Spineless Goober

By Lyn


"Forget about the jump," Jim shouted above the deafening sound of the rushing river below. "We'll probably drown." With that uplifting comment, he pulled Blair up from the ground and surged forward, dragging a screaming Blair over the abyss with him. If Blair had thought the gut-wrenching, heart in his throat dive from the cliff into the frigid water below was the most terrifying thing he'd done, he was way wrong. He hit the surface with a painful smack and was immediately sucked under by the churning current, desperately trying to hold his breath until he was spewed back up, struggling, his arms windmilling and flailing in an unsuccessful attempt to keep afloat.

"Sandburg!"

He could hear Jim's shouts faintly over the rumbling water and rapidly blinked his eyes. Jim was to the right of him, too far away to reach, but appearing to have more success at controlling his progress than Blair.

"Keep your head up!" Jim yelled. "Try to stay away from the rocks."

"Can't!" Blair husked out then gave up any further attempt at speech as he took a whooping breath that sucked foaming water into his throat, causing him to choke and panic. His clothes were weighing him down and the cold was already leeching his strength. A shadow loomed up directly in front of him but he had no energy left to push away from the obstacle. He tried desperately to turn himself so that he collided with his back but the torrent just propelled him forward to slam into the rock's edge headfirst. Oblivion was both immediate and complete.

He came to his senses gasping and thrashing as he sank below the surface, the icy cold shocking him back to at least dazed consciousness. The current appeared to have dwindled and just ahead of him, he could see Jim struggling to his feet and wading through the shallower water. Blair followed him woozily but when his legs refused to hold him up, he managed a clumsy half-crawl to the rocks abutting the river's edge. Pulling himself partway up, he gratefully rested his pounding head against the smooth surface of a large boulder.

"You all right?" Jim's voice pulled him back from the edge of unconsciousness but before he could reply, Jim went on. "Oh, man!" Blair watched blearily as Jim emptied his pockets, gazing at each of the paltry items in disgust. "We lost everything. The map, compass." He checked his weapon. "I've got one bullet left."

Blair's fingers were numb, his feet equally frozen and his entire body shivered uncontrollably. He managed to get his gloves off with difficulty and slapped them against the rock. "Jim?" he asked hoarsely. "Who were those guys?"

"You got me. Let's go." He was vaguely aware of Jim scrambling up over the rocks and painfully dragged himself to his feet, stumbling off in Jim's wake.

~o0o~

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 me."

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?"

 "I'll 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 replied.

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."

~o0o~

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 Simon.

"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.

END