Disclaimer: The Sentinel, Blair Sandburg, Jim Ellison, Simon Banks, and all other characters are property of Paramount and Pet Fly. No copyright infringement is intended, and no money has exchanged hands.

Summary: Blair goes on a little vacation and of course something happens.

Rated: PGish

Feedback: Yes, please.

Notes: A big thank you to Tai for looking this over.

Traveling Blues

by Twilight (Dawn)

********************

Part 1

The sun sank lower in the early summer sky, casting a brilliant, golden haze of light off the smooth, glassy surface of the lake.

Blair drew in a deep cleansing breath, sinking deeper into the plush cushion of the lounge chair. A light breeze drifted across his bare, tan chest and up his neck, blowing a few curly strands of hair into his face. "This is so great, Mom. I'm glad you talked me into this."

"Me too, Sweetie." Naomi shifted over unto her side, her wrap around skirt falling off to expose one long, slender leg. She reached across the space between them and grasped his arm above his wrist. "I'm so glad you decided to take a break and come join me."

Blair's eyes sparkled, crinkling in the corners as he smiled. He raised his free hand and covered hers with his own. "It's so peaceful here. I'm just sorry this is our last night. This week went by so fast...and Jim really would have loved it here."

"Maybe he could get away the next time."

The sun was halfway above the horizon now and Blair stretched, bringing his hand up to stifle a mighty yawn.

His mother giggled, standing swiftly and offered him her hand.

"Must be all this mountain air," he laughed, grasping her with both hands and letting her haul him up to his feet. They both overbalanced and nearly ended up back on their rear ends.

"Come on. Dinner should be done and I made a special dessert." Laughter radiated from her and they continued to chatter as they started back toward the old farmhouse. Tall trees lined both sides of the road and a full, lush forest began a few hundred feet behind the old house.

The grounds were nicely kept and Blair wondered again how his mother had managed to be able to stay at the house for the month that she was here. She only had said that the owners where going away for that time and that they were old friends. They were more than willing to let her stay in exchange for watching the place, keeping up the grounds...and it was beautiful, the lake being their favorite mid-day activity. It was only a short walk from the house and it was pretty private. They could go swimming or fishing or take out the small boat. There was a private pier and usually after taking a dip, they would rest in the lounge chairs and watch the sun set.

Blair had flown in the week before, although he was reluctant to take his mother up on her invitation. She had called him no less than five times trying to convince him. Asking, pleading, begging, she even tried guilt...but Blair was still reluctant. Not that he didn't want to spend time with Naomi, he did. It had been a long time since they had taken a trip together.

Jim thought the whole thing was amusing and just didn't see the problem...

That's because the problem was Blair's. He had been working and living with Jim for a few years. His life was filled with his work at Rainier and the station and every spare moment went to working with Jim and his senses. It had been his steady routine for so long...they worked together, lived together, ate together, usually socialized together, went on vacation together...what was it he was so worried about?

Finally Jim called Naomi and told her Blair was coming, made some joke about separation anxiety and that was that.

Now his vacation was almost over. The week went so fast and he was so glad he came.

His mother met him at a small airport in upstate New York and they drove for a while. He filled her in on his life and when they got to the old farmhouse, he called Jim, just like he promised.

Over the course of the week, he pulled out his laptop to email his friend. Jim would update him on the case he was working on, telling him not to worry and to just have fun...and he was.

The wind was picking up as they crossed the graveled road that led to the house. The air was noticeable cooler as they reached the stone path that led to the back porch and Blair wished he had brought his shirt with him.

"Go get cleaned up and changed and I'll get things ready for dinner." His mom pulled open the screen door as Blair dropped their supply bag on one of the rocking chairs that lined the wooden porch.

"What kind of dessert?" he asked, his voice light and amused.

She reached for his arm and pushed him in ahead of her. "Oh no you don't." She shoed him up the back staircase, "and no peeking."

********************

Blair could hear his mother humming down in the kitchen as he searched the dresser for a pair of sweats. The nights got very cold and even though he had the fireplace in his room, he was still freezing when he came out of the bathroom at nights.

He slipped out of his swimming trunks and into his favorite terrycloth robe. It was old and well worn, a present from an old girlfriend, but it was still ultra soft and comfy.

He sat on the edge of the porcelain claw foot tub and reached with both hands to turn on the hot and cold-water faucets. It was a bit odd and took a little getting used too. Normally he was a shower person, his time was limited, but this house didn't even have a shower.

Sinking into the soapy hot water, he took his time, not knowing when the next time would be when he could enjoy a relaxing bath. Running the sponge up his arm, he thought about his plans for the next day.

He was going to get up early and help his mom clean up the house, not that it needed it. She kept it in good order. They would have to pack up the car. He had to pack his bag, but that would only take a few minutes and he had already helped his mom pack her few things the night before.

They needed to make sure that they fed the cat and that they locked everything up. The owners were going to be arriving late tomorrow, so Charlie, the fat cat, should be fine.

His mom was going to drop him back off at the airport that evening and then she was driving on to Canada.

Speaking of the fat cat...

"Hey Charlie..." Blair stood and briskly dried off and wrapped up in his robe. The cat watched the whole time from her perch on the closed toilet seat. "Peeping Charlie."

When Blair walked back to his room, the gray cat jumped down and followed, moving her large head back and forth, following Blair's every move. "You are a creepy cat, you know that."

The only response was a rub against his leg. "Come on Fat Cat, let's go see what mom made for dessert." He picked the cat up, using both hands to support her. "On second thought, I think you need to skip dessert."

His mom was pulling a hot pan from the oven when he came down. The cat jumped from his arms and took up her spot on her bed, walking in a circle, kneading the cushion with her clawless paws a few times before lying down.

Blair sat at the large island, hooking the stool with his foot and watched his mom at work. She wiped her hands on a bright, checkered apron before stirring something in a pot. The kettle started to whistle and within seconds she sat a cup of fruity smelling tea in front of him. "I see Charlie has a new friend," she teased.

Blair glanced at the gray fur ball. She had rolled over on to her back and was showing off her sizable belly, but her piercing green eyes were still firmly on him.

Blair shrugged, sipping the sweet brew. "This is good, mom. What is it?"

"Oh, it's a special blend. I got it from a friend." She pulled a head of lettuce from the fridge and washed it under the running water. "He blends it himself."

"Tastes kinda like banana," Blair observed, rolling a small sip around the roof of his mouth and over his tongue.

Naomi went to work pulling the lettuce apart and chopping up other vegetables to finish the salad. "It's a tropical blend. It has citrus fruits...I haven't tried it yet, but all his blends are wonderful."

She moved the serving bowl to the table, setting out the dinnerware and wine glasses. "I'll pack you some to take home with you."

Blair nodded; opening a bottle of red wine they had bought the morning before. The deep red liquid spilled over the sides of the bottle after the cork popped out and Blair quickly filled their glasses. "Smells great."

His mother smiled as she scooped the eggplant unto the serving tray. "Hmm...let's eat, I'm famished."

Blair pulled out the chair for his mother before sliding into his seat, dropping his napkin onto his lap. Charlie stood and stretched, slinking over and curling up against Blair's feet.

"She's really going to miss you, sweetie."

Blair looked down at the napping cat. "No, she's going to miss me sneaking her my table scraps."

********************

The dinner dishes were clean and put away and his mother insisted that he relax on the small sofa, nestled in the kitchen alcove, while she tidied up.

She brought him another cup of tea and put some in a canister for him to take home. His eyes were getting droopy when he felt a heavy weight on his chest. "Hey, Charlie."

The cat had made her way up onto his lap and was resting on his chest. She purred contently when he scratched behind her ears, moving her head to follow his hand when he started to move it away.

"Ok, the kitchen is done," his mother announced. She took his empty teacup and rinsed it out, drying it off and retuning it to the hook in the hutch. "Let's eat out in the morning," she suggested.

Blair gently dislodged his sleeping companion and returned her to her bed by the wood stove. "Sounds good to me."

"We only have to dust and vacuum," she shut off the lights in the kitchen and headed toward the living room. "I think I'll pack the car tonight. You want to help?"

Blair followed along behind. "Sure, mom."

Together they packed up most of her things and finished the cleaning. Blair fell into bed a few hours later. His mom followed him into his room.

She made a show of pulling the covers up and tucking them all around his chin.

"Moooommmm."

"Come on, Blair," Naomi pouted. "Play along." She ruffled his hair playfully and then her features became serious. "I'm soooo glad you came, sweetie. You've made me the happiest mom in the world this week."

"Mom..."

"No, I mean it. We have to do this more often." Her eyes searched his briefly. "Promise?"

"Promise." He said it without having to think about it and the smile that lit up his mother's face was well worth it.

She leaned down and kissed his forehead and than each eyebrow, the tip of his nose. "I love you, Blair. Good night."

"Night, mom."

She pulled the door closed, but not before the fat cat squeezed her way in. Normally Blair would get back up and put her out, but not tonight...tonight he rolled over and drifted off to sleep with a smile on his face and Charlie pressed firmly against his back.

********************

Something woke him up. He looked around bleary eyed. It was still dark outside; so he squinted at the alarm clock by the bed...it was only 3:17 a.m.

Shifting over to his back, he listened to the sounds of the night. The wind thudded a branch against the side of the house and the cat was still purring from somewhere at the bottom of the bed. Nothing unusual. The light from the hall was coming in from around the cracks of the door, but his mother left it on to make it easier to get to the bathroom, which was on the other end of the hall and down on the next landing.

He rolled back over to go to sleep when he felt a slight twinge in his stomach. Rubbing the spot around his navel, he drifted back to sleep.

This time when he woke up, he knew what the problem was. His stomach was rocking and rolling and he really needed to pee, among other things...

The cat jumped down when he swung his legs over the side of the bed, grabbing for his robe. The night air was chilly against his moist skin, so he pulled his robe tight around him, not bothering with the sleeves. A quick glance at the clock told him it was only

3:52 a.m.

He made his way to the bathroom, trying to miss all the squeaky boards he had become familiar with over the past week, not wanting to wake up his mother.

Going to the bathroom did nothing to get rid of the growing knot in his stomach, so he splashed a little water on his face and hoped it would go away.

Creeping back down the hall, he dropped his robe and slipped back into bed, shivering a little as he tried to get comfortable.

"Man, I so do not need to get sick now."

The cramping and growling seemed to ease as he drew up his knees, so he curled up and tried to go back to sleep.

Twenty minutes later, he nearly bolted from his room, taking no care this time to be quiet. He barely made it to the toilet before his dinner made a re-appearance.

It seemed like forever before the heaving stopped. He was just running a damp towel across his face when he heard a rapping at the door.

"Blair, sweetie? Are you okay?"

He finished rinsing his mouth and did a quick check in the mirror. He looked okay and he felt a lot better....

"Yeah, mom." He opened the door to find his mother, pacing back and forth, her white lacy robe trailing behind her.

"Oh, Blair. I knocked a couple of times, I guess you didn't hear me." She immediately reached for his forehead. "You're not warm, does your stomach hurt?"

"No." He walked out and she walked with him, wrapping her arm around him and helping him back into his bed. "Maybe it's something I ate." And then he realized what he said. "I mean, I mean we ate out today and maybe the meatloaf was bad."

His mother seemed oblivious to it all; she had her hand on his forehead again, deep in thought.

"Mom?"

"It's okay, sweetie. I was just trying to think if I had everything to make something to help settle your stomach. It could be the meatloaf." She smiled and he relaxed a little, rolling onto his side. He really didn't feel sick...just a little twinge here and there...his back was a little achy. Maybe it was just bad meatloaf.

His mother was talking, but he didn't hear her, he was too tired to worry about anything.

********************

Morning came and Blair crawled out of bed, feeling like he'd been run over by a truck. He was still nauseous and his back was bothering him, but it was bearable and he had managed to get some sleep.

He felt almost human be the time he bathed. He decided to skip shaving, he still had the weekend off, so it didn't really matter, and he just didn't feel like it. Looking into the mirror, he started the process of untangling his wet hair. Once the task was complete and it was mostly dry, he pulled it back into a ponytail. He wanted it out of his face and off of his neck because he was still feeling warm.

He turned when he heard footsteps in the hall.

"Blair, sweetie?"

"I'm in here, Mom." He opened the door, letting out the steam from his bath.

"How are you feeling this morning?" his mother asked. She was carrying the cat, so he reached out and scratched Charlie's head.

"Better, I think." Blair didn't miss the frown on his mother's face. "It might be the flu or something," he amended with a tiny smile.

"You still look a little pale." She ran her free hand across his cheek. "I'll finish up, sweetie. We can go whenever you're ready. I thought we could try to get a little food into you and see how it goes."

Food was the last thing he wanted and he was about to tell her so.

"Before you say no to eating, you have to at least try, besides, you have to make sure you get plenty of fluids." She put the cat down and moved into Blair's temporary room. "I made up a thermos with tea and some dry toast."

Blair sank into the overstuffed chair by the fireplace as she began to strip the bed and make it up with fresh sheets from the linen closet. Once the bed was remade, she put the used linens in the laundry chute. "I'll help you finish packing your things and then we can see if you can eat and keep it down. If we have to, we can rent a room in town for a few days until you're feeling better."

"Mom, I'm fine." Mostly...anyway. "Besides, what about your trip? If you're not in Montreal by tonight, you'll miss your group."

She picked up his shaving kit and put it in his overnight bag. "Blair, don't be silly...you're more important. I can always see Alaska...I've seen Alaska. I can call Jacob and tell him I can't make it." She turned to him with a look on her face that he couldn't really remember seeing before, but he couldn't let her ruin her plans for a simple case of the flu...or food poisoning, or whatever...

"Mom, I'm fine, really...let's go get that toast."

********************

Part two

Okay, so he wasn't fine. When his mother went to put his bag in the car, he made a beeline to the toilet...it had to be the flu. If he didn't eat, he should be fine.

Just then his stomach did another roll. "Please be fine," he repeated.

"Blair?"

"I'm up here," he called. The cat sat watching him. "I um, I'm saying goodbye to Charlie."

He patted her head and then ran his hand down the length of her back, smiling as she arched upward so she wouldn't lose contact with his hand.

He picked her up and carried her down the steps, placing her on her bed as his mother checked all the locks one more time. "Don't forget your thermos, sweetie," she reminded when she came back into the kitchen. "Ready?"

"Yup." They made sure the back door was secure before going to the car. Blair offered to drive, but his mother declined.

"You just relax and take in the sites. The mountain range really is beautiful." They both buckled in and set out for the airport. It was an hour ride and although his flight was still hours away, they decided to drive there and have lunch in town, do some shopping, maybe check out the local art gallery.

About twenty minutes into the ride Blair started to fidget in his seat. "Oh, not now..."

"What was that?" Naomi asked, glancing at him from over the rim of her sunglasses.

"I said I think I drank too much tea. You think there is a rest area around here?" He shifted again...this just totally sucked.

"I'll find one for you," she promised.

Ten more minutes and he was running into the stall. Not sure how he managed to not redecorate the interior of his mother's car, he heaved the tea he drank into the dingy, stinky toilet bowl.

That was it, he was determined not to drink or eat anything else, at least not until he got home and he could be a little more comfortable about where he puked.

Maybe he could take an earlier flight. Lunch and sight seeing lost its appeal and he didn't want his mom to miss out on the opportunity to go on an Alaskan cruise.

He used the pay phone by the information stand. There was an earlier flight, but it had a thirty-minute lay over. He would still be home hours before schedule.

Now all he had to do was figure out a way to tell his mother.

********************

"Mom, I really don't feel so hot, so I think I'm just going to cut the day short and head out early." There, he said it.

Naomi stood by the car door, poised to get in. Blair was already sitting in the passenger seat, too woozy to stand up for too long.

"What?" She sank into her seat, turning the ignition and the much needed air conditioning on.

Great, here we go... "I just don't feel so good, so I thought I just go home a little earlier, that's all.

"Well, if you're sure sweetie." She backed out of the spot and pulled onto the highway.

Okay, so that didn't go so well. "Mom, don't be mad. I just think I've got the flu and I'm not going to be any fun. And I really, really want you to make your trip."

"But I told you..."

"I know, and I love you for that...but please, mom, go and have fun and don't worry about me. I'll be fine and in a day or so I'll be good as new." Blair smiled at her, waiting to see what she was going to say.

"Well, if you're sure..."

"I'm sure." He relaxed against the seat, sighing when she patted his thigh.

"Okay, sweetie."

The rest of the drive went smoothly and Blair just made his flight. He called the loft and got the machine, so he left a message asking Jim to pick him up earlier. He also tried the station; even though Jim told him he had the day off. He left a message there too, saying that if Jim were unable to pick him up, he would just take a cab.

Naomi hugged and kissed him despite his warnings about getting his germs. "I love you, baby, germs and all."

"I love you too, mom." Blair held her for a few minutes until he heard the final boarding call. "I gotta go."

She hugged him again, squeezing his hand as he pulled away to board. "Feel better soon."

He smiled and nodded his head. He really did hope so too. He didn't want to get sick on the airplane, but he only had a two and half hour flight before his layover and hopefully he would start to feel better soon.

The plane wasn't too crowded and he had no problem stowing his bag in the overhead compartment. He reached up and pushed his bag to the back when a fierce burning pain hit and he nearly doubled over. The stewardess was just closing the heavy outer door, but she noticed him and came over.

"Sir, is there something wrong?"

He shook his head, even though the pain was coming in waves and he knew he was sweating, a fine trickle made its way down his neck and into his shirt collar. "I just got a stomach cramp," he managed between clinched teeth.

He sank down into his seat, thankful that his whole row was empty. She was still standing beside him, apparently trying to decide what to do. Blair could hear the engines getting louder and the plane jerked as they moved to taxi onto the runway.

"I'm fine, really." He looked up into her worried eyes. "I think I have a case of the flu, been kinda sick the whole day..."

She hesitated for a few seconds and then the fasten seatbelt signs came on and her co-workers were stepping into the aisle, holding up the safely instruction cards. "Okay, I'll bring you something for your stomach and some ginger ale as soon as the captain takes the fasten seatbelt warnings off. The bathroom is on the other side of the curtain..." she trailed off as she stood, patting his arm. She joined the others, a smile firmly in place and recited the safety protocols.

True to her word, she returned with a small bottle of liquid antacid and a cup of ginger ale. "Let me know if you need anything."

Blair nodded his thanks, snuggling down into the too small seat. He was grateful that he was close to the rear of the plane and that there weren't too many people around him. The plane climbed higher in the sky, bumping slightly.

Blair hung onto his armrest, bile churning and rolling in his stomach and moving upward. He hesitated for a few seconds and then sipped the cool soda. It felt nice on his dry lips and throat, so he sipped a little more. It seemed to stay down, so he settled back and closed his eyes, hoping to get a little sleep.

People talked quietly, a baby a few rows ahead cried on and off, but for the most part, he just let the noise drift over him, in a semi trance.

After a while, the air in the cabin seemed hot, so he reached up and turned the knob for the air conditioning. It blew out in spurts, but Blair was still sweating. He wiped his hand across his forehead and down his face, loosening the first few buttons on his shirt.

A slash of cold water would do a world of good. He pulled himself up, clutching onto the seat in front of him when his ears started to ring and the world started to dim.

He quickly sat back down, dropping his head into his hands. A stabbing pain started in his side and went straight to his spine.

The stewardess who had talked to him earlier came over to check on him. "Sir, what's wrong?"

"I'm not feeling so good, here." Blair looked up at her concerned face. "Can you just help me up...I need to get to the bathroom?"

Blair pulled himself up again and she helped support him as they made their way back to the small bathroom. They caught the attention of one of the other stewardess and she came to see what was the matter.

Blair slipped into the tiny stall, making it to the toilet and heaving up the meager contents of his stomach. After resting for a few minutes he slashed some water onto his face and wetted a paper towel, ignoring the hushed voices coming from the other side of the door. The dizziness passed, but the pain was persistent. Maybe it was his appendix...that would be his luck.

He sat on the closed toilet seat, feeling a little disoriented. The cool paper towel had already turned warm and as he lifted it back to the sink to wet it, he noticed that his hands where shaking.

What the hell was wrong with him?

The tiny space was getting smaller by the second; the need to get out of it became paramount. Standing carefully, he reached for the door, only to fall backward toward the sink. His last conscious thought was if the plane had hit a pocket of turbulence.

********************

Part three

"Can you hear me, sir?" The voice faded in and out. "Can you open your eyes for me?" It was almost dream like.

A gentle tapping on his face made him want to open his eyes, but his eyelids were so heavy and the darkness seemed to pull at him.

The voices came and went, someone kept touching his shoulder and head. The floor was rumbling, but he didn't open his eyes until he felt like he was falling.

"It's okay." His eyes were blurry, so he squinted to see who was talking. The voice was deep; unfamiliar and he couldn't remember where he was. Panic started in the pit of his stomach, mixing with the bile and he tried to roll over.

"It's okay, we're just landing." The voice soothed, hands trying to hold him down.

"Sick," he managed, and the person must have understood, because his head was turned for him and a basin was pushed under his chin. He flopped back after an eternity of dry heaving. His stomach and throat were on fire and he had a horrible taste in his mouth.

Blair tried to stay calm, but the pain and confusion was too overwhelming. He knew he needed to slow down his breathing, he could hear his own breaths coming in short pants.

Whoever was helping him kept telling him to take deeper breaths, to calm down, that they would be on the ground in a few minutes.

Then he remembered. He was on his way home and he was sick, he thought it was the flu. "What's wrong?" His eyes were at half mass and they felt like they were swollen.

The tires touched down with a jerk and the plane seemed to speed up, the noise much louder from his position, before finally slowing down and stopping. Blair could hear the captain asking all the passengers to remain seated until the paramedics could get in and out.

"...take you to the hospital to find out, okay?"

He nodded his head, feeling strangely detached. Soon the small space was filled with more bodies. "Sir, what's your name? Are you traveling alone? Do you know what day it is?"

The voices overlapped, but he tried to sort them out. "Blair," he managed to slur.

Hands on him seemed to be turning him and lifting him. He cried out, trying to curl back into a ball.

"I'm sorry Blair, but we have to get you into the chair so he can take you to the hospital." He was seated in said chair by the time the sentence was finished and various straps were put into place.

It was much smaller then a stretcher and better able to fit into the tight aisle. He was tilted back and he stifled another sob, noticing the concerned faces of the other passengers for the first time.

They rolled him backwards down the aisle and out of the plane where a stretcher was waiting on the walkway that led to the main terminal. "Okay, Blair. We are going to move you over to the stretcher." The straps were removed just a quickly and he was effortlessly lifted and laid flat on his back.

The next few minutes were a bit fuzzy. They efficiently packed him up to be transported; an IV was started, although they did have trouble finding a vein. His temperature and blood pressure were taken and Blair's vitals were reported over the radio.

The paramedic left in the back of the truck with him sat close, making notes on a steno pad he pulled from a pocket on his pants leg. "I know you have been throwing up. When did it start?"

"Last night, late." Blair tried to hold onto his stomach as the ambulance took a sharp turn. "I thought it was just the flu, but now my stomach is killing me, man."

"Don't worry, the Docs at Memorial are top notch. They'll fix you right up." The ambulance seemed to be slowing down and finally stopped. The back doors opened and the guy with Blair jumped out, helping his partner pull out the gurney.

They fired off Blair's information to the waiting team and before Blair knew what was happening he was looking at a whole new set of faces.

********************

"Mr. Sandburg, I'm Dr. Allen. We're going to take good care of you." Blair looked at the man talking; he was young, about Blair's age. The whole time he talked, the other people were in motion. Someone took his blood pressure again and stuck something into his ear. His clothes were pulled and cut off and his shoes and socks followed. Finally a sheet was hastily placed on top of him.

"Can you tell me where it hurts?" He wasn't sure who was asking, his eyes had closed again.

"Stomach," he said. A few beats later he remember his back hurt too, but before he could tell them, someone put something tight around his arm and told him to make a fist.

Dr. Allen was ordering tests and blood work, a sharp stick at the bend of his elbow made him flinch. Someone shined a light into his eyes and pressed something cold to his chest. "Just listening to your heart."

The sheet was lifted and hands were pressed onto his abdomen. He bit his lip, raising his hand and weakly pushing at the arm of the man.

"Rebound pain and guarding. Blair, does it hurt anywhere else?" The doctor's hands moved over his lower stomach, pressing firmly, bringing tears to his eyes.

Blair nodded his head, his emotions right on the surface. "It sort of wraps around to my back."

He jumped when he felt his leg being moved and hands on some very private parts.

"Okay," the sheet was pulled back up and the crammed room seemed to thin out. "Let's get a CT done." The doctor seemed to be addressing a tall woman to Blair's left. She smiled down at him when he glanced her way. Her eyes seemed kind, her face was rounded, and her long dark hair was pulled back into a high ponytail.

"Put in a folly, I want to monitor his output and I'll write up something to take the edge off his pain and nausea. And can you get a finger stick for me?"

She was pulling things out of the drawers and cabinets, hanging a smaller bag next to the saline solution on his IV pole. The doctor left them alone, pulling the curtain to the cubicle as he left. "I need to put in a catheter, have you ever had one before?"

He nodded his head, uncomfortable and sweaty, yet he waited quietly until she finished. "What's going to happen now?"

"You're going to start to feel better soon." She told him.

He wished he felt as confident.

She was rooting around in a small bin. "The doctor is waiting for an open CT room, then he'll have a better idea what's wrong. But you're stable and the medicine will start to work soon."

Blair gingerly shifted onto his side, very conscious of the tubing snaking down between his legs. "I have to call my friend, he was supposed to pick me up in Cascade."

She had the needed items and was nodding her head. "I'll take care of that. Give me your index finger."

Blair held out his hand and she swiped the tip of his finger with an alcohol pad. "Just a little prick," she warned before poking his finger with a tiny needle and squeezing the tip to pool the blood to a drop.

He watched as she wiped the drop away on a gauze pad and squeezed his finger again until the drop was ready to fall off the tip. She guided his finger toward a small machine and pressed the drop onto a strip she placed inside the device. It made a strange noise as soon as his blood touched it and she pulled his finger away, pressing the gauze back into place to stop the flow of blood.

"What was that all about?" The room seemed cooler now that they were the only ones there. It was hard not to shiver, but he didn't want to move around too much, afraid that the movement would make the constant pain hurt more, or his still queasy stomach to decide to act up again.

"The doc wants to check your sugar levels." She tossed the gauze in the trash when she was satisfied the bleeding had stopped. "How's your pain? Feeling any better?"

He took a second to assess himself. His stomach was still in a knot, but he didn't have an overwhelming need to heave. The pain was still there too, just not as...intense. "It's a little better."

"I'm going to see if I can get your friend." She told him. "Dr. Allen should be back in a few minutes."

********************

A few hours later Blair had finally made it to a semi-private room. His skin was still slick with sweat and he knew his hair was plastered to his head, but at the moment he didn't care.

A CT scan revealed a slightly enlarged pancreas and the need for a few more tests. The next few hours were a blur of activity, people coming and going, poking and prodding.

At some point along the way a nurse had started a separate IV. He traced the tiny tube along his arm and up to the pole standing beside his bed as best as he could. The medicine was giving him a funny disconnected feeling, but at least he wasn't feeling any pain.

He wanted to pull his knees up closer to his body, but he was afraid to move around too much. Reaching up he touched the tube in his nose and the thick piece of tape holding it into place. He knew that if there were anything left in his stomach, he would have lost it when he was trying to swallow the tube that was now tickling the back of his throat. They explained that it was to give his digestive system a rest and to stop him from vomiting, but the damn thing was irritating.

"Okay, Mr. Sandburg. You ready to get cleaned up?"

Blair rolled his head carefully toward the deep voice, squinting at the figure standing just inside the doorway. A man dressed in dark blue scrubs deposited a few towels on the foot of the bed. He too was about Blair's age, but more muscular, with bright green eyes and a very bold head. "You'll feel a lot better after a bath."

Jake. His name was Jake and Blair could remember him helping when the orderly wheeled him up from the ER. Jake disappeared into the bathroom and Blair could hear water running. A bath did sound kinda nice.

"I got a hold of your friend. I told him about your condition and that you were going to be our guest for awhile." Jake reemerged from the bathroom with an armload of supplies; setting everything out on the tray table within easy reach. "The tech will be around in a little while to hook up your phone and TV service, so your friend will call you in an hour or so."

Once he had everything where he wanted it, he dunked the washcloth into the basin and rang it out. "Just relax okay. I'll start with your face and neck. Are you feeling better, are the pain meds kicking in?"

"Yeah." His tongue seemed thick, sticking to the roof of his mouth.

The warm cloth smoothed over his clammy skin, followed by a warmed towel. Jake worked his way down, uncovering only what he was washing, moving over Blair's chest and then his arms, on to his stomach and legs. Blair closed his eyes and let him finish, happy that he was mindful of all his tubes and wires in delicate places.

"How about you just rinse your mouth out? We'll save brushing your teeth and shaving for the morning." He handed a small cup to Blair along with a basin to spit the mouthwash into. It was nice to get rid of the foul taste.

By the time they got to his hair, a pretty blonde came strolling in to announce that she could hook up his phone and TV. It was only $7.00 a day.

"I don't know where my wallet is." Blair suddenly realized his luggage was probably sitting at the Cascade Airport. He would have to ask Jim to pick it up for him. "Did they bring my carry-on stuff with me from the airplane?"

"I'll check your locker." Jake opened the large closet door by the bed and pulled out a backpack. "Is this it?"

"Yup." He rooted through, finding his wallet and handed the pretty girl a ten dollar bill, already feeling hot again as she searched for change.

She told him she would return tomorrow evening for another payment and left as fast as she came.

Jake cleaned up and smoothed down the sheets. "Try to rest until your friend calls."

Blair nodded, already feeling sleepy. He remembered his dry mouth and licked his lips. "Can I have a drink?"

The man walked briskly around the room, putting things away. "Sorry, you can't have anything by mouth. You were in a lot of pain when the doctor went over that part, but we can't give you anything until that tube comes out of your nose."

Blair nodded again, shifted to get more comfortable. He did remember the ward doctor telling him, but it was blurry.

Jake finished up and moved the call button onto Blair's pillow. "You want the TV on?"

"Sure." His eyes drifted close as the sound from the set filled the room before it was adjusted to a lower volume. "Thanks."

********************

When the phone rang, he rolled over to answer it, fumbling the receiver a little before he got a good grip on it.

"Hello?" He croaked, rubbing the sleep from his eyes.

"Blair?"

Relief washed through him as he heard Jim's voice.

"Hey, man." Blair shifted slightly, pulling his sticky skin away from the sheets.

"How you feeling, Chief?"

Way better, man. "Okay, I guess. Better."

"I talked to your doctor and he said everything was going to be fine in a few days. Do you remember what the doctor said?"

Jim was talking slowly and Blair flashed on an image of his friend talking to the little boy from their last case.

"Um, yeah. He said I have pancreatitis."

"Yeah, they have to leave you on the medicine for a few days and see if the swelling is going to go down. I um..." Jim sounded unsure of himself and it worried Blair.

"What is it, Jim?"

"I have to be in court Monday morning and I don't know how long the trial might go."

"It's okay, man. I think I can manage to take care of myself for a few days without you." His words sounded convincing even though he wasn't looking forward to spending maybe up to the next week without a familiar face.

"I know you can. I'll call you in the evenings to make sure everything is okay. And if you need anything, you call me, day or night."

"Okay, but I'm going to be fine." Blair realized that his room was pretty dark, only the glow from the TV lit the room. "What time is it?"

"It's 8:30 here. So it's 9:30 where you are. Look, why don't you get some rest and I'll call you tomorrow."

"Okay, tomorrow," he agreed. "Good night, man."

"'Night, Chief."

Blair carefully laid the phone back on the side table and picked up the remote. He wasn't so tired anymore.

********************

Part four

The sun shined through the semi-closed blinds, spilling the muted light right into Blair's face. He scrubbed his eyes briefly with the ball of his hand, blowing out a puff of air to move his hair out of his eyes.

His door was ajar and he could hear people moving around in the hallway, someone pushing something on squeaky wheels. The sounds of the hospital washed over him, bringing him more awake and with it the persistent pains wrapping around his stomach.

He watched the clock tick off the minutes, sweat trickled down his spine and he squirmed to find a comfortable position.

It seemed like forever until his door was pushed open and Jake came. "Hey, I'm back on my shift. I hope Sally treated you nice."

The nurse's smile was easy as he moved about the bed, checking and recording readings from several monitors.

The night was kind of fuzzy, Blair could only remember a women coming in late to check on him and to give him his next dose of painkillers. He really couldn't even remember what she looked like. "I guess so, I was kind of out of it." He admitted, bringing his knees up, his feet flat on the bed. It didn't seem to hurt as much that way.

"Yeah, I heard she gives out the good stuff. Just so happens I've got your next dose, which is a little overdue." Jake pulled a syringe from his pocket and uncapped it with his teeth, using the port in Blair's IV to deliver the much needed medication.

"I'm sorry for that. We had a bit of an emergency and now I'm behind on all my patients." Jake dropped the used needle into a red bin hanging on the wall. "You should be feeling right as rain in a few minutes."

Blair sighed, as the medicine worked its way through his veins, happy for the numb feeling.

"The doctor wants you up and around today." Jake moved a chair closer to the bed, one of those recliners. It was dark green and narrow. Blair didn't think it looked too comfortable. Jake put a sheet over the fake leather and some sort of large pad on the seat, like the one he was laying on. "I'm supposed to sit you up this morning and then we'll see how it goes."

He pulled back Blair's covers and helped him adjust the thin gown he wore. "Let's see if you can swing your legs over the side."

Blair moved his legs, panting slightly as he was eased into an upright position. A pair of gray bootie socks were quickly and efficiently pulled onto his feet. "Okay, I'm going to hold you under your arm and support you as you walk toward the chair. Just stand up slowly and let me do most of the work."

He stood, clutching the nurse's hand. Although the medicine had kicked in, he still felt as if his insides might slide out of him and onto the floor. He shuffled the few steps to the chair and followed when Jake turned him around and pushed gently on his shoulder to get him to sit. Once in the chair his gown was pulled and maneuvered again and a warm blanket was laid across his legs. Jake pulled the side table closer and sat his phone and remote on top along with the call button.

"I've got to go and check on a few more people and then I'll be back. If you need anything just call."

Blair watched him leave and then tried to shift in the recliner. It was hard to move because his feet didn't touch the floor. After several tries he gave up and laid his head back against the rest, turning on the TV in hopes of finding something good on to distract him.

********************

Several more hours had passed when he next awoke. The sun poured in through his open blinds, it probably was at least noon. Even though Jake had checked in with him a few times, he mostly slept sitting up, which didn't seem to do anything for his aching back and belly. He felt almost like he was a little bloated and he hurt between his legs too.

Time passed, but he just couldn't shift into a comfortable spot and his mouth and throat were so dry. He could feel the tears start at the back of his eyes and he roughly scrubbed them away.

I am not going to feel sorry for myself.

Soon the chair became unbearable, even his tailbone was hurting and he longed to just get back into the bed. Jake had warned him not to try to get up on his own, that he had too many tubes and leads to be moving around, but the pain was coming back with a vengeance and he knew it was still several hours until he got his next dose of meds.

Finally he gave in and pressed the call button.

"Yes Mr. Sandburg?" a female voice cracked over the loud speaker.

"I ah...I want to get back in bed." He wasn't really sure what to say.

"Someone will be in to help you."

Jake breezed into the small room several minutes later, looking at Blair's chart, a slight frown marring his handsome face.

"I can see you're starting to hurt again." He observed, even as he pulled the blanket off Blair, goose bumps raced over his legs and arms. "Let me help you into bed and then I'm going to see who's on call."

He was pulled up and manhandled to the bed, grateful when his head hit the pillow.

Blair dry swallowed. "I know you said nothing by mouth, but my throat is so dry."

Jake patted his leg, "I'll bring you some lemon sticks."

A short while later, the nurse returned, carrying a styrofoam cup. He pulled out a swab and touched Blair's lips with it. It was just damp and smelt of lemon. Jake ran it around the outside of his mouth before telling him to open. A new swab was placed in his mouth and ran along his gums and teeth, and over his tongue. It took away the dry feeling and left his mouth feeling refreshed.

"I'll leave the cup here if you need them. Just do what I did but don't suck on them. I'll see if I can round up some chap stick too."

"Thanks." Blair closed his eyes, exhausted.

"Before you go back to sleep I wanted to tell you Dr. Ward will be in to see you soon. I told him you need better pain control."

True to Jake's word the on call doctor entered an hour later. He seemed like a nice enough man, but he was a little hard to understand. He checked Blair's belly again and asked a ton of questions before ordering a sonogram.

A portable machine was wheeled in a few minutes later.

"I'm just going to take a look at your belly." The doctor informed, squirting something cold onto Blair's stomach.

A wand was gently pressed into him and then moved smoothly over the gel. Soon the pressure was increased and Blair held his breath, closing his eyes tightly.

"Your belly's a little puffy." The doctor observed. "I think I see the problem."

The wand was removed and Blair felt like he could breathe again. "So what's wrong?"

"When you first came in, we thought you were having an acute attack, but since your pain is not responding like it should to the meds I suspect it might be chronic. The scan shows some stones blocking your bile duct."

"What does that mean?" Blair nodded gratefully to Jake as he wiped the slime off his stomach.

"I'm afraid that they will have to be removed surgically."

"Wh…what?" He could feel the blood rushing from his face.

"We'll have to wait until you've recovered a little more, but once the stones are removed you should fully recover and hopefully not have any reoccurrences." The doctor flipped through his chart, making a few notations before handing it to the nurse.

"I'm writing orders for a pump. You'll be able to self-medicate and that way you should be more comfortable and get some rest. We'll talk more about the surgery once you're a little more recovered." The doctor patted his leg through the blanket before leaving.

"I'm going to get what I need to set up your pump. I'll be right back." The nurse left and returned a short time later.

Blair was just drifting, not really feeling like being alert and talkative. He could hear Jake moving around the bed, adjusting the IV tubing.

"Okay, all set."

He opened his eyes to see Jake handing him something. He took the black handle, not really sure what to do with it. Jake guided his thumb to the tip of the wand and pressed down. "You just push the plunger when you feel you need it. If you're at your limit it won't deliver the dose. We'll check back in a few hours to see how your pain control is."

Blair nodded, already feeling the effects of the drugs. His eyes slipped close and he could feel the nurse straighten his blankets before stepping into the hall, the noise from the corridor fading as the door was pulled closed.

He drifted for a time, still feeling a slicing pain in his stomach. He had to press the pump two more times before he was comfortable enough to finally fall asleep.

********************

Blair pressed the pump button again, but nothing happened. He knew from his earlier attempts that the pump made a slight buzzing noise when the medicine was being delivered.

He dropped the wand to the bed, tears welling.

God, this really sucks.

He was hot all over, his hair was pulled back, but the ends were drenched and stuck to his neck

The TV droned on, but it was all just background noise to him. His mind kept jumping from one thought to the next. There was no rhyme or reason. One minute he would be thinking about his work and everything he would have to do once he recovered and then he would start to think about stupid stuff, like he would have to put away his laundry when he got home because the trip was so last minute he left his basket sitting on the end of his bed.

Then he would start to think about home and how it would really be nice to have a familiar face around to distract him.

His sheets felt wet and he wondered if the night nurse would be coming in to sponge him down.

He tried the plunger again, but no noise meant no medicine so he squirmed to find a spot that brought some kind of relief.

The tears dropped now, halfway to turning to his side, but he just couldn't make it and he flopped back over.

What time was it? It had to be time soon, right?

Did he remember to call his mom? Where was his cell phone anyway?

If he could just shift his hip, even a little...

God, please, please, please...nope, still no noise from the pump...

Come on...what time was it. The hall lights were dim, all the lights in his room were off...

His hand reached for the wand, but brushed the phone instead. He punched in the number known by heart and sobbed when a voice came on telling he had to dial one for long distance calls. Carefully he dialed again and it rang. He wiped his eyes and nose, knowing that Jim would hear that he was crying.

The mechanical voice of the answering machine toned and he nearly lost it again, but maybe Jim would pick up.

"Um...it's me. Can you pick up? I ah...what time is it anyway? You're probably in bed, right?" his voice cracked a little and he cleared his throat. "I'll call you..."

BEEP

Right.

He guessed he rambled a little too long. Shifting slightly he put the phone back on the table, feeling the wand press into his side. He picked it up, waiting a few seconds, knowing that he probably wouldn't hear the noise even if he did press the button.

He squinted at the machine in the dark, daring it to work. His hand shook as he pressed the button and heard the noise.

Oh god...

He pressed again and again, afraid that he wouldn't hear it.

He had to tell Jim to reset the answering machine...it should be...longer...

Eyes drooping he could feel his breath evening...did he take his whites from the dry...

********************

Part Five

"Mr. Sandburg?" A persistent tapping on his arm brought him back from a drug-induced sleep.

Blair carefully opened his eyes, squinting up at the person hovering over him. A woman dressed in a bright scrub top continued to rub and tap at his arm. It took a few seconds for his brain to engage and finally he was able to open his mouth to answer her, even if a slight moan was the only thing that came out.

"Hey there," she smiled. "I had a hard time waking you. How are you feeling?"

He just looked at her, hearing her talk and seeing her mouth move, but he wasn't too sure what she was asking.

It took her a few minutes to record whatever she was writing in his chart and then she made sure the call button and remote were close enough for him to reach. With a final pat to his arm, she was gone.

He looked around, wondering what time it was. The clock on the far wall was still in shadows, so either it was early morning or early evening. He had lost all track of time, usually sleeping most the day and night. The nurses and doctors came on and off, usually waking him for a few minutes to poke around and then letting him go back to sleep.

The one thing that didn't really seem to change was the ever-present pain. Sure, it would dull from time to time allowing him to rest, but it always came back and it seemed that with each new awakening it would be worse.

Dr. Ward had already upped his dose of pain meds two times, but still he would go for a period between doses when he was just miserable.

Shifting carefully to his side, he watched as people walked the halls, trying to judge the time of day by the activity on the other side of his door. The halls were still dim, but people seemed to be moving regularly up and down. He could hear some people talking around the alcove just outside his door. Every once in a while he heard a name, thinking that they must be talking about the patients on his ward.

Soon his door opened and a group of people came in. "Hi, Mr. Sandburg," the only man he recognized said.

Dr. Ward stood off to the side of his bed, a group of men and women around him. The doctor checked the chart and addressed the other doctors in his room. Blair drifted in and out, not really following the conversation going on around him. The doctor seemed to be asking questions about his case and then a young woman stepped up and placed her stethoscope on his chest.

It was odd, because she didn't really look at him.

He closed his eyes again. The shuffling of feet told him that the group had left.

"You okay?" This time when he opened his eyes, Jake was standing at the bottom of his bed. The nurse bent to check a drainage bag hanging off to the side then he moved closer, checking Blair's I.V. tubing and monitors. "You look a little flushed, how's your pain?"

A warm hand rested on Blair's forehead and he shivered. "I'm feeling okay."

"Seems like the night nurse pumped the last of your dose in a few hours ago. The meds should be working pretty good about now." Jake went back to doing whatever he was doing, moving around Blair's room, making little noise, but it was hard for Blair to keep his eyes open.

The shrill of the phone made him jump. He groped the table until he found it and brought the receiver to his ear. "'ello."

"Blair." Jim's voice blasted from the other side and Blair had to pull the receiver back a little.

"Jim, you okay?" He asked.

"Yeah, Chief. I just had been trying to get a hold of you for a few days. Every time I call you're sleeping."

Blair moved a little on the bed, trying to see the clock again. 10:30. Must be day, because he could see the light coming in through the blinds. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be, Chief. I've been talking with your doctor. I guess I...well it's just nice to hear your voice. You had me a little worried after your last call."

What was Jim talking about? "Last call?"

"Yeah, the other night you left a message; sounded a little upset."

"Oh..." Blair moved his hips slightly, sticking to the sheets.

"Well, I'll let you get some more rest. I'll try calling this evening, okay?"

Blair nodded, forgetting that Jim couldn't see him and hung up the phone.

********************

"Excuse me. Can you tell me what room Blair Sandburg is in?" Jim stood just inside the lobby of the hospital. People lingered around some of the tables and chairs that were placed between the gift shop and deli.

The young woman behind the dark wooden kiosk typed his partners name into her computer. "Mr. Sandburg is in room 619." She looked up at him and motioned to a hall that was adjacent to her work area. "You take the green elevators to the six floor."

"Thank you." He headed for the elevators before changing course and entering the gift shop. Jim nodded politely to the elder man behind the counter before moving to the magazine rack on the far wall. He picked out a few for he and Blair and then decided to see if there were any novels Blair might be interested in.

Purchases made he walked to the elevator, waiting as a few people boarded before him. A young doctor punched in his floor and then looked expectantly toward Jim. "Six please."

Once exiting, he read the plague on the wall. The burn unit was to the right, but other room numbers were posted to the left and Jim walked up to the double door, waiting as they parted automatically.

Down the hall a few feet was a nurse's alcove and he found Blair's room to be just across from it. He smiled at the lone nurse that manned the counter. At the door, he waited a brief minute. Listening to the sounds coming from the other side, he found that the TV was turned on, but the volume was low.

When he pushed open the door, the room was fairly dark. A light over the sink was on and some more spilled from behind the partially closed curtain that concealed the other bed. Jim passed the first bed, glad to see that it was empty. He ducked around the curtain and stopped, taking in the figure curled on the bed.

It seemed Blair was sleeping, but not from a natural sleep. He noted the tubes and wires snaking from under the blankets and the one that was up his friend's nose. An oxygen mask was over his friend's face, but Blair's breathing still seemed a little shallow.

Finding a chair in the corner he sat, placing his bag on the air conditioning unit under the window.

A little while later a man entered, pulling the curtain open as he came. "Oh, hello."

"Hi," Jim stood waiting for the newcomer.

"I'm Jake, the nurse on duty today."

"Jim. Jim Ellison." Jim took the offered hand.

"I'm glad you made it to see him." The nurse checked on his roommate, recording Blair's blood pressure and temperature, checking the IV lines. "He had a bit of a rough night."

Jim sat, waiting for the nurse to finish up. "I could tell. I talked to him last night and he seemed a bit...out of it."

"Yeah," Jake untangled a few of the leads and tucked the blanket more snuggly around Blair's shoulders. "The doctors are trying to help him get better pain management. They're going to re-evaluate him this evening."

Jim nodded, but kept silent until the nurse was done.

"I'll be here until eight tonight. If you need anything just buzz me."

Again he nodded, watching as the man made his way to the door, closing it quietly behind him.

Alone again, Jim scooted closer, carefully taking Blair's hand in his. "I'm here buddy...you just get some more rest."

********************

Blair started awake and pain blossomed through his gut. With eyes half opened he rubbed at his eyes, hand bumping into the oxygen mask. He searched the bed near his side for his hand pump, wanting to medicate himself and go back to sleep. It seemed that sleeping was all he did most days and it was a reprieve of sorts.

"Here you go, buddy." The wand was placed firmly in his hand and Blair slowly turned his head to see who was talking. Jim sat close, his knees almost touching the bed.

"Jim?" Relief washed over him, a flood of tears followed.

"Shhh. It's okay." His friend gently wiped his face with a tissue. "It's going to be okay."

"How did you get here?" Blair tried to shift, if even a little. His back was killing him, but he didn't want to dope himself up if Jim was here.

"Well," Jim said. "I got on a plane."

Jim smiled at him, helping Blair move onto his side. "I got done with the court case and flew out as soon as it wrapped."

"What time is it?" Blair tried to see the clock, but the numbers were fuzzy, his glasses were on the bedside table.

"It's almost six in the evening. Tuesday."

"Oh..."

"I ah...I got some magazines and a few books. You feel like reading?" Jim picked up the bag and dug out the scifi book he picked up for Blair.

"I don't think so, but thanks." Blair picked up the clicker and turned up the TV. "Maybe something good will be on."

After surfing the channels twice, he settled on some documentary. The TV droned on, but he really wasn't paying too much attention. It was hard for him to concentrate, he was covered in sweat, his sheets were soaked and he knew that he must smell.

"You need anything?" Jim's voice startled him.

"No, I'm good." His friend studied him for a minute or two and then went back to his book.

Time passed, Blair finally gave in and pressed the pump a few times and was just sort of drifting when the doctor came in. "Mr. Sandburg?"

Another person followed the doctor, both shaking Jim's hand before turning back to him. "I was in a little earlier to check in on you."

Blair had no recollection of the doctor's visit.

"I see that you are still having pain and because of that, we need to try a different approach."

The doctor pulled back his blanket and gently pressed into his belly. "You still have a little swelling. We're going to try a local. It should take care of the pain and allow your body to recover some more so we can schedule your surgery."

The woman standing next to the doctor moved around the room, opening cabinets and pulling out things. "I'm going to leave you in Dr. Archer's hands. She's going to set up your local and I'll check on you again in the morning."

The doctor left, leaving him with his blanket peeled down and shivering. Jim pulled up the covers and patted his shoulder. "It's going to feel better in a few minutes."

"Okay, Mr. Sandburg. I'm going to insert a small catheter into your back. It's the same kind of local we use for laboring women." The doctor arranged the needed item on the side table, and then ducked out of the room for a minute.

Jake came back with her and helped to pull Blair into a sitting position. The rolling table was pulled over and some paper work was place in front of him.

"I just need you to sign here." The doctor then explained what she was going to do and asked if he wanted his friend to stay.

He looked to Jim, nodding.

Jake moved to stand in front of him, pulling Blair so that he was resting his head on the nurse's shoulder.

Blair shivered when his gown was parted, exposing his back and naked rear.

He was glad that Jim still sat in the chair, watching from the corner of the room.

"Okay, just try to relax." Something cool dragged across his back and then he could tell her hand was resting against his spine. "I'm going to numb you now."

The needle pierced his skin, burning as it went in.

"Just a little more."

He couldn't feel anything that time, but he couldn't stop shaking against the nurse. Warm arms held him and he didn't know why, but the tears started all over again.

Jim moved to stand by Jake, taking one of his lax hands. "It's okay, Chief. Just relax."

He nodded against the nurse's shoulder, tensing when the doctor announced that she was putting in the catheter.

He listened to the movement from behind and then felt a weird sort of pressure on his spine.

"All done." He was quickly laid flat and his blankets were pulled up to his chest. "Let me know when you feel anything." His legs were tingly and he told her so. "That's normal. Soon your whole lower body will be numb."

She stayed for a while, noting any changes. After a few minutes he couldn't feel his legs, a weird weight settled into his gut and moved right down to his toes. Jim stood close by, still holding his sweaty hand.

After a while his frame was racked with chills, but he felt hot...really hot.

"It's just a side effect." The doctor told them. "It will pass."

An hour later the doctor left them and Jake returned. "I'm going off duty in a few minutes." The nurse told them. "In the morning if you feel up to it, we'll get you cleaned up."

A little later Jim came out of the bathroom with a washcloth. "How about I wash up your face."

The cloth moved over his face and neck and Jim even ran the cloth under his arms. He felt a lot better after his impromptu bath and closed his eyes, finally falling into a natural sleep.

********************

Part Six

A few days later, Jim was still occupying the same chair.

He spent most of his day with Blair, only going back to the hotel by the airport in the evenings to eat and rest.

He had called Simon with regular updates, pleased when he entered Blair's room the day before to find a large plant from the guys at the station. Simon and Megan had called a few times too, which really seemed to lift his friend's mood.

Ever since they had gotten Blair's pain under control, it seemed that his friend was getting back to normal.

Well, as normal as Sandburg could be.

Blair would sleep well at nights and stay awake comfortably during the days, reading or watching TV. He had to stay in bed because of the epidural, but he could at least sit up, sometimes playing cards with Jim or Chess purchased from the local Wal-Mart.

The doctor had been in that morning already and had told them that the surgery was scheduled for later in the day. Blair seemed okay with the news, but Jim could tell he was a little tense.

"You want to watch some TV?" Jim asked, scooting his chair a little closer to reach the TV remote.

"I guess." Blair raised the head of the bed a little, settling a stray pillow under his right arm.

During the day nurses would come in and move him, because he was unable to move his lower body on his own, the down side was that because he couldn't feel anything, he was at a greater risk for bed sores.

"That's good."

Jim stopped on the morning show, watching his friend watch the banter between the two TV hosts.

Jim decided to read some more of his book. Several chapters later his stomach rumbled.

"Hey, man. Why don't you head down to get some lunch?" Blair flicked off the TV and lowered the bed. "I think I'm going to take a nap."

Jim stowed his book in the bedside table drawer before standing and stretching. "You want me to help you onto your side?"

"Nah, I'm good."

He pulled the blanket a little higher, smiling when Blair swatted his hand away. "Be back in thirty." He said, moving to the door.

"I'll be here," his friend tossed back as Jim quietly closed the door.

********************

Later in the morning a nurse came in and shot something into Blair's I.V. line. "Someone will be in soon to move you to the operating room."

Twenty minutes passed and he started to worry that Jim wasn't going to get there before they took him into the O.R. He occupied himself with the TV, flipping the limited channels, but nothing held his interest.

He had to admit he was a little nervous.

"Hey, you ready for a ride?" Jake stood in the doorway.

He looked beyond the nurse, hoping that Jim would be in the hallway.

Jake moved into the room, followed by another man in scrubs. They pushed a gurney and aligned it with his bed. Both men worked to lift and transfer Blair.

On the way down the hall, he could feel his heartbeat pick up, but he took a few deep breaths, trying to calm himself.

"You okay, Chief?"

Blair craned his neck on the pillow to see his friend walking behind him. "Yeah. I thought you weren't here."

"I was talking with your doctor." Jim moved to his side as they waited for the elevator. "I'm sorry."

"It's okay, man. I'm just a little nervous." The door parted and several people exited the compartment. He was pushed forward into the small space, relieved that Jim had joined them.

The bell dinged each time they passed a floor and once the doors opened they were moving swiftly again. The halls were deserted, not too many doors lined the sides. At some point Jim had grabbed his hand and Blair wasn't quite ready to let go yet.

The orderly used a key card to open a wide set of double doors and Blair found himself parked in a hallway.

"There's a waiting room at the end of this corridor." The orderly indicated the room and left them alone.

"Well," his friend said. "I guess I'll see you in a little while."

Blair nodded, watching Jim until he disappeared around the corner.

It seemed like a long time until someone came up to him and checked the band on his arm. "Okay, Mr. Sandburg." The woman unlocked the brakes on the gurney and pushed him down another hall.

The doors at the end opened and he passed through a few small rooms. People moved about, talking. He was parked again, but soon a person in a surgical mask checked his band again and rolled him into a large room. Bright lights hung from the ceiling and an ominous looking table took up the middle of the room.

He was helped onto the table, large sheets were quickly draped over him and his gown was pulled from his body. Someone pulled the arm with the I.V. out from his body and it was strapped down to the extended armrest. His other arm was left alone for the moment as people bustled around him.

The stereo was turned on and he was asked what he liked to listen to. "Anything is fine."

The stations flipped, finally settling on an easy listening channel. The sheet covering him was pulled up and clamped to the poles on either side of him, cutting off his view of his lower body. Cool air rushed over him as the other end was hiked up, leaving his lower regions and legs bare. Seconds later another sheet covered his hips and legs, but he could still feel the cool air of the room caress his belly.

More people came in and his other arm was strapped down, a funny cap was put onto his head, his hair briskly tucked in. A face hovered over him and someone patted his shoulder. "I'm going to be moderating your vitals. If you feel anything, you need to let me know."

He nodded, not recognizing the voice.

Another person leaned around the drape that blocked his view. "I'm Dr. Morgan,

Mr. Sandburg. I'm going to be doing your procedure."

She had a soothing voice and bright blue eyes, but the mask she wore obscured the rest of her face. "The epidural will keep you from feeling any pain. You can expect some pressure, pulls and tugs, but no pain, okay?"

He nodded again, closing his eyes. He was sleepy, but he knew he was going to be awake for this operation. Dr. Ward explained that it was going to be done with several small incisions and a special instrument that let the doctors see inside of him. He would be able to recover faster and get home sooner.

"Okay, we're starting."

He spent the next few minutes looking at the ceiling, the pole that held his I.V., the far wall full of equipment, and down at the drape that covered him. Every once in a while he could feel a tug or some pressure, but it wasn't too bad. A few times he was sure he had nodded off, but even with his eyes closed he could hear the radio and the quiet chatter of the people in the room with him.

Before he knew what was happening, he was being lifted back onto a gurney. "We'll take you to recovery for a little bit and then you can go back to your room."

In the recovery room a nurse pulled the catheter from his back, slowly the feeling returned to his legs and he bent them, resting his feet on the mattress. His belly was sore, but not nearly as painful as it was.

The nurses checked in on him regularly and finally he was released to his own room. Jim joined him in the hall and rode up with him in the elevator. "How ya feeling, Chief?"

"Better."

Soon he was snug in his bed, resting comfortably on his side, a few pillows supported his back. Jim stayed close, only leaving his room to have lunch and make a few phone calls.

Later in the day Jake came in to tell him the doctor would be by soon to remove the tube up his nose and that he could have his catheter removed.

"Once the tube is out, he'll put you on a soft diet." Jake said, taking care of another uncomfortable tube. "I'll bring you a tray later tonight."

"When can I get up?" Blair asked, shifting a little.

"Probably this evening."

Jim came in as Jake left. "Good news, Chief?"

"Yeah. Dr. Ward will be by soon and I'm hoping he'll say when I can get out of here."

His friend took his usual seat and Blair went back to the magazine he was reading. It was almost dinnertime when Dr. Ward came in. "How are you doing?"

"Better." Blair watched as the doctor lifted the sheet and checked his belly. He had a few small band-aids around his stomach and gauze covering his belly button.

"Everything looks good. Let's get that tube out." Blair was handed a basin and the doctor opened a few packages of gauze. "I want you to take a deep breath and hold it. Don't be alarmed if your nose bleeds, that's pretty common."

The tube was quickly pulled free and Blair had the urge to vomit. After a few steady breaths his stomach was back under control.

"I want you to get up and walk around a little this evening and I'll have a food tray sent in. Do you have any questions?"

"When can I go home?" Blair asked.

"Maybe the day after tomorrow. We have to make sure you can hold down food and move your bowels." The doctor cleaned up the area before leaving.

Jake came in a little later with a food tray. Jim stood to help Blair, stuffing a few pillows behind his back as he raised the bed.

"You can get up and move around after you eat." Jake told him. "You can walk in the halls and use the bathroom, but no shower until tomorrow."

Blair sipped on a clear broth, watching a game show on TV. Even though his dinner was plain, it was still very tasty. He finished off his jello and juice before pushing the tray away from him.

"All done, Chief?" Jim asked, moving the table away.

"Yeah. I think I want to try to get up." His friend helped him, wrapping another gown around him as a robe and steadying Blair when he stood.

"Okay?"

He took a minute then nodded, moving his feet slowly toward the door. He was a bit dizzy, but Jim's strong arm around his waist helped and soon he was making a circuit around the ward. They ended up in the waiting room and Blair stood near the large window overlooking a pretty big city. "Hey, Jim?"

His friend stood next to him, staring out over the city lights. "Hmm."

"Where are we? What city?" Blair turned, catching his friend's smirk.

"Welcome to Detroit." Jim said, laughing as they made their way back to Blair's room.

********************

The cabin was dim and Jim looked over his sleeping roommate. The airline that Blair had used offered to fly them in first class for the price of coach, so his friend would have enough room to rest and not have to worry about being jostled by the other passengers in tighter quarters.

They had been in the air for almost three hours and Blair, although feeling much better, still slept a lot.

His partner mumbled something in his sleep and Jim pulled the light blanket up a bit, tucking the corners around Blair's shoulders. It had been ten days since Jim had gotten the call informing him that Blair was in a hospital in Michigan and another five before Jim could get to him.

A flight attendant came by and removed a dinner tray from in front of Jim. It was Blair's, but his friend only picked at the chicken and rice. Jim kept it for a while in hopes that he might eat some more. Blair's stomach was still a little tender, but he was keeping down his food and was able to use the bathroom with no problems. The doctors cut him loose earlier the evening before and Blair came back to Jim's hotel to spend the night.

In the morning, the afternoon flight was arranged and Blair was able to get in touch with his mother. From Blair's end of the conversation, it seemed that his mother was a bit upset, but Blair calmed her down pretty quickly.

"Jim?"

He shifted to his side, facing his friend. "You okay, Chief?"

"Yeah. Are we almost home?"

A small smile lit Jim's face. "Yeah buddy. Won't be long."

********************

The loft door opened and Blair moved to the couch, gratefully sinking into the soft comfort.

He watched as Jim carried his luggage up to his bedroom then returned to help Blair remove his shoes. "I picked up your suitcase before I left," Jim told him. "And I put away your laundry, so if you want to lay down..."

"Maybe later." A small smile turned the corner of Blair's lips. "You put away my laundry?"

"Sure," his friend said. "I wanted to make sure everything was ready for when you got home."

Jim busied himself in the kitchen and Blair turned on the TV. A sandwich and bottle of water were placed in front of him. "Thanks, man."

"No problem." Jim ate his own sandwich while sorting through the mail.

It was getting late, but Blair didn't want to go to bed just yet. It was so nice to be back home.

He ate most of his sandwich, debated on taking a shower, but decided to turn in instead. "I'm going to hit the sack," he told Jim.

His friend nodded, picking up both plates as Blair made his way to his bed. Everything was just as he left it, well except the basket he left on his bed was gone and his clothes were put away. The blanket on the bed was turned down and he realized that Jim must have done it over a week ago.

Suddenly tears flooded his eyes and he wiped at them as he crawled into his bed and covered up. It was silly, really...but at least these tears were for a very different reason from all the others he had shed over the last week.

He could hear Jim moving around in the living room, shutting off lights and checking locks and then a soft knock sounded on the doorframe.

"I'm heading up Chief. You need anything?"

"No, I'm good....thanks Jim." Blair snuggled deeper into the comfort of his own bed, closing his eyes.

"You're welcome."

Blair sensed his friend was still in his room. "You okay, Jim?"

"Yeah, Blair." Jim moved backwards, pulling the door half way closed. "Welcome home, Chief."

And then Blair could hear feet on the steps and the springs from the mattress above as Jim lay down.

Home.

He was finally home.

********************

The end

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