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AUTHOR'S NOTES: I wrote this yesterday after having a really bad day, which, by the way, is still continuing. My computer just ate my first draft, so I'm doing this on my son's computer. Unfortunately, I don't have Jim here to comfort me, sigh. Not betaed, I just wanted to get it out of my head and up on the screen, before I lost it again.
DISCLAIMER: We all know the drill. The boys don't belong to me, another sigh. I didn't get paid for writing this, yada, yada, yada.
WARNING: A little bit of language.
Blair Sandburg started upright in bed and squinted through the darkness in vain for the LED display of his alarm clock.
"Oh no, not this morning," he groaned.
He jumped out of bed and stumbled toward his clothes, piled haphazardly on the chair by his desk. He stubbed his toe on the chair leg and suppressing a yell, grabbed at the throbbing appendage and hopped back to his bedside table to pick up his watch.
He cursed loudly.
"Shit. I am going to be so late."
Still grumbling to himself, he headed for the bathroom. Yelping as his bare skin protested the cold water, he washed quickly and shampooed his hair, stepping out once to wipe away the suds that leaked into his right eye.
His first stop for the day was an 8.30am appointment with Professor Kennedy, a thin, sour old man, whose lowly opinion of Blair was widely known throughout Ranier University. Blair briefly considered calling the University in a fake voice, begging off with some dire disease.
'Nah, old sourpuss doesn't need any excuse to kick me out,' he thought to himself.
Not stopping for breakfast and knowing that Jim was tied up with a stakeout until late afternoon, Blair grabbed his backpack and headed out the door, realizing as it snicked shut that his keys were still inside in the basket.
"I should have stayed in bed," he moaned as he bypassed the elevator and headed down the stairs at a run. As he hit the third to bottom step, his foot slipped on something slick and skidded out from under him. He landed with a thud and felt a shaft of red-hot pain shoot through his ankle. Gasping, he sat down on the bottom step and massaged his leg. Checking his watch, Blair jumped up, clutching at his ankle as it refused to bear his weight.
"No time, no time," he mumbled as he pushed down the pain and hobbled toward the bus stop.
"You are aware of my opinion of your theories, Mr Sandburg," Professor Kennedy said haughtily. "Your reporting is concise but disorganized. I'll see you in a month."
Blair sighed. "Fine, Professor Kennedy, thank you."
He limped painfully from the room and made his way slowly to his office. "Well, Mr Sandburg, that went well....not," he said tiredly.
Blair graded assignments for the rest of the day, not bothering to eat lunch. He was interrupted only once, by a student whose begging for a better grade turned to thinly veiled threats and then surprise, as a barely contained Sandburg pushed him out the door and shut it firmly behind him.
His growling stomach reminded him that he'd promised to cook dinner and he packed up his gear, hoping to stop at the market before it closed. He figured Jim would be starving and opted for steak, potatoes and salad. He decided to cut through the park, hoping a change of scenery might brighten his mood and his luck. Halfway through the park, a scream startled him from his deep reverie.
"He's got my purse. Somebody stop him."
Blair ran toward the cries and as he raced up a wooden bridge, a heavy form collided with him, sending both men to the ground in a tangle of arms and legs. The purse-snatcher recovered first and jumped to his feet, pulling a small bladed double-edged knife from his pocket. Blair got up slowly, favoring his wrenched ankle and held his hands up.
"Hey, man, take it easy, okay?"
The man's eyes shifted nervously from side to side as he moved the knife from one hand to the other. Blair took an involuntary step back and, startled by the movement, the obviously drugged man lunged forward, the blade in his hand a blur of silver. Blair felt a sharp pain rip through his forearm. He gasped and grabbed at the wound, then as the man turned to flee, he launched himself at him, the momentum sending both of them over the bridge railing.
The icy water drove the breath from Blair's lungs and he panicked for a moment, fighting to control his breathing. A kick to his wounded arm brought another gasp of pain and he swallowed dirty water. Before he could recover, a hand grabbed hold of his head and pushed him under the surface as the purse-snatcher struggled in fear. "I can't swim. Help me," he screamed.
Blair fought his way back to the surface and grabbed the man by the scruff of his neck. "Take it easy, man. I've got you," he panted.
The man's arms flailed wildly, more than one blow catching Blair in the face and then Blair saw his eyes roll up as the man fainted, his sudden dead weight sending Blair to the bottom of the murky lake. The inky blackness and frigid cold loosened his grip on reality and a frightening kaleidoscope of memories coursed unbidden through his mind as his head broke the surface and he choked on the inhaled water. He felt strong arms grabbing at him and he struggled for a moment to escape their grip.
"Easy, buddy, let us help you out," a voice said near his ear and he felt the weight of the unconscious man lifted from him. Then he was pulled from the water to lay shivering on the bank, retching the filthy water from his lungs.
Jim Ellison slammed the truck to a halt and raced from the cab toward the flashing red and blue lights he could see just ahead. He extended his hearing, searching frantically for his guide's heartbeat, finding it rapid, staccato. He increased his speed as he heard the harsh breathing and rough coughing that accompanied it. He flashed his badge at the uniformed officer who blocked his way. "Detective Ellison, where's my partner?"
His eyes scanned the area rapidly, alighting finally on a small figure, huddled up on the grass. Jim's heart lurched as the officer spoke.
"He won't let anyone look at him. Says he's okay and just asked us to call you. He's pretty cold though and he's got a nasty cut on his arm. My guess is he's in shock."
Jim thanked the officer and took the proffered blanket. He knelt down next to the hunched figure and placed the blanket around Blair's shivering shoulders.
"Sandburg? You okay, Chief?"
Blair shook his head, but did not look up, trying instead to curl his body further into a small ball. Jim laid a large hand on his shoulder and Blair leaned toward him.
"That was a pretty brave thing you did, Chief. What say you let the medics check you out?"
Blair shook his head again. "Just wanna go home, Jim."
The voice was hoarse but flat and Jim realized just how close to exhaustion his friend was. He spoke gently but firmly. "Sorry, Chief, either you let these guys fix you up or I'll take you to the hospital myself."
A sob escaped from beneath the wet curls and Jim sat down reaching an arm around the thin shoulders. "Let it out, buddy. You've had a rough time."
The sobs came in earnest then and Jim sat, rubbing small circles of comfort over Blair's back until he felt him relax.
"I was so scared, Jim," he said, quietly.
"That's natural, Blair. Water doesn't exactly hold fond memories for either of us," Jim replied. He waved over the paramedics, who knelt down in front of them and proceeded to check his partner's injuries.
Jim pulled into his parking space and looked over at his sleeping friend. Blair sat, nestled into the corner of the passenger seat, wrapped securely in Jim's coat. He had stopped shivering finally, but his pallor was startling against the dark curls and Jim could see the shadowing of bruising across his cheek where the purse-snatcher had hit him in his panic. The gash on Blair's arm and some residual water in his lungs had necessitated a trip to the hospital after all, amidst loud protestations that had only quieted when Jim agreed to take him there in the truck. Blair's arm had been disinfected and stitched and he'd been given prophylactic antibiotics to ward off any infections from the germ-infested water.
Jim managed to get his partner up to the loft more or less under his own steam, but Blair's knees buckled as Jim's supporting arm left him to unlock and open the door. Jim caught the small figure easily and carried him into the small downstairs bedroom. He managed to get Blairs damp clothes off him and then rubbed him down with a large towel to warm the still chilled skin. He was able to coax Blair awake for long enough to dress in sweats, then he bundled him beneath the blankets.
"How about I put some soup on for us, Chief?" he asked.
"'Kay," Blair mumbled sleepily. "Thanks, Jim, really bad day. Should have stayed in bed."
Jim grinned and patted his shoulder. "We all have them, Chief."
"Thanks for coming, Jim," Blair whispered.
"I always will, buddy. I'm just glad you're okay."