DELUGE

By: Lyn

FEEDBACK TO: townsend297@gmail.com

DISCLAIMER: The Sentinel and its characters belong to Di Meo, Bilson and Petfly. This story has been written for the enjoyment of myself and other readers and no copyright infringement is intended. No money has been made from it.

Author’s Notes: I’m tired of the rain. This is what developed from that thought. I have no idea of what storm water drains are like in the U.S, so allow me a little artistic license here (g) Set after TSbyBS, slightly AU, Blair is a paid police consultant, not a cop.

My thanks to my betas: Twilight, Danae and Julie, talk about eagle eyes, thanks guys, especially for the Americanisms. Many thanks to Danae for the second beta when I decided to add about a half a story more.

"It’ll be okay. Jim’s coming." Blair Sandburg repeated the litany to himself, offering it up like a silent prayer as he blinked blood and water from his eyes and tightened his grip on the wide-eyed teenager beside him.

The tide lashed at them cruelly; the vicious current attempting to tear the boy from him like a hungry predator, and Blair grunted in pain as his body was slammed once more against the steel grill blocking their escape from this watery hell.

"I’ll try again in a minute," he yelled over the roar of the water. "Just give me a second to catch my breath. My partner will be here any time now, it’s gonna be fine, Scott."

Scott nodded, his face ashen as his lungs spasmed violently against the onslaught of rising water that coursed at intervals down his heaving throat. He tightened the death grip on his Samaritan’s arm, not seeing the shudder of pain it elicited, oblivious to everything but his mind numbing terror.

"Jim’s coming." Blair allowed the thought to expand and fill his mind until there was room for no other, no corner to be touched by a negative notion.

~o0o~

Earlier:

Blair leaned back in his chair and cracked his knuckles, causing his partner to look over at him in exasperation.

"I hate it when you do that, Sandburg," Jim said, frowning.

"Sorry,writer’s cramp." His smile widened impossibly, morphing into a yawn and he stretched again. "I am wiped, man. Please, no more stakeouts this week. I am so glad we picked up Adams tonight. If we’d had to go out again tomorrow, you were going to be on your own."

The young man stood, brushing an errant curl behind one ear. "I’m going to get some coffee. You want some?"

"Actually, I’ll come with you. I could do with stretching my legs and waking myself up too."

He snagged his coffee cup from the desk and followed Blair out the door. Neither man spoke as they walked up the corridor to the breakroom. Turning the corner, Jim paused in the doorway as he heard Blair’s name mentioned.

"…Sandburg? How the hell does the guy get away with admitting to being a fraud and then get a paid job as a fucking consultant to the police department?"

Victor Martinez sat straddling the back of a chair, his back to the door. His partner, Abe Richards was pouring coffee into two mugs at the sink.

Jim’s fists clenched at his sides, and he felt Blair’s restraining hand on his arm.

Abe nodded and spoke without turning around as he sorted through the clutter, searching for sugar and spoons. "I don’t know, man. I heard they offered him a badge and he turned it down. How do you think Ellison feels? He’s got to partner the little fag. Maybe that’s how Sandburg got the job. You think maybe he’s doing it with Ellison?"

"No way, man," Martinez replied. "But you know how it is, Abe, you stand too close when the shit starts flying and some of it’s bound to stick. I feel sorry for Ellison though. The guy’s a good cop."

Blair heard the growl deep in Jim’s throat and swiftly grabbed the detective with both hands on his arm, pulling him back around the corner. "Leave it, Jim, all right?" he hissed.

The smaller man got up on his toes and leaned into Jim’s face as the older man opened his mouth to protest. "I mean it, leave it alone. You keep standing up for me and they’re never going to stop, man. You’re just loading the ammo for them. Okay?"

Jim stared for a long moment at his partner, then nodded reluctantly.

Blair sighed, then ran a hand through his hair. "I’ve finished up my side of things and the weather out there is getting really bad. Why don’t I head home and put together a lasagna and a salad? How long do you think you’re gonna be?"

"Um, about an hour or so, I guess. I’ve got to check the details of the raid with Simon, and make sure he’s happy with what we got on the Rostin case. Look, Chief…"

"Fine," Blair interrupted. "By the time you get home I should be pulling the lasagna out of the oven. I’ll see you then."

He wheeled around and headed back to the bullpen, snagging his backpack and waving a hasty goodbye to Simon and Rafe on his way out.

~o0o~

Blair grimaced at the bleak weather that had settled like a dark cloak over Cascade. Black swirling clouds roiled and were backlit by flashes of jagged lightning. Thunder chased the spectacular light show and the city’s seemingly ever-present rain had outdone itself in volume and force.

Not known for his tolerance to or fondness of the cold, Blair shivered despite still being safely ensconced in the relative warmth of the entrance way of Cascade PD and glanced back longingly toward the office.

He hadn’t had time to put through the paperwork necessary to score a permanent parking space in the basement garage and had to content himself with the closest available street parking. He’d been lucky to find himself a semi-permanent spot in a small alleyway just up from the station, out back of a small bakery. The owner had offered it to Blair as thanks for tutoring his son.

Blair sighed, then tucking his chin to his chest and submerging his hands in the vast pockets of an old Army windbreaker that had seen better days, he pushed himself out the door of the building and ran swiftly to his car. He fumbled his keys in his numb fingers and cursed as they dropped to the ground and he was forced to squint to find them.

"Finally," he muttered as the dirty yellow glare of the solitary streetlight reflected on the silver keys. He shut the door on the squalling weather with a sigh of relief and sat for a moment enjoying the relative calm.

A spear of lightning snaking across the sky startled him from his thoughts and he glanced at his watch. He mentally catalogued the ingredients he needed for dinner and decided he could avoid a trip to the market. If he took the back way home, he’d be warm and dry a whole lot quicker.

Blair’s entire world was ruled by meticulously planned timetables. It had been the only way he could fit in the myriad activities that his academic degree and his role as police observer and guide to Jim demanded.

Although his academic career had ended some four months before in a blaze of unwanted publicity, he still found the habit hard to break. Blair knew that his study of Sentinels had been much more than a degree and a duty and had known it within a few months of meeting the man who had become his subject of study.

Despite the many dangerous situations Blair found himself in as sidekick to a detective and sentinel, and disregarding his own reputation as a trouble magnet, Blair had never doubted Jim’s ability to keep him safe. His deep and abiding faith and trust in his partner now seemed as natural as breathing and theirs was a solid friendship built on a mutual respect and a healthy dose of patience for each other’s idiosyncrasies. It had been that respect and trust that had forged a stronger bond between the two men in the wake of the fiasco that had been Blair’s doctoral thesis.

The two men were as different as chalk and cheese, yet seemed to complement each other perfectly. The thought made the anthropologist smile as he started his old car and reversed out of the parking space. He could take a little bullshit from police officers who had no idea that Blair’s thesis was genuine, it was getting harder though to keep Jim Ellison from getting suspended for punching out an ignorant and jealous cop.

A couple of miles further on and Blair was no longer smiling as his old car shuddered to a halt with a belch and a hiccup despite his entreaties and threats.

"Damn it, not tonight," Blair groaned, thumping the steering wheel with frustration.

He tried several times to restart the car but the engine remained obstinately silent. Reluctantly, the young man hunched into his jacket and ventured into the biting cold outside. As he raised the hood on the car, his ears caught the faint edge of a sound, a voice calling.

Emulating the lessons he had taught his sentinel, Blair focused his hearing, trying to filter out the extraneous sounds of the fierce storm. He heard it again, definitely a human voice and with his heart in his throat, he grabbed his flashlight from the glovebox and ventured to the edge of the incline abutting the road.

Below him, lit by the flickering beam, he could make out the rapidly surging water as it flowed along the drain carrying the overflow of the storm out to sea.

"Hello, is somebody there?" he shouted against the storm’s furious sound and then he concentrated fiercely to push his hearing past the raging torrent. There it was, a voice, faint, accompanied by coughing and then he almost wet his pants as an elongated shadow suddenly loomed over him and a hand grasped his arm.

"Oh man, thank God." The voice was young and male and Blair tried to stop his heart from pounding in order to hear him over the thunder and wind.

The anthropologist shone his flashlight up and fixed it on the young man standing in front of him. The teenager held his hand up in front of his eyes to ward off some of the glare and squinted at Blair before rushing into a frenzied explanation.

"It’s my friend, Scott. It was just a stupid dare; he slipped and got washed into the drain. He’s under there. He keeps calling for help. I think he’s caught or something."

Blair looked closely at the boy, wiping away the rain as it streamed into his eyes. "What’s your name?"

"David, David Wright. I know it was stupid, but we were bored. I didn’t think he’d get that close."

Blair made a snap decision as a thin voice echoed up again from the depths of the drain below where it disappeared into a concrete pipe. He shoved his phone at the teenager.

"Call 911 and get an ambulance and rescue here. Then ask for Major Crimes and speak to Detective Jim Ellison. My name is Blair Sandburg. Tell him that I told you to call. Let him know what’s happening and where we are."

David hesitated, ignoring the cell phone that Blair offered him. "Major Crimes? Man, it was just a stupid dare."

Blair shook his head impatiently and pushed the phone into the boy’s hands. "He’s my friend, he’ll need to know where I am. Go, then stay by the car and direct them down here."

Blair indicated the way to his car with his free hand and pushed David in that direction. "I’m just going to check on your friend. See how he’s doing."

David nodded then and took the phone, turning to trudge back to the roadway, sliding occasionally in the slick mud.

Blair turned his attention back to the drain and began to gingerly pick his way down the slight embankment, his flashlight bobbing as he tried to keep his balance. He reached the rim of the drain and leaned forward slightly shining the beam up into the pipe. He could see nothing but the rushing water and occasional pieces of junk, flotsam caught by the tide and washed along in its wake.

"Hello? Can you hear me? Scott?" he called as loudly as he could and was startled as his voice echoed off the walls of the pipe.

He thought he heard Scott calling again and grabbed hold of the edge of the drain in order to lean over further, hoping to be able to see the boy and get an idea of his situation. His left foot skidded suddenly on the wet grass and he turned his body to grab at the pipe with both hands but his grip on the flashlight hindered his efforts and he hit the water with a shout.

The freezing water stole his breath and he panicked and flailed wildly as he was pulled under the surface. He fought his way up as the tide carried him rapidly along and he watched in horror as a barred gate appeared ahead of him. Blair kicked out trying vainly to reverse his progress then screamed in pain, as he was slammed bodily into the unyielding obstacle.

He felt blackness encroaching on his sight and grimly shook it off, knowing he would drown if he was to lose consciousness now. Suddenly he felt hands grab at his arm and he yelled again at the agonizing pressure on shattered bones. He twisted in the grip, attempting to pull his arm free and came face to face with the terrified features of Scott Walker.

"Please help me," the teen whimpered, his teeth chattering uncontrollably behind blue tinged lips.

"Okay man, take it easy,"

Blair got as close as he could to the boy and pushed his shoulder under Scott’s arm, attempting to raise him above the water level, biting back a moan at the hot pain that shot up his arm at the movement. His head was pounding and he felt a slow trickle of wetness down his forehead. "Let’s see if I can get you out of here."

Scott shook his head violently, his soaked dreadlocks spraying Blair’s face. "My foot’s caught on something. I can’t get it out."

Blair nodded, then took a slow breath, dreading what was coming but knowing it was unavoidable. "I’m going to go down there and see if I can release your foot. Just try to stay calm. There’s help on the way."

He waited until he saw the boy nod, then taking another deep breath and offering up prayers to all the deities he could recall, he ducked below the surface and began his descent. The water was muddy and the turbulence made it almost impossible for him to see anything clearly.

He used his uninjured hand to feel his way down Scott’s leg until he reached his foot. The anthropologist could tell that Scott’s foot was caught firmly in the bars of the grill. He gritted his teeth and pulled on the ankle as hard as he could, trying to wedge his fingers around the foot to push it through. He could detect no give at all and realized with a start that his lungs were beginning to burn from lack of oxygen. He kicked his way back to the surface, coughing and spluttering as he fought to drag in breaths of the frigid air.

Three times more, he submerged himself, in an attempt to free the teen, the last time sure he had felt the tiniest movement from the trapped limb, but feeling dizzy from the exertion and the blow to his head, he’d had to force himself to rest.

"Scott, Scott! Wake up, man, don’t go to sleep on me." Blair leaned in and called into the young man’s ear as he saw Scott’s head slump forward onto his chest, exhaustion tugging at him relentlessly.

Scott started awake, reaching in panic for the anthropologist as he swallowed water.

Blair dredged up a weak smile and shifted his grip on the grill behind him so that he could tread water and hold on to the weary boy as well. His head was still pounding and his vision was blurring at the edges. The cold had seeped deep within his bones, the only consolation being that he no longer felt the pain that had clawed up his arm from the fractured bones.

"I need you to help me stay awake, Scott. How about you tell me about yourself and how you managed to get talked into this, huh?"

~o0o~

Jim Ellison sighed with relief as he put his signature to the final page of the Rostin murder report and glanced at his watch. Reminded of his long day, both he and Blair having forgone lunch to set up the raid on Adams, a known narcotics dealer, and then interrogating a suspect who had finally rolled over on his accomplice, his stomach rumbled and Jim stood, snagging his jacket from the coat hook.

A tiny shiver crawled along his spine and he stopped for a moment, to allow the niggling sensation to form into solid thought. Most called it cop’s intuition, Jim’s guide preferred to think of it in more mystical terms, a strand of the invisible bond that linked them, sentinel to guide.

Since Blair’s drowning in the fountain, when he was declared dead by the paramedics and resuscitated by Jim against all odds, the detective was inclined to believe him. As quickly as the feeling came, it was gone again and Jim shrugged on his jacket and headed for the door.

He wheeled around with an exasperated curse as his desk phone rang and he picked up the receiver, answering tersely. Mere seconds later, he was pounding down the stairwell, fumbling for his car keys as he ran.

~o0o~

"Are you from around here?" Blair asked, trying to keep the young man beside him awake and calm. He knew that if Scott started to drift under the water, he wouldn’t have the energy or strength to lift him back up.

He thought he could see the water level rising as well and hoped to keep the young man from noticing. Blair’s own heart continued to race with fear each time the tide washed more water over his face, sending him spiraling continually into a waking nightmare of fountains and drowning, and he knew that his own hold on reality and calm was precarious at best.

The young man shook his head and began to speak, softly at first, his voice gaining volume as he came more fully awake. "Dave and me have been hitch hiking around a bit. We’re from Chicago. We decided to get out and see a little of the country and after this we’re going to head up to Canada, see if we can get some work on the waterfront in Toronto or maybe Vancouver."

"Oh yeah," Blair said enthusiastically. "I’ve been up there a few times with my studies. You know the Indians up in the North West of Canada carved amazing totem poles, man. They’re like the ritual bond in each community, the ties that bind, amazing work."

"I didn’t know there were Indians in Canada," Scott mumbled, his words beginning to slur as his head slumped once more toward his chest.

"You bet," Blair said. "Hey, stay with me, buddy, okay? I don’t relish talking to myself, you know. Let me tell you a little about the Canadian Indians."

"You’re bleeding," Scott whispered, his eyes focusing blearily on Blair’s face, one hand coming up to shakily swipe at Blair’s forehead.

"It’ll be fine," Blair answered, hoping his face did not betray his true condition. "My partner Jim will be here any minute. He’s a detective with Major Crimes."

"You’re a cop?" Scott asked, looking more than a little confused. "I thought you were an anthropologist."

"It’s a long story," Blair replied. "Let me have another shot at getting your foot out, then I’ll tell you about the totem poles." Waiting until he saw Scott nod his acknowledgement, Blair took a deep breath and descended into the depths once more. ‘Jim’s coming. Jim’s coming.’

~o0o~

Jim pressed the accelerator to the floor as he rounded the bend, fighting to keep the fishtailing back end of the truck under control. "Jesus, Chief, what did you do now?" he muttered to himself as he slowed to a halt beside Blair’s car, and realized that the young man huddled beside it, arms wrapped tightly around his body as meager protection against the biting wind was not his partner.

He hurried from the cab, grabbing an old blanket he had stashed on the floor and ran to meet the stranger. "I’m Detective Ellison, Cascade PD," he said, looking around distractedly. "Where’s Sandburg?"

The young man waved his arm toward the embankment and moved in closer to shout in Jim’s ear against the roar of the storm, causing the detective to wince and step back slightly.

"He went down there to check on Scott, my friend, told me to wait here for the rescue team. I looked down there after I called you and he was gone."

"What do you mean, gone?" Jim said, his face paling. "Where are the rescue teams?"

David shook his head. "They’re on their way, but they said they’re backed up."

Jim cocked an ear, listening as he dialed his hearing up and filtered through the thunder and wind. He turned back to the truck, reaching into the tray at the back for ropes and life jackets and other rescue paraphernalia, grateful that he hadn’t bothered to unload the gear after the last camping trip. Turning back to David, he said, "They’re coming. Stay up here, flag them down and send them down with lights and first aid equipment. I’m going to check things out."

David nodded and smiled gratefully as Jim draped the blanket around his shivering body. Jim looped the ropes around his waist and slipped and skidded his way to the stormwater drain. He dialed up his sight as he leaned carefully over the edge of the raging torrent and called loudly into the mouth of the pipe. "Sandburg! Blair, can you hear me?"

~o0o~

Blair surfaced, choking on dirty water and clung to Scott as another onslaught of rough water threatened to drive them both into the metal grill.

"I think you can pull your foot out now. It’ll probably hurt like hell, but we’ve got to get out of here," he shouted. "You want to give it a shot?"

Scott shuddered, then nodded. Blair watched the young man’s forehead crease with effort, then with a scream of pain, Scott bobbed up in the water, his foot free, blood streaming from a gash caused by a ragged metal edge.

It was a hollow victory, Blair thought. He doubted either of them had the stamina to swim against the current to freedom. He bent to wrap his good hand around the gash in Scott’s foot, then straightened suddenly. He’d heard something, hadn’t he?

"Can you hear me?"

"Jim, Jim? Is that you? We’re here, man, we’re here!" Blair yelled as loudly as he could.

He heard nothing more and tried to rein in his disappointment. Scott was near exhaustion; the last thing he needed was to think that Blair was hallucinating.

Blair managed to strip away his waterlogged jacket then pulled his sweater off, using the sleeve as a temporary bandage for Scott’s foot. The anthropologist was so cold now, his entire body felt numb and heavy. He shouted in surprise as something washed up against his back and clung to him. He turned to push it away in fright, and found himself looking into the grim face of his partner.

"Thank God, Jim, we’ve got to get out of here. The water’s rising and Scott’s hurt. I don’t think he’ll last much longer."

Jim looked his partner over appraisingly, then nodded and edged closer to the exhausted teenager, pulling the young man’s arms into a life jacket and shoving the other one at Blair.

"I’ve hooked up some ropes from outside to here. Do you think you can hold on and haul yourself back against the current?"

Blair hesitated, then nodded. "Sure, no problem," he said, trying to still his chattering teeth. "You go in front of me, you’re the one with sentinel sight."

Jim nodded and hooked his arm around the almost unconscious boy, then unlooping a length of rope from his waist, he secured Scott to him, keeping his hands free. The detective had to forcibly uncurl Scott’s fingers from their grip on the bars of the grill, and then he reached up to grab for the guide rope he had secured on his way in. He turned and flashed a quick smile at Blair. "Let’s get somewhere warm."

Blair nodded and reached up for the swaying lifeline. Jim fought to keep Scott’s head above the water as he pushed his way back toward the opening. Extending his hearing past the torrential water, he could hear voices and then with relief spotted the two helmeted figures surging toward him.

"Okay, Chief, we’re on the home stretch now," he called to Blair.

Thankfully, he handed his burden on to the rescue team and turned to assist his guide, but Blair was no longer behind him.

"Blair!" he yelled as he threw himself back the way they had come.

He spotted him a moment later; the anthropologist’s limp body was face down and being buffeted about by the unforgiving current, heading back toward the barrier. Jim dived under the water and came up under his unconscious friend, hoisting his waterlogged body over his shoulder as he turned once more to the guide ropes.

He felt a hand under his arm and nodded his thanks at the burly rescuer who had followed him back. Together, they fought their way forward until Jim was able to surrender Blair to the waiting arms above him, then he hauled himself up, to lay shaking and spent on the grass.

As he struggled to sit upright, then crawl over to where Blair lay on a gurney, his ashen features partly hidden by an oxygen mask, he felt the heavy warmth of a blanket about his shoulders and looked up into the concerned face of his captain.

"Thanks, Simon," he croaked and accepted the large man’s offer of assistance to stand.

"Are you okay, Jim?" Simon asked, looking his detective over searchingly.

Jim nodded, his eyes never leaving his partner’s still form. He managed to stand on shaky legs and move over to Blair’s side.

"How is he?" he asked the paramedic busy wrapping the anthropologist in a foil rescue blanket.

The man looked up briefly from his work and shrugged. "Too soon to tell, Detective. He’s hypothermic, and he’s definitely sustained some fractures and a head injury. Apart from that, his lungs sound pretty wet, but he’s breathing on his own."

Jim nodded his thanks and squatted down beside his partner, taking his icy hand in his.

"What the hell did you think you were doing, Chief? Why didn’t you tell me you couldn’t make it?"

He stood as the paramedics pulled the gurney up and looked questioningly at them.

The first man smiled. "Sure, Detective, you can ride in with us. You should get yourself checked out too."

~o0o~

Jim looked up as the cubicle curtain was pushed aside and his Captain entered. "How’s Blair, Simon? Any news yet?"

The big police captain nodded and laid a reassuring hand on Jim’s shoulder. "His doctor is on his way now to talk to us."

As he spoke, a tall black man pushed his way through the doorway, a medical folder in his hand. "Detective Ellison and Captain Banks, I’m Dr. Ross. I’ve been treating Blair Sandburg."

"How’s he doing, Doc?" Simon spoke up.

"It’s a cliché, I know," the doctor replied, pulling up a stool. "But considering what he’s been through, as well as can be expected."

"Can I see him?" Jim spoke then, shifting from the exam bed and waving away Simon’s proffered hand.

"He’s heavily sedated, Detective, and I don’t want him woken for a while. He’s suffering from hypothermia; we’re warming him up slowly. He has a badly fractured right radius and ulna, that’s both bones in the forearm and a couple of hairline fractures to his ribs and he inhaled some water, so there’s a very real possibility of pneumonia, particularly considering his previous medical history. We’re giving him IV antibiotics as a preventative measure and when he’s had some rest we’ll start him on some lung therapy to keep them clear. He also has an impressive collection of cuts and bruises. He’s a very brave young man," the doctor replied.

"More than you know, Dr. Ross," Jim said. "Can I just look in on him? I won’t disturb him."

The doctor considered the man in front of him for a moment then nodded. "I’ll let you sit with him for ten minutes, Detective."

Jim nodded gratefully and headed for the door. "How’s the other guy? Scott Walker."

"Remarkably good, considering how long he was in the water. Hypothermia, a nasty gash on his foot, cuts and bruises. He’s very lucky your Mr. Sandburg happened along. Mr. Sandburg is in Room 214 on the second floor."

With that, the doctor excused himself and left.

Simon walked with his detective to the elevator and waited with him. "Remember what the doctor said, Jim," he admonished, "ten minutes, then you get your ass home for some sleep. Brown and Rafe brought your truck in. You’re no good to Sandburg if you’re out on your feet. Knowing the kid, he’d insist on looking after you."

"You know it, Captain," Jim agreed. " I’ll see you tomorrow morning."

The police captain left the hospital, gratefully pulling a cigar from his pocket. He wondered how long it would take before he got a phone call asking him to drag Ellison’s butt home. He knew that Jim wouldn’t leave his partner alone in the hospital for even one night.

Jim opened the door to Room 214 and moved quietly over to his partner’s side. Blair had been placed in a semi private room, but the detective was pleased to see that the other bed was unoccupied.

He took in the pallid features now relaxed in an exhausted sleep. Blair’s right arm was encased in a blue fiber glass cast that extended from hand to elbow and there was a deep sutured gash above his right eye.

Jim pulled over the sole chair in the room and scooted as close to the bed as he could. He took Blair’s cold hand in both of his and began to rub it gently, trying to encourage warmth to take hold. The detective was startled when he felt Blair’s hand squeeze his and he looked up to see his partner’s sleepy blue eyes fixed on him.

"Hey, Jim," The voice was soft, hoarse and Blair coughed, holding onto his damaged ribs with a grimace of pain.

"How are you doing, Chief?" Jim asked, wincing in sympathy as Blair took shallow breaths, the congestion in his lungs easily detected by sentinel ears. "You’re supposed to be sleeping. The doctor will kick me out if he thinks I woke you up."

"I’ll sleep in a minute," Blair answered drowsily. "Are you all right?"

"I’m fine, Sandburg. Nothing I enjoy more than a dip in a stormwater drain in the middle of winter," Jim said, his smile taking the edge from his sarcasm.

"How’s Scott? Is he.. Did you… get him out okay?"

"He’s going to be fine, Chief. Thanks to you." Jim hesitated a moment, then spoke, his thumb stroking gentle circles over the back of Blair’s hand. "Why did you tell me you could make it out of there, when you knew your arm was broken and you couldn’t hold on to the rope?"

Blair looked up at the dark ceiling for a long moment before speaking. "I didn’t want you to have to choose. I didn’t want you having to make a choice between which of us to leave behind, having to live with that choice later. Regardless of the decision you made, you would always question your judgement later."

"I know the choice I would have made," Jim whispered, watching his partner’s eyes drift closed.

He leaned forward and tucked the mound of blankets closely about his partner’s shoulders. "I’ve got to go, let you get some rest."

Blair’s voice came sleepily from the cocoon of bedclothes. "Stay a little longer, please, Jim."

"Okay, a little longer."

Jim settled back on the chair and made himself as comfortable as he could. When Martha Thomas entered the room to check on her charge, she found both men asleep, Jim tilting precariously off the chair, snoring softly. With a sigh and a mental reminder to wake the detective and get him out of the room before Dr. Ross did his rounds in the morning, the motherly woman nudged Jim’s sleeping body forward so that his head rested on his partner’s bed and covered him with a blanket. Then she recorded Blair’s vital signs on his chart, checked his IV and clicked off the overhead lamp, leaving both men to their well-deserved slumber.

~o0o~

Blair woke late the following afternoon, still feeling a deep lassitude, caused by a combination of his injuries and the drugs administered to keep the pain at bay.

The blinds at the window had been opened part way to allow the sunlight to bathe the room in warmth, chasing away the last vestiges of the previous night’s wild weather. Muted sound came from the television mounted above his bed and he shifted slightly, biting back a curse as the movement brought the pain back into sharp focus.

"Ah, Sleeping Beauty finally awakes," Jim said, leaning over the bed rail and helping his partner find a more comfortable spot.

His smile faded as he took in Blair’s pale features, the dark sutures in his forehead vivid against the pallor. "How are you feeling, Chief?"

Blair shrugged his good shoulder. "Sore, cold. I’m freezing, man." To emphasize his point he huddled further under the blankets until only his nose and eyes were visible.

"Your body temperature’s taking a little while to stabilize, Chief. It’s a combination of the hypothermia and shock, according to the doctor. He said once you woke up you could have some warm tea." Jim reached for the buzzer to summon the nurse.

"Mmm, sounds good," Blair whispered, then he struggled to sit up, his attention taken by the television screen. "Hey, Jim, that’s you. Turn up the sound."

"It’s nothing, Chief, I’ve already seen it," Jim said uncomfortably.

"Well, I haven’t," Blair insisted snagging the remote from the bedside table and pressing the volume control.

"Damage reports are still filtering in but one young man had a lucky escape last night."

Blair nodded his thanks as Jim shook his head in defeat and used the control to raise the head of the bed, then tucked the blankets firmly around the young man’s shoulders.

"Scott Walker, 20 years old from Chicago, slipped into a flooded storm water drain in Cascade last night and was rescued by Police Consultant Blair Sandburg after his foot became caught in the debris trap. Mr. Sandburg was seriously injured during the rescue, but both men are in a stable condition today in hospital."

Blair blushed self-consciously and grinned at Jim, but the smile faltered at the announcer’s next words.

"Blair Sandburg, a thirty year old consultant working with the Cascade Police Department shocked the academic world four months ago when he announced to the world’s press that his doctoral thesis, claiming that Detective James Ellison was possessed of super powers, was in fact, a fraud. Sandburg has been working as a consultant since that time, after abandoning his doctorate. Now here’s Don to tell us if that wild weather is still hanging around."

Jim took the remote from Blair’s lax fingers and turned off the TV. "I’m sorry, Blair. I shouldn’t have let you watch it."

Blair looked wearily at his partner. "I told you, Jim, you can’t keep protecting me. I can look after myself. Some things never change, huh? I guess I should have realized that this wasn’t ever going to go away. The press have long memories, make one mistake and they’ll haunt you about it forever."

"You didn’t make a mistake, Chief. You’re a hero. That young man in the room up the hall would be dead now if it wasn’t for you and I think he could care less about doctoral theses and super cops." He smiled and squeezed Blair’s hand. "How about I organize that tea, then we’ll see if we can find a game to watch, okay?"

Blair turned onto his side with some effort, ignoring Jim’s offer of help. "Nah, thanks anyway, Jim. I’m still pretty tired. I think I’ll get some more sleep."

"All right, buddy, I’ll go chase up that tea."

Blair shrugged his shoulders and closed his eyes, wiping angrily at the hot tears that trickled down his cheeks.

Jim sighed and left the room, going in search of the nurse, his mind devising new methods of torture for ignorant reporters.

He stopped in his tracks as he heard a resounding crash from Blair’s room and a descriptive comment from his partner on the abilities of television reporters.

Jim shook his head and allowed himself a small smile as the grumbling continued and another crash heralded more equipment hitting the floor. He didn’t know if it was physically possible to do what Blair was suggesting, but it sounded painful and Jim was beginning to feel sorry for any member of the Press who dared to ask his partner for a comment.

It was time to batten down the hatches, there was nothing more dangerous than a pissed off Sandburg in full flight.

FIN

- September 17th, 2000.

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