DIVIDED WE FALL

By: Lyn

FEEDBACK TO: townsend297@gmail.com

DISCLAIMER: The Sentinel and its characters are the property of Di Meo, Bilson, Petfly and Paramount. This story is a work of fanfiction written for my own and others’ enjoyment. No money has been paid and no copyright infringement is intended.

CATEGORY: May, 2001 Themefic for Jael Lyn, Drama, H/C, Angst.

RATING: PG (V) (L)

ARCHIVE: Sentinel angst themefic page and my website only.

Author’s notes: I already had this story three quarters written when I chanced upon Jael Lyn’s themefic requirements for May and realized that this little plot fit perfectly. So, Jael Lyn, this is for you.

Jael Lyn was kind enough to return a favor and beta this for me. It would not have been as good a story without her valuable assistance.

Thank you, Jael Lyn, for the commas and sentence structure and retaining my writing style. (g) I am so enjoying reading your stories again.

Set between S2 and TsbyBS

"Divided we fall"

Jim Ellison heard the footsteps on the stairs and looked up to see Blair’s curly head appear at the top of the staircase.

"Hey, Jim, I’m heading over to Kathy’s place. Is there anything you want me to pick up while I’m out?"

Jim put his book down on the bed next to him and smiled at his partner. "Must be getting serious. What’s this, the third time this week?"

"She left her lecture notes in my car and she needs them for class tomorrow."

"Table leg."

"Come on, Jim. Kathy is not that kind of girl. She’s…different." Blair’s face reddened slightly.

"I wasn’t talking about Kathy, Chief," Jim joked and then waved a hand. "I don’t need anything. Have a good night."

"Okay, I’ll see you." Blair turned and trotted quickly down the stairs.

"Sandburg!" Jim leant over the railing and looked down at Blair. "Whatever ungodly hour you decide to come in tonight, keep the noise down, okay?"

"Use your ear plugs," Blair answered. "That’s why I bought them for you."

Jim waited until Blair was almost out the door before he spoke. "If I wear earplugs, I won’t know what time you come in."

The detective grinned as Blair’s head reappeared. "Funny, Jim, very funny."

The door shut with exaggerated quietness and Jim laughed softly and went back to his book.

0~0~0~0~0

Blair pulled up outside Kathy’s house and watched the light globe flicker on the rickety porch. He’d been a little stunned the first night he’d come to pick her up and saw the dilapidated old house she called home. Then he remembered where he’d been living four years ago before Jim Ellison, research subject extraordinaire, had taken him in.

As a teaching fellow and undergrad, Blair had little money to spend on rent and had taken refuge in an old warehouse. His home had quite literally blown up in his face just a few short months after Blair had met the subject of his doctoral dissertation.

Blair’s specialty was Anthropology, tribal guardians or sentinels to be specific. Jim Ellison, Cascade PD detective, ex-Black Ops, ex-Ranger was a sentinel with five heightened senses and no idea of how to control them, at least until Blair came along. In no time at all, Blair found himself guiding Jim in the use of his senses for his police work and teaching him how to control them so that he’d wouldn’t focus on one sense too much and zone out.

An explosion in a drug lab next door had destroyed Blair’s home and Jim had agreed to take him in after some considerable persuasion on Blair’s part. The deal had been a roof over his head for a week, but the week had grown to two, then a month, a year and still Jim hadn’t asked him to leave.

They had never spoken of it since that first night and finally, Blair had demanded a lease of sorts. He had spent his teenage years in one cheap rental after another and at last appeared to have somewhere permanent to hang his hat. Blair was a gentle soul given to compassion and kindness, traits instilled in him by a doting, free spirited mother. Many sleepless nights were given over to guilty thoughts, wondering if perhaps Jim was only allowing him to remain out of pity or out of his own guilt, because he could not bring himself to ask Blair to move out.

An agreement had finally been struck and Blair now paid rent and shared in the food bill, when he could afford it. Jim never chased up the debt, knowing his partner would catch it up when he could, not caring if he did, content only to have the contract in place because it gave Blair a sense of security and kept his pride intact.

Life had settled into a predictable, comfortable routine, so long as you didn’t include kidnappings, bullet wounds and serial killers. Blair’s doctoral thesis had evolved. Somewhere along the line a firm and abiding friendship had developed and he had found himself an official observer of the Cascade PD, and in particular, guide to one Detective James Ellison, sentinel. Both positions were unpaid and dangerous and more satisfying than any job he had ever collected a paycheck for.

~o0o~

Blair began to gather up Kathy’s lecture notes and thought back over Jim’s comments earlier that evening. The table leg remark he’d come to expect, he didn’t take it as an insult, really, despite his protests to the contrary. It had become a familiar jibe, an amusing, never to be taken seriously commentary on Blair’s love life.

He hadn’t given much thought to his relationship with Kathy except to acknowledge that they seemed to have an uncanny number of common interests and that he enjoyed her company. Pondering the events of the past week, he realized that Jim was right. It was getting serious. It wasn’t a situation he was entirely comfortable with. He had a reputation to defend after all.

He’d met Kathy Hollis, a pretty raven-haired student with a quick wit and energy to match his own at a birthday party given for a fellow undergrad. The two had hit it off immediately, especially when their first date had been a mutually agreed upon dinner at a new vegetarian restaurant and a Bogart movie festival at the Rialto. That had been a month ago and the two had settled into a comfortable routine. These days, it was a natural assumption that when they both had free time they would spend it together.

Blair hadn’t encountered the problem that had become the bug bear of most of his relationships. Most of the women he dated found it difficult to comprehend the amount of time he needed to spend with Jim. When that time was added to his busy teaching and studying schedule, it left few hours in the day for a social life. Many of Blair’s girlfriends had given up the pursuit of his favors because he was unable to commit enough of his time and energy to a relationship. Kathy, on the other hand, actively encouraged his work with Jim and was content to snatch a quick lunch together in the park or morning coffee in the cafeteria, as long as it meant they spent some time together.

His attention was drawn back to the present as he saw the threadbare curtains at the front window pushed aside and Kathy’s pretty face peeked out. Blair grinned, looking forward to a relaxing evening, and headed for the front door.

Kathy had the door open before he’d finished crossing the lawn and wrapped him in a tight bear hug before accepting her notes from him.

"You realize I left them in the car deliberately, don’t you?" she asked, her brown eyes crinkling at the corners with amusement.

"Oh you did, huh?" Blair answered, playing along.

"Yep," Kathy nodded. "Just so as I could get you over here and have my wicked way with you."

"Well, you didn’t have to leave your notes in the car to do that," Blair said, enjoying the playful banter.

"Why don’t we go for a walk, get something to eat at the deli?"

"Sure," Blair agreed. "That’s doable."

Kathy reached inside the front door to grab her sweater and purse and Blair caught a glimpse of movement in the darkened hallway behind her. A thin disheveled man with greasy dark hair scraped back from his face into a loose ponytail glared at him, then nodded a greeting before turning to amble up the hallway toward the kitchen.

"Who’s that?"

Kathy quickly pulled the door shut and hustled Blair down the steps of the porch.

"It’s my brother, Chris," she whispered, looking back over her shoulder. "Look, Blair, he just got out of prison and he had nowhere else to go."

Blair took her hand and squeezed it. "That’s okay, Kathy. He’s family. That is, if you want him here. If not, I’ll ask him to leave for you or maybe Jim…"

"No," Kathy interrupted quickly. "He’s my baby brother, Blair. I love him." She shrugged, then went on. "He got involved with a gang and did an armed robbery. A security guard died, but he’s paid his dues and he’s trying to go straight. That’s why I don’t want anyone to know he’s back in town. His old friends will just try to drag him back into the gang."

"I know what you’re saying," Blair said. "It can be tough to break out of something like that. I could check out some places. Working with Jim has given me a lot of contacts. Does Chris need a job? I’ll ask around."

"No!" Kathy said again, more vehemently this time. She stopped and pulled Blair around to face her, stroking his curls away from his face before placing a gentle kiss on his lips. "That’s why I love you. You’re the most caring person I know. Would you mind not telling Jim about Chris? Chris doesn’t have a lot of affection for cops right now. If he finds out that you work with the police, I’m afraid he’ll leave and then he’ll go back to his old ways. Jim won’t understand anyway. You know the old saying once a criminal, always a criminal. He probably won’t want you seeing me, if he knows about Chris and I don’t want to lose either of you."

"Jim is not my father," Blair replied. "He doesn’t tell me who I can date. I think you’d be surprised, he’s not the kind of guy who stereotypes people like that. Well, he might have once, but he’s mellowed out."

"Still," Kathy continued.

"There is no reason for Jim to know about Chris," Blair agreed. "I don’t want to lose you, either."

He leaned forward then and captured her lips against his, applying gentle pressure until she moaned softly and opened her mouth. They kissed for a moment, then Kathy pulled back and looked at him, a smile gracing her features.

"I love you, you know?"

Blair shrugged. "I know. What’s not to love."

Kathy broke into a happy giggle and swatted him playfully on the head with her sweater. "Just for that, you get to buy supper."

~o0o~

He wasn’t sure what had first alerted him to it, but Blair had the uneasy feeling that he was being watched. Ever since he’d left the loft, he’d had an uncomfortable sensation, a prickle at the nape of his neck that raised goose bumps, but whenever he stopped and studied his surroundings he could find nothing out of the ordinary.

‘Been hanging with Jim for too long,’ he surmised. ‘The guy’s suspicious nature is beginning to rub off on you.’

He’d spent most of Monday at the university rushing between lectures and the library, trying to follow up more research for his dissertation. Jim had assured him that he wouldn’t be needed at the station that day and he’d managed to go home a little earlier than usual.

Settling back on the couch with a cold beer in one hand and the TV remote in the other, he debated calling Kathy to ask if she wanted to go out. He decided to have an early night for a change and ask her if she wanted to catch a movie the following night.

He was feeling a little uneasy about Kathy’s brother, Chris. The fact that the guy was an ex-con was not what caused his concern, but the niggling guilt that he was keeping the information from Jim. Arguing silently with himself, Kathy's wishes won over as he convinced himself that the guy had done nothing wrong that he knew about. Providing he stuck to his parole conditions, there was no reason for Jim to know he even existed.

~o0o~

Jim was already up cooking breakfast when Blair came stumbling from his room, rubbing a hand through his sleep mussed hair.

"Get a move on, Sandburg," he said, looking up briefly from the pan of eggs. "I told Simon we’d be in early this morning and I want to stop by and talk to Sneaks first. I got a message that he might have something for us on the Marshall case."

"I’ll wear my old shoes then," Blair said around a yawn as he disappeared into the bathroom.

They made it to the precinct in plenty of time to see Simon, both still in possession of their shoes. Jim had managed to convince Sneak’s to take a $50 payment and had told the snitch in no uncertain terms that his information wasn’t worth the bonus of a pair of shoes. Grumbling loudly, Sneaks agreed to sniff around some more and left.

Blair had to go back to the University at 1p.m. for office hours with his students. He phoned Kathy before he left to arrange their date for the evening, feeling mildly surprised at the pleasure he felt on hearing her voice. They agreed to meet at the cinema at seven o’clock after Kathy explained that she wanted to take Chris shopping for new clothes first. She seemed upset and Blair pushed it a little, feeling anxious.

"You okay?"

"Hmm? Oh yes, fine."

"You know you can talk to me if you have a problem, right?"

"I know, sweetie. It’s nothing, really. Chris is getting a little depressed because he can’t find work. Nobody wants to hire an ex-con," she said bitterly. "I’m just worried if he doesn’t find something soon, he’ll go back to his old gang."

"I’m heading over to Rainier now," Blair replied. "Let me see what I can come up with."

"No, Blair, really. I told you Chris won’t appreciate it."

"He’s going to find out about me sooner or later, you know."

"I know," Kathy sighed. "Just let me do it. All right? I’ll know when the time is right."

"All right," Blair agreed. Something about the situation made him uncomfortable but he couldn’t put a finger on the reason for his concern.

"I love you, you know?"

Blair smiled at the affection in her voice. "I know. Ditto. I’ll see you at seven tonight and we’ll talk then. Tell Chris he’s welcome to join us."

"Thanks, Blair but I think he has something else to do."

"Okay. See you tonight."

Feeling immensely satisfied with himself and looking forward to the evening, he made short work of his trip to the university and after his office hours were done, packed up his backpack and closed his office door. He unlocked his car and got behind the wheel, checking his pocket watch as he did so. He had just enough time to go home and shower before meeting Kathy at the cinema. He turned the key in the ignition then groaned as the engine whined dismally.

Beating his fist on the steering wheel, Blair swore softly and rummaged in his backpack for his cell phone. As the gruff voice emanated from the receiver, he took a deep breath and tried to keep his tone light.

"Hey Jim, it’s me."

~o0o~

"Thanks Jim. I really appreciate this, man," Blair said, as he exited the truck. "I just need to change my shirt and I’ll be ready to go."

"Just don’t take all night, Sandburg," Jim answered. "Picking you up has already put me behind and it’ll take an extra fifteen minutes to drop you off at the cinema before I go meet Simon." He put his hand on the door handle and pushed the door open. "I’ll come up with you. I can phone Simon while I’m waiting. Let him know I’ll be a little late."

He stood on the pavement in front of the apartment block and waited impatiently for Blair to retrieve his backpack.

The next few moments unfolded in a blur, though when Blair replayed the events over in his head later, he saw it all in agonizing slow motion and felt vaguely surprised that he was unable to react faster.

He straightened and pulled his backpack from the cab of the truck, smiling at Jim’s toe tapping impatience. He looked up as he sighted a slightly familiar figure appear from around the corner of the apartment block directly behind Jim. Blair’s welcoming smile turned to an expression of horror as the man pulled a handgun from behind his back and aimed it directly at the detective.

"No-o-o-o!"

Blair’s scream seemed to reverberate in the chill air and Jim turned suddenly to look at what had startled his partner. There was a sharp explosion of sound and Jim slammed back against the grill of the truck, his eyes wide and staring. A great spurt of blood erupted from his chest and he hung for a moment as though suspended before he slipped slowly to the ground, the air wheezing loudly from his lungs.

"Jim!"

Blair launched himself over the hood of the truck as the gun came up for a second shot. He threw himself over Jim’s motionless body and covered the injured man’s head with his arms. There was a second loud gunshot that sounded ominously close and left his ears ringing. Then a woman screamed long and piercingly amid the sound of footsteps disappearing rapidly along the pavement.

Blair raised himself up cautiously from where he lay draped over his partner and looked down. Jim lay quietly, his eyes closed and his breath coming in shallow grunts. The front of his shirt was wet with blood and Blair reached out to press a hand over the hole he could see in his upper chest. Jim arched up soundlessly at the pressure on the wound and Blair hushed him gently.

"Easy, Jim. Take it easy. You’re going to be okay." Blair straightened from his position next to his friend and called out to the gathering crowd. "Can someone call an ambulance?"

After what seemed an eternity later, a hand descended onto his shoulder and Blair looked up into the worried brown eyes of a uniformed officer.

"There’s an ambulance and back up on the way."

Blair nodded and turned back to Jim, blood from his hands smearing over his face as he wiped at hot tears that coursed down his cheeks. "There’s so much blood. I can’t stop the bleeding." He looked up again at the policeman. "Where the hell is that ambulance?"

A towel was shoved into his hands and he leaned over his friend, pressing the cloth against Jim’s chest, trying to ignore the way it was almost instantly soaked.

"Blair." The word was barely a whisper and Blair looked down to see Jim’s blue eyes slowly open and fix unwaveringly on him.

"Jim. It’s okay; you’re going to be fine. Just take it easy, all right? Let me take care of everything. Try to turn the dials down, man."

"Cold," Jim whispered, his eyes closing once more.

"Stay with me, Jim," Blair shouted. He placed his hands on the unconscious man’s shoulders and shook him in panic. "Don’t you leave me, Jim. I’m sorry. I didn’t know, I didn’t know."

Blair collapsed to the hard pavement and pulled Jim’s limp form into his arms, cradling his head against his chest. He didn’t hear the sirens approach and lashed out at the paramedics as they attempted to force him to relinquish his hold on his partner.

"Blair!" The voice was loud in his ear and he flinched at the sound, tightening his grip on Jim’s shoulders and struggling to keep pressure on the still oozing chest wound. He looked up into Simon’s worried, distressed face and felt his entire body begin to tremble.

"Let the paramedics take over, Blair," Simon said softly, pulling the younger man up to lean into him. "They need to get him to the hospital. Come on, we’ll follow them in."

Blair nodded silently and allowed himself to be led to Simon’s car, his eyes never leaving Jim’s still form until it was loaded onto a gurney and rushed to the waiting ambulance.

"Blair?" Simon stood at the curb, holding the passenger door open.

"I’m sorry," Blair whispered, wrapping his bloodstained hands protectively about himself. "I didn’t know."

~o0o~

Simon risked another worried glance at Sandburg as he followed the speeding ambulance to the hospital. The anthropologist sat hunched into himself, still shivering and rocking slightly. His clothes and hands were coated in the sticky stains of Jim’s blood and his face looked like a gory clown’s mask decorated in blood and tears.

"Blair? Can you tell me what happened?" Simon spoke softly, recognizing the signs of deep shock. He did not want to upset Blair any further, at least until he could get him checked out at the hospital. Rafe and Brown had secured the scene and were following up witnesses, but the sooner they could get a statement from Blair, the sooner they could begin to track down the bastard who had shot Ellison.

Blair wrenched his eyes away from the swerving ambulance and slowly turned to face Simon. Tears overflowed from reddened eyes and dripped slowly down his cheeks. He made no move to brush them away.

"It’s my fault," he whispered, his voice hoarse and broken. "He shot him. I didn’t know." His eyes swiveled back to fix on the emergency vehicle ahead and he resumed his rocking as the tears flowed unchecked down his bloodstained cheeks.

Simon sighed and turned his concentration back to the road.

Simon pulled his car into a spot adjacent to the ambulance bay and slapped his police card on the windshield. Hurrying out of the car, he began to follow the gurney inside when he realized that Blair still sat in the vehicle. Opening the passenger door, Simon leaned in and placed a hand on Blair’s trembling shoulder. "Come on, Blair," he said. "Let’s go see how your partner is doing."

Blair looked up at him; his blue eyes seeming lost and confused. Slowly he nodded and pulled himself from the seat. By the time the two men reached the ER, Jim was already being wheeled into a trauma room. One medic pushed air into his lungs with an ambubag as another pulled the gurney through the doorway. Simon caught a brief glimpse of Jim’s lax features, his skin a deathly gray, then the doors swung shut and they were left standing bereft in the suddenly too hot room.

"Simon?" Blair’s voice sounded weak and Simon turned just in time to see his eyes roll back in his head as the young man collapsed bonelessly to the floor.

"Shit!" the captain swore. "I need some help here," he called over his shoulder as he knelt down and gently positioned the unconscious man on his side, noticing for the first time the blood than ran in rivulets down Blair’s arm from a ragged and messy hole in his upper arm. ‘Sweet Jesus,’ he thought. ‘Could the day get any worse?’

~o0o~

Blair shifted slightly in the bed and moaned softly. Simon straightened from his hunched position in the hard plastic chair and scooted closer. He reached out and gently squeezed Blair’s hand.

"Easy, Sandburg. You’re okay," he soothed.

"Jim?" Blair’s voice was soft and weak.

"He’s up in surgery," Simon answered. He took a deep breath. "They’re doing their best."

Blair’s blue eyes slowly opened and gazed around the room before settling on Simon’s dark face. He winced as he tried to sit up in the bed, not complaining as Simon pushed him back down onto the pillows. He lifted his left hand and stared in puzzlement at the IV inserted there.

"Simon? What happened? Where’s Jim?"

Simon scrubbed a hand over his face. The shooting had only occurred three hours ago and his eyes already felt gritty, his energy exhausted.

"I was hoping you could tell us what happened, Sandburg. Jim was shot outside your apartment building. I didn’t realize that you’d been hit as well until you passed out when we got here. I’m sorry. I should have gotten the paramedics to check you out at the scene but you just seemed like you were in shock and Jim’s blood was all over you," he paused, "Jim looked so bad. What do you remember? Did you see the shooter’s face?"

Blair’s eyes widened in shock. "Oh God, how’s Jim? Is he okay, Simon?"

Simon shook his head. "There’s no news yet. He’s still in surgery. Come on, Sandburg. Help me out here. What do you remember?"

"It was Kathy’s brother, Chris Hollis."

Simon sat forward. "You knew the shooter?"

Blair shook his head, wincing at the movement. "No, not really." He sighed and began to explain. "I’ve been dating this girl, Kathy Hollis. I met her at a party…. Doesn’t matter. Her brother Chris moved in with her a week or so ago. She told me he was on parole. He’d served time for armed robbery."

"An ex-con?" Simon looked stunned. "What did Jim have to say about all this?"

Blair looked away and studied the wall. "He didn’t know," he admitted softly.

"What did you say?" Simon stood and leaned over the bed.

Blair turned back to face him, his features even paler than before. "I said he didn’t know. He knew I was dating Kathy. When her brother moved in, she asked me not to tell Jim about him. She was worried that if Chris knew I was working for the police that he’d leave. Go back to his old ways. She said she didn’t want to lose either of us."

"And you went along with it?"

"There was no reason for Jim to know," Blair protested. "He’d done his time. As far as I knew he wasn’t violating his parole or anything. I just figured the guy deserved a second chance."

Simon strode toward the door of the trauma room. "What do you think now?"

"I don’t know what you mean."

Simon wheeled back to face the young man. "Don’t you know what you’ve done? You’ve been riding along with cops for what, three, four years? I would have thought you would have learned from your experience with Alex Barnes and Iris, Sandburg. You didn’t tell Jim about either of them, one of them kidnapped you and almost got you killed. The other did kill you. Now Jim may die. Can you bring him back the way he did you?"

He groaned at Blair’s distraught face as the gravity of his words registered. "I’m sorry, Blair. I shouldn’t have said that. I’ll go find your doctor. He has to stitch the wound in your arm. I’ll send someone up to keep an eye on you in case this Hollis decides to come here."

"Why would he do that?"

"You recognized him, Sandburg. He may want to make sure you can’t testify. I need to get back to the station. I’ll get an APB out on Hollis and his sister."

Blair nodded. "I’ll give you her address. She wouldn’t have been involved in this, Simon. I know Kathy. She was just trying to protect her brother."

"Maybe." Simon took the piece of paper from Blair’s outstretched hand.

"Can you find out if there’s any news on Jim?"

Simon nodded and squeezed Blair’s shoulder. "Sure."

"Captain Banks?"

Simon and Blair both looked up as a tired looking middle-aged man dressed in rumpled green scrubs and a white coat entered the room.

Simon moved forward to meet the doctor, holding out his hand. "I’m Captain Banks." He indicated Blair with a wave of his hand. "This is Detective Ellison’s partner, Blair Sandburg."

Blair struggled to sit up and slide his feet off the bed, stopping when Simon halted his forward movement. He contented himself with sitting sideways, breathing deeply to dispel the dizziness.

"How’s Jim?"

The doctor consulted the file in his hands for a moment then looked up. "Lucky," he said. "The bullet entered his upper chest and tore his left lung causing a severe hemothorax. The bullet came to rest against the aorta but did not penetrate it. Being deflected off the ribs slowed its trajectory. We’ve repaired the tear in Detective Ellison’s lung and inserted a chest tube to drain the blood and reinflate the lung. To allow him to rest completely, we have him heavily sedated and on a ventilator." The doctor’s brow furrowed as he looked up. "Our main concern at this point is that we are having trouble keeping him sedated, which means he’s disoriented and rather combative and he’s fighting the respirator. I’m worried he could tear out the chest tube or cause further bleeding in his lung if he doesn’t settle down. He also appears to be suffering from extreme pain despite a heavy duty regimen of analgesia."

"Oh man," Blair said. "I knew it. Simon, I need to see him." He slid off the bed, swaying a little as the room spun about him.

Simon shook his head. "I don’t think that’s a good idea right now."

Blair opened his eyes and stared at the captain. "What do you mean? Come on, Simon, you know I’m the only one who can help Jim with this."

Simon shook his head again. "I don’t think you should even be out of bed until the doctor discharges you." He paused for a moment, looking uncomfortable. "Look, Sandburg, you’ve admitted to knowing the guy who shot Jim, and you knew he was an ex-con. IA could decide to charge you as an accessory."

Blair’s mouth went dry and he suddenly felt as though he couldn’t breathe. "Simon, you don’t think that I had anything to do with this?"

"Of course not, we’ll deal with the information that you kept from Jim, and me, later when all this is over. For now, on paper, it may look as though you had an ulterior motive for keeping that information to yourself. I’m trying to keep you from being arrested here, Sandburg. Work with me on this."

Blair shook his head vehemently. "I don’t care. We’ll deal with all of that later." He looked at the doctor. "Could you just give Captain Banks and I a moment?"

"Of course," the doctor said. "I have some reports to write up. If you have any questions, I’ll be at the desk for the next half-hour or so. Detective Ellison is in the ICU. I can only allow one visitor for ten minutes at this time."

"Thank you," Blair said.

As soon as the door swung closed, Blair grasped Simon’s arm and turned him around. "You know that I have to see him, Simon. I’m the only one who can help him with this."

Simon looked doubtful but Blair plowed on. "His senses are spiking because of the drugs he’s been given. If he can’t dial his senses down, he could zone out. If that happens, in his weakened condition…." Blair left the rest of it unsaid.

Simon nodded slowly and Blair sat down heavily in the chair. He let his head drop to his chest as a bone aching weariness engulfed him. He became aware suddenly of the wound in his arm throbbing painfully in time with the beat of his heart.

"I’ll go get an orderly and a wheelchair," Simon said, placing a large hand on Blair’s shoulder. He held up a finger as Blair opened his mouth to protest. "No arguments, Sandburg. I want to go and get things moving on the search for Hollis. I’ll send Joel up to keep an eye on you. As soon as your visit with Jim is over, you let the orderly bring you back here so that the doctor can stitch your arm. We’ll go from there."

Blair nodded gratefully. "Thanks, Simon."

As the captain left the room, Blair lowered his head to the bed. "I’m so sorry, Jim," he whispered. "I’ll fix it. I promise."

~o0o~

Blair held his breath as Joel wheeled him to the door of the ICU. Reaching down, the big police captain squeezed his shoulder and bent to speak in his ear. "I’ll be right here, Blair. Tell Jim to hang in there, okay?"

Blair nodded, not trusting himself to speak.

"It’ll be okay, Blair," Joel continued. "We’ll get the guy."

He waited while a nurse took control of Sandburg’s wheelchair, then shaking his head sadly; he lumbered slowly over to the waiting room.

Despite having seen Jim when he was first shot, Blair was unprepared for the shocking sight now before him. Jim seemed a mere shell of himself, his formidable muscled body now lax and pale. Blair leaned forward as soon as the nurse brought his chair to a halt at the bedside and reached for Jim’s hand, sighing with relief at the warmth he felt there.

Jim lay flat on the bed, numerous tubes and wires snaking over and in and out of his body. His skin had an almost translucent quality to it, Blair imagined he could see the bones beneath. A hard plastic tube jutted from Jim’s mouth, the air audible as it hissed in and out in a predetermined rhythm. Blair looked down to see a tube situated in the right side of Jim’s chest that drained bloody liquid from his lung.

Blair watched Jim’s eyes as they moved restlessly beneath the lids and jumped in fright as the body on the bed arched up suddenly, one hand going instantly toward his face, stopping abruptly short due to the soft restraint that held it captive. An alarm sounded, causing Blair to startle again, then others joined it and Blair scooted closer to the bed, leaning his head in close to Jim’s ear as he heard the approach of running feet.

"Jim! It’s okay, man. You’ve got to relax and let the drugs do their job. You’re going to be fine. Dial everything down to just above zero." He continued to talk, stroking the sentinel’s hand as he did, not pausing until he saw Jim’s features relax and felt the hand in his become pliant.

Exhausted, he sat back and smiled tiredly up at the doctor who rushed into the room. "He’ll be okay now. He’s a little sensitive to drugs."

The doctor watched his patient for a moment and then checked the machines beside the bed before he nodded and reached for the chart. "I’ll adjust his sedation and pain meds. It’s time for you to go, Mr. Sandburg. Captain Taggert is waiting at the door for you."

"Maybe I should stay," Blair began hopefully, his eyes already beginning to tear as he saw the doctor shake his head. "If it happens again, I can calm him down. I’m the only one who can do that for him."

"I’m sorry, Mr. Sandburg, we have strict rules here. Besides your arm needs attending to. If we think we need your assistance, we’ll call for you. Go home and get some rest. Come back in the morning."

Blair took another long look at his partner. "They may not let me come back," he whispered, his voice breaking. He caught the doctor’s arm with his good hand. "Promise you’ll come and get me if he wakes up again?"

"Of course," the doctor assured him.

Blair stared straight ahead as Joel pushed the wheelchair to the elevator. He watched the captain push the button then grasped his arm.

"Blair? What’s wrong?"

"Can you stay here with Jim?" Blair asked, his voice tight with worry and fatigue.

Joel shook his head. "Simon’s organized for some men to guard his room. They’ll be here shortly; in the meantime, there’s a nurse with him. Simon asked me to keep an eye on you."

Blair shook his head vehemently at the words, clutching at his arm as the movement caused the pain to spike. "What if Hollis decides to come after Jim again. Finish the job? I screwed this up right from the beginning, Joel. I need to know he’s safe."

He continued to push his advantage as he saw Joel beginning to waver. "Joel, please. The orderly can take me back downstairs. I’m not going anywhere."

Joel groaned and then slowly nodded. "You know, Simon is going to have my ass on this one. Okay, I’ll stay here until someone else shows up then I’ll be down to watch out for you." He placed a gentle hand on Blair’s shoulder. "I don’t know all the details yet of what went down here, Blair. I think I’ve come to know you pretty well over the last few years and I know you wouldn’t have done anything deliberately to hurt Jim. He’s going to be all right. You just keep telling yourself that and let us worry about catching Hollis."

Blair smiled and wiped quickly at the moisture that began to pool in his eyes. "Thanks, Joel. I just hope Jim can be as forgiving when he wakes up," he said shakily.

~o0o~

Blair lay on the hard examination table and shifted once more in an attempt to get comfortable. He watched the ceiling waver and fold in on itself and cursed the doctor’s insistence on pumping him full of painkillers. The doctor had just finished suturing the wound in his arm when he’d been called away on an emergency.

Hearing voices outside the curtain, he sat up shakily as they increased in volume. Listening carefully, he recognized Simon’s booming tone but he could not make out the words. He swung his feet over the side of the gurney and waited with his eyes closed as the room did a slow roll. Then he got carefully to his feet and walked over to the doorway, pushing the mobile IV stand with his good hand.

He pushed the curtain aside and was about to step out when he saw Simon glance angrily at him and shake his head. Blair recognized the man with him as one of the IA investigators who had grilled him and Jim during the investigations into Jack Pendergrast’s death. The cop stepped forward and opened his mouth to speak to Blair but Simon grabbed his arm and forced him from the corridor toward the waiting room.

Blair stood for a moment watching the battle for control between the two men then saw Simon pull his phone from his pocket. He spoke briefly, then motioned for the IA investigator to wait before he headed toward the exit doors of the hospital.

His decision made, Blair backed up toward the gurney and quickly organized himself.

~o0o~

"Simon!" The police captain looked up as he shut off his cell phone and watched as Joel Taggert came toward him.

"Any news on Hollis?" Joel asked.

"You mean Hollamby," Simon said. "Chris Hollamby. Just got the information from Brown. They went to the address Sandburg supplied. It was deserted of course, but they were able to lift some prints. Jim arrested Chris Hollamby eight years ago for armed robbery and the particularly brutal murder of a security guard. Hollamby was a model prisoner, got out a month ago. He was gang raped a year ago in prison and tested positive for HIV."

"Well, I guess that gives him plenty of motive to go after Jim," Joel said as the two men walked back toward the hospital entrance. "Anything on his sister?"

"Yeah." Simon spoke grimly. "He didn’t have a sister, but he did have a wife."

"Oh man."

"My thoughts exactly," Simon agreed. "How’s Sandburg doing?"

Joel looked uncomfortable. "He asked me to stay with Jim until the uniforms got there." He raised a hand as Simon opened his mouth. "I know. I know. But the kid looked so damn miserable. I think the doctor’s finished stitching his arm."

"Shit! There’s an IA officer in there champing at the bit to talk to Sandburg."

"Oh God, Simon. I’m sorry. I didn’t know."

"Let’s worry about that later."

Both men picked up their pace and hurried to the trauma rooms. The IA officer saw them coming and followed quickly behind them. Simon paused at the curtain and called out softly.

"Sandburg. It’s Banks. Mind if I come in?"

There was no answer and he pulled the curtains back and stepped into the room. Blair’s IV was standing by the bed. Small droplets of blood decorated the floor and the sheet of the exam table. Simon turned quickly to the small cupboard in the corner and opened it angrily. Blair’s clothes were gone.

All three men looked up as a doctor walked into the room. "I’m Doctor Stevens. I’m sorry. I got called away for just a minute. I’ll just bandage Mr. Sandburg’s arm and he’ll be ready to go."

~o0o~

Kathy Hollamby straightened the name badge on her white nurse’s uniform and headed toward the ICU. She had always wanted to be a nurse when she was a little girl. She was forever bringing home injured birds and homeless animals, bandaging their wounds and lavishing them with love. Chris had said that’s what he had fallen in love with; Kathy’s seemingly endless capacity for love and nurturing. That’s what he’d said at least until he’d met up with Danny Reilly, an old school friend who’d convinced Chris to join in a foolproof heist that was going to make them all rich. It had all gone terribly wrong and now Chris was back, broken and sick, desperate for revenge on the man who’d put him in prison.

It had been a gamble telling Blair about Chris, but Kathy had developed some genuine feelings for the handsome anthropologist and she convinced Chris that she could control the observer. It had turned out to be to their advantage initially.

Chris was able to follow Blair and get an idea of his and Ellison’s movements. The plan had almost been foolproof. Kathy and Blair would be at the cinema when the hit went down, Ellison would be dead with no witnesses to the murder. Kathy could then break up with Blair and move on, back into Chris’s arms, somewhere safe.

She wasn’t sure she still loved Chris, and despite her affection for Blair, he really had no prospects or money to speak of. Chris, however, had the proceeds of his share of the robbery hidden away and he could only be expected to live so long with AIDS.

The fact that Ellison had not been killed outright and that Sandburg had been with him at the time of the shooting were wrinkles in an otherwise perfect plan. Kathy had assured Chris that she could take care of Ellison. She’d extracted a promise from her husband that he would get rid of Blair only if it was absolutely necessary.

Kathy fingered the badge once more, and taking a deep breath, plastered her most professional smile to her face as she approached the uniformed officer standing guard at Jim Ellison’s door.

~o0o~

Simon and Joel hit the exit door of the stairs at a run and hurried toward Jim’s room. The uniformed officer seated there stood as they approached.

"Martin. Have you seen Sandburg?"

Roy Martin looked puzzled. "No sir," he answered. "Nobody’s been into the room except the nurse a few seconds ago."

All three men looked up as a team of doctors and nurses dragging a trolley of resuscitation equipment hurried past them into the room. "What’s going on?" Simon asked the doctor rushing past him.

"Code Blue, Captain. Someone turned off the monitors and the ventilator."

"Oh God." Banks and Taggert followed the medical personnel into the room and looked on in shock as Jim’s seemingly lifeless body was hooked up to monitors and a mask with a bag attached was placed over his face, forcing oxygen into his paralyzed lungs.

Simon placed a hand on Joel’s arm. "Stay here. I’m going to see if I can find any sign of the woman."

Joel nodded. "Do you think it was Hollamby’s wife."

Simon nodded grimly. "I’m sure of it. Martin, you’re with me."

The two men hurried from the room and headed back toward the stairs.

~o0o~

Blair managed to make good his escape through the rear exit of the ER, generally used by staff when they left for the day. The morning sun was just breaking through the chill gray of dawn and he squinted against the light. He really had no idea where he was going, his only thought being that if he stayed and IA got their hands on him, he may never have the chance to apologize to Jim for his lapse of trust.

He continued on toward the car park, trying to ignore the nauseating roll of the ground that caused him to stagger like a drunk on a five-day bender. He stopped suddenly as his drug-fogged brain reminded him that he’d come to the hospital in Simon’s car. Making his decision, he staggered back the way he’d come, heading toward the cab ranks in front of the hospital doors.

He stopped in shock, his blue eyes widening in disbelief as he saw Kathy Hollis hurry out of the exit doors dressed in a white nurse’s uniform.

"Kathy?" Blair croaked. He took an involuntary step back as she walked toward him. "Please tell me you had nothing to do with shooting Jim."

Kathy looked at the pale man in front of her, a look akin to regret passing over her face. "Sorry, Blair. I can’t do that. Ellison condemned my husband to death when he arrested him." She shrugged her shoulders. "The debt’s been repaid. I’m just sorry that you have to die for your partner’s sins."

"What? Husband?" Her words finally began to sink in and he moved toward her, stumbling a little as his exhaustion and weakness began to catch up with him. "You killed Jim?"

At her nod, he screamed denial and launched himself at her, coming up short as a strong hand grasped at his arm, tearing the stitches in his wound. He was hauled back against a hard chest and then an arm encircled his throat, leaving him gasping for breath.

"Kathryn Hollamby! Cascade PD, hold it right there."

All three looked up at Simon’s shout and saw the police captain advancing slowly toward them, his gun drawn and balanced in two steady hands.

Chris Hollamby tightened his grip on Blair’s throat and began to pull him back toward the car park. Kathy stood still, watching as her husband pulled a weapon from his pants with his free hand, grinding it into Blair’s temple.

Simon took advantage of Hollamby’s retreat to rush Kathy, pushing her roughly toward Officer Martin, never taking his eyes or weapon from the two men in front of him. "Cuff her," he barked. "Get her out of here."

Blair watched as Simon advanced slowly on himself and Hollamby with the gunman retreating just as steadily.

"Drop the gun, Hollamby. It’s over. You’re surrounded."

Hollamby’s mouth was close to Blair’s ear, his breath hot on his neck. Blair gasped again as the grip across his throat was tightened and he saw black spots begin to encroach on his vision. "I’m going to die anyway, cop. Doesn’t matter to me where or how. Ellison’s dead and if I go, I’m going to take the bastard who’s been screwing my wife with me."

Blair’s ears only registered the words telling him that his partner was dead and with a howl of rage, he threw himself backward, his skull connecting solidly with Hollamby’s nose. The gunman grunted in surprise and staggered back, his grip on Blair loosening as he stumbled. Blair staggered toward Simon as Hollamby brought his gun up once more to bear on his hostage. A shot rang out and the gunman arched up then fell to his knees. He looked down at the hole in his chest then his gun slid from nerveless fingers before he dropped to the ground.

Blair took a stuttering step back from the dead body and finally lifted his eyes to Simon. "Jim’s dead?"

He said the words with such sorrow that Simon’s heart clenched. He placed a supporting arm around the young man’s trembling shoulders and turned him back toward the hospital entrance, noticing for the first time the blood that trickled down Blair’s arm once more. "We don’t know that for sure, Sandburg. Let’s go see what we can find out."

"Jim."

The word was whispered so softly that Simon was unsure at first that he’d heard it, then he had his arms full as Blair’s boneless body slid toward the ground.

~o0o~

"No!" Blair shook his head vehemently from side to side, instantly regretting it as a wave of nausea rose up to choke him. He closed his eyes and took a slow deep breath, then looked again at the police captain. "I’m not leaving until Jim wakes up. I have to explain everything to him. Tell him I’m sorry."

Simon Banks raised his eyes heavenward and rubbed at his forehead, feeling his headache beginning to build. Blair had been sitting in this chair, his head resting on Jim’s bed; one hand entwined in Jim’s since he’d regained consciousness earlier that morning. He had allowed the doctor to place a pressure bandage on his arm and then bullied Simon into wheeling him into Jim’s room.

"Sandburg, the doctor told you Jim’s going to be fine. The ventilator wasn’t turned off for long enough to do him any damage. You need to get your arm resutured and you need to get some rest. Jim’s going to be okay."

"Not with me, he isn’t," Blair replied stubbornly. "Not until I can explain."

"Then explain already, will you," said a voice croaky with disuse. "You’re both giving me a headache."

Blair’s head shot up and he scooted his chair closer to the bed, hissing in pain as the movement jarred his heavily bandaged arm. "Jim! How are you feeling? How are the dials, man? Do you need any help stabilizing them?"

Blair leaned forward and examined Jim’s pale face closely. The ventilator had been replaced by an oxygen mask after he’d been resuscitated that morning and there were still tight lines of pain and tiredness framing Jim’s clouded blue eyes. Jim was awake and lucid though, his breathing easy and unencumbered.

Jim reached up a shaky hand and ruffled Blair’s hair. "The dials are fine, Chief. Sounds like I missed out on a lot of excitement. Hey, Simon."

Blair’s eyes clouded and he sat back in his chair, rubbing absently at his injured arm. "It was my fault, Jim. I didn’t know that Kathy was Hollis..Hollamby’s wife. But I did know about him. She asked me not to tell you and I agreed. I almost got you killed. I’ll understand if you want me out, man, really…"

"Hey, slow down Sandburg. I don’t want you out." Jim stopped and looked over at Simon. "Give us a couple of minutes, will you, sir?"

"Sure. Glad to have you back with us, Jim."

"Thanks, Simon."

Simon rested a hand on Blair’s shoulder and waited for him to look at him. "When you’re done here, you get your ass back to the ER, so they can fix up your arm. Then you’re going home to sleep. We’ll deal with your statement and IA tomorrow. Clear?"

Blair nodded gratefully. "Thanks, Si.. Yes, sir."

Simon gave his shoulder a minute squeeze and left the partners alone.

Jim raised a hand as Blair opened his mouth. "Let me say what I need to, all right, Chief? These pain meds are catching up with me fast. You made a mistake, Blair. Maybe you should have told me about Hollamby, maybe not. The guy was on probation, and he’d done nothing wrong as far as you knew, am I right?"

Blair nodded. "But I was thinking with my…heart, not my head, Jim. I felt so guilty about it, like I was keeping a secret from you. I felt like I was betraying your trust in me. I didn’t want to lose Kathy and I almost lost you." He looked down at his lap and began to clench his hands.

"So you made an error in judgement. I’m not exactly foolproof in that respect myself. The lesson’s learned. Don’t keep secrets from your Blessed Protector and try to think with your…head, next time."

Blair allowed a small grin to light up his face at the last comment.

"Are we okay now?"

"Yeah, Jim. We’re okay."

"Good, now go get your arm looked at and go home and get some rest. I’ll see you tomorrow."

"Oh, but Jim, I can sleep here. Really, it’ll be fine," Blair protested.

"Go home, Sandburg," Jim ordered. "And when you come back, bring me some boxers and tees, would you, and my robe? These hospital gowns do nothing for a man’s pride, you know? Oh, and some real food. I just know some little candy striper is gonna come in here trying to force jello down my throat." He gave a theatrical shudder; pleased to see Blair’s features relax into a smile.

"Sure. Boxers, tees and robe. No problem, man. I’ll see you tomorrow." Blair gave a parting wave and opened the door, allowing Simon to navigate the wheelchair toward the elevators. He laughed out loud as Jim’s pleading voice floated out to him.

"Don’t forget the food, Sandburg. Maybe a pizza."

FIN

-4.8.01

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