorry."

"It wasn't your fault, Blair. No one blames you at all and you shouldn't blame yourself. It was that drunk driver who caused our family to become fractured. Are you taking care of yourself?"

"Yes. I had to clean out the refrigerator and go shopping for food. I made myself scrambled eggs. I've done the laundry and other things that needed to be done around the house. And my neighbor just brought over the backlog of mail. I need to go through that, but I wanted to call you. How are you doing?"

"About the same as you. Taking one day at a time. Some days are definitely better than others. Do you know where Jennifer is buried?"

"Yeah, my friend Jim brought me back to Portland. He told me he had been at the funeral service and I asked him to take me to the cemetery. It's a lovely place. Are you arranging for a headstone?"

"We thought we'd let you handle that, if you want to. After all, she was your wife and you should have some say in what goes there."

"Thank you. I'd like to do that. It made it real when I was standing there. Although sometimes I'm expecting it to all just to be a horrific nightmare."

"Anytime you need to talk to someone, we'll be here. You're our family also, Blair."

"Thank you, Mary. You've made me feel welcome since the first day Jennifer introduced me to her family. And if you need to talk, I'm a very good listener."

"Just take care of what you need to take care of, Blair. And stop by over the weekend for dinner one night. We'd love to see you. The last time we saw you, you were in a coma in the hospital."

"You saw me there?"

"Yes. I told John I wanted to stop in and see you. I told you that you had two guardian angels in Heaven looking down on you now."

Blair couldn't stop the sob from coming out. "I'm sorry."

"It's okay, Blair. I'll let you go. You'll stop by over the weekend?"

"Yeah, I will, Mary. Saturday night."

"I'll make something special."

"I'm not picky."

"Take care, Blair."

"You too, Mary."

Blair disconnected the line and let a sad smile come across his face. He got to his feet and went back to the dining room and the daunting task of going through the stacks of mail there. He placed the cordless phone on the seat next to where he was sitting. He started with the junk mail, figuring he could go through that quickly.

Blair took a break around 7:00 PM. He picked up the phone and called Jim, feeling an urge to hear his voice. And Jim had said he could call, anytime, just to talk.

The telephone was answered after the second ring.

"Ellison."

"Hey, Jim." Blair didn't know what else to say at that moment.

When Blair didn't say anything else, Jim spoke. "You okay, Blair?"

"Um...yeah. Pretty much so. I've been doing ordinary, everyday things. To give myself a sense of accomplishment. But I've made lists of other things that I have to do, that will be much harder."

"Well, you have to start somewhere."

"Yeah, that was my thought. I had to clean out the refrigerator; most of the food had gone bad. No one had been in the house for about a month. I went grocery shopping at around 1:30 AM, having the store mostly to myself. I was able to do it that way. I've restocked the fridge and the cabinets. I even made scrabled eggs for myself."

Jim could hear the pride in Blair's voice at his accomplishments, even though they were common, ordinary ones.

"Sounds good, Chief. It will take some time to get back into the swing of things."

"Oh, and Mr. McMurray called to let me know the trial starts next Monday. I plan on asking for a longer leave of absence from the university so I can be in Olympia for the trial. He also explained about the lawsuits."

"Are you sure you want to be there, Blair?" Jim wasn't sure it was the best thing for Blair to do. That it just might end up hurting him more in the long run.

"I'm sure, Jim." Blair paused. He knew Jim didn't approve of this, but it wasn't about Jim. Although Blair didn't want to be so blunt with Jim. "I need this, Jim. It will help with giving me a small measure of closure. It will help in the healing process. It won't change anything, but at least I hope Chambers will pay for the horrible mistake he made. That's why there are laws."

"You're right, Blair. It seems you understand completely."

"Yeah, but it is all just a fine tightrope that I'm walking, Jim." Blair felt the need to be totally honest with Jim. He got to his feet, walking from the dining room to the living room. "Sometimes, everything is fine and the next minute, I'm bawling my eyes out like some kid. I'm an emotional wreck. I want to find a psychiatrist to talk to and continue on what Dr. Frederick and I started in the hospital. A professional knows just what prompts and questions to use and ask. I started talking to her when I didn't even know I wanted to talk to anyone. A psychiatrist will keep it clinical and hopefully, I'll be able to deal with my emotions more reliably. Eventually, I want to return to teaching and I'll have to be able to show my face in the community. I can't avoid people forever." Blair let a small chuckle escape as he continued to walk from the living room to the dining room to the kitchen in a circuit.

"Yeah, you've never been one to shy away from people, Chief. No matter what the circumstances." Jim let a small smile come across his face as he thought about how open and honest and caring Blair had always been, since he had known him. Jim stood by the balcony windows, wishing he could be in Portland by Blair's side.

"Well, since I'm talking to you, I'm avoiding going through the letters and cards of condolence from people. I should start on that. I'll need to acknowledge them and respond. Thanks for being there, Jim."

"Your welcome, Chief. I'm here whenever you need me."

"Bye, Jim."

"Bye, Blair." Jim hung onto the phone after the line had been disconected. It was going to take some time, but Blair was working his way through his hurt, pain and grief.

In Portland, Blair hung onto the phone after he had disconnected the line. It was a comforting thought that Jim was just a phone call away. Always there to listen and to offer his own brand of advice and help.

Blair hadn't been upstairs to the second floor since he had come home. The clean wash was piled up in laundry baskets by the staircase leading upstairs. This was going to be another hurdle to jump and probably one of the hardest. He grabbed the two laundry baskets and took the steps upstairs. He took it slow, mindful of the cast on his leg and the difficulties walking and the cast on his left arm as he cradled the baskets against his chest and against the cast on his arm. He got to the landing at the top of the steps and turned left, to deposit the laundry baskets in the room where he had made himself an office. He couldn't quite face the bedroom just yet. There was a comfortable couch in his office and he could sleep there. It was all about little steps, not jumping hurdles. At least not yet.

He put the baskets down near his desk and sat down on the couch there. He was tired. He had done a lot today, although it was no where near what he usually did on a normal day. But these days weren't normal. Blair chuckled, wondering if there would ever be a normal day again in his life. So much had been turned upside down and inside out and he didn't know which was was up, which was was down, what was left and what was right. But those questions would be answered eventually. At least he hoped so. He lay down, going off to sleep, hoping to avoid the dream/nightmare tonight.

Blair woke up when the sun started to filter through the window there. He opened his eyes, closing them almost immediately against the onslaught of the bright light. He shielded his eyes with his right hand and opened them again. He sat up from the couch, looking at the clock on the wall above his desk. It read 7:30 AM. He hadn't awaked to a scream and the remnants of the dream/nightmare still vivid in his mind. This was a good thing, as he saw it. He got to his feet, left his office and went to the bathroom a couple of doors down. The first thing he saw when he walked in, were the two toothbrushes there in the holder. The pink one had been Jennifer's. The tears stung in Blair's eyes. He wiped them before they started to fall. The whole upstairs was a field of landmines just waiting to explode to erode Blair's carefully constructed tightrope he was straddling at the moment.

Blair quickly finished his buisness in the bathroom and left, not wanting to dwell there longer than necessary. He realized he'd have to find something to change into, not being able to wear the oversized sweats around town. He had planned to go to the university, check in with the department chair and get approval to take a longer leave of absence.

He would have to go into the bedroom. He had to look in his closet to get some clothes. He walked down the hall towards the bedroom. He walked inside the room, seeing the king size bed he and Jennifer had picked out together as they had most of the furniture in their house. Blair stood just inside the doorway. He closed his eyes, remembering the last night he and Jennifer had slept in their bed. The night before their ill-fated trip to Cascade. They had even snuggled in the bed the morning they left. Blair smiled with the memory.

He walked forward into the room, going over to the closet, opening the doors. He looked over what he had there, deciding a pair of khakis would allow enough room for the cast. And he found a short sleeved shirt he could get over the cast on his arm. He took the clothes out of the closet, putting them on the bed. He then got out socks and his dress shoes. He walked over to his bedside table, opening the drawer there to find his spare pair of glasses. He hadn't thought about asking anyone where his glasses were or if they had been broken in the accident. He just knew he didn't have them in the hospital and it wasn't a high priority at the time. He had a spare pair, although now he'd have to get another spare pair. He liked having a backup, just in case something happened. He put the glasses on, glad he wouldn't have to squint anymore to see.

He went back to the bathroom in order to take a sponge bath, figuring he couldn't maneuver a full-scale shower on his own with casts on his arm and leg and bandages around his midsection. He also had to contact his doctor, as he had promised Dr. Morgan back in Cascade he would do it as soon as he got back to Portland. He was sure everyone involved would understand.

He got downstairs an hour later dressed and ready to start his day. He toasted a bagel for his breakfast and found his lists where he had left them last night. Blair wanted to believe that Jim had a hand in the absence of the dream/nightmare. It was another step in the right direction.

After breakfast, Blair called his doctor, making an appointment for later that afternoon. Then he called Cascade General, authorizing the transfer of his medical records to Dr. Rosen's office. Then he left to go to Portland State University. He'd meet with the department chair and ask for the leave of absence, sure it would be granted to him.

Blair walked out of the house -- this time in the day time. He had to confront people again. He got into the Mustang and drove to the university. He parked in the employee parking lot and sat in the car. He looked in the rear-view mirror, running his hand through his short curls.

"C'mon, Blair. You can do this. Remember -- one step at a time."

Blair got out of the car and walked into the administration building. Several people greeted him as he walked up the stairs to the third floor. He was tired by the time he got to the third floor landing. He sat down on the top step to rest.

"Are you okay?"

Blair turned to face the person who spoke to him. It was Marcy Gray, Dr. Rodgers' secretary.

"Dr. Sandburg! I didn't know you were back -- I mean...uh..."

Blair slowly got to his feet, struggling somewhat to maintain his balance. "It's okay, Marcy. I just got back to Portland the other day. And I'm not really back. Not yet. I stopped by to talk to Dr. Rodgers. Is he in?"

"Ah...yeah. I'm sorry about the accident and your wife --" She looked away from Blair.

He reached out to Marcy, touching her on the arm.

"It's okay, Marcy. Thank you. It will take some time for me..." He coughed, caught up in the emotion. "I best go talk to Dr. Rodgers."

Marcy spoke as Blair walked away. "Take care of yourself, Dr. Sandburg."

Blair continued walking down the hall until he reached Dr. Rodgers' office. He knocked on the door and heard Dr. Rodgers say 'come in'. Blair walked into the office.

Dr. Jason Rodgers looked up as Blair Sandburg walked into his office. He could see the pain and despair etched on Blair's face.

"Blair my boy! I didn't expect to see you!" Jason had risen from his chair and came around his desk to meet Blair halfway. He was about twenty years older than Blair and had seen Blair as a son. "Here! Sit down." Jason practically pushed Blair down in the nearest chair. He then sat down in the chair beside Blair. "We were all in shock when we heard about the accident. And you have my deepest heartfelt sympathy for your loss. How are you doing?"

"As well as I can. I still don't remember anything about the accident. All I know is what other people told me. And I tire easily if I go too long. It's going to take a long time for me to come to grips with what happened. I loved Jen --" Blair looked away from Jason and rubbed his hand over his face. "I came here to ask if I could have an extended leave of absence? There are things I need to take care of -- and I need more time. Terry can take care of my classes until I come back. He's a very competent TA."

"Yes, he is. He's been handling all of your classes since we found out -- How long a leave were you thinking?"

"Three weeks at the most. Any longer and I might not come back at all. Most of my students probably don't remember me anyway. Is that okay, Jason?"

"It's fine, Blair. If you need more time, I'll understand. Just let me know. I'll explain things to the rest of the department and the university people that need to know. Just make sure you take care of yourself along with the other things you have to take care of, Blair."

"I will, Jason. Thank you for everything." Blair and Jason both got to their feet at the same time. They shook hands and Blair left the office.

Blair stopped by his office and unlocked the door. He walked inside and sat down at his desk. He just needed a few minutes. He took a few deep breaths and his eyes zeroed in on the picture on his desk.

"Damn, Jen! Why did this happen to us? We had the perfect life. We were going to grow old together." Blair reached out and picked up the picture and held it close. He looked down and gazed at the picture of him and Jennifer taken about six months ago at a Gordon family picnic.

The door opened and Blair looked up. He put the picture back down. The young man walked into the office. He was surprised to see Blair there.

"Blair! I didn't expect to see you. I'm sorry about Jennifer --"

"It's okay, Terry. Thank you for filling in for me. I came here to ask Dr. Rodgers for a leave of absence. I need you to fill in for three more weeks. Is that okay?"

"It's fine, Blair. I've gotten several weeks worth of subjects lined up. I just need to come up with the class project and some tests."

Blair got to his feet and walked over to one of the many file cabinets in the office. He opened the bottom drawer and pulled out a thick folder. He handed it to Terry.

"That's several years of ideas. Things I've used over the many classes I've both taken and taught. It is a variety of subjects and there should be something useful there. Use whatever you want."

"Thanks, Blair."

"I need to go. I've got things to take care of. I know you'll do just fine."

"Thanks for the vote of confidence, Blair."

"Make sure you lock up when you leave."

"I will. Take care."

Blair left his office. He left the university, realizing it was close to his doctor's appointment. He drove to the office and waited to see his doctor.

When he got in to see his doctor, he found out that they had gotten the medical records from both Olympia and Cascade. The doctor's appointment went fine and Blair found out he had to have the casts on for several more months. On the plus side, his ribs were mostly healed and the headaches were gone.

Blair stopped by a fast-food drive up for lunch, getting a salad and an iced tea to take home with him. He drove back to the house. He ate his lunch in the kitchen, relaxing for the first time that day. After he finished his lunch, he walked into the dining room, seeing the mail still strewn over the table. He sat down there and began the task of wading through it all.

Some time later, Blair looked at his watch, noting it was early evening. He had accomplished the task of going through the piles of mail. There were a lot of sympathy cards and Blair knew he had to respond to them all. Another thing to add to the ever-increasing list.

Each member of Major Crime, except Jim, along with many members of the Cascade Police Department, had sent their condolences. And many people from Rainier. He had left his mark in Cascade and he had been remembered. He was touched by the show of support.

He needed a break. And he needed to eat dinner. He wanted to stay on a schedule. He got up from the dining table and went into the kitchen, getting out a can of tomato soup. He opened the can, dumping the contents into a saucepan, and warming it up. As the soup was warming, he made himself a cup of tea. When the soup was warm, he put it into a bowl and carried it, and the tea, over to the table and sat down. He ate his dinner.

Blair grabbed the phone after he finished eating. He pressed speed dial five, waiting for the answer on the other end. It was answered after the second ring.

"Ellison."

"Hey, Jim."

Jim frowned. Two nights in a row? "You okay, Blair?"

"I went to the university today. I also saw my doctor. The casts have to stay on for a couple more months. When I got home, I got through the mail pile-up. I received a lot of sympathy cards. More from Cascade than I expected. I must have left an impression."

"Of course you left an impression, Chief. Don't ever doubt that."

"I sorta pushed myself today."

"I know you won't listen, but you don't have to push yourself. Take it easy, take your time."

"Okay."

When there was no other words forthcoming, Jim spoke. "Okay? You're better than three hours away and NOW you start to listen to me?"

"What can I say? I need someone to run my life right now. At least some aspect of it. I feel like you are the best candidate."

"I'm honored. You want me to come there?"

"Nah, I think the phone calls are just fine. If it's okay with you?"

Jim could hear a slight pleading in Blair's voice. "It's fine, buddy. I'm here for you."

"That means a lot. Thank you. Really."

"Take care of yourself. And call whenever you need to."

"I will, Jim. Bye."

"Bye, Blair."

*****

Blair went to the Gordon's on Saturday night. He wasn't expecting the whole family to be there. Jen's brother and two sisters, and their families were all there. It was similar to the family picnic six months ago. Except Jennifer wasn't there. After making the rounds and talking to everyone, Blair had to excuse himself.

He hid out in the basement inside the house, so sure that no one would miss him or, more importantly, find him. It had all just been a little too much, too soon. And seeing the kids there really hurt. He didn't want to act this way, but he was hoping a little time by himself would help.

He heard the voice some time later.

"Blair? I know you're down here. Please, come out."

Blair came out from the shadows to see Mary standing there."How did you know I was down here?"

"It was always a favorite hiding place for my children when they were young. Even when they got older. Including Jennifer. I know this is hard for you, Blair. And I'm sorry about springing the whole family on you. But they wanted to come when they found out you were going to be here. Can you forgive me?"

"There's nothing to forgive, Mary. I just needed a little time by myself."

"We're all your family now, Blair and we want to share and help you through your pain and grief." Mary came forward and enclosed Blair in a hug, mindful of the cast on his arm.

Blair started sobbing, feeling like a small child. He held onto Mary with his right arm. She patted him on the back and kept him close.

When his tears finally abated, he pulled out of the embrace.

"Thank you."

"You ready to come back out with the others? They all miss you."

"Yeah, I'm ready. I was sure no one would miss me. Or find me. I appreciate all that everyone has done for me."

"You are welcome here whenever you want to come."

When Blair left the Gordon's, he called Jim from his cell phone on the drive home. He explained about his extended family, how he was accepted and how they wanted to help him. And he was surprised they didn't blame him for the accident.

Jim reinforced the fact that Blair was in no way, shape or form to blame for the accident or the death of Jennifer. Blair had been a victim also.

When the call was disconnected, Jim reflected on the way Blair seemed amazed that Jennifer's family wanted to accept him and help him. Jim was happy that Blair had the Gordon family there with him in Portland to help look out for him and make sure things went okay.

*****

On Sunday afternoon, Blair drove to Olympia to make sure he was there in time for the trial of Peter Chambers. He drove around Olympia, finding the Thurston County Courthouse. There was a hotel a couple of minutes away and he got himself a room. He was tired from the drive and decided to make sure he got enough sleep before the trail began the next morning. He walked inside the room, placing his duffel bag on the chair there. He fell asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow.

Blair woke at 3:30 AM, knowing he wouldn't go back to sleep. He went to the bathroom, leaving the light on after he was finished. He came out, sitting on his bed, able to see the shadows and outlines of the furniture in his hotel room.

He reflected on how he felt about the upcoming trial. He had done some quick research into the law and knew that vehicular homicide did not carry the same sentence as homicide with other deadly weapons, such as guns, knives or even beatings. Even vehicular homicide while intoxicated was basically a slap on the wrist.

On the one hand, Blair knew that no amount of jail or prison time would bring Jennifer and his baby girl back to him. But it was a satisfying conclusion to see someone pay for their wrongdoing. Blair had seen this numerous times during his association with the Cascade Police Department, never thinking he would ever have first-hand experience with it.

Blair wondered what Peter Chambers was like? And, was he devastated over the crash, the fact that he had killed someone, injured someone else and basically had destroyed his own life as a result of his wrongdoing? Was Peter Chambers sorry, remorseful, repentant? Could Blair forgive Peter Chambers for what he had done? For taking away his love and life and the innocent, unborn child he would never meet?

Blair's sobs and cries filled the hotel room. He couldn't see himself moving beyond this point in time. At least, not anytime soon. Maybe after the trial, after justice was handed down, he'd be able to move forward. But right now, the hurt and pain was still too raw, too new, too devastating for him to contemplate having any type of normal, functional life.

He reached for the phone, dialing without any conscious thought or effort. Only when he heard the ring at the other end did he realize what time it was. The phone was answered after the second ring.

Well, Jim was the one who said to call whenever he needed to. And Blair needed to now.

"Ellison."

Blair could hear the sleep in Jim's voice. He felt just a little bit quilty. Jim really WAS his best friend. Still.

"I'm sorry it's so early." Blair took a deep, shuddering breath.

"No problem, Blair. I'm the morning person, not you. Everything fine?"

"Not really. I came to Olympia early, late..." Blair stopped abruptly.

"Sounds like someone needs some more sleep." There was a light, teasing note to Jim's voice.

Blair ignored Jim. "Late yesterday afternoon. I came to find the courthouse, get a hotel room for the duration of the trial. Fell asleep. Woke up about 3:30 AM, starting thinking of Chambers, my loss, the trial, everything. It's all SO overwhelming at times." Blair punctuated his speech with a big yawn.

Jim smiled.

"Sometimes..." Jim paused, thinking of the right words, "you need to take a step back. Slow down. Not look at the big picture, but only focus on what you can handle at the present moment. The rest will be there, waiting when you are ready."

Blair let a half chuckle, half sob escape. "That's why you are my best friend. You'll listen to me ramble on at 4:00 AM and then give me the perfect advice."

"Relax, Blair. Get some sleep, if you can. You'll be kicked out of the courtroom if you start snoring."

"And sound advice, also. 'Night, Jim."

"Good morning, Sandburg."

Blair hung up the phone. He got dressed, deciding to take a short walk. That way, he would be able to relax.

*****

Blair arrived in the courtroom early. He noticed John McMurray, Jim's lawyer, already there, talking to someone. When John noticed Blair walk in, he motioned to Blair to join him. Blair walked over to the two men.

"Blair Sandburg, this is Tom Michaels, the prosecutor for the county. Tom, this is the other victim of the accident caused by Peter Chambers, Blair Sandburg, Jennifer's husband."

The two men shook hands.

"I'm sorry for your loss, Mr. Sandburg. We have word from Mr. Chambers' lawyer that he's going to plead guilty and do the time set by the judge. Chambers wants to make a statement to the court."

"I was wondering if there was any way for me to make a victim impact statement before sentencing? I wrote down some things this morning when I woke up, in hopes that maybe I would be allowed to say something."

"I'll talk to the judge and Mr. Chambers' lawyer, but I don't see any reason why you wouldn't be allowed to speak to the court before sentencing. Also, are you seeking any restitution from the the accused?"

John McMurray answered before Blair could. "No. The company the accused was working for at the time of the accident has offered a substantial settlement that I'm going to suggest Mr. Sandburg take to put closure on this incident. The company offered the settlement after hearing about the guilty plea."

"Well, that should be that then. I'll get the approval for your victim impact statement and you and your wife can have a voice and put a human touch to these proceedings."

Blair only nodded yes. This would be a definite step forward.

Blair and John McMurray went to sit down together behind the prosecutor's table. John showed Blair the signed documents, indicating the settlement amount. It was more than Blair had thought it would be. But he approved of the settlement, signing the papers to authorize it.

Blair stared at Peter Chambers when he was escorted into the courtroom. He looked like an ordinary guy, just like any number of men Blair had encountered in his life.

Chambers' lawyer told the judge his client was entering a guilty plea and was willing to accept the sentence handed down by the judge. He also asked if his client could address the court.

The judge confirmed everything with the prosecutor, Tom Michaels. He agreed to the guilty plea, the judge imposing the sentence appropriate and the accused addressing the court. And he also got permission for the surviving victim of the accident, Blair Sandburg, to be allowed to address the court with a victim impact statement. The judge agreed to allow Blair time to speak before the sentencing.

Blair paid little attention to the evidence and case presented by the prosecutor. He was mentally preparing himself as to what he was going to say in front of these people. It would be the first time to really acknowledge to someone outside of friends and family just what he had lost.

The judge's voice cut through his thoughts. "You may speak, Mr. Sandburg."

Blair got to his feet and walked forward to stand by the witness box. He looked at the judge, then turned to face the others in the courtroom.

"Jennifer Sandburg was my life, my love, my everything. My wife of almost a year and a half. We were going to have a lifetime together. She pursued me at a time when I didn't even know I wanted to be married. We were expecting our first child. Jen was four months pregnant with our daughter. I'm sure she would have looked like her mother." Blair removed his glasses, wiping away the tears, momentarily looking away from the people gathered in the courtroom. He took a deep breath, cleared his throat and started again.

"This devastating act destroyed my life and fractured a family. Now, we all have to try to carry on without Jen. I forgive you, Mr. Chambers." Blair looked directly at the man, who was unable to keep his gaze. "Because, if I don't forgive you, I'll never be able to move forward. You'll have to live with the consequences of your actions long after you finish your stint in prison. I hope you have learned your lesson and I hope you never have to endure the pain and suffering I have. Thank you."

Blair walked back to sit beside John McMurray. He hadn't noticed the other person in the courtroom, in the back.

"Mr. Chambers, please stand up." The accused and his lawyer got to their feet at the request of the judge. "You showed complete disregard for your fellow human beings. As a result of your actions, one person died and another was seriously injured and has lost what he thought was going to be a lifetime companion. I sentence you to 42 months in the state prison. You will get credit for time served."

And with that, it was over. Blair got to his feet and turned to shake John McMurray's hand.

"Thank you for all of your help. I'll make sure I mention how helpful you were when I talk to Jim."

"He is a great lawyer, isn't he?"

Blair turned, shocked to see Jim standing practically beside him.

"What...why...?"

"You didn't get that sleep, did you, Chief?"

"Why are you here?"

"I told Simon you needed a little more support and I needed the day off. So, here I am."

"Can we get out of here?"

"Anywhere you want to go, Blair."

"My hotel is just minutes away."

They left the courthouse together. Jim followed Blair back to his hotel and followed him up to his room.

Jim sat in a chair while Blair paced back and forth. He started to open up to Jim.

"We were coming to Cascade to tell everyone about the baby. Jen wanted to know what it was going to be from the beginning. She told me it was a girl. Girl or boy, we were going to name it after you, Jim."

"Me? Why me?"

"Because you are my best friend. And Jen really liked you. She always called you my big brother. She understood how close we were and that I wanted to keep in touch with you. That I wanted you involved in our lives. Anyway, we were going to call our daughter Jamie Josephine." The tears welled up again and Blair swiped at them. "I...so...wanted...to be a dad." It was barely whispered.

Blair stood in the middle of the floor, rooted to the spot. Jim got to his feet, walking over to Blair and holding on to him as he cried for his loss. Jim would stay there as long as Blair needed him.

The End