Betaed by Lyn. Thanks so much, sis. Hope you enjoy your themefic.
Anger is a signal, and one worth listening to.
Harriet Lerner, The Dance of Anger, 1985
“Simon, I can hear a heartbeat.” Jim pressed down on Blair’s chest, hope lending renewed strength to his tired arms. “Come on, come on,” he said over and over, the words as much a prayer as an exhortation to Blair to breathe. Blair coughed then sputtered up water and Jim rolled him to his side, making sure his airway was clear.
He felt himself pulled away as the paramedics came to take over and he stumbled to his feet, accepting Simon’s helping hand then stood, arms over Simon’s and Henri’s shoulders as the paramedics went to work
He looked down in time to see Blair’s eyes flutter open, his gaze unfocused, obviously still mostly unaware of where he was. The medic leaned in and listened to his breathing then put the oxygen mask back in place and turned to give Jim a thumbs up. “See,” Jim couldn’t help saying, “he’s okay.”
Simon ran a shaky hand across his face and Jim was surprised to see he had tears in his eyes. He patted Jim on the back as the paramedics got Blair loaded onto a stretcher and started wheeling him across the grass to the waiting ambulance. “Go on,” Simon was saying,” go with them.”
“You sure?” Jim asked hesitantly. “I’m pretty sure the last person he’s going to want to see when he wakes up properly is me.”
Simon gave him a shove forward that set his legs in motion. “Go with your partner, Detective,” he ordered and Jim finally obeyed, climbing up next to the gurney and sitting on the small jump seat next to Blair’s head.
The medic gave him a nod of recognition and a small smile. “He’s not really fully conscious yet,” he said, “but that’s pretty normal considering what he’s been through.” He turned Blair’s head a little to one side and pointed to a small gash that was seeping a little blood. “Looks like he hit his head too,” he said, “so he’s probably got a concussion.”
‘More like he got hit,’ Jim thought but he just nodded, watching as the medic took some observations and noted them on a clipboard. Blair’s eyes were closed but he was shivering, Jim saw, tiny tremors running up and down the arm that lay outside of the blanket. Jim couldn’t help but reach out and clasp Blair’s cold hand in his own.
“He’s a good friend, huh?” the medic asked.
“Yeah, the best,” Jim replied, adding mentally, ‘who deserves a better friend than me’. He leaned back against the side of the ambulance and held onto Blair’s hand till they pulled up in the ambulance bay and he was ushered off the vehicle then directed to a waiting room just inside the ER doors, where he was told to stay till someone came to get him. He watched Blair wheeled away then sat down heavily in a chair and focused his hearing on the cubicle they’d taken him to, anchoring himself with the steady reassuring beat of Blair’s heart.
Jim looked up, startled to realize he’d apparently zoned on the tiled floor. He had a vague memory of distracting himself from worrying about Blair by counting the tiles while he’d been waiting. At some stage he’d lost his focus on Blair’s heartbeat and fatigue coupled with his current Guide-less state had let him slip into a zone without him even noticing the warning signs. He stood up, shook the doctor’s hand when he was told that given rest and time Blair would make a complete recovery then headed toward the room he was directed to. He just stood for a moment in the doorway, watching as a nurse fussed around his friend, soaking up the sight of Blair, alive. “You know, Chief, if you want to meet nurses, there are easier ways,” he said finally as the nurse finished up and left the room.
Blair tossed him a grin. “That's great, man, that's great. Now you tell me.” He paused then said, “Thank you.”
“I couldn't let you die,” Jim said, moving over to stand next to the bed. “You owe your last month's rent.” He smiled to take the sting from the words.
“Oh, that's right. Sorry about that,” Blair replied.
There was a long moment of silence.
“You doing all right?” Jim asked.
“Yeah, you know. I'm all right. I saw it. The whole out-of-body experience. It wasn't like that classic light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel thing. There was just a jungle. I was this wolf, and I was running towards a black jaguar. Then we collided, and there was this big burst of light. Next thing I knew, I was spitting up water. The doctors are trying to tell me it's some type of an endorphin rush when the body starts to shut down, but it was-“
Jim felt his heart jump. “The same image. I saw the same image,” he said.
“You had the same vision?” Blair asked.
“Yeah. It was Incacha who guided me how to bring you back.” Jim shook his head a little, let himself back off from whatever explanation Blair had for all of this. This was Blair’s thing, not his. Blair was alive and going to be okay and Jim had no intention of delving deeper into the whys and wherefores of that.
Blair laughed. ”I can't believe this. Einstein said the greatest experiences we can have are the ones with the mysterious. We are definitely there, my brother. Come on in, man. The water's nice.”
“Chief, I don't know if I'm ready to take that trip with you.” And he really wasn’t he decided as he left Blair to rest. He was a cop; he dealt in facts and evidence. Blair could investigate the supernatural aspect of it all as much as he wanted once he was feeling up to it. Jim still had a perp to catch.
He didn’t tell Blair he and Simon were going to Mexico so he should have been surprised when Blair and Megan Conner turned up there. He wasn’t really. Simon had told Conner and Conner had a big mouth. He should have been surprised that Blair forgave him so easily for letting Alex almost kill him again. He wasn’t. Blair had a huge capacity for forgiveness. Jim felt guiltier than ever by the time they got back to the States. Twice now Alex had almost killed Blair and both times it had been Jim’s fault.
“Damn!” he muttered as they walked back into the loft after catching a cab back from the airport. “Your stuff’s still in the basement. I’ll go down and get it.”
Blair grabbed at his arm. “Leave it for now,” he said. “Look, we’re both exhausted. My bed’s still there and I’ve got the sleeping bag I took to Mexico,” he indicated their pile of luggage they’d dumped just inside the door, ”and that’s all I really need for tonight.” He yawned widely, and Jim’s ears caught an odd whistling sound as he exhaled. “I’m fine,” he added quickly before Jim could say anything. “The doctor said my lungs might take a little while to get back to normal.”
“Maybe we should get you checked out,” Jim said but he was relieved when Blair brushed off his concerns and said he just needed some sleep. They were both tired. The last thing either of them needed, Jim thought, as he headed up to bed, was to spend a night sitting in the emergency room waiting for a doctor to tell them that Blair just needed to get some rest.
Jim groaned as he heard the shower turn on. He cracked his eyes open and looked up at the skylight above his bed. It was still dark so what the hell was Blair doing showering in the middle of the night? He waited to see if he could go back to sleep but no, that was a lost cause. He was awake now. He rolled to his side then sat up on the side of the bed and pulled on his robe. He glanced at the clock and swore. 0330. Righteously indignant at having his much-needed rest interrupted he got up and padded downstairs to the bathroom.
He knocked on the door then opened it a little and called Blair’s name. There was no reply and concerned that Blair might have taken a header in the tub and cracked his head, Jim pushed the door all the way open and stopped just inside the door.
Blair wasn’t even in the shower. Despite the fact that the hot water was running merrily (and expensively) in the background behind the shower curtain, Blair was sitting, dressed in track pants and t-shirt, on the closed toilet lid.
“If you’re going to waste water and wake me up in the middle of the night, Sandburg, you could at least get undressed and climb in the shower,” Jim snapped, reaching in past the shower curtain and wrenching the faucet off.
Once the water stopped running he heard it, that odd whistling sound he’d heard earlier. Blair coughed then leaned forward and wrapped an arm around his chest. “Sorry, man, I remember my mom sticking me in a steamy bathroom when I had croup when I was a kid. My chest feels a little tight and I thought maybe steam might help. I didn’t mean to wake you up.”
Jim shook his head then turned and headed out into the living room where he grabbed their coats off the hooks there.
“Oh no, Jim,” Blair said and Jim turned to find he’d followed him. “I’ll be fine really. I don’t need to go to the hospital. It’s just a little inflammation. I just need to take my inhaler and my meds—“
“Inhaler?” Jim arched an eyebrow at him. “Where is it? I didn’t see you using it in Mexico. Come to think of it I don’t recall you taking any meds while we were down there either.”
Blair grinned weakly and blushed a little. “Well, I don’t actually have them yet. Megan and I left in kind of a hurry and I didn’t have time to get the prescriptions filled.” He waved a nonchalant hand. “I’ll go get them in the morning. The steam’s working already. I feel heaps better.”
“You don’t sound heaps better,” Jim said archly.
“Really, I’m fine,” Blair insisted. “I’ll get some of my herbal tea and go back to bed and I bet I’ll be fine by morning.”
This time Jim felt himself blush. “Your teas are still in the basement with the rest of your stuff,” he said. “I’ll go—“
Blair yawned widely. “Forget it, Jim. Let’s just both go back to bed and get some sleep, all right?”
“You sure?” Jim asked. He listened more closely to Blair’s breathing. The strange whistling sound was still there but he had to admit it sounded quieter than before. And he was exhausted still. He could almost feel his eyelids drooping shut as they stood there.
“I’m sure.” Blair patted him on the arm then turned and headed for his room. “See you in the morning, man. Sorry for waking you.”
Jim walked back upstairs to bed. He focused his hearing on Blair’s room for a while but eventually sleep tugged him under and he went with it gratefully.
Coughing woke him up what seemed only minutes later. Groaning, he rolled over and looked at the clock. Seven o’clock. Damn! Jim cursed under his breath. He had hoped for a sleep-in this morning. He had a couple of days off work now the Barnes case was over and he’d planned to do not much more than sleeping, eating, and maybe catching a game on the TV. Blair coughed harshly again downstairs and Jim got up and pulled on his robe and went down to see how he was doing.
What he found didn’t give him much hope of either catching any more sleep or having a nice, relaxing weekend. Blair looked awful, sitting hunched over on a chair in the living room, his face pale and sweaty. There were dark circles under his eyes, reminding Jim that Blair had probably had even less sleep than he had in the days since Alex Barnes had come to Cascade. He squelched the guilt that thought brought with it and focused on what needed to be done now. “Hey,” he said, walking over and putting the back of his hand against Blair’s forehead, “you look pretty awful, Chief.”
Blair gave him a crooked smile. “Gee thanks, man,” he said, his voice husky. He reached for the glass of water on the table in front of him and swigged it down, wincing as he swallowed.
“Is your throat sore now too?” Jim asked, worry creeping in and letting the guilt ebb back a little. If he hadn’t kicked Blair out…
“Knock it off, Jim!” Blair said suddenly, standing up and gripping both of Jim’s arms, giving them a little shake. “This is not your fault. You didn’t try to drown me, Alex did.”
Jim shook his head and pulled away, walking into the kitchen and putting the kettle on to boil on the stove then turning to face him. “I left you vulnerable to her,” he said.
“Bullshit,” Blair snapped back. He rubbed a hand over his forehead. “Look, we could debate this all day but I doubt either of us are up to it so let’s just agree to disagree, all right?” He walked over to grab his jacket off the hooks and Jim belatedly realized he was already dressed.
“Where are you going?” he asked. It was too early for the pharmacy to be open.
“I’ve got a tutoring appointment at the university this morning,” Blair replied, pulling on his jacket then getting his backpack down. “It was set up before any of this stuff happened. Finals are in a week and I’m trying to fit in as many students as I can while I can.”
“Are you kidding me?” Jim walked across and grabbed Blair’s backpack out of his hands and hung it back on the hooks. “You were drowned just a couple of days ago, you just got back from chasing through Mexico with me, you’re sick, you don’t have the meds you should have gotten before you went there.” He ticked the reasons off on his fingers then shook his head as Blair reached up and grabbed his backpack again. “Are you crazy?” he asked heatedly.
“Quite possibly,” Blair said. “Look, man, I need these tutorship deals to get me through the semester financially. I don’t get paid, I can’t pay you.”
“You haven’t paid me for two weeks anyway,” Jim snapped, regretting the words the moment they left his mouth but Blair just nodded agreement.
“Yeah, I know, and that’s why I really need to go this morning. If I can fulfill all my tut appointments this week, I’ll have enough to pay you what I owe,” he said.
“I don’t care about the damn rent,” Jim replied. He took what he hoped was a deep calming breath though he could still feel his anger bubbling away just beneath the surface. “Listen, Chief, I can’t afford to take any time off work to nursemaid you when you get even sicker than you are now.”
“What?” Blair blinked incredulously at him. “I don’t recall ever asking you to nursemaid me, man. I’m a big boy, Jim. I’m more than capable of taking care of myself.”
“Could have fooled me,” Jim muttered, the anger seeping further and further to the top.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Blair asked hotly, holding up a hand for Jim to wait for a minute as a coughing fit ambushed him. “What do you mean by that?” he asked breathlessly once it ended.
Jim pointed at him. “That right there for a start,” he said then added as the anger finally overtook his guilt, “and let’s not forget you falling completely for Alex Barnes and her cock and bull story about how she became a Sentinel and *then*,” he let his fingers add quote marks for emphasis around the word, “you checked yourself out of hospital without bothering to get the meds the doctor prescribed.”
“What?” Blair sounded as angry as Jim felt now, his voice choked by emotion. “You know what? I don’t have time for this right now. We’ll talk when I get home.”
“Don’t bother,” Jim said. “You want to prove you can look after yourself then don’t let me stop you. Go right ahead and run yourself into the ground. I’m sure I’ll be able to cope just fine without you when they cart you off to hospital again or you die of pneumonia.” He turned away from Blair and stomped back upstairs. A moment later he heard the front door open and then slam shut. Only then did he go downstairs again. “Damn,” he cursed, going across to pick up Blair’s jacket from where he’d left it laying on the floor. He opened the door and stuck his head out but Blair was nowhere in sight. Jim toyed with the idea of going after him but he wasn’t dressed and Blair would be long gone by the time Jim got down to the street anyway. “I swear to God you need a keeper, Sandburg,” he muttered sourly, tossing the jacket onto the sofa and heading into the bathroom. Blair had insisted he could take care of himself and Jim wasn’t about to stop him from trying.
By the time Jim had showered, dressed and eaten breakfast he was feeling a lot more equitable and more inclined to think that maybe Blair wasn’t the only one who’d handled things less than perfectly that morning. Jim knew his guilt over Blair’s drowning had colored his anger and caused him to react far more harshly than he’d intended. He sighed and looked over to where he’d tossed Blair’s jacket. That was the perfect excuse. He’d call in at the university around lunchtime with the jacket, coerce Blair into going to eat with him by dint of promising to take him to Reg’s Veg Restaurant, and see if he couldn’t talk some sense into the kid’s head about getting some rest and going to the doctor.
Jim talked a good game about being able to manage his senses without Blair’s guidance but Jim knew that was far from the truth. He needed Blair. More than that, he wanted Blair in his life as his guide and as his friend and if it took an apology from him to make sure things stayed that way Jim was more than man enough to do it.
The phone rang as he finished his coffee and Jim went over to answer it, wondering as he did if Blair had beaten him to the punch and was calling to offer his own apology. “You’re forgiven, Sandburg,” he said as he picked up the phone.
“Um, Detective Ellison, this is Aaron Zabinski from the university. Mr. Sandburg was supposed to meet me this morning for a tutoring session but he hasn’t shown up. I heard about what happened to him and I wondered if maybe he was still sick or something. I mean if he is, it’s totally cool. I mean, not cool that he’s sick but we can just set up another time when he’s feeling better. Or I can see if one of the other TAs can fit me in.”
Jim looked at his watch. It was after nine. Blair should have been at the university long before now. “He left here a couple of hours ago,” he told Aaron. “Maybe you mixed up the place you were supposed to meet him?”
“Don’t think so,” Aaron said. “Mr. Sandburg always holds tuts in his office and I’ve been waiting here for over an hour now. I even called around the U but no one’s even seen him. I don’t have a cell number for him or I’d have called that.”
Jim cursed mentally. They’d been intending to get Blair set up with his own cell phone for a while but there just never seemed to be enough time to take care of stuff like that in between Blair’s teaching and studying and Jim’s police work as well as the time they spent working on his senses. Jim vowed now that it was the first thing they’d organize as soon as he tracked Blair down.
Aaron’s anxious voice broke into his thoughts. “Don’t worry, Aaron. I’m sure there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation. I’ll track him down and get him to call you and set up another time for the tutorial.” Jim tried to ignore the anxiety roiling in his own gut.
“I sure hope you’re right, Detective. Mr. Sandburg’s like, totally cool, you know, but he’s like a trouble magnet on legs, man.”
“Yeah, you’ve got that right,” Jim replied, wishing like hell it wasn’t true but knowing that it was. He’d often wondered if Blair had gotten himself into as many scrapes before he’d hooked up with Jim and decided he probably hadn’t. It just seemed to come along with the job of being Jim’s guide. “I’ll find him, Aaron. Thanks for letting me know.”
He hung up the phone then grabbed Blair’s jacket off the sofa, put on his own then scooped up his phone and his keys and headed off in search of Blair.
Standing on the sidewalk outside the apartment building he looked across to the parking area and saw Blair’s car was gone. Jim cursed as he hurried across to his own vehicle. His only option was to head for the university and see if Blair had finally turned up there. Maybe, he thought optimistically as he drove, Blair had called in to see a friend for coffee and lost track of the time. Wouldn’t be the first time he’d been late for something. Jim had even given him a watch for his last birthday in the hope it would help Blair become more time-conscious. Deep down though, he was pretty sure that wasn’t the case this time. Blair had been pissed off when he left the loft and he’d been so determined to make the tutoring session that Jim couldn’t imagine he would have taken the time to go see anyone.
Worry made Jim press down hard on the accelerator and he had to force himself to ease his foot off the gas pedal and slow down. He was a couple of blocks from the university entrance when he spotted something familiar on the side of the street. Blair’s car. Sighing with relief, Jim pulled up into the empty space behind it then got out of the car and hurried up to Blair’s vehicle, pulling open the driver’s door.
“What the hell’s going on-“ he started to ask but the words died on his lips as he saw Blair was leaning back against the head rest of the driver’s seat, his eyes closed, his skin pale with an awful bluish tinge around his lips. “Blair?” Jim reached in put his hand on Blair’s throat, relieved to feel a rapid thrumming against his fingertips. He was even more relieved when Blair opened his eyes.
“Man, Jim, I am so glad to see you,” Blair said in between panting breaths. He wrapped an arm around his chest and winced. “My chest hurts so bad. I thought I was gonna pass out so I pulled over here to wait it out but it just keeps getting worse.”
Jim took Blair’s other hand in his and gave it a reassuring squeeze. “Don’t try to talk now, Chief. I’m going to call an ambulance.” He did that then crouched down next to the car, still holding onto Blair’s hand. It was icy cold, Jim noticed and his mind flashed back to that drive in the ambulance after Blair had drowned and his heart clenched with fear. He managed to hide it though, telling Blair he’d be just fine but he was more than relieved when the ambulance pulled up.
Jim moved back and let them work, pulling out his cell phone again and putting in a call to Simon, explaining what had happened and asking the captain to meet him at the hospital with one of the other guys from the MC unit so they could get both Jim’s and Blair’s cars back to the loft once they knew Blair was okay. And he would be, Jim told himself firmly, though his heart sank when the medics finally got Blair out of the car and onto a stretcher. Blair looked as bad as he had at the fountain, Jim thought, with an IV in his arm and an oxygen mask over his face… He quashed that thought as fast as it was born, hurrying back to his car so he could follow the ambulance to the hospital.
Jim looked up and saw the same doctor he’d spoken to the day Blair drowned standing in front of him. He stood up, shook the man’s hand.
“I was really hoping our paths wouldn’t cross again,” the doctor said with a faint smile.
Faint though it was, that smile at least gave Jim hope that things weren’t as dire as he’d been imagining and he offered a small smile of his own in return. “You and me both,” he said. “How’s Blair?”
“He’s pretty sick but he’s holding his own. He developed pleurisy, an inflammation of the lining of the lungs. Not too surprising really considering that the CPR he had after his drowning made it painful for him to cough or breathe deeply. Add to that the fact that he discharged himself from hospital without finishing his course of antibiotics, didn’t get his inhaler or anywhere near enough rest for a man in his condition, *and* he tells me he tried to treat himself by inhaling steam from the shower.” The doctor shook his head. “Not the best idea.”
“No.” Jim nodded, guilt creeping in and clenching a tight fist around his heart. “I should have taken better care of him.”
“He’s a grown man, Detective, more than capable of taking care of himself. I think Blair would agree when I tell you none of this was your fault.”
‘If you only knew how much of it was my fault,’ Jim thought but he just shook the doctor’s hand again then headed off to where he’d been told Blair was. He stood for a moment in the doorway, his mind inexorably going back to that day not long before when he’d stood just like this, in the doorway of another hospital room and drank in the sight of Blair alive. He had to stop putting Blair in situations like this, he decided, had to start listening to him. He walked over to the bed and sat down, pasting a grin on his face as Blair turned his head toward him and lifted the oxygen mask.
“No, you don’t,” Jim said firmly, putting it back in place. “That stays on or they’ll kick me out of here.”
Blair sighed resignedly but nodded. “Thanks for coming to find me,” he said. “I actually tried to call for you when I realized I was getting worse. Stupid of me to think you could hear me from that far away. You’re a Sentinel, not Superman.”
“I wasn’t listening,” Jim said. “I was still so damn pissed at you that even if I’d been able to hear you, I wouldn’t have. Just like when you tried to tell me about Alex and I brushed you off. I’m sorry, Chief. If you’ll give this partnership another chance, I promise I’ll do better at playing my part. I’ll listen.”
“Okay,” Blair said simply but he reached out and squeezed Jim’s hand. “Deal.”
“You’re gonna make it that easy on me?” Jim asked, smiling.
“You kidding? You’re going to be paying bigtime for this, man. Dinner at the restaurant of my choice, a new laptop…”
“A cellphone,” Jim added.
“Probably a good idea,” Blair agreed, smiling too.
“Oh and that trip you were talking about?” Jim went on. ”I think I’m ready to take it with you now.”