As usual, not my guys or my concept, just having a little, non-profitable fun.

This is for all those who want to see Jim and his father reconcile. It has nothing to do with the post-TSbyBS arc I've been writing. I suppose it's set after Love Kills. I also have absolutely no medical knowledge and did not a speck of research. I believe there's always something handily unexplainable out there to put a wrench in medical plans, anyway.

Relapse

by Madraf

********************
The soft, steady beep of the heart monitor greeted Detective Jim Ellison as he pushed open the door of the hospital room and merged with the memory of the sound he'd been carrying with him for the past three days. At least the respirator was gone, although, considering the reason it was disconnected, that knowledge did little to reassure him. Glancing around to make sure no one had managed to slip past his awareness, Ellison slipped through the door and made his way to the bedside.

He still didn't understand quite what had happened. The doctors had no more an idea than he did of what had felled Blair Sandburg. Ellison had returned to the loft four days ago and found his Guide unconscious and feverish on the floor of the loft apartment they shared. Paramedics had whisked the young man to the hospital where his condition continued to deteriorate. The fever had finally broken, but the young man's body had started to shut down. He was placed on a respirator and his friends waited anxiously for some improvement.

Naomi had swept into town, oblivious to the condition of her son, the morning after Blair had been brought in. Immediately taking the offensive, she had battled with Jim for two days, urging him to remove Blair from the respirator. Doctors wouldn't say whether the action would kill the young man, but Jim had argued against it. However, Naomi's blood relationship to the patient had overruled Jim's power of attorney in the eyes of Blair's doctor and he had removed the respirator this morning, without Jim's knowledge or consent.

The fact the young man was breathing on his own was a miracle to Jim.

When Jim had arrived at the hospital late this morning and discovered the action of Blair's doctor and mother, he had shouted at the woman and young doctor until he was physically removed from the hospital. He had called in to Simon and demanded the day off to visit with attorneys. They were working on the situation.

Ellison had waited outside the hospital for hours this evening, waiting for Naomi to leave, if only for a few minutes. She had finally left her son's side a few minutes ago, headed away in a taxi. Jim had wasted no time in slipping up to his friend's room.

Now, he slipped quietly into the chair by Blair's bed and watched the pale figure. The restful face of the patient was a definite improvement to the pain-creased features of that first day and night. Jim hadn't budged from Blair's side that first night, even though it meant donning protective wear in case whatever was causing the fever was contagious. The physicians didn't know what was ravaging Blair's system, but they were fairly certain by the time the fever broke that it wasn't contagious by casual contact. Stumped as to the cause, they were reduced to treating symptoms.

And so, Blair's pain had receded with the fever, whether because of the fever or because of the pain killers, no one knew. Ellison didn't really care. He was simply relieved not to see his friend writhing in pain and delirious with fever. Jim sat beside him for hours, never speaking. He simply watched the man sleep and basked in the even rise and fall of Blair's chest.

Around 1 a.m., nearly three hours after his vigil began, Jim started as the door opened. He looked up expecting to see another nurse coming to check the patient. He was surprised to see his father silhouetted in the doorway.

Jim's keen Sentinel eyesight adjusted as William Ellison entered the room and let the door close behind him. He watched as his son turned his attention back to the man in the bed.

"How's he doing?" William asked.

"Hanging on," Jim replied.

"How about you?"

"Hanging on." Silence settled between them. "What brings you here now?"

"I just got back in town earlier this evening. I heard about what happened. When I couldn't reach you at home, I figured you'd be here."

Jim glanced at his father. "So, I'll ask again, 'What brings you here?'"

"I thought you could use a friend."

Jim returned his gaze to the figure in the bed. "I have a friend," he whispered. He leaned forward to rest his forehead on the bed. "I just wish he'd wake up soon."

William Ellison watched his son and ached to reach out and help. He had always wanted to help his sons. He had chosen a path he thought would make them independent and strong. He had chosen a path that drove his elder son from him for years. A case-driven reunion last month was tenuous at best as secrets came to light that seemed only to drive a wedge deeper between the men. He had never been free with his affection when his sons were small. He didn't know how to begin showing his affection now, so he waited and watched. His patience was rewarded.

"She's just going to let him go, Dad," Jim whispered, raising his head to study his sick friend. "She just waltzed into town and talked the doctor into letting him go. I have power of attorney. The decision is mine. Blair wanted it that way. If he doesn't wake up soon, she'll try to have them remove the feeding tube and she'll let him starve."

"Has she said that?"

"No, but why shouldn't she? She's convinced he's gone. That his 'aura' has moved on or some crap like that. She doesn't want him to suffer."

"Do you?"

"NO!" Jim whispered harshly. "I don't want him to suffer. I just want him back. He's not suffering, Dad. Two days ago, he was suffering. Today, he's just resting. It's just going to take him a while to rest up enough to come back." Jim stopped speaking as he felt his voice begin to quiver. His father hadn't seen him cry in years. In fact, he wasn't sure he'd ever let his father see him cry. It wasn't something his father would understand or condone. Jim dropped his head wearily back to the bed and closed his eyes. Once again in control of his voice, he sought to reassure his father. "You can go home. You're tired from your trip. Thanks for stopping by."

He listened to his father turn away and waited for the door to open and the man to leave him alone. The door opened and as William Ellison walked out, Jim realized how much he had hoped the man would stay. He felt a tear slip from his eye and was debating letting the tears out or trying to shut them down when the door opened again. He turned his head to see his father bringing another chair into the room.

Stunned blue eyes awash with unshed tears met older, paler blue eyes as the older man placed the chair near Jim's.

"I think you could use the company," William said, sinking into the chair he'd just brought in.

"Thanks," Jim said.

"Tell me about your friend," William requested after a few moments. "I only met him briefly last month. Why is he so important to you?"

Jim's eyes never left the figure on the bed. "He brought sanity back to my world, Dad. He saved my career and my life. That gift you didn't want me to acknowledge. He's spent his whole life looking for someone with that gift."

"He's studying you?" William Ellison couldn't quite hide the anger the thought brought out in him. He still wanted a normal life for his son. Anyone who could expose Jim's abilities to the world didn't offer his son much chance at normalcy.

"He's helping me, Dad." Jim defended Sandburg. "He doesn't have to. He's got enough for his dissertation, he said. He passed up a career opportunity to help me. He's always there, even when I treat him like crap. He's always ready with an answer to my problems. He's always ready to listen. He's always there to help, to encourage."

"Unlike some others in your life?"

"Yeah," Jim acknowledged sadly. "He's what family's supposed to be. Always there, always caring, always letting you know that. Sometimes I can't believe it's really true. I can't believe there's someone out there who would do that for me. Sometimes I wonder if his dissertation is really his ultimate motivation."

"If it is?"

"It's not," Jim answered quickly, staring at his father in the dimly lit room. "It can't be."

"If he doesn't survive this," William ventured tentatively, "I hope you'll let someone else help you through this. I hope you'll understand I really do wish I could change the past."

"I understand, Dad," Jim admitted. "For four days, I've been thinking about how many things I wish I'd done differently, about how many things I'd change if I could."

A sharp breath from the patient brought Jim's attention snapping back to Blair. The heart monitor's beeping increased. Jim reached out for Blair's hand and gripped it tight as a nurse rushed into the room. Looking over the equipment, she ordered the two Ellisons from the room as she asked over the intercom for a doctor to be paged. The erratic beeping of the monitor froze Jim's blood and he refused to relinquish his hold on Sandburg's arm. Another plea from the nurse and William gently pulled at his son.

"Come on, Jimmy," he whispered. "Let go."

"No," Jim snapped. "I can't."

"We can't help your friend if you're in the way, sir," the nurse explained sharply. "Now, please leave the room."

William pulled more insistently on his son's arm. "We'll just be outside, Jimmy," he promised. "We won't be far."

The room began to fill with more nurses and doctors and Jim was unceremoniously removed from Sandburg's side and steered outside the room. He refused to go far, however and hovered in the corridor as more people came and went from Sandburg's room. William's hand on his shoulder startled him and he looked away from the room's door and into his father's eyes.

"I can't let go anymore, Dad," he whispered. "I let go of you. I let go of Steven. I let go of Carolyn. I let go of Lila. I don't think I can stand to let go anymore. I'm too tired to let go."

The shock and despair on his son's face was so much like the look on Jimmy's face all those years ago when the boy had found the body of their neighbor. Bud had made time for Jimmy when William had not. Bud had encouraged the young boy to trust himself when William's only advice had been a harsh "Act normal before people start calling you a freak." For years, when William thought of his son, he saw only the face of a stunned child as his father practically called him a freak. For years, William had wanted to be able to take back those words, to take away the shock and pain. He couldn't take that away. He couldn't make it not happen, but maybe this time, he could offer support instead of anger, kindness instead of anxiety.

William Ellison reached out to his son and pulled him into a fierce embrace. He held on as Jimmy let silent tears of fear and frustration flow. He held on as Jimmy shook with fear that he would lose yet another person who was vitally important to him. He remembered his own shock and fear and sadness when his wife walked out on him. He remembered the shattered dreams of those first horrible moments when he had no idea of where or to whom to turn, and he simply held on.

"Oh, Jimmy," he whispered under his breath, forgetting the unique qualities of his son as he sought only to give comfort. "This is what I wanted to protect you from. Whenever you let people in, they invariable let you down. Whenever you give so much, it only leads to pain."

Jim allowed his tears to flow for only a few minutes. This emotional tidal wave was interfering with his ability to track what was happening in Blair's room. He had to get under control so he'd know whether to run before the doctor came out. He had to find out what was going on. With effort, he forced his emotions into check, while marveling at this new side to his father. Drawing on the strength of his father, Jim was able to reign in the tears and, still leaning into the older Ellison, focus his hearing on the room.

He breathed a deep sigh of relief as what the doctor was saying registered in his tired brain. He pulled back from his father and offered a shaky smile, unsure of his father's reaction to his own, uncharacteristically emotional display. William opened his mouth to speak but never got the chance as Jim's attention focused suddenly on the door to Sandburg's room. The nurses began to file out and Jim broke away from his father to step back into the room.

"He's waking up?" Jim asked the doctor, who remained at the patient's bedside.

The doctor looked up with a smile. "I think so. He's breathing well on his own. I think the heart rate increase is just a sign of his return to consciousness. It could be a couple of days yet before we know how he'll be, but I think he's on his way back."

"Thanks, Doc."

"Don't thank any of the doctors," the on-duty physician told him. "I think young Mr. Sandburg did this all on his own. We don't have a clue about what put him here or what brought him back."

"Thanks, anyway."

The doctor nodded, considered suggesting the man go home, then shrugged and left the room. What the doctor didn't voice, William Ellison did. Jim just shook his head at the suggestion of a good night's rest in his own bed.

"Thanks, but I just want to stay here, but you go on home. I'll call you tomorrow. Maybe we can have lunch or something."

William nodded at the reply and started for the door. He turned back to his son.

"I'll have my lawyers make sure no one challenges you on Blair's medical care again," he offered. Taken aback by the offer of help, Jim could only smile crookedly and nod his thanks.
********************
Two days later, Blair Sandburg opened his eyes and took note of his surroundings. His surroundings included a hospital room brightly lit with early morning sunshine, a red-haired woman with her head pillowed on the right side of his bed and a short-haired man with his head pillowed on the left side of his bed. He noted the aches of his body in general and the pounding headache in particular.

"Oh, man," he whispered as he realized what had happened. His raspy whisper brought the man's head up in a flash.

"Welcome back, Chief," Jim greeted.

"Thanks, I think," Blair returned, lifting a hand to massage his temples and forehead.

"Headache?"

"Yeah, but it'll go away soon."

"You had us pretty scared."

"Sorry. It was nothing."

"Sandburg, we thought you were dying. I don't think that's 'nothing.'"

"I think it was just a relapse, Jim," Blair explained.

"A relapse? A relapse of what?"

"On my first field excursion, everyone on the trip came down with a tropical bug. Laid us all low for about a week. I heard from a couple of the guys on the trip about two months ago and they mentioned they'd had a relapse, but nothing major. I figured I had missed out. Guess not."

"You almost stopped breathing, Chief. It was definitely not a minor thing. Did you feel bad? Did you feel it coming on?"

"With everything that's happened lately, I kind of forgot about some little bug from years ago. I was barely seventeen, Jim. It didn't hit me so hard the first time. I wasn't expecting much more than a bout of the flu."

"You could have warned me. What if I'd gotten it?"

"It's not spread through casual contact," Sandburg assured him. "It's spread through contaminated water. Chill, man. I'm okay now."

Their conversation, whispered though it was, in deference to Naomi, still woke the woman who immediately smothered Blair with motherly attention. Jim watched for a moment, then made his way quietly from the room, relief and a tinge of jealousy washing through him as Blair and his mother caught up and took comfort in each other's presence. He thought about sticking around but knew Naomi would be gone in a matter of days and he would have all the time in the world to come to terms with this latest trauma.

That's all he needed--a little time to think about things without Sandburg picking them apart. Just a little time.

The End.

Comments, criticism, suggestions? Please e-mail Madraf.