Lost and Found
AUTHOR'S NOTES: No need to archive. Will be posted at BiA.Written for Helen W's March 2006 themefic. Warning, Will Robinson! Smarm ahead. Hope you enjoy. Feedback on or offlist welcome.
Thanks as always to Annie for the beta and for the extremely enjoyable Friday, spent talking and writing fanfic. Hurry up and get your own place, sis. I miss this!
It had taken only a moment's hesitation, Jim told me later. Almost slipping into a zone out as he stared at Blair's bloodied chest, attempting to ascertain the damage from several yards away. The blood had taken him in, filling his sight, allowing him to see the torn skin and muscle beneath, the veins leaking copiously, the chest struggling to pull in air.
The splash brought him back to awareness and he'd pounced on their attackers - two lay unconscious on the deck of the boat, another, fleeing along the pier in abject fear, where we caught up with him.
By the time we reach the end of the dock, Jim is in the water, diving down again and again in an attempt to locate his partner. Hurriedly, shedding my shoes and jacket, yelling at Brown and Rafe to call an ambulance, I jump into the icy depths and join the desperate search. A half hour later, it takes me and two other cops to drag a flailing, frantic Ellison from the water. There is no sign of Blair.
Even when he's up on the dock, a blanket draped around his shivering shoulders, Jim fights to get back into the water. I try to reassure him that police divers are there, doing their best to find Blair - and by this time, though I dare not suggest it to Jim, neither I nor anyone else holds out any hope of discovering Sandburg alive. Just when the paramedics are considering sedating Ellison, the fight goes out of him and he sags onto the running board of the ambulance, his eyes looking emptily out at the frigid water.
He refuses to go to the hospital and after briefly checking him, the paramedics agree he is suffering nothing more than mild hypothermia and a few bruises. He insists on remaining at the pier. I pull rank and insist he return to the PD with me where we can both take a hot shower and get into dry clothes. Then he sits at his desk, pale and exhausted, staring into space, flinching each time a phone rings, looking hopefully at me whenever I come out of my office to check on him, and every time, it just about kills me to have to shake my head and tell him there is no news.
More members of Major Crime begin to straggle in, no doubt having heard about the situation on the PD grapevine. Henri and Rafe, Megan and Rhonda. My old friend, Joel Taggert looks as distraught and grief-stricken as Jim. Joel and Blair shared a special friendship from the time that Garret Kincaid took over the station. Megan hesitantly approaches Ellison, tears streaming down her cheeks but turns away immediately when he doesn't even react to her presence. Rafe and Henri take her into their care, all of them no doubt remembering the last time we stood, staring down at Sandburg's lifeless body. Seemed to me the kid had more lives than a cat, managing to get himself into and out of more scrapes than even his now official partner, Ellison. Finally, I can put off my duty no longer. I stand and walk out of my office, pushing my own grief aside to be dealt with later, and do the job I'm paid to do.
"Listen up, everyone." At the sound of my voice, Jim looks over at me but the small spark of hope on his face is almost immediately extinguished and he returns to his perusal of the darkness outside. He knows I have no good news for him. "The divers are still searching. There's no news for now. Anyone not rostered on, go home please."
All give Jim a sidelong glance as they file out. Joel pauses to squeeze Jim's shoulder briefly and Jim's hand comes up to cover Joel's, returning the comforting gesture. When the room is empty, I turn my attention to Jim. "Come on, Jim. You need to get some rest. Let me take you home."
He shakes his head then looks up and pins me with a glare. "He's not dead, you know."
He shakes his head and pounds a fist on the desk. "I'd know!" he says firmly. "I knew before at the fountain, when everyone else thought -" He breaks off and stares down at his hands. "I'd know," he whispers.
"Come back to my place," I implore him. "They can reach us just as easily there if they find anything. Please."
For a moment, I think he's going to dig in his heels then he stands suddenly, wavering slightly on his feet and reaches out to grab his jacket. With a sigh of relief, I head back quickly to my own office to grab my coat and keys before he changes his mind.
"What about Naomi?" I ask him as I usher him through the front door into the cozy warmth of the living room.
Jim shakes his head. "Not yet." He stares at me then and his face telegraphs such anguish that I have to fight not to give into my own feelings of loss and grief. We had our moments, Sandburg and I, but he was a good man, a great cop and my friend.
I offer Jim Daryl's room. Daryl's spending the weekend with a friend and won't be home for two more days. My heart clenches when I realize I have no idea how to break the news to my son. He and Blair were close.
Jim refuses the bed, insisting he'll be just as comfortable on the couch. I think about arguing or pulling rank once more, but seeing the firm set of his jaw and the awful sorrow in his eyes, I give in and just hand him a pillow and a blanket. "Try to get some sleep, okay?"
He nods but as I head upstairs to my own bed, certain I'll not close my own eyes tonight, he remains, seated, almost sentry-like on the sofa.
I'm just pulling the covers over my body when the phone rings and I snatch it up immediately, somehow knowing what the call is, not wanting Jim to hear it first. "Banks?" I listen as the voice of Henri Brown shouts into the phone, his words almost too garbled with excitement to understand. "Slow down, H," I say. "You're sure? All right, we're on our way."
I hang up the receiver with a trembling hand and realize that my cheeks are wet. Scrubbing at my tears, I dress quickly and rush down the stairs. "Jim "
Ellison looks at me and I see the small smile on his face, his eyes sparkling with unshed tears. How did he know ? Belatedly, I remember his enhanced hearing. "Blair?" he asks, his voice hushed.
I nod and stride over to him, pulling him into a hug, needing the comfort as much as he does. "They found him. He's alive."
At the door to Blair's hospital room, Jim hesitates a moment and looks at me, his eyes pleading. "He's okay?"
"A little bruised, hypothermic, he lost a lot of blood but they say he's gonna be fine." I hold back a little, giving him a small push into the room. "Go see your partner."
Jim smiles back at me then, the exhaustion lifting from his face and he nods and steps into the room. I follow behind him, feeling my throat close up at the sight of Sandburg, safe, sleeping deeply. He's as white as a sheet, his face is bruised and a large bandage covers the bullet wound in his chest. He was lucky, the doctor says; a few inches lower and the bullet would have hit his heart.
Lucky. That should be Sandburg's middle name.
Jim takes two steps toward the bed and reaches out to gently stroke Blair's brow then takes Blair's hand in his and squeezes it gently. "Hey there, Chief. You're safe now."
And in the next moment, Jim's legs buckle and before I can react, he's laid out on the floor, unconscious.
Exhaustion and stress, according to the doctor. And Jim's not the only one. I feel as close to passing out as I've ever been and the only reason I'm not stretched out on a hospital bed, alongside my two best detectives, is that I feel a responsibility to watch over them.
A soft groan from Blair rouses me as I almost succumb to my fatigue despite my vigilance. Leaning forward, I place a hand on his arm, restraining him gently as he shifts fretfully. "Blair? It's all right, son."
Slowly he stills and his swollen, red-rimmed eyelids open to stare blankly at the ceiling.
He turns to face me, wincing at the pain the movement obviously causes. "Jim?" His voice is barely a croak of sound.
He shakes his head slightly and attempts to moisten his cracked lips with his tongue.
Reaching out, I grab the cup of ice chips left by the nurse and carefully spoon a few into his mouth.
He closes his eyes and sucks on them slowly. Then his eyes open again and he whispers, "Where's Jim?"
"Right next to you."
His head snaps to the other side and at the moan that escapes him, I still him again with a hand on his arm. "He's all right, Sandburg. Just exhausted."
I nod. "I'm sure." I shake my head in fond exasperation, my own relief making my entire body shake. "I don't know how you do it. Rescue boys say they found you clinging to a pylon on the other side of the dock. They figure you must have managed to swim that far before you lost your strength."
"Don't remember anything after " His voice trails off and he looks back at Jim. "I'm sorry."
"Screwing up." His voice is so quiet, I have to lean forward to hear him. "Even after all this time, I screw up more often than I get it right."
"What are you talking about, Sandburg?"
He returns his gaze to me, staring at my face for a long time before he replies. "I knew Jim was beginning to zone out. I should have kept talking, should have acted faster."
"Pretty hard to talk with a hole in your chest." I reach out and take his nearest hand in mine, trying to calm him before he gets agitated and does more damage. "Sandburg Blair, you're a good cop and, according to Jim, the best guide there is. From what he told me, and from what I've seen before, when you've managed to get yourself into scrapes," I smile to take the sting from my words, "nothing you could do or say would prevent Jim from trying to protect you -"
"Only this time I didn't." Jim's voice is rough and scratchy but he manages a smile for both of us. The light blue gaze is dulled still with exhaustion but there's also affection and warmth there, reserved for one person: his partner. "Not your fault, Chief. Mine. This Blessed Protector thing you told me about seems to be stronger than the Sentinel thing."
Blair nods and smiles back.
Jim stares at him a moment longer, seeming to drink in the sight of his best friend, alive and safe beside him. "Thought you were dead," he says, and his voice breaks on that final word.
"You'd know," Sandburg quips lightly but he's fighting his own fatigue now, his eyes closing, "You'd sense it."
"I knew," Jim replies, drifting as well toward sleep. "Tried to tell them I'd know."
I feel a tinge of shame wash over me, and some small envy that I don't have the faith in someone that these two have in each other. I wait for either to say more but they're both silent, both resting and regaining their strength and I relax back into my chair, relieved that I can now rest too, knowing my friends are back with us again.