LOVE'S SCARS

BY: Lyn

FEEDBACK TO: lyntownsend_2000@hotmail.com

AUTHOR'S WEBSITE: http://brothersinarms.tvheaven.com

DISCLAIMER: The characters of The Sentinel are the property of Di Meo, Bilson, Petfly etc…This fanfic was written for my own and other's enjoyment. No money has been paid and no copyright infringement is intended.

CATEGORY: Epilogue for 'Love and Guns.'

RATING: PG. (L)

AUTHOR'S NOTES: This little piece has been trying to be written for some months now. I had fleshed out the middle of the story but the beginning just wouldn't come to me…until last night, middle of the night, actually. Just in time for my dues. I know that someone recently wrote a similar piece to this. Though I'd thought of this scene some time before your fic was posted, I tried to change mine so that you would not think I was stealing your story. There was a bonus in doing this - an extra Blair owie. (g)

Jim pushed himself away from the limp body of Carasco's thug and staggered back to his feet. He wavered a little, his enforced trip through the hothouse glass wall having shaken him up more than he realized. He stood for a moment, waiting for his dazed thoughts to clear and took stock.

His back ached where he'd hit the ground and several stinging cuts from broken glass oozed blood from his face and neck. He looked down at the man who'd attacked him. His dark eyes stared unseeingly at the sky, looking as cruel in death as they had in life. Jim prodded the body with the toe of his shoe, then stepped over it and made his way back into the nursery.

Hector Carasco's precious orchids lay spilled and broken, trampled into the dirt that was scattered across the ground. Kicking aside a broken pot as he skirted an upturned bench, Jim found Maya seated on the ground in the corner. She was sobbing noisily. Rivulets of tears tracked a pale swathe through the dirt on her face. An angry, painful-looking bruise marred one cheek.

Just beyond her, Jim could see Blair's silent, still body, curled on its side, his hands tightly bound in front of him. Closing his eyes briefly to shutter out the blood and bruises on Blair's lax features, Jim leaned down and touched Maya's shoulder, shaking it gently until she raised her face to look at him.

"Maya? Are you all right?"

She took a moment to respond then nodded her head. "I'm not hurt, not really," she replied, her accent thickening in her distress. "Where's Blair?"

"I'll see to him." Satisfied that she appeared to be okay, Jim made his way to Blair's side. Crouching down, he felt for a pulse and found it strong though somewhat fast. Brushing back the hair that had fallen across Blair's face, Jim could see bruising across one cheek and more at the corner of Blair's mouth.

Giving a low growl as he worked to untie the gag that had been knotted around Blair's face, Jim worked the cloth free and threw it to the ground. Scrabbling in his pocket, he pulled out his pocketknife and cut the ropes that tightly bound Blair's hands, relieved to finally hear a soft moan coming from his partner.

"Blair? You with me? Come on, Chief, open your eyes." Jim kept up the steady litany of words until Blair's eyelids fluttered then opened slightly showing a crack of blue, before closing again. "Blair? Sandburg?"

Maya crouched down at Jim's side and stroked a shaking hand down Blair's cheek. "Is he all right?"

"I don't know. How long was he unconscious?"

"A few minutes this time but this is the second time Vargas hit him."

That information and Blair's failure to respond caused Jim deep concern. "Can you ask the paramedics to come in? Tell them we have two people down."

She hesitated for a moment, still stroking Blair's cheek and Jim could tell she was in shock. He thought briefly about leaving her with Blair and going for the EMT's himself but he was worried she'd try to move Blair in her confused state. Grasping her hand, he smiled at her. "I know you're worried about him but he needs medical help now."

Finally Maya nodded and got to her feet. Taking a last look at Blair, she stumbled toward the door. Taking advantage of her absence, Jim dialed up his sense of touch and ran sensitive fingers down Blair's neck and spine. He could feel no misalignment of the vertebrae or damage to the spine but he didn't like Blair's prolonged unconscious state.

Brushing the unruly curls back from Blair's face, Jim ran his hands over Blair's skull. He found a sizable lump hidden in Blair's hair on the back of his head and the unconscious man shifted and moaned as he pressed it gently.

"Jim?"

The word was just a whisper of breath but Jim instantly felt some of his tension dissipate at the sound of Blair's voice. Reaching out, he patted the downed man's shoulder, unsure if he was reassuring Blair or himself. "Lie still. The EMT's are on their way."

"Not planning on moving," Blair husked out. "Dizzy."

"Close your eyes. Maybe that will help but don't drift off on me."

It was testament to how bad he must have been feeling that Blair simply nodded, grimacing as though the action provoked some measure of pain. The silence stretched into long minutes then just as Jim was about to rouse him again he spoke. "Maya?"

"She's fine." Jim kept the information brief. "How about you? Where do you hurt?"

Blair's face screwed up and he lifted his now unfettered right hand in the air, shaking it slightly. "My hands are throbbing, burning." The hand curled into a fist and flexed a few times. "My head." He gave a small chuckle that became a groan. "Big surprise there."

Jim reached down and cupped Blair's hands in his own, examining them for damage. The ropes that had bound Blair's wrists had cut cruelly in to his skin, leaving weeping gouges in the reddened flesh. "You've got some nasty rope burns there. Give me a minute. I'll see if I can find something to bandage them."

Patting his pockets, he pulled out a handkerchief and wrapped it gently around one wrist then looked around for something else. Impatiently, he turned back to the door of the hothouse and was gratified to see an EMT approaching with a case of medical supplies.

"Sorry, Jim. Had to call in a second ambulance."

Jim nodded his understanding and stood to allow Paramedic Mike Nolan access to his patient. "I'm going to go check on things outside. Let Mike take a look at you, all right, Chief?"

"I'm okay, Jim." The detective rolled his eyes at the expected comment but snorted when Blair showed no sign of moving from his curled up position on the ground. "Humor me, okay?"

Jim tapped Mike's shoulder. "He was knocked out twice within a short time and it took me a while to rouse him."

Blair held up a shaky hand and stuck up three fingers.

Jim's eyebrows rose. "Three times?" He shook his head and sighed. "I always said you had a hard head. How's Agent Drennan, Mike?"

"Shoulder wound," Mike said as he unpacked his equipment. "She's on her way to Cascade General now. Didn't look too bad." The EMT looked down at Blair and smiled as he wrapped a BP cuff around Blair's arm. "Have you been letting someone play football with your head again, Sandburg?"

"I'm fine, Mike."

"Sure you are," Mike assured him as he took a pulse count and checked Blair's pupils. "For now, let's just pretend that I know what I'm doing. "

"Jim? Find Maya? Make sure she's all right. Vargas hit her."

"I'll check on her now."

Jim headed toward the exit as Mike checked the injuries to Blair's head.

"Oww!! Go easy, would you, Mike?"

Jim allowed himself a smile at Blair's complaints. A whining Sandburg was a good sign. It sounded like Blair was quickly recovering and he relaxed further at the thought.

He found Maya seated in the backseat of one of the police cruisers, holding an icepack to her cheek. A female EMT smiled at Jim as he approached then patted Maya's shoulder and went to pack up her gear.

Maya looked up, her eyes red-tinged from her tears and her full lips trembling. "Where's my father?"

"If you don't think you need to go to the hospital, I can get one of the officers to take you downtown. He should be at the precinct by now."

She stared past him and nodded her head. "I need to see him."

Jim helped her to her feet. "Blair's conscious," he told her. "He'd like to see you before you leave."

Maya turned a glacial glare on him. "I don't think that would be a good idea right now. I need to speak to my father first."

Jim nodded and motioned to a uniformed officer. He handed Maya over to him and asked him to take her to Major Crimes. A sudden disquieting thought occurred to him and he pulled the officer away for a moment. "Make sure someone takes a statement from her before she sees her father."

Jim was on his way to supervise the search of the house and grounds when Mike came out of the hothouse supporting a shaky Blair. Changing directions, Jim hurried to his partner's side.

"How you doing, Chief?"

Mike answered for the unaccustomedly silent young man. "He's refusing transport to the hospital. I've bandaged his wrists and he should keep an eye on them for signs of infection He's got a king-size headache but he's oriented to time and place. I know you've got medic training, Jim so I'm going to release him into your care. Standard neuro checks for twenty-four hours. You know the routine."

Jim bent his head and studied Blair's ashen features carefully. "Are you sure about this?"

Blair went to nod then changed his mind. "Positive. Where's Maya? I want to explain…"

"She's already gone, Chief. Give her a couple of days, huh? She's had quite a shock."

"She hates me." Blair's voice was so forlorn that Jim's stomach clenched and not for the first time, he regretted his decision to allow Blair to get close to the Chilean student.

"Come on," he said finally, wrapping an arm around Blair's waist and nodding his thanks to Mike. "Let's get you to the truck."

He got Blair strapped into the passenger seat then left briefly to ask Henri to oversee the house and grounds search. Climbing in beside Blair, he drove through Carasco's ornate gates and headed toward the apartment.

Blair stared straight ahead for the entire journey. Any of Jim's questions were answered with a mute nod or shake of his head which Jim knew had to be exacerbating his headache but obviously was less painful than verbalizing his thoughts.

By the time they got home, Blair was drooping in his seat and Jim led him straight to his bedroom and got him settled. "I'll be back to check on you in an hour, okay?" He patted Blair's shoulder sympathetically as Blair turned to face the wall. "Get some rest, Sandburg."

~o0o~

The night passed slowly for Jim. He dozed on the couch, giving in to his need to be near Blair. Setting his internal alarm clock, he got up every hour and roused Blair from his sleep, prodding him toward full wakefulness then asking him a few basic questions and dialing up his sight to check Blair's pupils. Blair acquiesced grumpily to the disruptions, muttering a quiet no when Jim asked if he was in pain.

Jim watched him for a moment, the fine lines creasing his brow and the whiteness lining his lips belying his assurance. He pushed some painkillers into Blair's hand following them with a glass of water, insisting Blair take them, using the probably unfair threat of a hospital stay as a bribe. Finally, he pulled the covers more closely around the silent man's neck and patted his shoulder. Walking to the doorway, he looked at the pink dawn streaking the sky outside the loft windows.

"Jim?"

"Yeah."

"Thanks."

"If you need to talk, you know where I am."

Blair rolled carefully onto his back and patted the side of his bed. Jim took up the invitation and sat. The anthropologist lay staring up at the ceiling for some time and Jim wondered if he'd gone back to sleep. Finally Blair puffed out a breath and spoke. "It gets better, right?"

"What's that?"

Blair looked at him, his blue eyes huge and mournful-looking. "The guilt I feel about lying to Maya?"

"I don't know if it gets better, Sandburg but you get used to it. It's one of the less attractive parts of the job." He toyed with the fringed edge of Blair's afghan. "All you can do is tell yourself that it was a necessary part. Do you want to see those guns on the streets of Cascade? Maybe stare down the business end of one when you're backing me up sometime?" Blair shook his head. "Then Hector Carasco had to be stopped."

"I know you're right. Do you think she'll want to see me again?"

"I don't know, Chief." Jim decided silently that he hoped she wouldn't. He put his uncharitable thought down to fatigue. He shifted uncomfortably then stood up. "Look, I'm going to put some coffee on. You feel up to some breakfast?"

Blair pushed himself up against his pillows and brushed his hair out of his face. "Just some tea. I'm not hungry."

"Coming up."

~o0o~

Jim tossed and turned in his bed, trying to convince his mind to switch off. Below he could hear Blair moving about in his room, the scratch of pencil on paper, muttered words. He looked at his clock. Four a.m. He debated going back downstairs but decided resolutely that he'd done all he could. When Blair wanted to talk, he would.

They'd spoken about Maya and Blair's guilty feelings the morning before and while the grad student was still somewhat glum and short-tempered, Jim put some of his mood down to the concussion he'd suffered at Vargas' hands. Jim shifted onto his side and punched his pillow, trying to pound some softness into it. He closed his eyes tightly, trying to erase the disastrous evening before from his thoughts.

~o0o~

"Hey, Chief. Look who I found hanging around the bullpen." Jim ushered Drennan ahead of him into the loft, smiling as he took her jacket and hung it up. Blair sat up from his nest of blankets on the couch and scrubbed at his face.

Jim had left him at home while he went into the precinct to finish up his report on Carasco's arrest. Drennan had been patched up at the hospital the night before and discharged that morning. She'd come into the station to offer her thanks on the case and to say goodbye. Jim had convinced her to join him and Blair at the loft for dinner when he heard her plane wasn't leaving until late that night.

"Thought I'd cook some Chinese. You want to convince Drennan that I'm a good cook?"

Blair gave them both a wan smile. He still looked pale, his eyes shadowed and reddened, the bruising on his face mottled, painful shades of black and red. "Agent Drennan, it's nice to see you again. I'm glad you're okay." He stood and gathered the blankets around his shoulders. "You're in good hands. Jim's a great cook. Um…if you'll excuse me…" He waved a vague hand toward his bedroom.

"I'll give you a call when it's ready, all right, Chief?"

Blair stopped at the doorway to his room. "I'm not very hungry, Jim. I'm a little nauseous."

"All right. Get some rest."

Blair turned back, his eyes flashing. "I've been resting all damn day." He looked suddenly stricken. "I'm sorry. I just…" He sighed tiredly. "Goodnight."

Drennan turned to Jim, concern evident in her dark eyes. "Maybe I should go, Jim. Looks like Blair could use some TLC right now."

"He'll be okay," Jim replied as he headed to the kitchen and pulled two beers from the refrigerator. Pulling the wok from the ceiling hook, he set it on top of the stove then rummaged about in the crisper for vegetables. "I'll let you off chopping detail seeing you're injured." Smiling widely at her, he held out a beer in one hand and a wooden spoon in the other. "How about you stir?"

Drennan grinned back. "Deal."

They'd been arguing over the merits of MSG when the knock had come at the front door. Leaving Drennan in temporary charge of the kitchen, Jim answered the door, surprised to see Maya standing there.

He showed her in and watched with some disquiet as she entered Blair's room. Deliberately turning his hearing down a little and putting on some music, he turned back to the kitchen and Drennan.

He'd already been privy to the information that no charges were being brought against Maya. She was totally unaware of her father's crimes and had at least, phoned for help when she'd seen Blair taken prisoner. Jim also knew what she'd come to tell Blair and his heart went out to his partner. He knew the pain of getting too close to someone and then losing her.

He'd seen Maya out after just a few moments then gone back to offer Blair noodles, knowing his partner would read between the lines. Accepting Blair's request for solitude, Jim dialed his hearing back up and went back to the dinner table but his heart was no longer in the occasion. He could see Drennan growing more uncomfortable by the minute as he stole concerned glances toward Blair's room where he could hear the other man's almost silent sorrow.

Finally the FBI agent pushed back her chair and walked around the table to deposit a kiss on Jim's lips. "I'm gonna go," she whispered. She pressed a finger to Jim's mouth as he began to protest. "Your partner is hurting. We talked about partners. He needs you."

Jim walked her to the door and kissed her again, more passionately this time, hoping fervently that he'd see her again. Shutting the door, he locked the loft and tidied up, opting to leave the dishes until the morning in deference to his hopefully slumbering partner. He walked to Blair's room and peeked in. Blair lay facing the doorway, dried tear tracks evident on his cheeks, his eyes moving restlessly beneath closed lids.

Feeling exhausted and drained himself Jim climbed the stairs to his bedroom. He crawled into bed expecting to drift almost instantly into dreamless sleep, only to find he was still wide awake six hours later, listening to his restless partner below.

"Okay, that's it," he vowed when he heard Blair leave his room and pad quickly into the living room. Getting out of bed, Jim pulled on his robe and descended the stairs, only to see the front door shutting. Quickly he crossed the room and flung open the door. "Sandburg?"

Blair didn't answer and Jim heard his footsteps pattering rapidly down the stairs. "Shit!" Jim stepped out into the hallway, intending to go after his partner until he looked down and saw his state of undress. Stomping back upstairs, he threw on a pair of pants and a sweater then grabbed his jacket and car keys and hurried downstairs in search of Blair.

There was no sign of Blair in the street though Jim realized he couldn't have gone too far as his car was still in the shop being repaired. Extending his hearing, Jim was relieved to hear Blair's rapid heartbeat just ahead of him. Quickening his pace, he followed the sound toward the alley a few blocks away. As the unmistakable sound of retching reached Jim's ears, he broke into a run.

Skidding around the corner, he found Blair on his knees huddled against the wall of the alley. His hair hung in his face as he vomited violently, one hand clutching his head, the other wrapped around his stomach, sweat beading his ashen features.

"Blair!" Jim dropped to his knees at his partner's side, collapsing onto his butt as Blair sank against him, both hands now reaching to grab at his head. "What's wrong?"

Blair's eyes were scrunched tight, his teeth grinding against each other as he panted rapidly, his breath coming in grunts of pain. "Hurts. Head hurts."

As Jim reached for his cell phone to call for help, Blair curled into a tight ball on the ground and began to rock.

~o0o~

"Subdural hematoma," the doctor explained quietly as Jim sat at Blair's bedside and watched him sleep. "He's going to be fine, detective. It was caught early before it did any damage. We drilled a small hole to evacuate the clot right here." He gently touched the small gauze square covering Blair's skull near his temple.

Jim punched a fist into his other hand. "How could I have missed it? All the symptoms were there."

"The symptoms are often vague initially," the doctor explained kindly. "You did all the correct neuro checks but the bleeding was slow which meant the pressure built up gradually, making it even more difficult to detect. I've seen it happen before." He smiled. "Look at the bright side. The fact that the hemorrhaging was slow was to Blair's benefit. It meant there was ample time for surgery before there was any chance of brain damage."

"When is he going to wake up?"

"He's already been awake in recovery. He was drowsy and a little confused but he was lucid."

Jim sat forward and stroked the back of Blair's hand as the young man shifted in the bed. "So he's going to be fine?"

"I foresee no further complications." The doctor gave Jim a reassuring pat on his shoulder and left the room.

Jim hunched forward over the bed as Blair's eyes flickered then opened to gaze dully at him. A shiver of fear went through him at the vacant look in Blair's eyes. "Sandburg? Come on, Chief. Wake up."

Blair blinked lazily once, twice as his hand stole up toward his head. Jim waylaid it and lay it back on the young man's chest, smiling as Blair licked parched lips and smiled weakly. "Sorry."

It was the last thing Jim expected to hear and he straightened in surprise. "Sorry for what? 'Cause your head isn't as hard as we thought it was?"

Blair shook his head then winced. "Sorry for being a pain in the ass the last couple of days."

"You lost someone you cared about. I know how it feels. Blair? Why did you take off like that?"

Blair puffed out a tired sigh. "I couldn't stop thinking about Maya and my head was hurting so bad. It felt like the apartment was closing in on me. I felt like I was suffocating."

"You should have come to me. Told me how you were feeling."

Blair reached out and grasped Jim's wrist, giving it a firm shake. "This is not your fault."

"So the doctor tells me."

"So, believe him."

Jim smiled. "You should take your own advice, Darwin."

"Yeah. I'm gonna miss her, you know?"

"I know."

"She'll come back."

"Yeah? What makes you so sure."

Blair turned his face to Jim, a brilliant smile lighting up his pale face. "She loves me," he said with absolute conviction.

Jim grinned and leaned back in his chair, allowing himself to relax for the first time in days. "What's not to love, Sandburg."

FIN

July 3rd, 2002.

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