The Trade

By Travelin

EMAIL: Travelin

Note: Crossover with M*A*S*H

 

"It's like Boxing Day, is that what you are trying to tell me?" inquired the police observer.

 

The detective looked at the shorter man, slowly shaking his head with a smile on his face. 'Leave it to my partner to come up with an anthropological reference,' he remarked to himself. Aloud, he agreed, "Yeah, something like that. Except, I don't think the uniform want to consider themselves as servants the rest of the year. Plain-clothed officers trade places with uniformed patrol officers once a month, rotating through the departments. Today, it is Major Crimes' turn, and I am up on the rotation," Jim concluded. "Today, I am Officer Ellison. I trade with Sara Tish who patrols the west side, where my Dad lives. Her partner, Josh Philson, will be my partner."

 

The grad student threw his hand up in the air, wildly swinging it around. "Who is going to help you with your senses?" Blair paused to pick his next words carefully. "This Josh..."I mean he may be a great officer, number one, you know, but, man, Simon usually won't let you hit the streets without me. Why is it suddenly peachy now? Who is going to ..."

 

"...Hold it right there, Chief! I think I can manage one day without the world's greatest guide by my side. Give me a little credit here, Sandburg.  I know I have to go through the day with the senses at an average level, ok?  Geesh, man. It's not like we have that lengthy of a day in front of us. First we have roll call, special instructions are given out to those patrols that need them, then we sit in the car drinking coffee and eating donuts," Ellison finished with a smirk shinning on his face. 

 

He shook his head with so much intensity that the grad student's loose curls bounced freely around his shoulders Blair appealed, "I realize I am not always with you man, but to leave your senses open, even at a low level, spells trouble, man. Let me..."

 

"No, you can't ride along this time. The ride-along permit does not include a day of me as a car patrolman," Jim reasoned with the grad student. "Besides, Josh is senior officer in the car today. I just do what he says. No problems, okay? So why don't you just go to Rainer today, catch up on your grading, class notes, you know, be the academic today," Jim cajoled. "I'll call you when the shift is over, we'll pick up some dinner, a tape to watch, and have a nice evening."

 

The detective-patrolman laid his hand on his friend's shoulder. "It'll be fine, Sandburg. A few traffic tickets, ride around the mall area, check out the schools over there will be today's big action," he affirmed putting invisible quote marks in the air as he said the word big.

 

"You're sure I can't do a ride along?" Blair persisted, unconvinced. "I could..."

 

"You could what, learn how to write speeding tickets? Chief, please, read my lips...I will be fine, okay. Really, I'll be fine. But if I need anything, I promise, I will call you," Jim relented, knowing the guide was only trying to protect his sentinel. He had to give the kid a credit for his tenacity though, annoying as hell that it was!

 

Blair peered down at the floor, gazing at the floor, attempting to find the response to his sentinel's statement. Carding his fingers through the curly locks, Blair looked straight into the eyes of his best friend. "Yeah, okay, calling would work for me.  Keep this promise, Jim. I mean it.  Josh may be a great policeman, but..."

 

"Yes, 'Mom'," Jim teased. "I will be sure to put on my raincoat if it rains, too." Turning serious for a moment, the detective-patrolman vowed, "I will call. I will be fine."

 

Nodding in acceptance, Blair started to leave the bullpen.

 

"Blair," Jim blurted, "thanks for caring, man. Means a lot."

 

"Yeah, um, yeah, you're welcome," Blair responded, slightly off balance at the infrequent emotional remark from his partner. "It's all about friendship, remember," he remarked, turned away from the sentinel and left the room. Blair walked over to the stairs, opened the door and exited the floor.

 

To no one in particular, the sentinel concurred. "You have that right, my friend. It is all about friendship." Then straightening the tight blue tie, detective-patrolman Ellison headed down to the briefing.

 

***

 

Chaos everywhere. Blue shirts. White smocks. Sirens wailing. Fire trucks rumbling. People gawking. Adults and children crying. Smoke in the air. It all happened too fast. One second they were entering the car's license plate in the computer to check on priors, the next, there was no car, no fence by the school. Only devastation remained. It was the constant.  Ambulances picked up the wounded, which due to quick action of the police were very few. Most of the potential victims were fortunately out of the area before the explosion. 

 

Officer Philson was quoted during his on site report that Officer Ellison had been talking with the middle school children at the gate to the schoolyard. Lunch break had just finished and the children were saying their goodbyes when the sentinel smelled gas from the illegally parked car.  He told them to quickly leave the area. They did. As the sentinel officer approached the car, another car drove by. The passenger of that vehicle appeared to have thrown out a lit match or cigarette. That item landed in the pool of gas, causing flames that ran under the chassis of the car, then the car exploded.  Josh slowed his narrative at this point. All his mind's eye could see was the total look of disbelief on his partner's face seconds before the car blew up. "That's about it," the shaken officer confirmed. "Do you know where they took Ellison?"

 

The detective looked up from the notepad. "Yeah, he's at Cascade General. He saved a lot of lives this afternoon. To think, all this from an abandoned car and an ill timed discarded cigarette butt. "He was a good man," the detective uttered walking away from the still stunned police officer.

 

***

 

Blair's cell phone was ringing, but the caller ID said it was Simon Banks calling. 'Damn it, Ellison,' he thought, 'what did you get yourself into that Simon has to call me.'

Tersely he snarled into the phone's microphone. "Simon," he spoke to the cell phone, "what...?" was all the grad student had the chance to say before Simon started speaking.

 

"Blair, listen. It’s Jim," he paused, trying to tell someone that their partner was in the hospital, not expected to last through the night. "I...he..."

 

"...Simon? What happened? No, forget that. Where is Jim? SIMON!" Blair yelled into the phone, unconcerned how far his voice would carry in the school hallway.

 

"Blair, Rafe is probably already waiting for you in the parking lot by Hargrove Hall. Go now," the police captain urged. "It's bad, Blair. Just go now."

 

Hearing the dire urgency in the Simon's voice, Blair started to run down the hall, then pushed opened the door and left the building.  Spying Rafe standing by the car, Blair ran even faster. With the door open on the passenger side, Blair slid in and buckled his belt in one smooth movement. Rafe also jumped into the car at the same time. He turned on the siren and began the excruciating drive to the hospital.  Blair wanted to know, but at the same time, did not want to know what had occurred that his partner had caused so much concern from the captain down to Rafe.  The major crimes usually well-groomed detective spoke as they were pulling in the emergency room parking area. Blair glanced a look at the man as he spoke. His clothing smelled of smoke, but not from a wood based fire.

 

"Blair," he uttered softly, "tell Jim...tell him... Tell him to hang on, okay? Tell him we are all pulling for him."

 

"Rafe," Blair rasped, his throat suddenly very dry, "sure, yeah. I'll tell him."

 

The car stopped and Blair practically jumped out. He ran up to the information desk to find which room they had arranged for Jim. The nurse behind the desk, upon hearing the injured man's name, grimaced slightly.  "Room 203, ICU" she said professionally, serenely, stifling the emotional outburst waiting to happen.

 

Backpack bouncing against his back, Blair rapidly jogged the distance to the room she indicated. He took a deep breath and entered the room.  He was totally unprepared to see his friend hooked to so many machines. He no longer cared why his friend was here, what was important was that Blair was there now too. To support, assist, encourage, cajole. Whatever Jim needed to become healthy, Blair was...

 

Buzzers went off, lights blinked as three staff members rushed into the sentinel's room. "I had hoped that he would have stabilized better since the surgery," the doctor said switching off buzzer on the offending machine, "but it appears we are not out of the woods yet." The doctor turned towards the stricken observer. "Mr. Sandburg, we are doing the best we can. There was so much damage..." He let the statement end there.

 

Blair was surprised the tall, lanky doctor knew his name. "Doctor, um...sorry, I don't even know your name. How did you know mine? What is the damage...will he, oh God, will he live?" he asked hauntingly.

 

"Sorry Mr. Sandburg, your friend was saying your name as he was brought in today. Well, actually, he was saying 'Chief', but the other policeman said your real name was Sandburg.  He's a good man, your friend here," he said indicating the injured detective. "He saved a lot of people, mostly young people, by his actions. I know that doesn't help as you sit here with him, but, hell, I've watched a lot of good men suffer in my lifetime. It never becomes any easier, believe me," the mature doctor confirmed.  Remembering, the doctor continued, "Oh, I'm head of the Thoracic Surgery department here at Cascade General. My name is Benjamin Pierce. Came from Maine originally, served in Korea, moved around after that and now I am here.  From my experience, I think your friend has a chance," he remarked, bringing a hopeful smile to the police observer. "I'm one of those doctors that believe there is a higher being that has the true control over who lives and who dies. Mr. Ellison has been severely injured; I'm not going to lie to you. His chest was full of metal from the flying pieces of whatever was moved by that exploded car. One lung fully collapsed, the other was involved as well, but the paramedics, God bless them, were excellent and kept him breathing until they brought him here. We expanded both lungs, but he still needs the respirator, as he did stop breathing two times during the operation to remove all the shrapnel, repair the bleeders and remove his spleen. There are cracked ribs as well, but we are worried about the internal bleeding."

 

Seeing the ashen face look back at him, Dr. Pierce pulled up another chair to sit across from the injured man's friend. "Mr. Sandburg..."

 

"Blair," he whispered, "my name is Blair. Jim just calls me Chief, sort of a nickname he gave me a year ago and it stuck. No one ever gave me a nickname before. Never was anyone's friend long enough to even have a nickname before. It's just a name, you know," he said his eyes darting between his sentinel and the caring doctor, "but it's special, cuz he gave that to me. I told him once it was all about friendship between us. If...if...he dies," Blair muttered agonizingly, "then 'Chief' dies with him. A piece of myself, a piece that belonged only to him, will stay with him." Gazing into the misting eyes of the doctor, Blair's own eyes full of unshed tears, he concluded, "He's my best friend, maybe more. Like the brother I never had, the family I never had, the stability I never knew I needed. He's like..."

 

Blair released the tears while the doctor leaned over and wrapped an arm around the distressed man. He wanted the young man to know everything about his friend, but how to tell the already stressed and worried man. 'Just say it,' he told himself.

 

"Mr., I mean, Blair, I hate to have to tell you this, but, the injury that worries me the most was the one to the back when the explosive concussion tossed him against the school wall, 30 feet away from the car. Not sure how far he was tossed, reports at the scene were conflicting, but either way, I am concerned about the swelling along his spine. Depending on the exact impact location, he may have lost some sensitivity. We will watch him closely, I promise. Even if he wakes without feelings in his extremities, it could be temporary. Just need to wait for the swelling to recede to find out." Pausing, realizing the younger man appeared to be in shock, Dr. Pierce gently placed his hand on the young man's knee, slowly shaking it until he could see recognition in the mellow, sad eyes.

 

"I need to be here, with him, no matter how long, Dr. Pierce. I need to be at his side. He needs to see me when he wakes up. Hospitals freak him out, too many bad experiences there.  Please, don't make me leave..."

 

"Hold on there. Who ever said I was asking you to go in the first place? We have rules so they can be broken! Besides, you're not a visitor, you are family and part of the cure. We in the medical profession know there are different cures for different people. I can see that you are part of the cure for Mr. Ellison. Stay, please stay. Talk to him. Tell him what you told me. Make him believe it. He will hear you on some level."  The salt and peppered colored hair man stood slowly, arching his back. "Dang chairs, they are so uncomfortable. I will have someone bring a chair for you that will be better for your body's health. These chairs will break your back if you sit in them too long," he claimed with a slight smile on his face.

 

Dr. Pierce started to leave the room, as Blair voiced, "Thanks...for everything."

 

"You are most welcome, young man. Oh, and just call me Hawkeye. That's my nickname. My Dad gave that to me when I was young. All my friends call me that and I'd like to count you among my friends, if that's okay with you."

 

"Yeah, um yeah, Hawkeye, I'd like that. Thanks," Blair responded while standing, offering his hand in friendship. "I'd like that a lot."

 

The tall doctor smiled, shook the extended hand then left the room to the two friends.

 

After exiting, Hawkeye leaned against the cold, hard wall in the hallway. The patient was truly lucky to be alive at this point. Medical science and the doctors had completed what they could do for the injured detective. If Ellison does survive, the doctor reflected, it would be greatly due to the efforts of the short, curly headed man sitting steadfastly by his friend. As he leaned on the wall, he recalled an event from his time in Korea. His commanding officer, Henry Blake, told him something he never would forget, something to remind him he is only human. Blake told him that there were two rules in war with the first being, good men die. The second rule was that doctors could not change the rule number one.  Henry died in that war, which only emphasized those rules in Hawkeye's mind. Tiredly he pushed himself away from the unforgiving wall and with long strides, made his way down the quiet hallway.

 

***

 

"...so I Brown and Rafe to go back to the station. Hope you don't mind. Someone had to go 'mind the store, ya know." Blair leaned back into comfortable, soft recliner. Hawkeye was true to his word about having a different chair brought into the room. It seemed so long ago that he had spoken with the gentle physician, yet it had only been a day. The other detectives had been at the hospital to see Jim and offer Blair their support, but Blair eventually asked them to go back to work. He would keep them informed if, no darn it, not if, *when* Jim woke up.  'That type of negative thinking is bad for the karma, man,' he scolded himself. 'I am not going to allow others to speak like that in front of Jim.' Blair was sure the sentinel would be able sense the pessimistic manner the others displayed while in the room with their friend. 'Only positive energy, right man?' the guide queried internally.

 

"Please Jim, wake up. Come back to us. Whatever you want, it's yours. No more tests or experiments, okay? All you have to do is wake up, that's it," Blair encouraged to the still man.

 

If darkness could be described by touch, this dark void could be described as silky soft. It caressed his body, swathed it in a soft, almost cocoon like fabric. There was no pain here. He could rest his body and his mind here; there were no demands on his time or skills as a detective or as a sentinel. He could feel his body tense as he remembered he was a sentinel. Where was his guide?  Whatever this place was, it was not complete since his guide was not here to enjoy it with him. Was he ... dead?  Is this an afterlife? Not quite the way he had imagined the 'hereafter', but he did not have any control over that aspect of his life, that is, death.

 

He felt a slight breeze over his face. The air that moved over him was warm and traveled across him in slight gusts, not steady like a wind through a window.  He listened to the wind. It made word-like noises.  He listened more intently, trying to force the sounds to come together in his mind and try to form words...

 

'BLAIR,' the detective cried out in his mind. 'I can still hear my guide, so I can't be dead, but...where am I?' he asked himself fuzzily. Usually if it was a 'sentinel-guide' thing, they would have their conversation in a jungle setting. All around him was a dark, endless void. He could not feel anything around him. It felt like he was floating in this void. Suddenly, an intense beam of light made its' way through a small pin sized whole in the void. The beam was so intense Ellison closed his eyes tight for a moment then slowly opened them, allowing himself to see the brightness of the ray. He was surprised yet pleased when the light did not bother his usually sensitive eyes.  The shaft of light cast a warmth over him he could only sense as home, as welcome, as safety, as peace. It felt beyond belief that a light could instill such a sense of well-being! How had he ever lived without this feeling?

 

The beam became larger, shining first over his head, then the rest of his reclined body. He gazed down at his body as it seemed to radiate from the light. Jim was certain he was in a place not many ever saw, or those that did, never were able to tell anyone about it. 'I'm dying,' he thought calmly. 'How can I be dying?  I heard Blair, I...'

 

Alarms blared suddenly throughout the small room as well as at the ICU desk. Nurses and the resident doctors came running into the room pushing a cart. "Code Blue," the nurse shouted above the noises in the room. One nurse gently pulled the stunned guide away from his sentinel.  "Please sir, let us do our job," the nurse remarked patiently.

 

Blair saw them all over his friend. Saw them practically crawling on him like ants at a picnic. Saw them put the paddles on his exposed chest to encourage his heart to beat again. Saw them put needs in the IV leads. Saw them put a needle directly into his heart...

 

"I've got a rhythm," someone shouted from the crowd.

 

The police observer did not remember the balance of that day. All he knew was at the end of the day, his best friend was still alive, still fighting to live.

 

Blair sat in the chair that Dr. Pierce had set up for him. He held onto his friends hand, willing him to stay alive, to stay with him, to be his home, to be his safety. "Oh, Jim, this just sucks, you know? I want you stay alive, but for me. Not for you. I haven't been thinking what you want or need. Five hours ago, your body pretty much shut down, but the staff here did their best, and here you are, still with us. I want you to live, so much," he said tearfully, "but I also want what is best for you. If you are in so much pain, if living hurts too much, then," Blair bent his head down, looking at the joined hands, "do what you have to do to be happy, okay, man? I mean, if you would do as I ask, I'll be the happiest man alive. But I, um, understand if you can't stay. Do what is best for you, okay?  If leaving is best, just know I will *miss* you, so much.  I'm blabbering here," the guide realized as his voice finally stilled.

 

Studying their hands, Blair's hand holding the lax one of the sentinel, he thought he saw a finger twitch. 'No,' he told himself, 'just wishful thinking.' Then he saw it again. Jim was waking up, he knew it. He reached up and hit the call button. The nurse spoke to him via the call box and Blair told her he was seeing movement of fingers from his friend. She said she would advise the doctor.

 

"Come on, Jim, come on.  I know you are in there and that you have given your answer. You want to stay here, alive. I am here for you man. Just keep trying. You've given me hope again man. I am going to keep talking until you yourself tell me shut up, okay?" he rambled on with a slight grin on his face.

 

"B..," escaped very quietly from the injured detective. If it had not been for the oxygen mask over his face, steaming from the sound, the grad student was not sure he ever would have realized that his partner had even made a sound.

 

'I hear you, man,' the sentinel confirmed to his guide silently. 'Listen for me Sandburg. I'm trying to come to you. Hold on tight. I've decided; I want to stay. The light, it is so beautiful, but...I want to stay with you,' the sentinel confirmed.

 

"..ay wif you," the sentinel groaned.

 

Blair pushed the call button again, fervently repeating for the nurse monitoring at the ICU desk, "He's awake, he's awake!" Turning again to Jim, carefully stroking the waking man's hand, Blair used his 'guide' voice for to draw his sentinel into a waking consciousness.

"Come on back, man, c'mon, you can do it Jim. I'm right here for you. Just listen to my voice and come back to me. I heard you talk man. You said you wanted to stay and you know I want you to stay. You are my partner, my best friend," Blair continued speaking in his soothing voice. "I am so glad you are staying man. Whatever problem may arise, I am here for you. We will handle whatever happens..."

 

"Sh.h.h. Tired," the injured man whispered into the oxygen mask covering his mouth. Slowly Jim turned his face toward his friend, flinching from the various aches and pains. He gradually moved his fingers against Blair's hand.

Sandburg stared in soundless joy at the moving fingers on his hand. "Jim, man, you're moving your fingers! That is like, so great." Tears formed at the corners of the guide's eyes.

 

Dr. Pierce chose that moment to enter the room. "What did I tell you about being part of the cure, huh? Wish I could bottle that type of cure for those people don't have anyone willing them to live. You did good, Blair, real good," he said speaking to the beaming grad student. Turning his attention to his patient and began his exam.

 

Blair watched the gentle man cautiously exam his friend, writing down his own notes as analyzed the patient. When the evaluation was completed, the doctor put his clipboard down and began to explain his findings. "It is too early to tell, but as you already noticed, it seems Mr. Ellison has mobility in both his arms.  However, from my limited exam of his back, I still see extensive swelling. I haven't seen any leg movements yet, so, well, we have to remember all the possibilities, Blair," Hawkeye reasoned. "His legs may be involved now, but not two days form now.  Everyone heals at different speeds." Blair nodded in agreement. Dr. Pierce visually appraised the man in the bed. He could see that the man, though tired with drooping eyelids, kept opening them to stare at the face of his friend.

 

"Mr. Ellison," Pierce said kindly, "I know you are tired and want to rest.  Blair and I both want you to rest. You probably want to know where and what has been injured..."

 

"S.s.stu..den..." Ellison gasped.

 

Blair again held his friend's hand. "Jim, the students at the school are fine. You did good. Between you and Philson, the kids were all safe," he responded to the one word question. "Oh man, Jim, you were the only one seriously injured. Everyone from the kids and teachers, the fireman, to our own department are waiting on pins and needles to learn about your condition," Blair expressed, tears finally released streaming down his cheeks.

 

Hawkeye rested a hand on the shoulder of the grad student. "As I was saying, you probably want to know about your injuries, right?"

 

Ellison blinked slowly, indicating a positive response to the question.

 

Dr. Pierce explained the injuries, leaving the spinal injury to the end. "You have to understand that I can see the swelling. You have diminished use right now of your legs. The fact that you were using your fingers earlier has eliminated our concern how high your spinal injury impacted your body.  Our hope is that it is only the swelling causing the lack of sensitivity in your legs," Pierce compassionately imparted to the ailing man. Noticing Ellison's eyes were closed, the chest rising and falling rhythmically, told the doctor his patient had fallen asleep.  Hawkeye looked at the concerned friend. "Blair, he's a tough man.  I have a feeling he's going to show us what the word stubborn really means. I have a feeling he will beat all the odds on this one. Is he always like that?" he queried.

 

Unable to restrain the growing grin, Blair looked up at the optimistic doctor. "Yup. That's our Jim for you. Tell him he shouldn't do something, he does it anyway. Tell him he *can't* do something, well, you saw that reaction first hand. He just proves you wrong, a finds a way to do what other told him can't be done. If that is stubborn, then he is the poster child!"  Blair smiled in relief.  After only hearing those few words from his friend, he felt confident about not only Jim's survival, but also a total recovery.

 

 

***6 months later***

 

 

"Sandburg, will you just calm down. It's not a big thing."

 

"Are you crazy, man. It is a huge thing. You are walking. Today you are finally off your cane officially. Time to celebrate if you ask me!" the happy grad student voiced.

 

"Hold your horses, Chief! Geez, you've seen me walk unaided before, what's...."


"If you are going to ask what is the big deal, I'll tell you, you, stubborn SOB! Six months ago, they weren't sure if you were even going to live. You flat lined in front of me. So yeah, this is a big deal!" Blair vented at his sentinel.

 

Ellison nodded in understanding. Although the last six months had been difficult for him physically, he knew that Blair had suffered enough stress for two lifetimes. "Blair," he said gently, "I have a vague memory of the first days in the hospital. I remember a light. I remember that the light offered safety and warm. But it also meant that you would not be part of my existence anymore. I could hear you asking me to stay. So, I thought about it. Seemed like a fair trade to me. I would rather spend more time here with you."

 

The sentinel and guide walked together into the police station ready to face another day.

END

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