Betaed by Annie who also provided the prompt. Thanks, sis!
SUMMARY: An outsider's look at Jim and Blair's partnership.
I was beat. Emotions shot to hell, energy levels in the toilet. I was about to sign off on the 36 hour shift from hell when my pager beeped. I debated ignoring it. I was off duty in less than a minute and I knew that Cam Graham, the resident taking over from me, was in the break room, making small talk with Kathy Harris, the pretty new nurse in the ER. It seemed like run of the mill stuff anyway, compared to what had come through the Emergency room doors since I'd first come to work all that time ago. Hit and run. Never nice, but my shift was over and all I wanted was my bed.
I turned to watch as the gurney was pushed through the entrance doors. A paramedic was standing on the gurney's side bar, pushing air into the victim's lungs via an ambubag. Not so ordinary, after all. Before I knew I'd moved, I was hustling along behind it, taking in the vitals being recited by the second paramedic and grabbing my stethoscope from around my neck. Sleep was overrated anyway.
I scanned my patient from head to toe, checking for obvious signs of trauma, and there were plenty. The guy looked like roadkill. Numerous abrasions and road rash peppered his upper body, making me wonder if he'd been dragged by the vehicle. His left leg was obviously broken, tib and fib, by the look of it. A large lump over his left eye gave me the most concern, given his unconscious state and the absence of respiration.
I pulled my penlight from my pocket and checked pupil response. Looked normal so hopefully the guy had nothing worse than a nasty concussion. "Let's prep him for a head CT," I said, knowing better than to just trust my own judgment. Hidden injuries were the worst of all. I'd had patients die on me before now just when they looked to be recovering. "Get an Xray of that leg too." I continued my examination of the patient while I listened the paramedic's continued report. "Do we have an ID?"
"Detective James Ellison, Cascade PD," the paramedic replied. "There's an APB out on the vehicle, though it sounds like the cops know who did it. There's another vic too. He doesn't look too hot but he's ambulatory."
Partners, I thought immediately. Never good. My dad was a cop with the PD when I was a kid. Killed in the line of duty when I was ten. I'd wanted to be a cop, just like my old man until he died. Watching his coffin being lowered into the ground, knowing he'd never play ball with me and my brother again, suddenly it didn't seem such a great job. That's when I decided to become a doctor, help save all those wounded cops. Sounds a bit overdramatic now, but back then I was an impressionable fatherless kid, and I have to say I like to think I make a better doctor than I would a cop.
IV and Foley's in and I'm relieved that I can't find any other major injuries. I'm about to intubate the guy when he takes a sudden whooping breath and then continues to breathe at a steady, though shallow rate. "I'll hold off on the ET tube until we see what the CT scan shows us," I say. "Let's get moving."
There's a sudden commotion in the doorway and the curtain is swept back to reveal a man about my age pushing past Sally Smith, the triage nurse.
"Problem, Sally?" I ask as I check out the interloper.
"I'm Blair Sandburg," the man interrupts. "Jim's my partner."
Narcotics, I figure, from the long hair and earring, though a glance at my patient has me second-guessing that. Ellison is a big guy, a muscular, ex-military type, but the sheer look of worry on Sandburg's face leaves me in no doubt that these two are close. Still, he's not doing his partner any good being in here, getting underfoot, and from the pallor of his face and the way he's cradling one arm close to his body, I suspect he's in need of some medical attention himself. I walk over to him, blocking him from coming further into the trauma room. "Look, Detective -"
"I'm not a cop," he says, attempting to peer over my shoulder at the patient.
"I thought you said Detective Ellison is your partner?"
"He is," he says then shrugs, grimacing as the small movement elicits pain somewhere. I suspect in his arm, which I can see from this close up is swollen from the mid-arm down and badly bruised. "It's complicated."
"Sounds like it," I agree. "Look, you can't be back here. You'll just be in the way, and you need to get yourself checked out too. Did you get hit by the car as well?"
He shakes his head. "He pushed " He takes a shaky breath then continues, "Jim pushed me out of the way. I hit the ground pretty hard, but I'm okay. Just sprained my wrist or something."
I rest his hand in mine and lift his arm gently. "Looks like more than a sprain. Lucy," I wave over one of the nurses, "get Mr. Sandburg into an exam room, okay? Page Cam Graham. He should already be on duty."
"No!" Sandburg snatches his hand from my grasp and his face goes sheet-white. He wobbles a little on his feet and I react swiftly, grabbing a chair and pushing him into it, pressing his head down between his knees. "I can see you're fine," I say. "How about we pretend that I actually know what I'm talking about. You get yourself checked out and let me look after your partner."
He takes a couple of slow, deep breaths, then nods. "How is he?"
"Unconscious, but he's breathing on his own now. He has a broken leg and a head injury. We're taking him for a CT scan now."
He straightens in the chair and makes an attempt to stand but I keep my hand on his shoulder, aborting the action. "Can I go with him?" he asks. "He's sensitive to all kinds of drugs -"
"Sandburg!" a deep voice bellows. Great, all we need is the entire police force in here. A tall, well-built black man strides into the room, crowding out pretty much all my staff. "What are you doing back here?" He glares at Sandburg who appears to shrink back in the chair a little. "I told you to get your arm looked at and give Brown your statement."
"I wanted to check on Jim," Sandburg says. "You know about his sensitivities, Simon Captain."
"And I'm sure they're listed in his medical records, right, Doc?"
"Of course," I say.
The captain pats Sandburg's shoulder, suddenly looking more like an overgrown teddy bear than a tough cop. "So, the sooner you get patched up, the sooner you can check on Jim. Ahhh!" He raises a finger in warning as Sandburg opens his mouth to speak and I get the impression that these two are almost as close as the two partners. "I'm the captain, remember? I give the orders and you obey them."
Sandburg's shoulders slump and he gives a small salute with his good hand. "Yes, sir." He looks up at me. "You'll check his records, right, and if there's any problems, you'll let me know right away?"
He stares at me for a moment then capitulates. "Okay."
The captain helps him stand, steadying him when he wavers a moment on his feet.
"I'll get the nurse to bring a wheelchair," I suggest.
"I'm fine," Sandburg says, though he doesn't look as certain as he sounds. "Can I see Jim, just for a minute?"
He approaches the bed and leans over Ellison, taking one of the man's lax hands in his. "Thanks, Jim, I owe you one again," he says softly. "Hurry up and wake up, okay? I can see sick leave in our future. Basketball games and old movies on the TV, leisurely lunches. No paperwork, no chasing bad guys for a few weeks. Campbell got away for now but we'll get him."
He carefully places Jim's hand down on the bed and walks back to the captain. His face is shiny with sweat and he looks like he might keel over any minute.
"Shit!" As I think just that, he collapses, taking both of us by surprise. The captain's reflexes are better than mine. He just barely catches him before he hits the floor.
"I can't believe you let him do that, Simon!"
Detective Sandburg sounds aggrieved and I debate whether to interrupt. I did promise, however, to keep him appraised on how his partner was doing - I'm still trying to get my head around that. He's Ellison's partner but he's not a cop and apparently, he's a grad student at Rainier University. One of the nurses recognized him as they wheeled him out of the trauma room on a gurney after he collapsed.
"It wasn't my idea, Sandburg." I recognize Captain Banks' growl. "I left you in Brown's care."
"But it's green!"
Banks chuckles. "It certainly is."
"Matched your complexion," an unfamiliar voice says, "and they were all out of white."
I tap on the door and push it open, curious now to see what's got Sandburg all riled up. He's sitting up on the exam bed, his plastered arm resting on a pillow on his lap. His green plastered arm. I try not to grin but fail miserably. "Nice color," I say. "Just think, it could have been purple."
"I like purple," Sandburg grumbles. His head shoots up and he suddenly seems to realize I've spoken. "Doc! How's Jim?"
I reach out a hand and shake his. "We were never properly introduced before you passed out. Doctor Richard Burton, named after my great-uncle, the explorer, not the actor."
Blair's eyes just about bug out of his head. "You're kidding, right?"
"I wish," I reply, not sure why my announcement has put a slightly maniacal look on his face. Libby Clark had told me he was an anthropologist, so I figured he'd heard of good ol' Uncle Richard, but I have to admit most of the family tends to disown him. He was a weird old bird.
Blair shakes his head. "Oh, man, that is mind blowing. We have got to talk."
"Sure," I agree halfheartedly and shift the subject back to the matter at hand, hoping that the good news will make Blair forget all about our chat. "Your partner is doing well. He woke up a half hour ago with one hell of a headache and a bad temper."
"Thank god!" Sandburg starts shuffling off the bed and the captain grabs his leg, stilling him. "Where do you think you're going, Sandburg?"
"To see Jim."
"Doctor Burton said he was awake, I didn't hear anything about him being up to visitors." He looks at me, and there seems to be a hopeful look in his eyes. "Doc?"
"He can have visitors," I say, "for a few minutes then he needs to rest." I have to admit I'm hoping Ellison will wake up the next time in a whole better mood. The only thing he was worried about the minute his eyes opened was how Sandburg was, and despite my assurances that his partner was doing well, he pretty much threatened to climb out of the bed and check for himself if I didn't get Sandburg there ASAP. It was with only a small amount of guilty relief that I injected some morphine into his IV, promising I'd fetch his partner as long as he promised to calm down.
"Thank you," Banks says, and he doesn't bother to hide the relief in his voice. "I didn't want to handcuff him to the bed but "
I pat his shoulder and nod solemnly in agreement. "I know. Believe me, I know."
"This is Detective Brown," Banks says, indicating the other man in the room, a well-built, bald-headed African-American.
He shakes my hand enthusiastically and gives me a wide smile. "Thanks for looking after Jim," he says. "Believe me, with both of them unconscious, things were way easier."
"Hey!" Sandburg grouses, looking mildly aggrieved but with a small smile curving his lips. "Anyway, you are not getting away with this, H." He lifts his broken arm gingerly and waves it in the air. "Green? What goes with green, for crying out loud?"
"Your complexion, for one thing," Brown says and guffaws loudly at his own joke.
I can't help but join in, giving Blair an apologetic shrug, which he returns with a cheerful grin, and I can see now that Sandburg fits in with this brotherhood, cop or not. There's a tangible affection between all three men, a camaraderie, and I'm certain that the partnership between Jim and Blair is there in all but official rank. "So, you can go see your partner but this time, I'm ordering that you go in a wheelchair or not at all. Understood?"
"Yes, sir," Blair answers smartly.
Wheelchair procured, I walk the three colleagues up to Jim's room. As I turn to leave, Captain Banks leans in and whispers, "You're gonna have to tell me your secret."
"Secret?" I ask, puzzled.
"Contrary to how it may look, Sandburg never follows my orders, well, hardly ever."
I smile in understanding. "You just need to use the right bait."
Banks grins back. "Gotcha."
I push open the door to the room and usher them in. I can't resist staying a few moments, despite being exhausted beyond belief now that the adrenaline rush has worn off, and I'm beginning to think I wouldn't mind having that chat with Blair about my great-uncle after all, once I get some sleep.
Jim's eyes open and it takes him a moment to get with the program then he grins loopily at his partner. "Hey, Chief. Is that cast green? Suits your complexion at least."