Cranberry

By Travelin

EMAIL: Travelin

"I just need the cranberry jelly. I can't serve turkey without the cranberry, man. I love how you just open the can then dump the mold of it right out the can. It's a work of art!" Blair crossed over to the front door, reached for his coat, when his friend and roommate, gently grabbed his wrist to stop the movement.

 

"Just hold up, 'Emeril'," Jim began. "If you are making the dinner with all the fixings, the least I can do is run the errands." He held up his hands, palms facing a protesting Blair. "Just to save me more trips, though, figure out EVERYTHING you will be needing so I only need to fight that 'last minute' shopping crowd."

 

Sandburg smiled. "Thanks man, 'preciate the gesture. Just give me a minute. Hm..m..m, Okay, I need the cranberry jelly, but we need some lettuce for the salad...." He looked at the waiting man. "This is going to take a few minutes, man. Take a load off," Blair remarked with a smile as he walked to the kitchen. He opened cupboards and drawers as he mentally went through his menu for the next day to see which items he would need. Ten minutes later, he handed the list to friend.

 

"Sandburg! What the heck is this? I thought you needed a few things! This is like, I don't know, the whole meal, not including the turkey?" Ellison exclaimed.

 

Blair attempted to grab the list back. "If it's too much, that’s fine, man. I'll go pick it all up. I was planning to do it anyway." The grad student started to walk to front door again.

 

Ellison moved in front of the door. "Sorry. The list is fine. Let me go pick these things up. Then when I return, the real work begins. So, I don't know, pull out all your recipes, and be ready to start the moment I get home," he advised. Ellison put his coat on, slipped the list in the coat's pocket and grabbed his keys from the basket.  "With the 'day before shoppers' out, I hope to be back in about an hour or so. See you then," he assured. He opened the door and slipped out into the hallway.

 

Blair cracked the door of the loft open to see him push open the door to the steps to exit the building. Blair mused, 'Some day, the elevator will work...of course, I'll be somewhere else THAT DAY!' A grin crossed his face as he shut the door to the loft.

 

Two hours later, recipes organized to the point that even Martha Stewart would think anal, the phone rang.  "Ellison/Sandburg residence. Happy almost Turkey Day to you..."

 

"....Blair," the voice interrupted.

 

"Jim? What's up man? Crowds really bad, huh? If it is too much, just c'mon back..."

 

"Blair...there's a box under my bed. Just open it, well, you'll know when," Jim rasped.

 

Blair pulled the phone away from his head. He stared at it as if it was speaking a foreign language. He glanced at the caller ID and realized Jim was not calling from his own phone. "Where are you, Jim? What's with this cloak and dagger stuff, unless...Jim, where are you and what is going on?" Blair appealed.

 

"Locked in the manager's office... Found his cell in the drawer...Called you and Simon," he mumbled.

 

"I'm on my way, man," Blair quickly spoke.

 

"No...just, ah...I hear the sirens. It'll be.um..it'll be over soon," the sentinel's voice faded.

 

"Okay, okay, I'll stay here. Just stay on the phone with me man. Just stay with me," he pleaded.

 

Blair could hear a painful groan in the background, then the undeniable sound the phone makes when it hits the floor.

 

"JIM?" Blair shouted through the phone line. "C'mon. This is not a good time to tease the guide, man." He paused, his ear pressed harder against the phone as he attempted to hear anything from his friend's location. Finally he heard voices, probably out in the store, not in the room Jim must have been locked.  He heard the sounds of shots fired. He heard a scream, more shouting, and then nothing. Nothing. At all. Not even from the room. Not for the first time did he wish he could possess his sentinel's hearing ability. As he strained to hear his friend's breathing, a loud noise followed by, "Jim, you in here?"

 

Blair immediately recognized the voice. "Rafe," he yelled. "Rafe!"

 

Not hearing the voice coming over the phone, Rafe looked at the injured detective. "Jim, oh man...what have you put yourself into this time?  I need an ambulance...NOW...officer down!"  Rafe picked up the phone by the unconscious man's hand. "Anybody there?" he queried.

 

Glad that someone had finally found Jim and picked up the phone as well, Blair simply shouted louder, "Rafe, what's going on? Tell me?"

 

"Sandburg?" Detective Rafe questioned. "How the..."

 

"Just tell me. Is Jim, is he..."

 

"Jim is alive, not sure how though. Ambulance is here now, coming into the store. They are going to Cascade General and ah, Blair?" the worried officer paused. "You better call Stephen and his Dad. It's bad. It's...Blair? I'm so sorry." Rafe moved aside as the EMT's worked on the injured man. They lifted him up to the gurney and wheeled him through the store, all the time communicating with the hospital. Rafe followed the gurney as he continued to speak to the police observer.

 

"Rafe, remind them about Jim's drug sensitivities! Tell them...Oh God...tell them..."

 

"I'll tell them, but I did hear that they have already called for Dr. McKay to be there at the hospital when they arrive, so they pulled his file and know about his allergies," Rafe rattled off as he stopped to watch the medical personnel load the wounded man into the back of the vehicle. The whine of the siren brought him back to the sounds of the distressed man on the other end of the phone.  "Just call Stephen and his Dad, Blair.  Does he have a living will?"

 

Blair gasped as he remembered the oblique message his friend alerted him to as he had answered the phone. 'Blair...there's a box under my bed. Just open it, well, you'll know when'. It all made sense now. His friend, his roommate, the other half of his soul, had determined his injury was serious. That this time, this time...Blair felt a tear roll down his cheek.  'No!' Blair thought to himself. 'This is NOT the time, my friend. I'll go look in the box, like you asked me, but...I'll go look in the box.' As he ran up the stairs, he yelled into the phone, "Rafe, follow Jim to the hospital. I'm coming with...I'm coming."

 

He pressed the end key on the phone then immediately hit the speed dial code for Stephen Ellison. Cradling the phone between his ear and shoulder, he knelt down by the bed and looked under it for the box Jim told him about. Seeing only one box, he pulled it out from under the bed. As he placed the box on the bed, he debated whether or not he should really open it. Would opening it mean he believed that this time his friend would not beat the odds and survive his injury? Would not opening mean his friend might suffer needlessly if his living will indicated what level of measures were to be taken if...A voice on the other end of the phone brought him out of his quandaries.

 

"...Jim...you there?" Stephen demanded. "Look Jim, I know it's you. Caller ID is a wonderful thing."

 

"Stephen, it's Blair. Stephen, I, ah..."

 

"Where is he, Blair? Is he..." Stephen could not intone the last word.

 

"No, no, he's not," Blair paused, the word caught in his throat, "..dead. It's bad. Rafe told me to call you and your Dad. I haven't seen him..." Blair's voice faded to softer than a whisper.

 

"... Blair?...Blair?  I'll call Dad and meet you ... where. Where do we meet you?" Stephen coaxed the distressed man.

 

"Ah, Rafe said Cascade General. Dr. McKay has already been advised that Jim is on his way," Blair paused as he slowly lifted the lid to the box. He saw some bank books to the right, but to the left, one envelope clearly written in Ellison's exact printing said 'Will' the other simply, 'Blair'.  Blair gasped; his eyes filled with unshed tears. He pulled his flannel-covered arm across his eyes to wipe any stray tears. 'No time for that,' he told himself. 'Gotta get to Jim.'

 

"Blair, I'll see you there. Hang tight. He's...he's going to be ok. You'll see. He's too stubborn to leave now." Stephen disconnected his phone from Blair then prepared to call his Father.

 

Blair picked up the two envelopes. He ran back down the steps, grabbed his every waiting backpack, put the two letters in it, grabbed his coat and car keys and left the apartment.

 

As he rushed into the Emergency Room, he could not remember how he arrived at the hospital. The whole trip was not part of his memory.  Hoping he did not cause any traffic accidents during the trip, he approached the registration desk. "I'm looking for Detective Ellison. He was brought in here..."

 

The receptionist gazed up at him, caught his eyes and then pointed to the corner of the room where it appeared all the other Major Crimes' detectives had ensconced themselves. Simon rose as he saw the dazed police observer approach them. "Blair, I ..."

 

"Simon. What have they told you?"

 

Simon looked away from the intense glare Blair had bestowed on him.

 

"Simon. Listen to me. I want to know. I need to...to be able to deal with this situation. The only way that will happen is if you tell me everything that the doctors have already told you," Blair beseeched.

 

The police captain finally released the information. Blair tried to take it all in, but the words stopped making sense when Simon described the number of shots the body had withstood. Simon had read a few of the statements from witnesses at the store and determined the Ellison had protected others with his own body.  The robbers decided to make an example of the 'do-gooder' and shot him a couple of more times, just to 'teach him a lesson'. The thieves then locked the severely injured man in the manager's office, figuring he would just die there. They did not know the tenacity of the man they had left for dead.

 

The rest of the story Blair filled in from the time Jim called to when Rafe had picked up the phone. The rest of the story was yet to be told. Simon told Blair that Jim was in surgery. He was told the doctors did not expect him to survive.

 

"No, Simon, no. I am not ready to dust off my dark suit just yet," he said caustically. "Jim is too stubborn. You said so yourself."

 

"I did, didn't I," Simon conceded. "Well, guess I need to listen to myself, don't I?" As he said that, he looked up and heard a commotion at the receptionist's desk. He noticed Stephen and William Ellison. Simon walked over to them so they would not have to deal with the less than friendly receptionist.  "Stephen, William, we are waiting over there." Simon pointed to the corner where all of Jim's friends from the precinct waited. They saw Blair just stand in the middle of all the policeman. His eyes were glazed over, shining with the still unshed tears. 

 

Blair looked up. "Stephen - Mr. Ellison." Blair suddenly unloaded his previously unvoiced burden. "He just went to the store for stuff I needed for our Thanksgiving..." Blair glanced at the worried face of Stephen Ellison. "I just needed a few things. We were joking around about who would brave the crowds, you know? He volunteered since I was doing most of the cooking tomorrow. We were going to bake a pie tonight....Oh God, what did I do? What did I do?" Blair groaned.  "I sent him to that...place...for stuff we didn't absolutely need but I WANTED. I had to have that, that cranberry jelly. Tradition! Never again. I don't think I could eat that ever again. It would only remind me of this night."

 

Stephen's own tears freely flowed down his face. "Blair, you did nothing wrong. It was those men with the guns that did the damage." Stephen opened his arms. Blair practically fell into them, as Stephen warmly embraced him. Slowly he rubbed his back. Finally the grad student reluctantly allowed the tears to fall. He sobbed loudly as he felt the blame for putting his friend in the terrible situation in the first place.

 

The men in the waiting room all found seats to continue the vigil. Blair hung onto his backpack. He did not want to open either envelope. Five hours later, Dr. McKay walked towards the group of men. They were disheveled, but alert to the doctor's arrival. Simon started to approach the doctor, when Blair quickly moved in front of him to speak to the doctor first.

 

"Blair," the doctor began. "Jim made it through the surgery."

 

A collective sigh was immediately heard from the men standing behind Blair. He realized he too had released some tension, his shoulders lowering slightly.

 

"...but," Blair urged the doctor to continue. "There's a 'but' isn't there?

 

"But," the nodded as he continued, "he's very weak. We lost him on the table, twice. Bringing him back put a lot of stress on his body." He looked at the concerned faces. "I know this sounds rather cliché, but the next 48 hours are critical. He had bled out quite a bit at the scene. There was a collapsed lung. We had to remove his spleen. Blair," he questioned cautiously, "do you know if has a Living Will or if he has a DNR order on file? If it gets to that point where a decision needs to be made, we need to abide by that request."

 

Blair reluctantly opened his backpack and pulled out the envelope labeled 'Will'. William Ellison watched as the envelope passed between the two men.  Slowly the doctor opened the envelope and looked at the papers. Finding what he was looking for, he returned the Will to Blair. He returned the envelope to his backpack.

 

"This will help Blair. You are noted as holding his power of attorney, but this Living Will makes any decision easier for you, should the situation arise since Detective Ellison clearly states DNR." The doctor reached out to shake Blair's hand, but Blair was not able to see anything but the piece of paper in the doctor's other hand.

 

Stephen reached over to shake the physician's hand. "Thanks doctor. When can we see him? Jim seems to heal better when he is with others, but most especially Blair."

 

Blair looked gratefully up into Stephen's eyes; a smile of thanks briefly crossed his face.

 

"He should be settled in ICU by now. Go ahead on up now. You all know the rules. Oh, and Blair," the doctor granted, "you can stay as long as you want. I learned my lesson about you two a long time ago. Whatever the connection you have with each other, it works. Medical science has done all it can. It's up to you two now. Go to Jim. Talk to him." With that, the doctor left the policemen, family members and one guide to gather up their belongings from the waiting room, to move up to the ICU waiting area.

 

Each officer entered the small room to offer support to the grievously injured man. Some spoke words of encouragement, others just laid a hand on him, their lips uttering a quiet prayer.  Finally Simon took his turn to visit his friend.

 

"Jim," the large police captain sighed. "We need you to stay with us. The kid, oh, who I am fooling? Sandburg's no kid. He's stayed with you through all sorts of weird times with all that sentinel stuff. But now, you need to stay, for him. Lost does not even begin to describe how he will feel if you leave us." A stray tear dripped down the big man's cheek. He wiped it off with the back of his hand. "Stay with us, my friend. Stay," Simon concluded as quietly as he had started. He brushed his palm over the hand that did not have tubes or wires attached to it. "Take care, Jim." He turned and left the small room and faced the only remaining visitors, the Ellisons and Sandburg.  "I'll be back later. I need to go down to the precinct. I want to hear the whole report of what went down today."

 

"Thanks Captain," the elder Ellison responded. "I would like to know too.  Jimmy served his country and now for this to happen...it's not right. A father should not outlive his children."

 

"Dad!" Stephen admonished. "Jim is still with us! Don't start asking for trouble!" Stephen looked at his brother's friend. Blair had paled at William Ellison's statement. "Blair, no one," he said as he looked directly at his father, "is giving up on Jim. Now, Dad and I will go in and sit with him for a little while. Why don't you go get something to eat and..."

 

"Thanks, Stephen, but I couldn't eat a thing right now. I...I'll just wait here until you and Mr. Ellison finish your visit then I will stay with him until the staff kicks me out. Then, I'll just wait out here until they allow me back in to see him. Stephen," Blair vowed, "I'm staying until he wakes up and is out of the woods."

 

Stephen started to object, but Blair held his hand up in a 'stop' type gesture.

 

"He would do the same thing for me, man. I won't leave him alone. You all can come as often as you would like, I'll step out of the room to give you privacy. But, I will be here until..." Blair left the sentence unfinished. He only wanted positive vibes in the room.

 

"Okay, Blair, We'll do it your way, for the time being. We'll have the lawyer review Jim's Will they have on file to confirm the Living Will information.  I hope it won't come to that Blair, but we have to abide by Jim's wishes," Stephen stated. 

 

Shaking his head fervently, Blair argued, "It won't come to that, Stephen. It won't."

 

The Ellisons walked into the room to sit with Jim. Blair looked up into Simon's eyes, begging him for something he could not help with. "Simon..."

 

"Blair, they may be his relatives, but they don't know him like we do, right? Stay strong, Blair, for both of you. Call me if you need anything. I mean it...anything."

 

Gratefully, Blair responded. "Thanks, man. Yeah, Jim's too stubborn to give up! He will fight tooth and nail..."

 

Simon put his hand on the young man's shoulder. His expressive eyes told Blair all he needed to know. He had friend that would support him and Jim with whatever decision he made for them. Simon nodded, removed his hand, turned and walked down the hall to the elevator bank.

 

Thirty minutes later, the nurse finally had to convince Stephen and William Ellison to leave the patient.  They had various duties to perform and did not need nor want an audience. As the two men left, they looked at Blair. William practically snarled at the grad student, but Stephen let a small smile grace his face.  Blair was relieved that at least one Ellison supported him.

 

Blair waited for the nurse to finish working on his partner.  As he sat in the cold, plastic orange chair his mind wandered.  He considered Jim more than his police partner, unofficially. He mused as he remembered the first time he used the term partner with Jim. The detective immediately corrected him, 'not partner, strictly the observer'. They had come a long way since that time. Jim was truly his partner. Blair felt that Jim filled the other half of his soul; that being his guide meant that they shared more than just time together. They were linked spiritually, mentally and emotionally.  He only came to appreciate how much Jim meant to him. He realized, as he was reminded of the cold from the chair, how cold and desolate his life would be without his sentinel, his best friend.

 

Only as the nurse exited the room that held his friend caused Blair to end his ruminations. At long last, he would be able to sit with his friend. Blair started to enter the room as the nurse from the desk smiled at him. He stopped abruptly in the doorway as he looked over his friend reclined in the bed.  His vision seemed to narrow to only include the tubes, wires and machines that kept track of his friend's bodily functions. There was an IV that entered on his left hand with a stand next to the bed on left side of the bed that held the liquid that flowed into his vein. Jim had been intubated to assist with his breathing functions. There were heart monitors attached to bare chest. Bandages covered the wounds. Blair's knee suddenly felt weak as his eyes fully took in the wounded man. Luckily, he could lean against the doorframe so he could remain upright. His breathing became ragged. He was glad his back was to nurse's desk certain they would think he was about to faint.  Although not far from the truth, Blair concentrated on his breathing until he could regulate and even it out. Then, standing straight up and not using the doorframe to hold him up, he fully entered his friend's room.

 

He sat down in the only chair in the room, another hard, cold orange plastic one, and gently reached and held onto his friend's right hand.  "Jim, man, I'm here now. It's just you and me, just like usual, you know. Of course, it is usually the other way around, remember man? I am so not good at this quiet waiting number here. If it would be okay with you, just open those baby blues for me. Let me know you are in there, Jim. Those bullets did a lot of damage, man. A lot." Blair carefully pulled a sheet higher on Jim's chest with his free hand.  "Jim, I'm here for the duration man. Only going to leave the room when the nurse kicks me out and then I will be back here as soon as they allow it. You're not alone. I'll be here for as long as you need me, longer if possible," he concluded softly.

 

Blair dozed on and off until he woke with a start. He looked around the room. No windows, he could not determine the time of day from the light shining outside. It had to be at least midday, Thursday, Thanksgiving Day by now, maybe later, not being sure how long he had slept in the unforgiving chair.

 

Sally, the evening nurse, entered the room. "Blair," the nice, stout, curly blonde haired woman prodded, "you have to give us a little private time with Mr. Ellison.  Go down to the cafeteria and get something to eat. You've been up here all day. I think there's still some turkey, potatoes and all the fixings left down there if you hurry. Come on, dear boy, go eat, we'll take very good care of your friend," she conferred. "I even heard they have some cranberry salad left too. I'm told it is good, by cafeteria standards." She grinned hoping to cheer the young man with the last bit of encouragement, but he simply turned white, put his hand over his mouth, while he reached for the emesis bowl on his friend's table tray.

 

After he emptied the meager contents from his stomach, she offered him a moist washcloth and a cup of water. He rinsed out his mouth and wiped his lips on with the cloth. Blair stood, looking for a place to dump the bowl. Sally just took the bowl, placed it on her own cart. She then lowered Blair back to the chair and helped him to bend over to place his head between his knees. She rubbed his back until he decided he was able to sit up again.

 

"Guess I am a little hungry," he said shyly to the caring nurse. He started to rise again, but Sally just gently pushed him back to the orange chair.

 

"Oh no sir. I can't let you leave now. I'm not sure you have the energy to make it to the elevator bank, let alone to the cafeteria. I ordered a meal for you. You'll have to eat it in the waiting area, but..."

 

"Thanks, Sally, I appreciate it. I tend to forget about myself when I'm stressed. Jim always..." A lone tear escaped his eye.

 

"Go on, hon, let it out. Everyone else here has already. Let it out now, so you can be strong for him when he wakes up, okay dear boy?" she advocated.

 

A hiccupping sound escaped the police observer followed by a few more tears, more hiccupping sounds, until all that could be heard is the woefully wailing Blair emitted. Now that he had started, he could not stop. "It-it's m-m-my f-f-fault he's here tonight. Wanted - cr-cr-cranberry jelly for Thanksgiving today. H-he w-went to the s-s-store and was sh-shot!"

 

Sally continued to rub the distressed man's back. "From what I read in the paper, dear boy, he saved people's lives yesterday. If he wasn't there, this would have been a much sorrier day for a couple of other families. You hurt, hon, I understand that, but he is still here. I bet he doesn't fault you for any of this." Trying to change the subject she saw his meal arrive at the nurse's desk. "Your meal is here. Let me help you out to the waiting area."

 

She helped Blair to the waiting area then placed the tray on the end table next to his chair. As she lifted the lid, she quickly looked over the contents, no cranberries. Good, the message did get through to food service correctly. This young man needed to eat and if the thought of cranberries upset him, she was not looking forward to seeing the effect that real cranberries might have on him.

 

Blair looked up at her gratefully. He lifted the lid. A cheeseburger and fries. 'Good,' he thought, 'nothing that even resembles a thanksgiving meal.'

 

"Eat up, dear boy. We'll be done in ten minutes or so. Plenty of time for you to finish your meal." She looked down at the tired young man. She gently put two fingers under his chin to point his face at hers. "Eat, or I'll sic a doctor on you."  She removed the two fingers as he began to tilt his head down.

 

"'Yes ma'am...and...thanks again," Blair remarked gratefully. He slowly picked up the burger and took a bite. He smiled in thanks as the nurse left.

 

When she entered the room, the other nurse had just about finished the sponge bath. Sally started to place new dressings on the wounds. She looked at the closed eyes of the injured man. "Did you hear his prognosis yet, Janet?" she questioned the other nurse.

 

"Yeah. It's about the same since they brought him in. Percentages have it that he won't ..."

 

"Stop that right now," Blair said forcefully. "I will not have any negative talk by Jim. I believe he can hear us. He needs to know that WE believe he will recover. Have I made myself clear?"

 

"Crystal," Janet replied curtly. She pushed the cart back out the door.

 

"I’m so sorry, hon. Didn't mean to offend you. Just, you have to be emotionally ready, either way," Sally responded.

 

"I do appreciate all the care you've given Jim, and me, since we've been here, but I just only want positive vibes here. If you have to gossip about the patients here, I suggest you do it by your desk, away from the patients you are trying to help," Blair maintained.

 

Sally nodded then walked out of the room.

 

Blair sat again in the hard chair again. He noticed that the intubation tube had been removed. 'That's a positive step,' Blair thought. Then aloud he relayed to his partner, "Just you and me again, buddy. I had a hamburger for dinner. It was no 'Wonderburger' but it was food." Blair allowed a grin to grace his face. "Sally was right about one thing. I did need to eat. I feel better now. Ready to keep you company for a while. Thanksgiving day is almost over. I had no idea how late it was! No wonder that hamburger tasted SO good!"  Blair looked at his watch, 11:45 PM. "Yeah, this day is almost done. Hey, we'll just have our meal when you feel up to eating a big meal again. All the trimmings, well, most of them anyway, with the obvious exception." Blair paused, held the right hand of his sentinel then continued. "I have so much to be thankful this year. School is going well. The guys at the Precinct have basically stopped teasing me, my car is sill running, Naomi is healthy, but..."he smiled happily, "but," he paused again, "you are here, alive. That’s what I am most thankful for. I am so thankful I am your guide, your friend and, yes, your partner at the station. Thank you for taking good care of me, both mind and soul. Thank you for..."

 

"S- S- Sandburg?" he stuttered.

 

"Jim?" Blair spluttered.

 

"W- where?" he asked, his eyes still closed.

 

"Cascade General, Jim. You're in the ICU. You took several bullets over at the store."

 

"S-same old," Jim whispered, a slight grin on his face.

 

"Yeah, man, same old, same old. Except this time I get to hover over you as you recuperate. There won't be an unfluffed pillow in the loft after I bring you home, man. I know I'm rattling on here, man, but you being awake and talking will surprise many people here at the hospital." Blair saw his friend was asleep, but the uncertainty of the previous 24 hours dissipated. Jim was going to recover. Blair was at peace and very thankful.

END

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