A BIG thanks to Renee and Starfox for beta-reading.
Summary: An intruder instantly changes the lives of both Blair and Jim - and not for the better.
Out of Commission
by Susan W
"Where's Sandburg?" Simon asked, wondering where he could be since he was always there clinging to Jim like a bad case of body odor.
"Oh," said Jim as he scanned through crime photos that were just brought in, "he ran home to grab a couple of files I forgot to bring in."
As Blair approached the door to their loft, he noticed that it was slightly ajar. What the…? I could have sworn I locked that door when I left? Cautiously he pushed the door open and entered the room. Oh my God! The room was trashed.
Just then he heard the crash of a lamp and his heart started to race. He went to the phone and quickly paged Jim. Another crash. Blair spun around and grabbed a large kitchen knife. The knife shook as his hand started to tremble nervously. He grabbed it with both hands to keep it steady. Calm down - you can do this. Jim is on his way. There's nothing to be nervous about. Just relax.
The noise grew louder as he slowly ascended the stairs to Jim's bedroom. He took a deep breath and swallowed when he reached the top. It seemed to take an eternity. There he saw the intruder pulling out the dresser drawers and dumping them on the floor. This is a bad idea man. Seeing what he was up against there was no way he could turn back now. It was now or never.
"Who the hell are you and what are you doing here?" he yelled.
Startled, the intruder practically jumped three feet into the air. He said nothing. He was all dressed in black with a ski mask so Blair could only see the intruder's eyes. They stared at each other. It was only for a split second, but it seemed like forever. Just then the ringing phone interrupted their stares. Trying not to let the phone distract his attention away from the intruder, Blair repeated the question.
"Who the hell are you and what are you doing here?!" This time his voice cracked as he waved the knife at the intruder hoping to scare him off.
Just then police sirens could be heard in the distance and Blair started to feel a sense of relief. But Blair wasn't the only one who heard the sirens and the intruder wasn't about to give himself up without a fight. Without warning, the intruder lunged. Blair raised the knife to protect himself, but it was caught in mid-air by a powerful arm that was three times the size of his. The intruder was much taller, over six-feet and weighed two times that of Blair. The knife fell out of Blair's hand as they continued to struggle at the top of the stairs.
The sirens were getting closer and closer.
After Blair suffered numerous blows, the intruder gave a rapid karate kick, which sent Blair flying backwards down the stairs to the hardwood floor below. Peering down from Jim's bedroom, the intruder grinned at Blair's lifeless body lying at the bottom of the stairs. Wasting no time the intruder ran down the stairs, through Blair's room and down the fire escape.
A few minutes after the intruder fled, Jim was the first to arrive at the loft. With gun in hand he didn't waste any time getting inside. The place was totaled. It looked as if it were hit by a tornado. His heart raced. "Blair! Blair! Where are you?"
Just as he headed to Blair's room he caught something out of the corner of his eye. He turned to see his Guide lying unconscious at the bottom of the stairs. "Oh my God! Blair!" Jim ran to his side. As he reached him he noticed a puddle of blood beneath Blair's head. He placed a gentle hand to Blair's chest. His heartbeat was faint. At least there's a heartbeat.
Simon and the rest of the police force came rushing in.
"Jim? Jim?" Simon called.
"Simon, over here!"
"Quick, grab some towels from the bathroom!" Jim removed his shirt and placed it underneath Blair's head to stop the bleeding.
As Simon ran to the bathroom, he yelled to one of the officers. "We need an ambulance, now!"
Simon quickly emerged from the bathroom with towels in hand. "Here Jim, we'll continue to apply pressure until the medics get here."
After a few minutes had passed Simon looked over Blair's condition. "It'll be okay Jim. It looks like we've got the bleeding under control for now."
"The medics are here!" shouted one of the officers.
Jim and Simon sat quietly in Blair's hospital room, as he lay motionless. Blair could hear voices around him as he strained to open his eyes to focus on the blurred faces. He looked disoriented as he scanned his surroundings.
"Where am I?" He asked in a raucous voice.
Jim got up quietly and walked over to Blair's bed. "Take it easy Chief, try to relax," he said in a gentle tone.
Blair felt different - something wasn't quite right. Something was very, very wrong. Not only could he feel it, but also he could see it in the eyes of his Blessed Protector and Simon. Just then terror exploded through Blair's system and his eyes grew large. Sweat started to bead on his brow as his breathing and heart rate increased. The room seemed to spin out of control.
"Jim!" Blair cried out, "Something's wrong! I…I can't move my legs!" Tears ran down his face as he helplessly looked at the two men standing before him and wondered why they weren't saying anything.
"My legs! What happened to my legs?! Will someone tell me what's going on?!"
Jim didn't know what to say. Well, what could he say, Well Chief, you fell down a flight of stairs injuring your spinal cord and now your legs are paralyzed. How could he put it into words? It certainly wouldn't sound any more comforting coming from the doctor.
"Try to relax Chief. I'll tell you everything we know right now, okay?"
Jim pulled a chair close to the bed and held Blair's hand to try and keep him calm.
"When you paged me, I called the house and there was no answer. I sensed that something was wrong. When we got there, the place was trashed and we found you lying unconscious at the bottom of the stairs."
"What about my legs? Is it permanent? Please tell me it's not permanent Jim."
Jim and Simon looked at each other for answers.
"We don't know," Jim replied back to Blair.
Just then the doctor came in. "Excuse me, I'm Dr. Maxwell."
"My legs! I can't move my legs!"
"Yes, try to relax Mr. Sandburg."
"Is it permanent?"
"Well, we're not sure."
"Not sure? What do you mean you're not sure?!?"
Jim tried to calm Blair down. "Relax buddy, relax."
"Relax?!?" Blair questioned harshly.
"Mr. Sandburg, there was an extensive amount of damage done to your spinal cord due to the fall. We believe you suffered several fractures to your lower spinal column. There's also major nerve damage and swelling that could be causing a temporary paralysis to your legs. We won't be certain as to whether the paralysis is permanent or not until we run more tests."
As Jim was getting up from his desk and about to head out the door his desk phone rang.
"Mr. Ellison this is Dr. Maxwell, Blair Sandburg's doctor."
"Is Blair okay?"
"Yes, he's fine, I have some news to share with you if you wouldn't mind stopping by my office this evening."
"Sure. I'll be there shortly."
Simon came out of his office. "Everything okay Jim? Is Sandburg alright?"
"Yeah Simon. Blair's doctor wants to see me."
After seeing the doctor, Jim went straight to Blair's room. Jim opened the door to a dark and tranquil room. The only light coming in was from the moon shimmering through the window that overlooked the parking lot to the hospital. There he saw the silhouette of his Guide sitting in a wheelchair and glancing out at the trickling rain. All that could be heard were the raindrops bouncing off the window.
"Hey buddy, what's going on?" Jim said as he started walking towards Blair.
Silence - no response.
Worried, Jim paused near the hospital bed and turned on the light above the nightstand. He approached Blair vigilantly as he continued to stare out at the rain. He knelt down before his Guide and touched his arm. Sandburg closed his eyes and didn't say a word.
"What's wrong Chief?" Jim whispered softly.
Blair opened his eyes as tears rolled down his cheek. His eyes were bloodshot and his hands were trembling.
"I'm scared Jim. I'm really scared."
Jim got up and cradled Blair in his arms. "It's going to be okay, Chief."
Blair's cries intensified. "But what if it isn't, Jim? What if I never walk again? I don't want to be like this. I know there are a lot of people in this world who are in wheelchairs and have been their whole life. But I want to walk again. I don't think I can handle this."
Gently, Jim stroked Blair's back to try and soothe the pain in his heart. "Chief, listen to me. The reason I'm late getting up here is because your doctor wanted to see me."
Blair started to panic. "Why? What's wrong?"
"Shhh…it's okay. There's nothing wrong." Jim reassured him. "Apparently there's a surgeon in New York who may be able to help you. Your doctor would like to fly him in to do surgery on your back, but only if you're willing."
Blair perked up right away with a huge smile on his face. "Of course I want the operation Jim!"
"Now…now…hold on buddy. It's not full proof. Only 60% of the patients who have this operation are able to walk again after a few weeks, sometimes even a month. The other 40% don't show signs of any improvement. I want you to think about this Chief. If you have the operation, the odds of you…"
"Jim, I know those aren't the greatest odds, but even if my odds of walking were only 30%, I still need to take that chance. I can't pass up this opportunity and always wonder what if."
Jim nodded. "Alright. I'll call your doctor."
"Mr. Ellison, as soon as the operation is over the doctor will be out to see you."
Simon and Brown came down the hall.
"Hey, Jim. Did Sandburg go in yet?"
"Yeah Simon. They just took him. The doctor will be out when the surgery is over. They said the surgery would last about five hours."
"Well why don't you join us for breakfast while you wait."
Jim shook his head. "Thanks Simon, but no. I think I'd rather stay here and wait if that's okay with you."
"Sure Jim. Call us as soon as you get word on Sandburg's condition?"
Jim sat in the lobby and glanced at the patients in wheelchairs and gurneys passing by. Perhaps I should stop by the chapel. I'm not much of a praying man but if it will help Blair, by all means everything is on the line right now.
The chapel was empty and Jim sat in the last row and glanced up at the large cross that hung in the front. Hello God, it's me - Jim Ellison. If you're listening, and I hope you are, you know that I'm not much of a praying man, but I need to ask a favor. Blair needs your help. Whatever the outcome may be - good or bad; I want you to give Blair the strength to move on. He can rise above this - just like he has during a lot of situations he's gotten into or I've gotten him into. Both of us have been through some tough times, but we both know that this is the hardest obstacle we've ever encountered. Please watch over him and keep him safe. Well, I guess that's it for now. Thanks for listening.
After returning to the lobby the surgeon appeared from the emergency room and removed his mask. Jim stood up quickly and walked towards him.
"Yes. How's Blair?"
"The procedure went well, but the next couple of weeks will be critical as to whether or not the operation worked. There was a lot of nerve and tissue damage surrounding his spinal cord. We had to put pins in his spine where there was an extensive amount of breaks, especially in the lower part of his back. It may take weeks, even a month before we notice any sign of improvement. Because the surgery was so intense there is going to be additional swelling internally which may lengthen his recovery time. Right now we wait for the swelling to go down before we can make a determination."
"Can I see him?"
"Sure. He's slowly coming out of the anesthetic so he may not be fully awake. I'm afraid I'll only be able to give you five minutes with him."
Jim cautiously stepped into the ICU. The room seemed peaceful but eerie at the same time. The variety of noises from monitors to ventilators made it difficult for Jim to determine which sound was Blair's. But then he saw him. There in the corner of the room was the person he came to see. Cautiously he approached his Guide. There were lots of tubes coming from Blair and he was afraid to touch him. He looked so fragile.
Speaking softly Jim tried to get a response. "Blair? Blair can you hear me?"
Suddenly Blair slowly lifted the lids of his eyes to the familiar voice calling out to him and he gazed around the room. Once he saw his Protector he tried to speak to him. "J…i…m."
"Easy buddy, easy. Try not to talk. I know that's difficult for someone like you, but let me do the talking. Okay?"
Blair grinned slightly and nodded in agreement.
"The doctor said you need your rest, so I can only see you for a minute." Jim reached down and squeezed Blair's hand. "The surgery went well Blair. So you need to get better - you hear me? That's an order." Jim somehow managed to get through his discourse as he tried to choke back the tears that started to form in his eyes and the lump in his throat.
Blair tried to release a smile, but he closed his eyes and fell fast asleep.
"Excuse me," one of the nurses interrupted, "I'm sorry to cut your visit short but we need to run some tests on Mr. Sandburg."
Jim watched as the nurses worked on Blair as he made his way out of the ICU. He didn't want to leave, but he knew Blair was in good hands.
Early the next morning Jim was the first to arrive when Blair woke up. Blair's eyes flickered and he focused his attention on Jim with a puzzled look. "What are you doing here so early?"
"I couldn't sleep. How are you feeling?"
"Ughhh….I'm in a lot of pain." Blair hissed. "My back is killing me and I still can't feel my legs."
"The doctor said it's going to take time to see if the surgery worked."
Just then the surgeon came in the room. "Good morning Mr. Sandburg. I'm Dr. Levy. How are you feeling this morning?"
Jim quickly answered before Blair could get a word out. "He's in a lot of pain."
"The pain medication is probably wearing off. We'll give him some more. In the meantime Mr. Sandburg, I would like to bring you up to speed on the surgery. Due to the immense swelling around your spinal cord, we will not know whether or not the surgery worked until all of that has subsided. That could take weeks or even a month. For the next couple of weeks I need you to strengthen the muscles in your legs and back to get the blood flow moving again. It will help in the healing process."
"How am I going to do that?"
"A physical therapist will come to your home three times a week. On the days he's not there, you will be expected to continue the therapy on your own. And Mr. Ellison here will reinforce that prescription."
"What, no female therapist?"
"Easy there Chief, one thing at a time."
Jim smiled and shook the doctor's hand. "Thanks for everything."
"I'll walk you out."
Jim and Dr. Levy stepped out into the hallway.
"Oh, another thing Mr. Ellison, Blair is going to be in excruciating pain with the physical therapy. We don't want him to become addicted to the painkillers so I recommend Tylenol, a hot shower, or hot compresses for the pain. Nothing more."
The whole time Blair was in the hospital Jim never slept. The apartment was too damn quiet. He couldn't sleep without the soothing sounds of Blair tapping away at his laptop or banging pots and pans in the kitchen. But now with Blair home from the hospital it was comforting. Perhaps Jim could finally get a good night's rest.
The first evening Blair was home Jim could hear him moaning in bed. His Guide was in excruciating pain with his back. Just then, he heard a loud THUD and he flew down the stairs to Blair's room as fast as he could.
"Chief? Are you alright?"
Blair yelled from his bedroom. "Uh…yeah Jim. I…I'm fine. Go back to bed."
Jim wasn't buying it and opened the door. There he saw his Guide lying on the floor face down. "Blair!"
"I…I'm fine Jim."
"No you're not. What were you doing?"
"I was reaching for the wheelchair and I lost my balance."
Just then Jim noticed blood seeping through Blair's shirt. "Blair, you're bleeding!" He reached down and lifted his shirt as the young man started to squirm in pain. "Lie still Chief, you're only going to make it worse."
As Jim looked over Blair's condition, he noticed that several staples were ripped from the lower part of his back. "I'm calling an ambulance!"
Jim sat in the lobby of the emergency room as he awaited word on Blair's condition. Just then the doctor appeared.
"We went ahead and replaced the staples that were ripped out of Blair's back, so he should be ready to go home in a few minutes. However, I'd like to suggest that he have a hospital bed at home instead of a regular one. This way we can raise the railings on both sides to prevent him from trying to get out on his own without supervision and injuring himself even more."
"Thank you. I'll keep an eye on him."
Back at home in the loft, Jim assisted Blair into his new bed.
"Do you really think this is necessary Jim?"
"Sorry Chief. I know how stubborn you can be and besides, it's doctor's orders."
Just then Simon appeared in the doorway. "If that bed keeps you from moving Sandburg I may just get one for the office."
"Ha, ha, ha, very funny Simon." Blair managed to blurt out before he hissed in pain.
"What are you doing here, Simon?" Jim asked.
"Oh, I just wanted to check up on my boys. Uh, Jim, could I see you for a minute? In private?"
"Sure." Jim finished tucking Blair in and closed the door. He walked into the living room where Simon waited patiently.
"What's going on sir?"
"Jim, has Sandburg said anything about the accident yet? Perhaps a description of the intruder?"
Jim sighed. "Honestly sir, I haven't had a chance to talk to him about it just yet. I was hoping to talk to him once he gets his strength back."
"Well let's not wait too long Jim. We've got no clues to go by and Sandburg's the only one who can help us."
"I'll start questioning him the moment he's well enough sir."
It was another long night for Jim and Blair as the two of them tossed in their sleep. Jim gazed up at the ceiling and decided to go downstairs to get himself a glass of water. As he reached the bottom of the stairs another THUD broke the silence of the night. "How in the world?" Jim questioned out loud as he ran to Blair's room and flung open the door. There was his Guide; again, on the floor, but this time he was sitting up with his back against the bed.
"Geez Jim, that was fast. In addition to your heightened senses, you didn't happen to grow wings in the middle of the night did you?" Blair tried to make light of the situation.
"Damn it Blair! What do I have to do? Chain you to the bed?" Jim asked as he reached down to pick him up.
"No! No Jim! Don't touch me."
"Chief, I can't just leave you on the floor all night. And I need to see if you ripped out any of your staples again."
"Trust me Jim, I didn't hit the floor that hard. Besides, I need to be able to get in the wheelchair on my own. You can stand there and watch, but let me do this - please!"
He wasn't about to stand there and argue with the kid let alone watch him struggle and squirm on the floor, so he turned and stood outside the door. The frustration and determination in his Guide could be sensed, but he could also perceive how tired and weak Blair was. Jim closed his eyes and tuned in on Blair's heaving breathing. Just then he couldn't bear the sound of Blair's suffering any longer.
"That's it," he mumbled as he barged into Blair's room. "Chief, I'm going to help you whether you like it or not."
"No! Don't Jim! Please!" He begged his Protector.
But Jim knew what was best for him. He scooped him up in his arms and placed him ever so gently in the chair.
"Jim, I can…"
But Jim stopped him short. "I'm sorry Chief I can't leave you like this."
"Why not?" Blair said angrily.
"Because it's not in my nature. If I sense that you need help, you're going to get help whether you like it or not."
"Jim, if I want your help I'll ask for it," he snapped.
"Fine. If that's what you want." Jim turned to walk away.
"Jim wait!" Blair knew he was wrong for snapping at Jim. He was only trying to help. Blair looked up into Jim's blue eyes and gave him an apologetic stare. "I didn't mean to explode like that, Jim. But you've got to understand…I need to do this on my own. I don't want to become dependent on you. That's not fair to either of us. I promise that if it becomes too much for me and I need your help I'll call on you. But you've got to let me try. Okay?" He looked up at Jim with his puppy dog eyes that Jim could never resist.
Jim didn't want to give in. "Alright. It's not going to be easy, but I'll try to loosen the leash."
The evening seemed to last forever as Jim lay in bed. He couldn't sleep as his senses continued to hone in on Blair's sobbing through the night. He tried to tune him out, but it wasn't working. All he could do was lay there in bed and listen. He had to restrain himself from running down the stairs. If Blair would only call out for me.
The next morning Jim got up bright and early to get breakfast ready for Blair.
"Blair? Are you up?" he yelled turning the bacon over a few more times. "Hey buddy, breakfast is ready!"
"Jim…could you come here for a minute?" Blair called out.
Jim shut off the burners and quickly walked to Blair's room. As soon as he opened the door he saw that the bed was empty and there was Blair again, lying on the floor. "Blair!" Jim reached down. "Blair, your clothes are drenched with sweat! Why didn't you yell for me sooner?"
"Well, I thought I could get in the wheelchair on my own. Doesn't look like it though huh?"
"Come on, let's get you in the shower."
He lifted Blair into the wheelchair and pushed him into the bathroom.
As Jim removed Blair's shirt he winced at the sight of the huge staples in Blair's back from the surgery. No wonder the kid's in pain. Jim kept his eyes focused on Blair's face and avoided looking at his back at all costs. After his sweaty clothes were removed Jim grabbed him from underneath his arms and lifted him into the stall.
"I installed a shower chair to make things a lot easier for you Chief."
Jim set Blair on the chair and stood there for a moment as Blair got himself comfortable. He quickly placed his hands between his legs in embarrassment. This was an awkward moment for both of them.
"Uh…is there anything else you need?" Jim asked, hoping Blair would say no.
"Uh…no…that should do it Jim," Blair said trying to avoid all eye contact.
A knock at the door interrupted the awkwardness between the two men. Jim was relieved by the interruption. Oh, thank God. Saved by the bell.
Jim slowly made his way out of the bathroom. "Okay then. I guess I'll just leave you to do your thing and I'll answer the door." Shaking his head a few times to get the nude picture of Blair out of his head, Jim opened the door. A large burly man dressed in white stood before him.
"Hi, I'm from Cascade General. I'm here to help Blair Sandburg with his therapy."
"Oh yes. Please come in."
"Uh…Blair's in the shower at the moment. Would you like some breakfast?"
"Oh, no thank you."
"Okay, well…uh…Blair!" Jim walked over to the bathroom and opened the door slightly. "Your therapist is here so I'm going to head off to work. Okay?"
"Okay Jim!" Blair yelled from the stall.
"Uh…Blair may need some help in the bathroom, so if you wouldn't mind checking on him every so often to make sure he's okay. And…uh…he hasn't eaten yet, so if you wouldn't mind letting him have his breakfast before he begins his therapy. And…uh…"
"Don't worry Mr. Ellison, he's in good hands."
Another week had passed with the same routine: Blair sobbing in the middle of the night and Jim helping him into the bathroom. Jim didn't mind the routine though. He felt like he was helping Blair in some way. The worst part for Jim was lifting Blair into the stall. The huge staples in his back made Jim sick to his stomach. I'll be glad when the kid gets these removed.
Jim would leave Blair at home with the therapist as he went off to work every other day. It was difficult to concentrate in the office. All Jim could think about was Blair. Did he make it out of the shower okay? Did he eat his breakfast?
Just then, Simon peered out of his office.
"Jim, could I see you a moment?"
Simon sat on the front of his desk. "I have a feeling things aren't going well at home with you and the kid."
"Everything's fine sir. I don't know what you mean."
"Come on now Jim, I know you well enough and long enough to tell when you're lying. Besides, you look like you haven't slept in weeks."
Jim gave out a loud sigh and glanced out the window.
"My emotions are running so high that I…I feel as though my senses are going to explode at any moment. Simon, do you know how hard it is for me to lay in bed at night and hear him fall out of bed? I can hear his heart racing a mile a minute because he's so damn exhausted from trying to get himself back up. Do you know I found him asleep on the floor again this morning?" Jim tried to laugh through the tears that started to form and took a deep breath. "But aside from all that, I am really…scared." Jim turned to Simon. "What if he never walks again Simon? I don't think I could ever forgive myself. Sometimes I wish I were the one lying in that bed - not him."
Simon placed a comforting hand on Jim's shoulder. "You can't think like that Jim, you have to be positive. We all do."
"I know Simon, but it's been three weeks and there's still no sign of improvement."
"Come on Jim, you can't keep beating yourself up over this. These things take time. You and the kid need to be patient."
Jim was silent.
Simon walked over to his desk and sat down. "Tell you what, why don't you take the rest of the afternoon off. We can handle everything from here."
"No, Simon. I need to stay focused and find out who did this."
"Alright. But the moment I see you lapse - you are being put on temporary leave. Understood?"
Early the next morning Blair found himself back at the hospital to finally get the staples removed. It healed up nicely and Jim was just as excited as Blair, if not more, to see them gone.
Instead of working at the office Jim decided to work from the loft. Glancing over at the clock in his bedroom he noticed that it was already twelve o'clock and Blair hadn't come out of his room since they came home from the hospital.
Jim knocked on Blair's door. "Hey buddy, it's twelve o'clock. You should have started your therapy over an hour ago."
No response came from the young anthropologist's room. Jim opened up the door and peeked in to find Blair still lying on the bed.
"Blair? Are you okay?"
"Ugghh…my back is killing me since they removed those staples. I don't think I can do my therapy today Jim."
"Blair, when the doctor removed those he told you that your back would bother you for a while because your spine needs to adjust to the pins. Plus, he ordered you to do your therapy whether or not you're in pain."
"I'll do it tomorrow when my back is feeling better. Okay Jim?"
"No, it's not okay. The doctor said you have a 60% chance of recovery. A 60% chance! Aren't you listening? Now I want you to get your ass out of that bed and over to that bar. If you don't, I'm going to lift you out of that bed and take you over there myself!"
"Jim, I told you my back is…"
Before he could utter another word, Jim lifted him out of the bed so fast it made Blair's head spin. His Protector had him over at the bars and down on the floor before he could say anything. Jim stood over his Guide as he looked up at him in horror.
"Now, I'm going to leave you here and I'm keeping your chair in your bedroom. And you're not getting it back until you've finished your exercises. Understood?"
Blair didn't say a word.
"Good. I'm glad we understand each other."
Jim walked to the kitchen, grabbed his lunch and headed upstairs to his bedroom. "I need to get some paperwork done. I put your lunch on the kitchen counter. When you're finished I want you to go over there and eat it."
"What?! But Jim, it's clear across the room, man! It will take me hours to get over there." Blair retorted as he watched Jim climb the stairs to his bedroom.
"Well, you better get moving then. Your food's getting cold." Jim ordered.
Blair couldn't believe what he was hearing. Jim always placed his food on the table and the two of them ate lunch together. Instead, he placed it in the furthest part of the room and expected Blair to walk over there and eat it.
"I don't believe this." Blair muttered under his breath. He could smell the delicious aroma coming from the counter and glanced over at it.
Jim set his food on the dresser and sighed as he stared in the mirror. He looked down at the plate and pushed it away. He didn't have much of an appetite. He just sat on the bed with his face in his hands and listened to Blair struggle. His eyes filled with tears as he tried to block out the painful sounds below that echoed in his head. It hurt Jim to pretend that he didn't care, because he did. He tried to convince himself that he was helping Blair not hurting him but that wasn't much comfort.
Blair lay on the floor below. He closed his eyes and concentrated. All right, you can do this. Just focus like Jim does with his senses. Block everything else out and focus on the bars. He sat up and reaching with his right hand, he grabbed the bar. Then he reached up with his left hand. He closed his eyes and took a couple deep breaths. After numerous tries, he was finally able to lift himself off the mat. Breathing heavy, Blair just hung there across the bar like a wet t-shirt. He was covered in sweat and his ponytail was dripping from perspiration. After two hours had passed he finally maneuvered himself to the end of the bar. The palms of his hands were red and raw from the constant pulling and tugging.
Taking a few steps from his bedroom, Jim wanted to see how his Guide was progressing. Blair let go of the bar as he tried to take a step towards the kitchen. THUD!!! He went down - face first. Jim closed his eyes and looked away. He couldn't bear to watch. But then he opened his eyes again.
"Damn it!" Blair swore as he pounded on the hardwood floor. He pounded a few more times before calming himself down. He closed his eyes. Take a deep breath. Focus. You can do this.
Blair tried to lift his tired and sweaty body but it wouldn't cooperate. All right, let's try something else. He pulled his body across the floor with his arms over to the counter. After a couple of deep breaths, he grabbed the top of the counter with both hands. He was exhausted. You're almost there, just a little more. With all the strength he had left, he lifted himself off the floor and stood up at the counter, hugging it as if it were a lost friend. As he stood there, his legs trembled like spaghetti. Although he was breathing heavy, he was able to release a smile. A great sense of achievement filled his soul. Jim smiled too as he looked away and headed back up the stairs. Tired as Blair was, he maneuvered himself over to the barstool and devoured the lunch Jim made for him.
That night Blair and Jim sat in the living room and watched television.
"I have a favor to ask."
"Oh no." Jim mumbled. Any time Blair had a favor Jim knew it was going to involve him in some way.
"I'd like to go to the office with you tomorrow."
"Sandburg, I don't think that's such a good idea. You're not ready."
"Come on, man. I have been cooped up in this loft for three weeks now. I want to get out of here. I need a distraction. Please Jim?"
Jim was silent and he pondered Blair's proposal. Perhaps it would do some good for the kid to get out of the loft. Actually it would probably do both of us some good.
There were a lot of hellos and handshakes as Jim and Blair made their way down the hall. Everyone was happy to see Blair back at work.
Jim walked straight to Simon's office to discuss the assignments for the day as Blair got himself settled at his desk and started to dig right in. Carolyn placed a latte and bagel in front of Blair. "Welcome back Blair, here you go."
Blair looked down at the latte and bagel. "Thanks, but I can get my own latte and bagel," he barked.
Carolyn just shrugged off his tone of voice and smiled at him. "Oh I know but why should you wheel yourself all the way to the cart only to come all the way back. There's nothing wrong with a kind gesture."
A few minutes later Brown came by and placed a stack of folders in front of Blair. "Here you go Blair. Jim asked me to get these out of storage for you and bring them up."
Blared glared at the stack of folders.
"Hey, Jim, how's Sandburg doing?" asked Simon.
"Oh, you know, stubborn as usual. He's here if you want to talk to him."
Simon looked out at the bullpen and turned to Jim.
"Jim I thought we talked about this."
Jim poured himself a cup of coffee.
"No sir, you talked about it, I just…listened."
"Jim, it's too soon after the attack for Sandburg to be down here right now. He's not ready!"
"Yeah, well he thinks he is Simon. Besides, I promised him I'd loosen the leash a little and not fight with him on this one."
Simon expressed disapproval in Jim's actions and gave him an austere look. Jim knew he was in trouble and that he was going to get an earful if he didn't have a good explanation for his actions and quick.
"Well what would you like me to do Simon? Chain him to the bed? Blair's been cooped up in that loft for so long that he's making me crazy. Besides, it'll probably do him some good. The atmosphere and hustle and bustle in the office will take his mind off of everything that's happened. He needs a distraction."
Just then, Jim and Simon were interrupted by a disruption coming from the outer office.
Unable to control his rage any longer Blair burst. "That's it! I can't take it anymore!"
Silence rushed its way through the department as Blair's emotions took over.
"What's wrong Blair?" asked Brown.
"What's wrong? I'll tell you what's wrong. I can't take it anymore with this special treatment crap. I'm not an invalid you know. I'm no different than I was before the attack. I'm still the same person."
"We're only trying to…."
"What? Help? Well I don't need your help. I don't need anybody's help!" Blair screamed as he wheeled himself to Brown who started to back away. "When will you all get it? I'm fine! I wish everyone would just quit treating me like a child."
Carolyn tried to apologize. "I'm sorry Blair, I just…"
"If I want your help, I'll ask for it, okay?"
Disgusted by their actions, Blair turned the wheelchair around and headed out the door. "Man, I am out of here!"
"Chief wait!" Jim called after him.
Blair wheeled himself into the hallway, banging into things along the way. Jim reached for Blair with his hand, but it was quickly pushed away. "Don't touch me Jim!"
Jim tried again.
"Didn't you hear me Jim? Leave me alone! All I want is to be left alone! It was a mistake ever coming in here." Pushing the button for the elevator, Blair was growing even more frustrated and upset. He started to bang on the elevator with his fists. "Come on. Come on! What's wrong with this elevator?" Just then his head dropped and his hands slide down the front of the elevator. Searing cries of pain overcame him as he sobbed uncontrollably before their very eyes. "God, please help me!" he wept.
Jim pushed everyone away and slowly approached his Guide. He knelt down next to him as the young man continued to lose it.
Grabbing a hold of Jim's shirt with both hands, Blair looked up at him with his face drenched in tears. "Why Jim? Why me? Why did this have to happen to me?"
Jim didn't know what to say. He placed his arms around his Guide and cradled him as Blair buried his face in Jim's chest. Thinking of comforting words during this emotional time wasn't easy for Jim. "I don't know why Chief. I wish I had the answers. All I do know is that you've been holding all of this in too long - you've got to just let it go. Just let it out." That was all Jim could muster at the moment as Blair continued to hold on to Jim like grim death.
After wiping a tear from his cheek, Simon turned and motioned everyone back to work.
Jim glanced over at Simon as he gave Jim the, I told you so, it's too soon - he isn't ready look.
Jim searched through the refrigerator and gathered what they had left to make a decent dinner for the two of them. I definitely need to go shopping. They didn't talk much during dinner and Jim wasn't about to bring up Blair's outbursts as the topic of discussion. He glanced up at Blair a few times from his plate to see if he was going to touch his food, but Blair just sat there and played with it. With his plate clean, he picked it up and took it to the kitchen. Now is a better time than ever to get the kid talking.
"Simon and I were talking today, Chief and we're coming up short on leads as to who the intruder may be. We need you to think back to what happened that day. Perhaps you've overlooked an important piece of information about him."
Blair pushed his plate away and sat back in the wheelchair.
"Like I told you Jim, all I remember is seeing the door ajar. I came in and the loft was trashed. I heard a noise coming from your bedroom, so I went up to investigate. Then I saw him. Man, he was huge. Over six feet tall, two times the size of me. We struggled and…"
Blair didn't answer. His eyes just darted back and forth reliving the attack in his mind. Jim walked over to the table, pulled out the chair next to Blair and sat down.
"Chief, what happened next?"
Blair got a slight grin across his face and his eyes continued to dart back and forth. Just then he started to laugh at himself. "I remember. Hah! Man, I can't believe I forgot all about this, but I remember now."
"What Chief? What do you remember?"
"Tattoo? What tattoo?"
"When he reached up to grab my arm, I saw this…tattoo - plain as day on his forearm. I can't believe I forgot all about it."
"What did it look like?"
Blair stared into Jim's eyes for a split second, grabbed a hold of Jim's right arm and pulled back his sleeve.
"It looked like that Jim. Exactly like that." Blair pointed to the tattoo on Jim's forearm.
"Are you sure Chief? Are you absolutely sure?"
"Yeah, I'm sure. I don't think I'll ever forget it now." Jim released his arm from Blair and pulled down his sleeve as he walked to the window.
"Jim? Jim what's wrong?"
Jim paused for a moment before speaking.
"This tattoo is pretty unique Chief. There's only one in existence."
Jim started to pace back and forth.
"You see, when I was in Peru, Incacha inscribed a tattoo, uh…sort of a sentry symbol on my forearm. It was a symbol for tribal protector. When I returned to the United States, another soldier in my corp, a close friend, caught a glimpse of the symbol and copied it."
"So you know who the intruder is?"
"I'm afraid so."
"That's great! So, go out there and get him."
"It's not going to be that easy Chief."
Early the next morning Jim rushed to the office and went through some of his old files that were kept in storage in the basement below.
"Jim. You down here?" called out Simon.
"Yeah Simon. I'm over here."
"What the hell are you doing down here?"
"Listen Simon, Blair gave me an important piece of information about the intruder last night. I know who it is."
"Sam Callahan? Sam Callahan?" Simon repeated to himself out loud as he shook his head. "That name doesn't ring a bell with me."
"Well it wouldn't sir. You see Sam Callahan was part of my special ops team in Peru. We were stationed there for a while and became good friends."
Jim pulled back his sleeve to reveal his marking. "You see this tattoo?"
"Simon, there is only one in existence - mine. From what I remember, Sam questioned me a few times about my tattoo and copied it for himself."
"Well do you know where to find this Sam Callahan?"
"I have an idea of where he could be, but I may have to leave town for a while."
"I think he wants me to follow him back to Peru."
"Come on now Jim. Why in the world would he want you to follow him back to Peru? Does he want to have some sort of reunion? Two old buddies having coffee in the jungle reminiscing about old times."
"Not exactly sir. You see, back in Peru we had a bad separation if you will. He didn't like the fact that I was protecting the tribe and he wanted my position. Which is why he copied the tattoo. He wants to replace me and wipe out the whole tribe."
"Why would he want to do that?"
"He secretly works for the government and they want to wipe out the jungle of Peru to set up sanctions to take it over and claim it for their own. There's valuable resources there Simon. The government would love to get their hands on it."
"But why can't we handle him from here?"
"I'm going to try Simon. But like I told Blair, it's not going to be that easy. Besides, I want to handle this on my own for now."
"No Jim! I know this is a personal matter, but it's also a police matter. I don't want you taking action into your own hands and giving this guy your own personal execution. We need to do this by the book - think of Sandburg. He wouldn't want you to go against the book - you know that!"
"You're right Simon."
"You can't let your emotions drive this one. No matter how hard it is. You need to stay focused."
Blair was working late at night at the university to try and catch up with his work. He was unaware that Sam Callahan was lurking in the hallway ready to strike again. Sam entered one of the offices down the hall from Blair and poured gasoline all over the office and down the hallway. Sam lit a match to the gasoline as he stepped out of the door back into the staircase. He headed quickly down the stairs and outside the building. The fire spread quickly from the hall to the outer wall of the office. Sam stood outside looking up at the offices and watched as the smoke and flames intensified.
Blair smelled smoke as it passed by his office in the hallway. Blair wheeled himself to the door and opened it. As he did, white smoke poured in making Blair cough. "What the…?" Blair quickly shut the door and wheeled himself to the phone to call Jim. He accidentally knocked the garbage can over in the process.
"(cough) Jim, (cough) it's me (cough)."
"Blair what's wrong?"
The room started to fill with smoke and Blair began to cough uncontrollably. He could barely get the words out. "(cough) Fire (cough)…at the (cough)…university (cough)…"
The phone went dead.
Simon ran out of his office. "Jim, what's wrong?"
"There's a fire at the university. Blair's in trouble."
Jim pulled up to the university and saw the smoke and flames pouring out of the windows. With gun in hand he got out of his truck and raced towards the front entrance.
Sirens were heard in the distance as Simon and the rest of the force approached the university.
Blair managed to wheel himself out of the office and down the smoke filled hallway. But when he reached the end of the hall he came to an abrupt halt. The fire code is to never take an elevator if there's a fire in the building. That meant there was only one way out - the staircase. He sat there for a second and looked at the stairs before him. He knew there was no way he could maneuver the wheelchair down one flight of stairs let alone two. He had two choices: sit there and burn to death or get up and start walking.
Peering from around the building Sam spotted Jim running up the walkway. Sam fired a couple of shots at Jim who dove behind a concrete statue for protection. Jim fired a few rounds himself, none hitting their exact target. Tuning in to Sam's vital signs, Jim found his location in the courtyard.
Blair locked the brakes to the chair and reached for the banister. He lifted himself up and stared at the steps below. You have to do this. Start moving. Coughing every step of the way Blair was able to get himself down the first set of stairs and onto the landing towards the last set of stairs - but he collapsed.
Jim snuck up behind Sam. "Drop the weapon Sam. It's all over."
Sam dropped the gun and smiled. "Jim, Jim, Jim. After all these years you should know me better than that."
Sam spun around and kicked the gun out of Jim's hand. The two men struggled on the ground as Sam reached for Jim's gun laying only inches away. Jim saw Sam reach for the gun and he went for it too. Both men wrestled with the gun. A shot was fired into the air and Jim forced Sam's hand to release it. When he did Jim punched Sam in the face, over and over again. Simon and the other officers had to pry Jim off before he killed the intruder.
"Let go Jim! Jim let go!" Simon ordered.
Jim released the intruder and he and Simon ran to the front of the building. The university was engulfed in flames. Using his senses, Jim honed in on Blair's vital signs.
"Blair's having trouble breathing and his heart rate is dropping. We have to get him out of there now before it's too late!" He grabbed an oxygen mask and tank from the firefighters. "I'm going in!"
"Jim, let the firemen do their job! We can't afford to lose two men!" Simon pleaded.
Jim continued to block out Simon's order as he ran towards the burning building and focused on the task at hand - getting Blair out of there alive.
"Jim! Come back!" shouted Simon.
Blair was barely conscious and managed to cough one more time before passing out.
Jim entered the building, honed in on his Guide's vital signs and located his limp body at the top of the stairs just inside the entrance. He took off his mask and placed it on Blair.
"(cough) Blair? (cough) Can you hear me buddy? (cough)"
No response. Quickly he picked Blair up and carried him down the steps. As they head out the front door, the second floor collapsed and they escaped just in time.
Simon tried to make out the figures coming down the front steps through the thick gray smoke. Just then he saw Jim carrying Blair's body in his arms. He ran to give Jim assistance. "We need medics over here now! Now God damn it, now!"
After taking in smoke, Jim started to have difficulty breathing. He laid Blair on the grass and fell to his knees coughing.
Simon knelt beside Blair and tried to get a response. "Blair? Can you hear me? It's Simon!"
Simon shook Jim a few times. "Jim! Jim! Are you alright?"
Coughing heavily, it took him a minute or two before he could answer.
"(cough) I'm fine (cough)."
The medics rushed to Blair's aid and started to give him oxygen.
"How is he?" asked Simon.
"We won't know until we get him to the hospital. He took in a lot of smoke and his pulse is faint."
Simon turned and noticed the paramedics giving Jim oxygen as well.
"They're taking Sandburg to Cascade General, which is where you need to go."
Simon helped Jim into the ambulance. "I'll meet you there!"
The ambulance sped up to the hospital entrance and screeched to a sudden halt with Simon carrying up the rear. The medics pulled Sandburg out of the ambulance and rushed him into the emergency room. Simon caught a quick glimpse of the young man as they whisked him down the hall. He was stagnant. It didn't look good.
Just then, another ambulance pulled up and the medics assisted Jim inside.
"(cough) Simon, how's Sandburg (cough)?"
"I don't know. They dashed in here so quickly I was only able to catch a glimpse of him. But don't worry about Sandburg, you need to be examined."
"(cough) I'll be (cough) fine (cough)."
"Yeah right." Simon motions for the nurse. "Take him away. He needs medical attention."
"Jim, the minute I get word on Sandburg's condition, you'll be the first to know." Simon pushed Jim towards the nurse and waved him to get going.
An hour had passed as Simon continued to pace the hallway of the emergency room waiting for word on Jim and Blair's condition. Just then a doctor emerged from the emergency room.
"Excuse me, are you Captain Banks?"
"Yes. How's the kid doing?"
"Well, for a moment we didn't think he was going to make it. But by some miracle, his heart rate increased and he started to come to. He seems to be doing quite well at the moment. However, we'd like to keep him overnight for observation. He should be able to go home in the morning."
"Oh, thank God."
Tears started to fill Simon's eye as Jim started to walk down the hallway. He was still coughing slightly, but not as bad.
"Simon how's Sandburg?"
Simon smiled and placed his hands on Jim's shoulders. "He's going to be fine Jim, just fine. The doctor said they'd like to keep him overnight for observation, but he can go home tomorrow."
With a huge sense of relief, tears fill Jim's eyes as he nodded.
As the two men embraced in joyful celebration, Jim looked down the hallway. To his surprise Incacha's spirit was at the end of the hall and he raised his spear to Jim in victory. Jim smiled back at Incacha as a tear fell from his eye.
Back at the Cascade Police Department it was business as usual.
Blair walked into the office with his walker in hand, taking small baby steps.
"It's good to see you up and walking again Blair."
"Thanks. Hey, could I have everyone's attention. Uh, I would just like to apologize to everyone for the way I acted a few weeks ago."
Everyone shrugged him off.
"Don't worry about it Sandburg!" someone yelled.
"No, no. I was way out of line and I'd like to make it up to all of you."
"Awww…how sweet,” Brown pinched Blair's cheek and slapped him on the back, "Thanks Sandburg. Hey everyone, Blair's taking us all out to dinner tonight."
The whole office cheered.
"Thanks Blair," everyone yelled.
"Well…uh…sure…anytime. That wasn't what I had in mind, but no problem - I think." Blair got an "oh God, what did I get myself into" look on his face.
"Sandburg, what are you doing?" asked Jim.
"The doctor told you that your legs are fine. You don't need the walker anymore Chief."
"Hey, don't knock it till you've tried it Jim. You should get one of these for yourself. It's a chic magnet. I should have bought one of these a long time ago."
"Yeah, I can't tell you how many girls gave me their number every time they saw me. You know, looking helpless and pathetic." Blair laughed.
Jim smiled. "Are you sure it wasn't because they had the advantage of running away after they've tasted one of your dishes at home."
"Ha…ha…very funny. Laugh now man, but one of these days you'll be begging to borrow my walker. Begging."
"Remember one thing Chief, I never beg. And I certainly don't need a chic magnet to get the ladies. I do just fine on my own. All I have to do is flash these baby blues and they are putty in my hands."
"Oh yeah, right. I forgot."
Jim thought for a moment as he took the walker from Blair's hands and examined it. "On second thought, perhaps this would come in handy with a cute nurse I saw at the hospital."
Without warning Jim took of running down the hallway with the walker in hand as Blair chased after him.
"Hey man, come back here! That's mine! What about your baby blues?"
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