Blair knew he wasn't going to last much longer. In addition to the fact
that his body was screaming for rest and his head threatened to fall
off the next time he stumbled, he could barely see. Darkness had
descended rapidly, leaving him blindly following Jim, at times, his
only clue to Jim's whereabouts was the crunching of his
shoes. A patch of moonlight lit up their surroundings for a brief
moment, a split second before the ground appeared to fall away. Blair
leapt but his exhaustion and pain had caught up with him and he hit the
ground hard, halfway across.
"Jim! Hey, buddy! Hang on, man." He pulled himself upright and
staggered a few feet further to the base of a tree, sinking to the
ground with a groan. "I need a couple of minutes. My head is killing
Jim was at his side in a second. "What's going on? Is your vision
okay?" Gently, he reached out and touched Blair's temple. Blair
couldn't help wincing from the fiery pain that exploded from Jim's
examination. "Ooh, yeah, you got pretty well banged up there," Jim
said. He looked around. "All right, this is a good place. It's good
shelter. I'm gonna see if I can get back on their trail. And I'm gonna
double back for you in a little while."
Blair hesitated a moment then spoke up, knowing there was no way he was
going to be able to get up again for some time yet. "All right." He
studied the ground, though he was barely able to see it. "Are you gonna
think less of me if I actually take you up on that offer?"
probably think of you as some spineless, self-serving goober."
Blair started at that but when he looked up, Jim had a gentle smile on
his face. Blair gave him a shaky one back. "I can live with that," he
Jim nodded and patted his shoulder then stood, taking off through the
trees once more. He stopped just before he disappeared from sight. "Oh,
Chief.You stay awake, all right? No campfires."
Blair stared after Jim's retreating back in disbelief. "Yeah, right.
What am I gonna burn, man?" Wincing, he tried to settle his aching body
more comfortably on the rocky ground, resting his head carefully
against the tree trunk behind him. "Cold and wet is my world."
Blair squinted into the darkness, attempting to make sense of the
blurry images he could barely discern and school his fuzzy thoughts
into some semblance of order. He could feel himself drifting toward
sleep and several times already, had to forcibly shake himself in order
to stave off his growing weariness. He shouldn't have insisted on coming, he decided drowsily. Not only
was he now going to slow Jim down, he knew Jim would have to split his
focus, keeping an eye on Blair while attempting to track down Quinn and
"You're not a cop, Sandburg!" Simon's words came to mind and he tried
vainly to push them away, only succeeding in making his head begin a
renewed round of vicious throbbing. Spineless goober, Jim had said.
Blair knew Jim meant it as a gentle joke; a way of allaying Blair's
guilt but Blair couldn't help thinking he was right. It was a somber
thought, eroding his confidence, making him feel more alone than ever.
Despite his struggle to stay alert, his exhaustion finally overrode his
apprehension of the dark and solitude. Jim's admonition to stay awake
forgotten, he drifted for a time in a confusing netherworld of dreams
before sinking completely into oblivion.