Headache to Heartache

By: Debbie Tripp

EMAIL: Debbie

RATING: PG

DISCLAIMER: Unfortunately, I don't own the characters of Jim Ellison and Blair Sandburg.

SUMMARY: Blair believes he only has a short time to live. But is it really true?

This is my contribution to Dawn's October Themefic request which is: Blair gets mistakenly diagnosed with a terminal condition. He believes he has only a short time left to live. For believable reasons, he gives up hope and starts to act out of character. Jim doesn't quite know what to do and feels helpless. Of course, it must turn out that Blair doesn't have a terminal illness.

I hope this fits the bill. Blair believes he has a terminal condition and Jim must convince him otherwise. Many thanks go to Lyn for the QUICK beta job on this. I procrastinated and got stuck several times writing this story. All subsequent mistakes are mine. And special thanks go to Lisa for giving me her thoughts on this story before I let it go.

Feedback on or off list.

 

******

Jim was concerned when Blair begged off not going to the basketball game with the guys. Jim knew Blair was in pain and had been in pain for several days. Blair assured Jim it was only a headache, no big deal, a result of a long week at the university. Blair told Jim to go on to the game. Jim hesitated, but Blair insisted. Jim left only after assuring himself that Blair was okay.

 

"Don't be so overprotective, Jim. It's just a headache. I've had them before. I'll be fine."

 

"Call me if you need to." Jim fixed Blair with a no nonsense look of concern conveyed easily to Blair.

 

"Will do, Jim. Go… you'll be late and the guys will blame me."

 

 

Jim left the loft with one last look at Blair, worry in his eyes.

 

An hour after Jim left, the intensity of Blair's headache increased. He was able to stumble to his feet from the couch where he had been lounging, and weave his way to the bathroom. He flipped the light switch on, bathing the room in light. He quickly turned it off, too much stimuli coming to his eyes. It hurt too much. He reached out blindly to turn on the water faucet and splash water on his face, thinking it would help. Then he was able to make his way out towards the kitchen to grab the cordless phone. He needed to call for help. He knew he had told Jim it was just a headache, but now it felt like his head was going to split. He dialed 9-1-1 while closing his eyes, trying to alleviate the pain and block the stimuli.

 

He told the dispatcher about his pain and the relevant information needed for the ambulance to reach his location. As he was talking, he made it over to sit down in one of the chairs at the table. The dispatcher assured Blair that an ambulance was en route.

 

"Can you stay on the line, Blair?"

 

"I'll try. I feel like I'm going to be sick."

 

As he waited for the ambulance to arrive, Blair got to his feet, moved over by the refrigerator, grabbing the note pad and pen, and went back over to the table. He wanted to try to write a coherent note to leave for Jim. Blair could barely see the paper and his hand was shaking slightly. Blair wasn't sure how long he'd be gone, but he wasn't going to interrupt Jim at the game.

 

The dispatcher chimed in. "How are you doing, Blair?"

 

"Better. I don't think I'm going to throw up now. It seems to have passed for the moment."

 

"Good. The ETA for the ambulance is five minutes."

 

He could go to the hospital on his own. He finished up his note, such as it was. It looked like a kid had written it… a kid who had just learned how to write. It would have to suffice. He placed the pen on top of the note so Jim would notice it when he came home.

 

Blair heard the siren approaching.

 

"I hear the ambulance coming," announced Blair to the dispatcher.

 

"They just radioed in they have pulled up in front of the building. You'll be in good hands, Blair."

 

"Thank you." Blair turned off the phone and placed it on the table by the note. He closed his eyes, trying again to alleviate the pain. He hated the fact he felt so debilitated. It had never been this bad.

 

Within minutes, there was a knock at the door. Blair realized the door was locked and slowly got to his feet to shuffle over and unlock the door. He opened it to see two male paramedics standing there with a gurney in tow.

 

"Mr. Sandburg?"

 

Blair looked up at the two men. "Yes. C'mon in." Blair moved aside to allow the two paramedics, and their gurney, inside the loft. Blair almost fell over. Both paramedics were right beside him, helping him to sit down on the gurney.

 

Blair tried to stand up again, but one of the paramedics held him down by the shoulders.

 

"Just sit still, Mr. Sandburg."

 

"I'm… sorry." Blair had closed his eyes yet again. He opened them slowly to look at the two men.

 

"No problem, Mr. Sandburg. We need to ask you some questions and find out what happened."

 

"Sure. But please… call me Blair."

 

"Okay, Blair. I'm George and this is Ben. Ben is going to take your vital signs while I ask the questions. Relax as much as you can and we'll have you en route to the hospital ASAP."

 

Blair did as George instructed and answered the questions. George asked how long Blair had had the headache. Blair was honest and explained it had been almost a week, although the intensity had increased over the last twelve hours.

"Were you able to get any relief from the pain?" George asked, as he looked at the blood pressure reading when Ben wrote it down.

 

"Some, but the doctor said it was common to have headaches after suffering a concussion."

 

"A concussion? When did that happen?"

 

"On the twelfth, Saturday." Blair looked over at George.

 

"How did it happen, Blair?"

 

"Well, let me start off by saying I'm associated with the Cascade Police Department. In the Major Crime division. I was helping with a stakeout and the suspect knocked me over and I hit the ground hard. I was dazed and a little confused for a couple of days." Blair paused, closing his eyes as another wave of pain passed through him.

 

"So, you saw a doctor?"

 

"Yes. In the ER at Cascade General. A Dr. Phillips. He told me to take it easy and rest. I did… I have for the past week."

 

"Well, your blood pressure is a little high and your temperature is up a few degrees. Why don't we get you strapped onto the gurney and we'll transport you to the hospital? They will take care of you there."

 

Blair allowed George and Ben to get him situated on the gurney. As they strapped Blair down, George called in to the hospital, telling the nurse they were getting ready to transport and giving Blair's vital signs.

 

Blair relaxed on the gurney, closing his eyes, wishing he could banish the pain. He was thinking about Jim, hoping he'd find the note.

 

George and Ben started to wheel the gurney towards the door.

 

 

Blair opened his eyes. "Can you make sure the door is locked when you get me out? Jim would never forgive me if the loft gets ripped off."

 

"We'll make sure we lock up, Blair. Now, just relax and we'll be at the hospital in no time."

 

Blair settled back against the gurney and noted George did lock the loft door when they left. They took the elevator down to the first floor. Blair released the breath he had been holding as George and Ben wheeled the gurney off the elevator. George turned to Blair.

 

"Are you doing okay, Blair?"

 

"Yeah." Blair looked around, noticing they were leaving the building. Ben shifted the blanket over Blair.

 

"We'll be in the ambulance shortly."

 

George and Ben lifted the gurney into the back of the ambulance and George was soon by Blair's side. Ben got into the cab of the ambulance, made contact with the hospital again and started the engine. Blair closed his eyes again, trying to relax.

 

They reached the hospital within minutes and the gurney was unloaded from the ambulance and wheeled inside the emergency entrance of Cascade General Hospital. Blair kept his eyes closed, but heard George relay his history, vital signs and general health to the hospital personnel. Blair was wheeled to a small cubicle and George and Ben helped the hospital personnel transfer Blair from the gurney to the examination bed there. Blair opened his eyes, looking at both George and Ben. "Thanks, guys."

 

"Take care, Blair. You're in good hands."

 

George and Ben left the cubicle, leaving Blair and a couple nurses. Blair looked from one to the other.

 

"Okay, Mr. Sandburg, can you help us fill out the paperwork?"

 

"Can I get something for the pain?"

 

"We need to get some more background first, Mr. Sandburg. And then the doctor will have to look over your history."

 

"Please, call me Blair. Okay, I'll help you. What do you want to know?"

 

"We just need to find out your symptoms and decide what treatment to give you."

 

The nurses basically covered the same information as the paramedics. Blair endured the duplication. About halfway through the examination, one of the nurses left the cubicle to find a doctor to come look at Blair. His pain had spiked once again.

 

Dr. Mark Phillips walked into the cubicle, followed by the other nurse. He recognized Blair from his visit to the ER almost a week ago.

 

"How are you doing, Blair?"

 

"Dr. Phillips. Not too good. The pain is intense. And I feel like I'm going to be sick. I felt that way earlier."

 

Dr. Phillips looked over the medical history Blair had given both the paramedics and the nurses. He knew it was probably a result of the concussion Blair had suffered.

 

"Blair, I think you are suffering from post-concussive symptoms as a result of your incident a week ago. What I'm going to do is give you a pain killer to help with the headache and give you a shot of anti-nausea medication to help with your upset stomach. Then I want to schedule you for an x-ray, and then admit you to the hospital so we can get an MRI tomorrow, just to make sure there's nothing going on that we should be concerned about. Is that okay with you?"

 

Blair looked up at Dr. Phillips, a little concerned. "Yeah, it's fine with me, Dr. Phillips. Do you think it's something serious?" Blair's concern colored his tone.

 

"Chances are, no. It's very common for people who suffer from concussions to have headaches weeks, sometimes even months, sometimes longer after the initial incident. I just feel better covering all the contingencies. I wouldn't dwell on it, Blair. By the way, does Jim know you're here?"

 

"Well, I left him a note. He was at a basketball game when this all got to be too much. I'm sure he'll be by after he gets home."

 

"We'll arrange to have you transferred to a regular room. It may be some time before one becomes available. Meanwhile, the pain shot and the anti-nausea medication may make you a little drowsy. Just relax and we'll let you know when we're going to move you to your room. We'll bring in a portable x-ray machine to take the images we'll need."

 

"Thank you, Dr. Phillips."

 

The doctor turned to the remaining nurse and told her the medications he wanted Blair to have and to arrange to have an x-ray technician come and take several head x-rays to see if anything was obvious that might have changed over the week since the initial injury.

 

Blair relaxed on the examination bed, closing his eyes and barely flinching when the nurse came back to give him the shots Dr. Phillips had ordered. He was beginning to wish Jim was here with him for the wait to be moved to a regular room.

 

A few minutes later, another nurse came in to get him to fill out the forms for his admittance to the hospital. He asked what time it was and found out he had only been at the hospital for just under an hour. It was just past 9:00 PM. Jim wouldn't be home probably for at least another hour. Blair thought again about trying Jim's cell phone and explaining what happened, but he wasn't in a life and death situation so he decided against ruining Jim's night out with the guys.

 

He was soon finished with the forms and handed them back to the nurse when she came back.

 

"Any idea when I'll be moved to my room?"

 

"It will probably be some time, Blair. We've just been informed there are several ambulances en route bringing in several injured people from a six-car pileup downtown. We may even have to move you to an out of the way room in the interim to give us enough room for the injured."

 

"That's okay. I understand." Blair could feel the effects of the shots starting to take effect and he could tell that his headache was less severe than it had been. It would all be okay. The nauseated feeling he had also had abated.

 

About ten minutes later, the portable x-ray machine was wheeled into the small cubicle where he was and the technician took the images Dr. Phillips had ordered. The machine and the technician left about twenty minutes later and Blair allowed himself to drift off into slumber, feeling better than he had for some time.

 

Some time later, Blair wasn't sure how much time had passed; two orderlies came in and started to move his bed.

 

Blair opened his eyes, looking at the orderlies. "Where are you taking me?"

 

"We need the space for treatment. We're going to move you into the hall for the time being."

 

"Any news about when I'll be moved to my room?"

 

"Sorry, sir. We don't know anything about that. We were just instructed to make room for several injured people arriving."

 

"Oh." Blair didn't worry about it. He was situated outside the cubicle where he had been. He closed his eyes again, still feeling the effects of the medications he had been given. He would be okay here until they found him and moved him to his room.

 

Blair opened his eyes. He wasn't sure how much time had passed, but the activity in the emergency room had increased dramatically. Blair was fairly alert by this time and watched as doctors, nurses and orderlies passed by him without a glance in his direction. It was as if he was invisible. But it was okay with him. No one bothered him and he knew there were other people in the ER more injured than he was. A rarity in itself.

 

All of a sudden, Blair heard the unmistakable voice of Dr. Phillips talking. He seemed to be talking to one of the nurses there. Blair heard them clearly.

 

"There is definitely something showing up on those x-rays. It could be anything - a blood clot, tumor, or even swelling."

 

"Do we tell him now?"

 

"No, no need to worry him now. We'll do the additional tests and see what they tell us. Are they scheduled yet?"

 

"I was just going to get to that. With the influx of patients in the emergency room, things got a little backed up."

 

Blair quit listening to them. It was like he had been punched in the gut. He just KNEW they were talking about him. The words kept going around and around in his mind - blood clot, tumor, swelling. He could be dead before Jim even knew he was here.

 

Then Blair realized he couldn't stay there. He knew what each potential complication meant. He'd have to have surgery, on his brain. They'd have to cut off his hair, cut open his scalp, and expose his brain to the open. It was a good bet he wouldn't survive it. He could end up worse off than whatever problem he had. A wrong cut or a slip of the scalpel and he could suffer permanent brain damage.

 

Blair looked around, noticing still no one was paying attention to him. He slipped off the examination bed, amazed he was able to stand on his own two feet. He watched the bustle around him for a while and then casually walked to the emergency entrance and slipped out through the doors. He didn't want to die in the hospital.

 

He was amazed none of the hospital personnel came after him. If he started moving, he'd be away from the area in no time. There were still some residual after-effects of the medications he had been given, but nothing he couldn't handle. He thought about calling Jim, but when he looked at his watch, it was only 10:30 PM. Jim was probably still enjoying the post-game revelry with the guys.

 

The thought came clearly to Blair - he couldn't contact Jim. He didn't want to be a burden to Jim. He didn't want to have Jim watch him as he died a slow, painful, horrible death. It wasn't fair to put Jim through that. Jim wasn't responsible for his health and well-being. He was a grown man and he could take care of himself. Of course, now that he was going to die, there would be no more taking care of anything.

 

Blair stood outside the hospital for a few minutes, debating about what to do and where to go. He had to find somewhere Jim wouldn't find him. Which meant Rainier was out. It would be the first place Jim would check after the hospital. Blair shivered slightly from the drop in temperature, feeling the loss of not having his coat with him. He decided to start walking. He took off, no set destination in mind.

 

About a half an hour after Blair had walked out, unnoticed, from the ER and left Cascade General Hospital, Dr. Phillips noticed Blair was no longer on the examination bed where he had been left. He started asking around, trying to determine if Blair had already been moved to his hospital room. But no one seemed to know where Blair had gone. It was like he had disappeared into thin air.

 

It was just after 11:00 PM when Jim arrived back at the loft. Despite Blair not being with them, it had been an enjoyable evening out with the guys. Jim had tried calling Blair a couple of times during the evening, but there had been no answer. To his credit, Jim didn't panic, didn't rush home to find out what was wrong. He suspected Blair had finally been able to get relief from his headache and had gone to bed, getting some much needed rest. At least, that was Jim's hope.

 

With that in mind, Jim was quiet when he unlocked the door and walked inside the loft. The place was dark and Jim tried to pinpoint where Blair was. But the familiar heartbeat, respirations and smells Jim associated with Blair didn't come to his senses. Jim then spotted the cordless phone on the kitchen table and the piece of paper beside it.

 

As he picked up the paper to read it, he knew it was from Blair, and his worry notched several degrees higher. Jim could barely decipher Blair's shaking script. It only read, 'hospital, called 911, didn't disturb… '

 

"Damn, Chief! You could have called me!" Jim was talking to the empty room, but needed to vent his frustration. Jim double-checked the loft, making sure Blair hadn't returned after his trip to the hospital. He didn't trust his senses to give him an accurate reading. They always seemed to act up and go on the fritz when there was danger or injury to Blair.

 

Satisfied Blair was still at the hospital, Jim left the loft again. He assumed Blair had been taken to Cascade General Hospital. At least, that's where he would start. It was where they usually went in emergencies. On the drive to the hospital, Jim realized Blair must have been in unbearable pain if he had called 911 and had gone to the hospital willingly. Jim felt that surge of protectiveness swell inside of him as he thought about Blair. His earlier anger and frustration was gone, replaced by a need to provide help and comfort for his partner. Jim hoped there wasn't an underlying problem. He remembered the headaches had been an almost constant companion ever since the concussion he had suffered from the suspect knocking him down.

 

At the time, the doctor at the hospital said there didn't appear to be any problems, but headaches and sensitivities to light and sound might be a problem for a while. Jim had noted over the week that had passed since the incident, Blair had complained about the light and tended to spend a lot of time sequestered in his room, explaining to Jim that it provided the respite he needed from the pain. As he remembered it now, Jim knew Blair hadn't been eating too much, claiming he wasn't hungry. Jim suspected that something had been MORE wrong than Blair wanted to admit to and Jim wanted to see. Jim only hoped it was nothing major.

 

Jim rushed into the emergency entrance of Cascade General Hospital. He had clipped his badge onto the lapel of his coat, ready to demand where Blair was. He stopped at the nurse's station. The nurse there looked up at him.

 

"Can I help you, sir?"

 

"Yes. I'm looking for Blair Sandburg. He left me a note, telling me he came to the hospital. He was suffering from post-concussive headaches."

 

Dr. Phillips was on the phone at the nurse's station. He had heard what Jim had said. "I'll get back to you." He hung up the phone.

 

"Jim?"

 

Jim looked up and saw the doctor that had treated Blair after the concussion. "Dr. Phillips. Did you treat Blair?"

 

"I did. He was brought in by ambulance, complaining of headache and nausea. I gave him a pain shot and anti-nausea medication. I also had precautionary x-rays taken to determine if there was something more going on. They came back non-conclusive. Blair also consented to being admitted to the hospital so we could arrange to have an MRI done tomorrow to rule out anything serious."

 

"He's in a regular room then?" Jim looked at the doctor, determining he wasn't telling him the whole story.

 

"Not exactly. We had Blair in a cubicle, but then we got an influx of injuries from a six-car pileup and it got crazy here in the ER. Blair was moved from the cubicle because we needed the space and placed in the hallway. His room wasn't ready yet because of the backlog of new injuries we had to treat. I just discovered he's gone missing."

 

Jim closed his eyes and opened them again. He gave Dr. Phillips an incredulous look. "Please, tell me you're kidding?"

 

Dr. Phillips winced. "I wish I was, Jim. I've checked the ER and double-checked to make sure he wasn't taken to a room without my knowledge. I have even alerted security to be on the lookout for him. I don't even know how long he's been missing. The last entry on his chart is 9:25 PM when the x-ray technicians finished taking the images I wanted."

 

Jim looked at his watch. It was 11:25 PM now. For all he knew, Blair had been missing for two hours. And the chances were pretty good that he wasn't in the hospital anymore. Blair wasn't overly fond of hospitals and wouldn't stick around one if he didn't have to. Jim looked back at Dr. Phillips.

 

"Continue with the search of the hospital by your security personnel." Jim got one of his business cards out of his wallet and handed it to Dr. Phillips. "Chances are Blair probably walked out of the hospital. For reasons only known to Blair. But if you do find him, put him in a room and call me. My cell phone number is on there. I'm going to take to the streets. There are several places I can think of where he could have gone. Are there any side effects of the medications you gave him?"

 

"Nothing really, although he might be a little drowsy still. In rare instances, there is a feeling of disorientation, dizziness, and a possible lack of coordination. He really shouldn't be roaming the streets of the city. His headache could come back, too, after the medication wears off."

 

"Is there anything seriously wrong with Blair, doctor?"

 

"As I told Blair, I don't think there is. But we like to cover all the bases, just in case. He needs to come back so we can run the tests."

 

"Okay, Dr. Phillips. Thank you. I'll bring him back when I find him."

 

"Good luck, Jim."

 

Jim waved to the doctor as he left the emergency room and returned to his truck. The prospect of hunting down his partner didn't appeal to Jim at all. Blair could have gone anywhere in the city. It was a safe bet Blair hadn't returned to the loft. Their paths hadn't crossed. But Jim wanted to double-check, just in case.

 

As he started the truck's engine, Jim briefly thought about putting out an informal APB for his partner, explaining to officers out on the streets to locate, but not detain. Jim knew it was an abuse of power, but after all, this was Blair involved. Mr. Trouble Magnet himself. Jim decided to hold off on the APB; at least until he checked all the places he could think of.

 

Jim went back to the loft, but knew Blair wasn't there as soon as he unlocked the door. Jim left, going to Rainier, knowing how much Blair loved to go there as a sanctuary against the outside world. As Blair had explained to Jim on more than one occasion, Rainier was one of the few places he could go and lose himself and forget about pressures and worries of the real world. Jim envied Blair his ability to come here and just forget about the world spinning around them. Jim had no such place to go, although he was able to do that when he and Blair would go off together alone. Blair was Jim's buffer to the outside world and Jim was grateful for him.

 

As Jim pulled into the parking lot beside Hargrove Hall, where Blair's office was, he remembered what the doctor had mentioned about possible side-effects of the medications Blair had been given. It was possible Blair wouldn't go to any familiar place at all, especially if he was disoriented or confused for some reason. Or if his headache had returned, he could have passed out on the streets somewhere or fallen victim to some unscrupulous person or persons. Jim's worry was building again. He decided to put out the

informal APB after he checked out the Rainier campus.

 

*****

 

Blair kept walking, looking over his shoulder and around the area several times as he continued. He kept near the shadows, making sure no one saw him. Knowing Jim Ellison like he did, Blair was sure his partner would put out an APB upon not finding him where he was supposed to be. Blair didn't want to be found. He couldn't be found. He didn't want to be a burden to anyone during his final days, no matter how many that was. He hadn't wanted to stick around the hospital and let them run their tests, just to tell him he had an inoperable brain tumor, or brain cancer and that he was going to die soon.

 

But his overwhelming feeling right now was that he had to find somewhere to rest. He tried looking at the time on his watch, but he couldn't see the dial in the dark. 'If Jim was here with me… 'Blair let the thought drop. Jim wasn't here with him and couldn't be here with him. He was going to die without saying goodbye to the one friend he had come to call 'brother' over their years together. Surprisingly, the tears came to Blair's eyes. He swiped a hand over his face, chalking the tears up to the fact that he was tired and had been walking for what seemed like forever.

 

Blair halted his forward motion and looked around the area where he was. He blinked his eyes and looked again. Were his eyes playing tricks on his mind? Or, was that supposed to be his mind playing tricks on his eyes? Whatever it was, it was still the same view in front of him. It was his old warehouse. The place where he had spent many a night trying to keep warm and living a lonely existence. His life before Jim Ellison. Well, it was going to be his life again. He walked nearer to the structure, amazed it was even still standing. Blair knew it had been condemned and he thought he remembered someone saying the building was going to be razed because it was unstable. But, here it was, still standing, still viable. Blair weaved his way over to the stairs that led up to the space he had occupied previously, almost another lifetime ago. Jim would never think to look for him here. He'd be able to die in peace.

 

Jim had extended his senses as far as he could as he searched the campus grounds of Rainier. It was always a dangerous proposition when Blair wasn't around to help ground him. But he needed to do it in order to determine whether or not Blair had been or still was on the campus grounds. Jim had found nothing useful in Blair's office, where he had started his search. There was no indication Blair had even been in the office for several days, which had been the case. Blair had been home, resting, still suffering from the headaches as a result of the concussion. Blair had hated being stuck at home, doing nothing, but there had been little complaint since he was in so much pain. Jim thought again something should have been done sooner than this, with Blair in so much pain. What if there was something seriously wrong this time? They had been lucky in the past when Blair had suffered concussions. He usually bounced back in no time, not even suffering much pain at all. Maybe this was a result of the accumulation of concussions over the years and something had finally broken or snapped.

 

Jim didn't want to think such thoughts, but it was an easy road to go down because there was so much unknown about the prognosis this time. The doctor had indicated the MRI to be done, a sure sign they thought SOMETHING might be amiss. But Jim realized he was jumping the gun here. He still had to find Blair and together, they would face whatever problems arose. He just had to find Blair.

 

Jim finished his rounds of the campus, having stopped at the campus security offices and notifying them of his search and enlisting them in helping. As Jim returned to his truck, he slid in behind the steering wheel, pulling out his cell phone and calling into the station. He arranged to put out the informal APB, stressing it was only a visual APB, if Sandburg was located, it was to be noted, but he wasn't to be approached and Jim was to be notified. Jim left his cell phone number to be contacted. The alert was going on immediately and Jim thanked the dispatcher.

 

Jim continued to search himself, knowing there were others out doing the same thing, at the hospital, at the university and on the streets of Cascade. Jim had covered all the possibilities, hoping Blair would be found soon. Jim wanted to confront Blair himself, not sure how Blair would react to police officers tracking him down. If it was only Jim, he was sure he could handle Blair.

 

Jim made another swing by the loft, in the off chance Blair had returned there, but also to grab Blair's telephone directory. He wanted to call Blair's friends and acquaintances, thinking maybe Blair didn't want to admit to Jim he had left the hospital. Jim knew it was well past 1:00 AM when he started off again, but this was important and a little inconvenience was a small price to pay if he found Blair safe and sound with one of his friends.

 

Jim cruised up and down the streets of Cascade as he continued to make phone calls to the local numbers in Blair's telephone directory. When he got the last page, he was dismayed to know no one had heard from or seen Blair for days.

 

Then the thought dawned in Jim's mind. What if Blair had left Cascade? He had a possible four hour head start on the efforts to find him. Jim cursed himself for not thinking about it before now. By this point in time, Jim was sure there was something off-kilter in Blair's mind that he had run away from the hospital and had not run to find Jim. The kid's brain wasn't firing on all cylinders if he thought Jim wouldn't be worried about him. Jim didn't understand Blair's behavior at all. But he was going to find Blair and make it clear where they stood.

 

Jim passed the checking of the routes out of Cascade to the patrol officers. He reiterated that Blair's picture should be shown to everyone at the bus and train terminals and at the airport. Jim had authorized Blair's observer's pass photo be used as identification when the APB had been issued.

 

*****

 

Blair had gotten inside the mostly shell of a building easily enough. It had used up most of his remaining strength and patience. He really needed to sit down and rest. He saw the remnants of his possessions that had not been salvageable, were still sitting where they had been left haphazardly when he and Jim had returned to pull out what Blair had wanted to save. Blair was still devastated by the state of his former residence. He had really loved living in the warehouse, even though it had been drafty and sometimes overrun with rats and bugs. It had been HIS, paid for and had housed his lifetime of possession. As they had discovered when they returned here, much of Blair's possessions weren't able to be recovered, suffering either blast damage from the explosion or water damage from the firemen putting out the blaze afterwards. There had been hotspots found in Blair's living area and the majority of the area had been doused to prevent another fire starting. Consequently, most of the furniture had been a lost cause, as had much of what had been in the kitchen area and the bedroom. After moving in with Jim, Blair had been very much dependent upon Jim for even the basics of soap, shampoo, shaving equipment and deodorant. At least until Blair had been able to go shopping and get the bare necessities for his own use. Jim had furnished the small room under the stairs, saying he didn't mind doing it. But Blair had resented, to a certain extent, his dependence on Jim. It had been irrational, but very real. He didn't let Jim see his resentment, but always did things for himself when he had the opportunity. And paid Jim rent money religiously every month, even though Jim hadn't even asked for it.

 

Blair walked over to the sagging couch that still sat in the middle of what had been his living room. The memories of the night of the explosion still caused some nightmares and even some waking thoughts, but Blair had learned to deal with it, just like everything else in his life. Blair sank down on the couch, leaning his head against the back. He closed his eyes and decided to stay here for a while. He didn't know how much time he had left, but he was sure he wouldn't be disturbed here. When they went to demolish the building, they'd find his dead body here. Right where he belonged.

 

*****

 

Jim had checked in several times with the patrol units out, with campus security at Rainier and even with the hospital a couple of times. There had been no sighting of Blair Sandburg at all. It was like he had disappeared off the face of the earth. And Jim still didn't understand what was going through Blair's mind that he didn't want to be found. Or maybe he was laying in a gutter somewhere, passed out from his pain or attacked by a criminal. The possibilities were endless and Jim tried to block out all that might have happened to his partner. Jim's instincts were telling him that Blair was probably in trouble somewhere and if only Jim could find him, Jim would be able to help him.

 

Jim shook his head. None of his current thinking was helping at all. He needed a solid lead to help him find Blair. He decided to try to think like Blair. A scary proposition at normal times, when the kid was in his right mind and downright frightening if he wasn't, as appeared to be the case now. Jim chuckled at his own thoughts, but quickly sobered up when he realized there wasn't anything funny about the whole situation. Jim still remembered what the doctor had said and the way Blair seemed to be acting like there was something seriously wrong.

 

Jim was going to take another run by the loft, noting it was now 4:30 AM and Blair had been 'missing' for seven hours. The last time anyone had noted seeing Blair. As Jim turned to head towards Prospect Avenue, another thought came to him. He almost dismissed it, thinking it was too crazy to even check out. Then, he realized crazy was just the way Blair was reacting right now and decided to take a run by the warehouse where Blair had lived when Jim had first hooked up with the grad student. It was crazy enough to be Blair's reality right now.

 

Jim parked in about the same place he used to park when he'd stop by the warehouse when Blair invited him over to run some type of test or to relay some additional sentinel information he had come across. Jim was flabbergasted that Blair would live in such a place, being drafty and Blair hating the cold. And the rats and other 'creatures' Jim could hear and sense whenever he came over. Blair always extolled the advantages of living in such a place - plenty of space, all his own, not having to answer to anyone but himself, and able to come and go as he pleased. Jim knew how much Blair had given up once he moved into the loft and Jim didn't push him out after Blair's self-imposed week limit. But Blair never did complain. He never had complained.

 

As Jim walked up the stairs leading to what had been Blair's living area. As he reached the top, he extended his hearing and heard Blair's heartbeat and ragged breathing. Jim debated about calling an ambulance, but decided against it until he checked Blair out alone. No use overwhelming Blair with an intrusion of people. Jim got inside and spotted Blair on the couch, leaning back, his eyes closed. He hadn't even moved when Jim walked in. Jim moved over to Blair's side and sat down beside him on the couch, ignoring the moldy smell. The movement got Blair to open his eyes. Jim was looking straight at Blair and noticed the pain reflected in the blue eyes.

 

"Hey, buddy. I wondered where you were."

 

"Why'd… you come? How…?"

 

"We're partners, Blair. I got your note and then discovered you bolted from the hospital. How come? I can see you're still in pain."

 

Instead of an answer, Blair buried his face in his bowed hands. After a few seconds, Jim heard the soft sobs and could smell the salty tears coming from Blair. Jim reached out and pulled Blair close by his side, putting his arm around the younger man.

 

"C'mon, Blair, you have me worried here. What's wrong?"

 

"I'm going to die." The words were muffled as Blair still had his face hidden.

 

Jim wasn't sure he had heard the words right. He had notched up his hearing some, but it couldn't be what Blair had said. "What was that, Chief?"

 

"I'm going to die." Muffled words again, but Jim had notched up his hearing a little more to hear them clearly. It was the same answer.

 

"Who told you that, Blair?" Jim's worry was growing again.

 

"I heard it… overheard. They didn't think I could hear. I didn't want to die… in the hospital." Blair's sobs increased, wracking his body. Jim held on tighter.

 

"Blair, I was at the hospital. I talked to Dr. Phillips. He said they wanted to do an MRI, just to rule out any additional problems. He told me you had agreed to be admitted."

 

"He said… tumor, blood clot, swelling…" Blair still kept his face hidden.

 

"Did they talk to you specifically?" At Blair's negative shake of his head, Jim continued. "Dr. Phillips mentioned nothing like that to me, Blair. I think we need to go back to the hospital, let them run the tests they want to do on you and then wait for the outcome."

 

Blair raised his head and looked straight at Jim. "I can't do that, Jim. I don't want to be a burden…"

 

Jim had covered Blair's mouth with his hand. "Don't ever say that, Blair. You are not and never will be a burden. We are partners, full and equal. I'll go back with you to the hospital and stay with you until the tests are done. If I didn't care about you, I wouldn't have spent the last seven hours looking for you, wondering why you had left the hospital."

 

Blair could only stare at Jim as he took in the meaning of the words he had just spoken. He wanted so much to believe Jim and having Jim with him at the hospital wouldn't be so bad. Blair slowly nodded his head yes and allowed Jim to help him up and out of the condemned warehouse and to Jim's truck. Jim got Blair into the passenger seat, even snapping on the seat belt and locking the door. Jim drove them to Cascade General. True to his word, Jim stayed by Blair's side as he was admitted to the hospital, even staying overnight.

 

And, several days later, when Blair was given the all-clear by Dr. Phillips, Jim was again by his side. His partner, his best friend, his brother.

END