Disclaimer: Not mine, but you knew that. It’s not fair, but such is life.

Spoilers: S2, but don't they all? *g*

Acknowledgments: First of all, to my two great Betas. Kaye, for her wonderful medical knowledge and fabulous suggestion on how to take it further, she helped make the minor boo-boos I inflicted so much more realistic. And Sheryl, for too many things to mention, but I’m still gonna! Being the Queen of Grammar Patrol (one day, I really will learn the difference between then and than.) Lots of “Haven’t you written anymore yet?” encouragement. The panicked announcement that she’d seen another smashed Volvo story and the assurance that mine was better, at least in her eyes. And finally, for pulling me out of “Oh God, I hate the name I’ve been using. What am I going to call it?” hell.

Warnings: Never draw to an inside straight.

Random Patterns
By Gayle Smith

“MOM! She’s looking at me.”

“Am not!”

“Are too!”

“Am . . .”

“Stephanie! Amanda! I want you both to stop it, right now!” Carrie Weston snapped at her two daughters and she struggled to see through the thickening fog. Flipping on her turn signal, she started to slowly drift into the next lane. “We’re almost home and I don’t want to hear another word out of either of you until we get there.”

“But mom,” Stephanie whined. “She’s still looking at me.”

“Damn it, Amanda.” Carrie twisted around in her seat to glare at her ten-year-old. “leave your sister alone. How many times do I have to tell you . . .”


At the horrified cry, Carrie spun around in her seat just as the fog parted and her wheels struck the median strip. There wasn’t even time to scream before her car careened into the oncoming traffic and plowed into a dark green Volvo.


“Hey Jim, where’s Hairboy?”

Jim Ellison hung his jacket and turned around to find Henri Brown shifting anxiously from foot to foot, the racing form clutched in one hand. “Sandburg’s at the University today. He had some early meeting with one of the Professors.”

“Is he coming in at all?” H asked, his attempt at nonchalance failing miserably.

“Sorry, H., your guess is as good as mine today.” Jim clapped him on the shoulder, hard, and grinned as he stepped past him. “Guess you’re just going to have to pick your own horses today.”

“What?” H looked at Jim aghast. “I don’t know what you’re talkin’ about, Ellison.” He backpedaled toward his desk, racing form now behind his back.

Chuckling to himself, Jim settled behind his desk and quickly sorted through the stack of messages waiting for him before casting a suspicious eye toward the pile of paperwork waited for him. Muttering about partners that weren’t around when you really needed them, he shoved the pile aside and reached instead for the phone, hoping the mound would somehow diminish as he checked his voicemail.

Making a note to return the first two calls, Jim couldn’t help but grunt his disappointment as a familiar voice started the third.

“Hi Jim. Listen, man, I know I said I’d try and be in after my 10:00 class, but Dr. Kellogg wants me to pick up an artifact for him up in Seattle. It’s going to take me at least five hours to get up there and back, so I’ll see you tonight at the loft.”

Damn. That meant a whole day of doing paperwork. By himself. Picking up the top file, Jim flipped it open and reluctantly started to work his way through it.


Stabbing pain heralded Blair’s return to consciousness and he slowly lifted his head. The fresh wave of agony that accompanied this action threatened to send him spiraling back into unconsciousness, but he drew a painful breath and fought it back.

Taking a slowly, painful breath, Blair tried to blink through the warmth that blurred his vision and squinted in an attempt to see through the shattered windshield. When that failed, he brushed his free hand across his brow and tried to clear away the sticky moisture that clouded his eyes, ignore the fact that it returned scarlet, stained with still fresh blood. Again Blair peered through the encroaching darkness, but could make out nothing past the spider’s web of cracks.

The thought that perhaps he should get out of the car, spurned him to action. The fresh way of pain his attempt to reach for the door brought, focused Blair's attention on the jagged piece of metal embedded in his side. He struggled to pull away from it, every first-aid lesson ever learned forgotten in his panic to free himself.

Distantly, he became aware of the squeal of brakes and the screeching clash of steel and fiberglass before his car was violently thrust forward once more. The pain in his side increased as he was propelled backwards, but faded as he dove headlong into the dark pool that opened before him.


Jim closed the file in front of him with a sigh and glanced up at the clock. So much for the hope that his watch had stopped. Grabbing his coffee cup and the finished report, he wandered over to his captain’s door and tapped lightly on it. Waiting for Simon’s growled "come in", Jim opened the door and stepped inside.

“Sir, I’ve got that report on the Robinson drug bust you wanted.” He dropped it in Simon’s in basket and glanced hopefully at the coffeepot. “So, Captain, is there anything else I can get you? As long as I’m here, that is.”

“Just take the coffee, Ellison,” Simon muttered as he reached for the report. Skimming it briefly, he frowned and looked up at his detective. “Sandburg not in today?”

“No, sir, he’s not.” Jim focused in on the report, wincing inwardly at the first misspelling he ran across. “Is there a problem?”

Simon ‘hrmph’ed softly and bite back a smile. “Let’s just say this isn’t up to his usual standards.”

“You know, I did do my own reports before he came along,” Jim groused.

“Yeah, but I’ve gotten used to having them done right.” A grin skittered briefly across Simon's face. “Now get out of here before the rest of those vultures start circling my coffee.”

“Yes, sir.” Jim closed the door behind him, prize in hand, and started for his desk.

“Jim, is Blair coming in today?”

Jim shook his head and dropped into his chair. “Sorry Rafe, he got pegged to run some errand for one of the professors.”

“Oh. Well, could you give him this?” A thick volume landed on the desk in front of Jim.

“Socio-Economic Trends Of The . . .” Jim lifted the book and frowned. “What is that word?”

“Damned if I know,” Rafe responded with a confused grin. “My nephew was doing a paper on the whatever. When I asked Blair if he knew anything about them, he lent me that book for Joe to read. When you see him, tell him Joe said thanks. I guess the book really helped.”

“Sure.” Considering the book for a moment more, Jim tossed over in the corner. Trust Sandburg to just happen to have a book on some obscure group that Rafe’s nephew just happened to need. Shaking his head, Jim reached for the next file and grinned as he read the note from his partner telling him where to sign. Shifting through the remaining folders, Jim found three more finished ones and was just signing the last when Simon stepped out of the office.

“Listen up people!” Simon’s deep voice boomed across the bullpen. “I just got a call from the Chief’s office. There’s been a major pile up on the Rainier Expressway and they’re looking for as many volunteers as they can get to help out the rescue personnel.” Almost immediately, all gathered rose to their feet, murmuring amongst themselves. “Okay, people, I appreciate that we all want to help, but we can’t leave Major Crimes unmanned. Brown, Rafe, Ellison, Taggert, you’re with me. If they need more help I’ll call in.”

Jim felt a chill as he grabbed his jacket and slipped into it. Rainier Expressway. If Blair hadn’t had that early meeting he would’ve been on the expressway during the accident. Thanking whatever Gods watched over foolhardy anthropologists, Jim hurried out after Simon.


Jim climbed slowly out of Simon’s car, his jaw dropping open in shock as he surveyed the disaster before him. Destruction as far as the eye, normal or sentinel, could see until the tangled mass of metal disappeared into the fog.

“My God, Simon, what happened?”

“Same thing that always happens,” Simon replied with a weary sigh. “People driving too damn fast for the conditions, not caring who they put in danger in the process.”

“Where do we even start?” Joel Taggert’s voice cracked as they watched a sheet covered body loaded into the back of an ambulance.

“Chief Warren told me to report to the Battalion Chief in charge.” Pulling his badge, Simon flashed it at the nearest firefighter, who pointed toward a distinguished looking older man. Closing the distance between them, Simon waited while he finished barking orders into the radio he held. “Chief Richards?”

The man nodded and extended his hand. “You with the police department?”

“Yes, Captain Simon Banks, Major Crime.” Simon shook the offered hand. “Chief Warren thought you could use our help down here. What can we do?” As he waited for the Chief’s reply, Simon found his eyes drawn, almost against his will, to the sight of a firefighter lifting a small, limp body out of a nearby crushed minivan.

“There are officers at the far end of the incident directing traffic and helping to get the uninjured transported to another location. I know it doesn’t sound like much,” he focused on the men standing behind Simon. "But it helps to free up critical personnel for the rescue effort.”

“Whatever we can do to help. Rafe, Brown.” Simon motioned toward the firefighter in the intersection. “Relieve that man. Taggert, get on the phone with the city, tell them to send any available busses down here to help transport the uninjured. Ellison . . .”

“Excuse me, sir.” Jim turned to Richards. “I was a medic in the Army and I do have training in search and rescue.”

The chief turned an appraising gaze on Ellison, sizing him up, before turning over his shoulder. “Tovar! Ellison here was a medic, take him with you.”

The tall woman regarded Jim coldly, wiping a grimy hand across her forehead. “All right, Ellison, come on.” With that, she turned on her heel and worked her way past the first few vehicles and into the carnage.


Paramedic Josh Miller set his equipment on the ground and considered the car in front of him. At the front of this side of the accident, the green Volvo now lay on it’s side, wedged beneath the tractor of a semi that had jack-knifed across both lanes of oncoming traffic.

“Hello? Can anyone hear me in there?” Josh tapped lightly on the roof, listening for a response. When none came, he bent over and stepped under the truck. A shattered and bloodstained windshield greeted him as he crouched in front of the car. Pulling a small pick from his pocket, Josh knocked once more, waiting again for a reply. “If you can hear me in there help’s here. I’m going to break out the glass, so cover your face if you can.”

Reaching up, he sank the pick into the topmost corner and gave it a sharp yank, pulling a large section of glass away with him. Peering into the hole, Josh felt his heart sink into his chest. Damn. Too late again. Even as he continued to pull chucks of glass out of the way, he knew there was no way the incredibly pale and still young man could still be alive, not with all the blood that pooled around him and clung to the car’s interior.

The glass cleared, Josh pulled off his thick canvas gloves and shoved them in his pocket, returning with a pair of plastic gloves he quickly slipped on. Sending up a silent prayer, Josh pushed aside a worn leather backpack and settled his fingers on the blood covered throat, searching for the carotid pulse. Nothing.

No, wait. There it was. A weak thump beneath his fingers.

“DAVIS!” Josh turned and screamed for his partner. “I’ve got a live one here. I need the jaws, a backboard and cervical collar, the drug box and the trauma kit over here. STAT!”

Focused again on the gray-faced young man before him, Josh heard the painful gurgling that accompanied each breath his patient struggled to draw. “Come on, kid, hang in there.” He ran his hands gently over Blair’s scalp, finding the laceration hidden by the drying blood.

His sensitive hands then moved over the nearest arm before palpating the ribs. Slowly he worked his way around the ribcage until his hand fell against something cold and hard, slick with spilled blood. Bending further, he quickly spotted the piece of metal spearing his patient and followed it back its source.

“What’ve we got?” The handsome, dark skinned young man dropped down beside his partner.

“Get me some bolt cutters. Now!” Josh snapped without bothering to look up.

“Bolt cutters?” Davis did a double take, eyeing at his partner like he’d just lost his mind.

“He’s impaled on the door handle. If we remove it here, he’ll bleed out.” Josh felt gingerly around the wound. “I’m going to have to cut it and let them take it out at the hospital.”

The slap of feet against asphalt was Davis’ only response and seconds later a pair of bolt cutters appeared over Josh’s shoulder. “Anything else?”

“Are they here with the jaws yet?” Josh asked as he carefully positioned them between the door and the still young man, cutting the handle quickly and cleanly.


“Damn, we’ve got to get him out of here now. We’re wasting time he doesn’t have.” He pulled back out through the broken windshield, ignoring the remaining jagged pieces of glasses that caught at his turnout coat, and opened the trauma box. Grabbing the supplies he needed, Josh plunged back into the car, calling over his shoulder to his partner. “Pulse is 126. He’s got a minor scalp laceration, probably from an impact with the steering wheel. A fractured left humerus, at least two broken ribs.” The paramedic carefully wrapped the cervical collar around Blair’s neck. “He’s lost a lot of blood and has agonal respirations, probably a hemothorax, but I’ll have to put in a chest tube to be sure.”

Davis whistled softly as he peered over his partner. “Damn, Josh, you think he’s got any blood left? Hey,” he clapped a hand on Josh’s shoulder. “Here come the jaws, man. We better get out of the way.”

Josh nodded and pulled a safety blanket out of the trauma kit, draped it over his patient and whispered. “I’ll be right back. Wait around for me, kid.” Climbing out from beneath the truck, he leaned into the firefighter waiting to open the car. “Careful with this one.”

Seconds later the shrieking of metal filled the air as the jaws of life cut through the Volvo’s roof. Another firefighter joined the first and with a grunt, they peeled back the roof, allowing the paramedics access to battered man within. Seconds later a flurry of activity surrounded the unconscious man as one paramedic wrapped a blood pressure cuff around his arm and another reached to take his pulse.

Davis swore softly under his breath, meeting his partner’s eyes with a grimace. “Pressure’s 60/30.”

“What?” Josh looked at his partner sharply. “Damn it, his pulse is up to 138. What’s his respiration?”

“Thirty-four, rapid and shallow.”

“Let’s get him out of here and get the IVs established, we’ve got to get his pressure up and intubate before we transport.” Josh quickly grabbed the backboard waiting behind him and with his partner’s help slid it carefully behind him. Moving quickly they strapped Blair to the board and readied to move him.

“On three, one, two . . .” On three they lifted the backboard and carefully moved it clear of the wreckage. Settling it on the stretcher they moved swiftly, working fluidly around each other with an ease born of practice. Each man knowing what was expected of him and what the other needed.

Inserting a chest tube while Davis started the IVs, Josh watched the bloody emissions that leaked from it and reached for the intubation kit. “Damn, I was right about the hemothorax,” and position himself behind Blair, tilting his head back. “Shit!”

“What?” Davis stopped, momentarily taken aback by his soft-spoken partner’s outburst.

“I can’t visualize the chords. I’m going to have to intubate blind.” Taking a deep breath, Josh steadied his hand before slowly sliding the tube into Blair’s throat. “Got it. Let’s get the hell out of here.”


Jim winced slightly, peering up into the now bright sky as a helicopter lifted into the sky from the other end of the scene.

“Ellison, you coming? Or you going to spend all day daydreaming?”

Jim turned back toward the female firefighter with a sigh and wiped a grimy hand across his forehead. “Yeah, I’m coming. Hey, Tovar, you mind if I ask you a question?"

Tucking a long blonde strand that come loose behind her ear, she glared at Jim. “If you ask me how a sweet thing like me ended up in a business like this, you’ll be leaving on the next ambulance.”

Jim snorted softly, shaking his head. “I wouldn’t dream of it. If you didn’t kick my ass for it, my partner or his mother would. I was just wondering if you have a first name.”

“No. Now, can we get back to work?”

She turned her attention to the small pickup truck in front of them. It had slammed into the back end of a big rig, the cab crushing inward as the hood slid beneath the 18-wheeler. One limp, bloody arm hung from the driver’s side door and Tovar grabbed it, making a cursory attempt to find a pulse. With a shake of her head, she started away.

Extending his sense of hearing, Jim let it wash over the vehicle, cocking his head to the side as something caught his attention. Opening still more, he was rewarded with a small ‘thump thump thump’. Stunned he turned to Tovar. “There’s someone still alive in there.”

“What are you talking about?” She shook her head in disgust and motioned toward the mangled truck. “There’s no way anyone could survive that.”

“I’m telling you, someone did.” Jim hurried around to the passenger side and tugged on the door, but it stubbornly refused to give. “Give me the crowbar.” When Tovar continued to stare at him stubbornly, Jim yanked the crowbar from her hand and turned back to the truck.

“Damn it, Ellison, there are still people here who can be saved.”

Jim ignored her, grunting with the effort it took to pry the door open. Inch by hard fought inch the door crept open until Jim could look inside and straight into a pair of frightened brown eyes. “Hi, sweetheart,” Jim twisted through the opening and into the cab, ignoring the battered corpse in the driver’s seat. “Are you all right? Can you move?”

“M-my leg is stuck.” A young girl of about nine peered up at him through tear-filled eyes. “I want my mommy.”

“Don’t worry, honey, we’ll get you of here.” Jim started backward to yell for Tovar to bring him the jaws when a loud cry rang out.

“NO! Don’t leave me.” The girl’s hand shot out to latch onto his sleeve. “Please don’t leave me. I’ll be good. I will.”

“Shh, shh, it’s all right sweetheart.” Jim patted the hand that clutched his sleeve. “I’m not going anywhere. I was just going to call for the firefighter I’m working with. I need her to bring something to help get you out of here. Okay?” Turning his head, Jim shouted back over his shoulder. “TOVAR! I’VE GOT A KID TRAPPED IN HERE! I NEED THE JAWS AND SOME HELP.”

“What?” Tovar leaned in behind Jim and peeked over his shoulder. “Oh my God. Hold on, honey, I’ll be right back.”

“Yes, dear,” Jim quipped, giving the girl a quick wink. Half listening to Tovar’s radio request for the needed equipment, Jim turned his attention to the girl. “What’s your name?”


“Hello, Caitlin.” Jim gently wiped away one of the tears rolling down the girl’s cheek. “My name’s Jim. And I’m very glad to meet you.” Pointing back over his shoulder, he lowered his voice conspiratorially. “That’s Tovar, she doesn’t have a first name.”

A giggle escaped Caitlin, half-hysterical and followed by a hiccup, but it was a start Jim thought as he smoothed a hand across her hair. Hearing the additional rescue workers arriving behind him, Jim smiled down at Caitlin. “Okay, Caitie, they’re here with the equipment to get you out, so I’m going to have to get out of the way. But I’m going to be waiting right out of here for you, okay?” Jim pulled the blanket someone handed him in and threw it over her. “I want you to close your eyes and put your hands over your head and this will all be over before you know it. Okay?”

“O-okay,” Caitlin’s frightened voice answered.

“I’ll be right outside. I promise.” Jim gave her arm a quick squeeze through the blanket before wiggling out of the cab.

Tuning out the sounds of the rescue, Jim concentrated instead on Caitlin’s steady heartbeat as the rescuers pulled the truck apart. Seconds later, paramedics swarmed over the remains, assessing the girl’s condition as they prepared her for transport. Creeping up behind them, Jim felt a hand on his arm and turned to find Tovar staring at him, tears rimming her own eyes.

“I’m sorry. I should’ve listened to you.” She shook her head. “If you hadn’t ignored me, there’s no telling how long she could’ve been trapped in there.”

“It’s not your fault,” Jim assured her, trying to listen in on the paramedics at the same time. “Anyone else who looked at that truck would’ve thought the same thing.”

“You didn’t,” Tovar pointed out guiltily.

“I’ve just better then average hearing.” Jim gave her a reassuring smile. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a promise to keep.”

Bending down next to the stretcher Caitlin was on, Jim brushed her bangs out of her eyes. “Hey, kiddo, here I am. Just like I promised.”

“Can you come with me to the hospital? Please?” Caitlin looked up at him through wide, frightened eyes. “Please?”

“No, I’m sorry, sweetheart,” Jim replied gently. “I need to stay here and help anyone else trapped. But I’ll come by and see you when this is all done.” He looked down at the splint around her leg. “And I’ll sign your cast for you, okay?”

“Okay.” She smiled bravely at him. “Thank you, Mr. Jim.”

“You’re welcome, sweetheart.” Jim kissed her forehead and watched as the paramedics loaded her into a waiting ambulance. Rubbing at his temple to fight off the headache building there, he turned back to the waiting disaster. “Come on, Tovar, let’s get this over with.”


“Huh?” Jim frowned at her, trying to decide which one of them wasn’t making sense.

“My name,” she responded simply. “It’s Rosie.”


Josh held both IVs high and yelled to be heard over the helicopter as he updated the doctor on his patient’s condition. “Pulse is 132, still weak and thready. We’ve brought the BP up to 80/50. Patient is intubated and has chest tube on the left. The patient’s shown no signs of regaining consciousness on the way in.”

“All right, let’s get him down the ER.” A middle-aged, dark-skinned doctor shone a light into Blair’s pupils as the stretcher rushed toward the waiting elevator. “I’ve got an OR being prepped and a surgeon on the way in. Let’s get him stabilized before she gets here.”


Jim pulled a bottle of water from the ice chest that Brown and Rafe had just dropped off and rolled it across his forehead before opening it and drinking half the contents in one swallow. Turning to scan the few remaining cars as he waited for Rosie, Jim listened casually to the conversations of the firefighters around him.

“ . . . just be glad to get out of . . .”

“ . . . due any day now. Every time she stands I . . .”

“ . . . green Volvo . . .”

‘What?’ Jim spun around suddenly, focusing in on that conversation.

“Yeah, you should’ve seen it.” An enthusiastic voice commented. “The investigators think it was the first car hit. You should see it, you can hardly tell it was a car at one time. There’s no way the guy they pulled out of there makes it. No way.”

The world seemed to shrink around Jim, narrowing down to just the words pouring out of the firefighter’s mouth. ‘NO!’ The denial screamed through Jim’s head. Sandburg was fine. He wasn’t even in Cascade right now. He was safely in Seattle, picking up some trinket that would mean nothing to Jim, but that Blair would prattle on about happily about for days to come. But even as his mind repeated these assurances, his feet were carrying him through the remaining wreckage to the man’s side.

“Where is it?” Jim’s hand snaked out, grabbing a hold of the man’s arm and spinning him around.

“Where’s what?” The firefighter tried to pull away, but Jim’s grip just tightened. “What are you talking about?”

“The Volvo. You said there was a green Volvo trapped under a truck.” Jim was barely aware of his handhold on the man, or anything else beyond the sudden pounding of his heart. “Where is it? Was it an old one or a new one?”

“It’s right over there.” The annoyed man finally yanked his arm free to point at jack-knifed big rig just a few yards away. “What is with you?”

But Jim was already on his way, threading through the cars, his sight focused on the familiar bit of green that taunted him from beneath the truck.

“Jim?” Rosie stopped in the middle of a conversation with her captain as she watched Ellison power past her. “Jim, what’s up? Excuse me, sir.” She nodded her apology to the captain and hurried after Jim, catching up with him just as he reached the 18-wheeler and disappeared beneath it.

“Oh God, no.” Jim’s heart leapt into his throat as he took in all too familiar wreck and the pieces of his friend’s life scattered about and drenched in blood. So much blood. It’s random patterns spread across the asphalt. Closing his eyes against the carnage, Jim tried to dial down his sense of smell, to block out the scent of his best friend’s life spilled across the oily pavement.

“Jim? What is it?” Rosie crouched next to him, not sure if she should reach out to help. “What’s wrong?”

“Blair. Oh God.” Jim wrapped his hand around the bloodied strap of the leather backpack that lay next to the car. “This is my partner’s car. I have to find him. I have to . . .” Jim could feel the zone creeping up on him as his senses were overwhelmed by the sights and smells of Blair’s life slipping away.

“JIM!” Tovar shook his shoulder, hard, looking at him with concern., “Are you all right?”

“Yes, I . . . I just, I have to find him. I have to . . .” He turned a suddenly eagle-eyed gaze on her. “Where did they take the victims from this end of the pile-up?” When she paused, Jim grabbed her arm. “Where?”

“Most of them went to Mercy General. The rest were sent to Cascade Memorial.” Rosie sprinted after him when he dashed out from under the truck. “Are you sure that’s your partner’s car?”

“Yeah,” Jim’s hand clenched reflexively around the worn leather bag he held, “I’m sure. I have to go. If you see my captain tell him . . . Tell him I’ll call him as soon as I know something.”

Crossing the tarmac, Jim flashed his badge at a uniformed officer waiting beside a patrol car before climbing in and speeding away with the siren blaring.


“Damn it, still no breath sounds on the left. Check the chest tube.”

“It’s still positive for blood, doctor.”

“What’s his pulse-ox?

“Sixty-four, doctor.”

“That’s too low. Increase the oxygen flow. What’s his pressure?


“Hang two more liters of whole blood.”

“Yes, doctor.”

Blair swam back to consciousness through a sea of pain, his eyes fluttering open as he tried to focus on the activity surrounding him. Voices floated in and out of his comprehension. Something cold and hard filled his throat and he tried to escape it, but lacked the strength to even turn his head.

‘Jim. Where’s Jim?’

He knew if he could just find Jim, Jim would explain what was happening. Make them all stop hurting him. ‘If they’d just stop I could think, figure out what’s wrong.’ A sharp pain in his chest stole even the breaths that were being forced into his lungs and room blurred before his eyes.

“Doctor, he’s throwing PVCs.”

Something cold was pressured to his chest as Blair struggled to open his eyes.

“I’m losing audible heart tones. Sounds like a cardiac tamponade. Get me a cardiac needle, I’m going to try and tap it here.”

Cardiac what? Needle? What are they talking about? Blair fought to resist the darkness that beckoned him from every side, but the pain became too much and once again he spiraled down into its welcoming embrace.


Jim pushed his way through the chaotic waiting room, his ears ringing as the dials spun out of his control, the smell of death, pain and fear nearly overwhelming him. The harried looking nurse behind the information counter gave him only a cursory glance before returning her attention to the monitor in front of her.

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Moore, but we don’t have your daughter registered in this hospital. Have you tried Cascade Memorial?”

“No, I told you, the man who called me said that my daughter was at Mercy General.” The frantic woman tried to lean across the counter. “Are you sure she’s not here? Caitlin Paulette Moore. She was in a car accident this morning.”

“I’m sorry, ma’am, she’s not registered in the computer. But we’ve had so many patients brought in that we haven’t had time to get them all in the system.” The nurse motioned toward the waiting room., “If you take a seat over there, I’ll let you know if I can come up with something.”

“Excuse me.” Jim stopped the worried woman. “Is your daughter about nine, dark curly hair?” When she nodded and looked at him hopefully, Jim extended his hearing, searching for the voice he’d heard this morning. There is was. “She’s in the third treatment room on the left. Tell her Mr. Jim says hi.” He watched for a moment as she rushed down the hall, before diverting his attention back to the nurse. “Can you help me, I’m looking for my partner.”

“Last name?” She asked with a weary sigh.

“Sandburg. Blair Sandburg.” Jim tried to focus on the computer’s reflection in her glasses, but control was once again beyond him. “Anything?”

“He’s not registered as a patient. But if he came in from the accident today he may not be registered yet.” She pointed toward the same waiting room she’d directed Caitlin’s mother to. “If you take a seat, I’ll have an orderly check the treatment rooms for him.”

“He’s not in any of the treatment rooms.” Jim scowled her. “Could he be up in surgery?

“All of the patients that were removed to surgery or the ICU have been registered.” She replied curtly, looking past Jim to the next person waiting.

“Do you have any John Does registered?” Jim continued, ignoring the person behind him.

“No.” Once again she tried to turn the person behind Jim.

“Are you sure?” Jim pressed. “There were a lot of accident victims, couldn’t one or two have slipped through the cracks? Isn’t it possibly he’s up in surgery or the ICU, maybe even a room, and he just isn’t in the system yet?”

“No, it’s not.” She finally snapped at him. “Those departments aren’t understaffed today. If your friend were anywhere other then the ER or the morgue, he’d be in the system.”

“M-morgue?” The blood drained from Jim’s face, Blair’s backpack fell to the floor from Jim’s slack fingers. A stumbling step carried him away from the desk as he tried to process the horrifying thought. Morgue? ‘No!’ His mind refused to wrap itself around the concept. ‘If Sandburg was dead I’d know it.’

‘Sure you would, just like you knew he was hurt.’ A voice taunted from the back of his mind. ‘Some partner you were. Helping people who could walk into ambulances while Blair was bleeding to death just a few feet away.’

Jim crumbled into a chair, his head dropping into his hands as he tried to block out the internal voices. He couldn’t do this. He couldn’t go down to the morgue to look for Blair’s body. It was too much like that horrible day next to the fountain when everyone else had given up hope. Jim couldn’t do that. He couldn’t believe that his friend was lost to him forever. Not after all they’d been through.

“No. No way. This is not happening.” Jim wasn’t even aware of speaking the words as he sprang to his feet.

“Jim?” An imposing figure appeared suddenly before him. “What the hell’s going on? That firefighter you were working with told me that something had happened to Sandburg.”

“Simon.” Jim breathed a sigh of relief, finally someone who would understand and help. “I found his car trapped under the semi that jackknifed. But I can’t find Blair. He’s not here and he’s not at Cascade Memorial.”

“Are you sure?” Simon pulled Jim aside, glancing anxiously around. “Maybe he wasn’t in the car. You said he called you from the University to let you know he was heading up to Seattle to pick up something for a teacher.”

“He was in the car, Simon.” Jim scooped the soiled backpack up from the floor and held it in front of him like a talisman. “You know Sandburg, Simon, he never goes anywhere without this. He’s got to be somewhere.”

“And you checked with the duty nurse?” Simon’s vision was filled with the blood soaked leather that seemed more like an extension of the young police observer then an inanimate object.

“Yes. She was no help.” A shudder ran the length of Jim’s body. “She suggested I check the morgue.”

“What?” Simon’s shock was evident in his tone, “My God. Have you?”

“No!” Jim glared suddenly at Simon, “He’s not dead. He’s just not. Okay? I just need to find him.”

“All right, Jim. I’m sorry.” Simon settled a large hand on his detective’s shoulder. “This is just a shock. So, what do we do now?”

“He has to be somewhere, we check every hospital in Cascade. I don’t care what it takes.” Jim’s hand tightened reflexively around the backpack’s strap. “We find him.”


“Pressure’s dropping doctor.”

“Damn, we got another bleeder somewhere.” Skilled hands moved quickly trying to find the source of the bleeding that endangered her patient’s life. “Got it. Well, you’re certainly giving me a run for my money. But I’ve done some of my best work here . . . clamp . . . so don’t even think about trying to get away . . . sutures . . . because I plan on bragging about you. Jenni, how’s the kidney function?”

“Still nothing, doctor.”

“Hang another liter of whole blood,” the doctor replied. “We’ve got to get his volume up and get circulation back to those organs before it’s too late.”

“Yes, doctor.” One of the nurse’s moved away, coming back a moment later to hang the blood.

“Okay, I think that’s the last one, let’s get ready to close.”

“Doctor,” another nurse called her attention the cardiac monitor. Bradycardia.”

“Hang two more liters of blood and another liter of . . .” The monitor’s squeal filled the tiny room. “V-FIB! Get me the paddles. 200 watt seconds. CLEAR!”

The body on the table arched gracefully as electricity raced through it, but the line on the monitor remained stubbornly flat.


Josh stepped off out the treatment room, looking around vaguely for his partner when his eyes settled on the two large men surrounding the payphone. The older black man spoke into the phone and frowned at the response he received. But he wasn’t the one that had caught Josh’s attention, it was the other one. Nearly as large, this one paced in tight circles, his eyes never leaving the phone the other held, clutching a blood soiled backpack tightly in one hand.

Rubbing a hand across his tired eyes, Josh turned to go, figuring it was none of his business, when something struck him as familiar. The backpack. He’d seen it today at the accident scene. The kid in the green Volvo. If they were with him what were they doing here?

“Excuse me,” Josh cleared his throat, stepping back in surprise when the pacing man turned on him with a menacing glare. “I’m sorry to disturb you, but . . . Are you looking for the owner of that backpack?”

“Do you know where he is? Is he all right?” The man had latched onto Josh’s arm, punctuating each statement with a shake. “How badly was he hurt?”

“Jim, calm down, give the man a chance to speak.” The older man inserted himself between them. “I’m Captain Simon Banks, Cascade PD. This is Detective Jim Ellison. We’re looking for his partner, Blair Sandburg.”

“I don’t know what his name is.” Josh reached out to brush his fingers across the leather bag. “But I recognize this. I had to move it out of the way to get to a kid in a green Volvo today at the Rainier Expressway accident.”

“Thank God.” Jim released a breath he didn’t remember holding. “Where is he? How is he? They told me he’d been brought here or to Cascade Memorial, but neither hospital has him.”

“Jim,” Simon reminded him softly. “Let him talk.”

“That’s all right, I’ve dealt with frightened friends and family before.” Josh looked Jim firmly in the eye. “I’m not going to lie to you. Your friend was in pretty bad shape when we left him at UWC. He’d gone into hypovolemic shock by the time we got him to the hospital.”

“Hypo-what?” Simon shook his head. “What’s that?”

“Loss of blood,” Jim whispered, his own face deathly pale. “He lost too much blood.”

“That’s right.” Josh nodded, slipping for a moment into lecture mode. “When a body loses that much blood, it goes into shock and organs begin to shut down, trying to preserve what blood flow there is for the heart, brain and lungs.”

“Dear God.” Simon bowed his head, one hand going to Jim’s shoulder, but for whose comfort he wasn’t sure.

“Is he still alive?” Jim asked hoarsely, afraid to look at the paramedic and see the answer in his eyes.

“We got him there alive, whether or not he still is . . .” Josh shrugged helplessly. “But the people over at University hospital are the best there is at trauma medicine, that’s why I rerouted life flight over there.”

“Thank you.,” Jim shook the man’s hand and turned to Simon. “I have to get over there now, Sir.”

“I’ll drive.”


The quiet order of the University of Washington, Cascade Medical Center ER was almost a shock to their systems as Simon and Jim made their way to the information counter. A young nurse looked up as they approached and smiled.

“Can I help you?”

“I sure hope so.” Jim leaned against the counter, balanced between his fear and the need to know. “I’m looking for a patient that was brought in here by life flight helicopter this morning. From the accident on the expressway.”

“Are you a relative?” She looked at Jim expectantly.

“I’m his partner.” Jim flashed his badge at her. “And I’ve got a release to authorize treatment if he’s incapacitated.”

“And what was his name?” Her finger’s poised over the keyboard.

“Sandburg. Blair Sandburg.” The fist around Jim’s gut tightened as he waited.

“I’m sorry, there’s no one by that name in the system.” She smiled sympathetically at Jim. “Is it possible he’s under some other name?”

“What about John Does?” Simon asked quietly, glancing quickly at Jim’s strained features before turning back to the nurse. “He was brought in from the accident on the expressway.”

She turned back to the monitor, fingers flying over the keyboard, before she looking up with a smile. “Here he is. Just let me contact Dr. Myers.”

“Why are you calling him?” Jim asked in alarm. “Can’t you just tell us how he is?”

“I’m sorry.” She shrugged and flashed them a sympathetic glance. "Only doctors are allowed to release patient information.”

“Please.” Jim took her hand in his. “I’ve been trying to find him for hours. Can’t you at least telling if he’s still alive.”

Her expression softened and she squeezed the hand that held hers. “He is. He’s in recovery right now. The doctor will have to tell you anymore.”

“Thank you, miss.” Simon took his detective by the arm and led him the nearby chairs to wait.

After several tense minutes they were surprised to see a short woman in her early 60s approaching them, consulting the chart in her hands. Raising her head, she looked around the faces gathered in the waiting room., “Blair Sandburg?”

“Here.” Jim leapt immediately to his feet, crossing the space between them in three large strides. “How is he?”

“Why don’t we go to my office . . .” Dr. Myers looked at him expectantly.

“Detective Ellison,” Jim ground out, his jaw clenching tightly. “And I don’t want to go to any office. I just want someone to tell me how my partner is.”

“Jim!” Simon regarded Ellison sternly before extending a hand to the doctor. “Captain Simon Banks. Sandburg works under me. I’m sorry if we seem a bit brusque, but we’ve just spent the last two hours trying to find which hospital Sandburg was at and I’m afraid our nerves are a bit frayed.”

“I understand,” Dr. Myers smiled wearily. “But I’ve just spent four hours putting that boy back together and if I don’t sit down and get some decent coffee soon, I’m going to end up on the bed next to him. So, gentlemen,” she motioned toward the elevator with her clipboard, “what do you say we stop wasting time and get down to business.”


Jim sat ramrod straight in the chair across from the doctor’s desk, his eyes never leaving her as she settled in behind it.

“First of all, I have to tell you, your Mr. Sandburg is a very strong willed young man. Most patients in that condition would never have made it to my operating table. But he did and that’s good, because he’s going to need that strength if he’s going to recover from this.” Making sure both men got her point, she flipped open the chart in front of her. “Mr. Sandburg was brought in here suffering from hypovolemic shock, several of his organs, including his liver and kidneys had begun to shut down. He was also suffering from a broken left femur and had a metal rod piercing his left side.”

“Metal rod?” Simon voice held a note of horror, “How . . . What . . .”

“I believe it was a door handle. Frankly, another two inches higher and we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” Clearing her throat, she continued. “This pierced his left lung and broke two ribs. We had to remove his ruptured spleen. One of the rib fragments broke loose, probably during transport, and ripped a small tear in his heart and causing blood to flood the pericardium . . .”

“What’s that?” Simon glanced over at Jim, who hadn’t moved from the stiff position he’d taken in front of the desk. Only his paling complexion and tensed jaw betraying his inner turmoil.

“The pericardium is the thin membrane that surrounds the heart, two of them actually,” Dr. Myers explained. “Because of the tear Blair developed a pericardial effusion, fluid accumulating between the two layers, impairing the heart’s ability to fill between beats.” Looking up at the two stricken face before her, the doctor quickly continued. “They removed most of the fluid before surgery and I repaired the tear, so Blair’s heart is functioning normally at this time. I’m not telling you this to alarm you, I just want you to know what we’re going to have to keep an eye out for in the future.”

Closing the chart, she leaned forward. “The real problem at this point, is the after effects of the hypovolemic shock. We’ve increased his blood volume and gotten his blood pressure back up to an acceptable level, this has resulted in returned function to most of his organs with no discernible losses at this time. However, his liver is only functioning at 40% and neither of his kidneys are functioning at this time. If they don’t show some signs of recovery soon we may have to place your friend on dialysis, which I’m not sure his body is strong enough to withstand at this time. And even if his liver and kidneys recover all function, we’re still going to have to keep an eye open for signs of necrosis over the next few days. Then there’s the matter of the cardiac arrest he suffered on the table . . .”

“When can I see him?” Jim spoke for the first time since stepping into the room, his voice low and controlled, as if each syllable cost him a measure of his own life.

Dr. Myers looked slightly startled at the abrupt interruption, but recovered quickly. “Blair’s in recovery right now. It should be another hour or so before he’s moved to ICU. Once he’s settled you can see him for ten minutes out of every hour until visiting hours are over.”

“That’s no good.” Jim fixed a steely gaze on the woman. “I need to see him now. And I’m not leaving him alone in the ICU.”

“I’m afraid that’s out of the question, detective.” The doctor frowned at him. “The risk of infection in recovery is too great. You’ll have to wait until Blair’s in ICU. But I am willing to negotiate on visiting hours once he’s there, as long as I see that your presence in no way endangers my patient.”

“You go into recovery, don’t you?” Jim asked sharply. “And nurses?”

“Well, yes, but . . .”

“I’ll do whatever you say, wearing whatever sterile gowns you tell me to. I don’t care. But I need to see him. Please.”

Dr. Myers opened her mouth to rebuff his plea and found herself gazing into broken blue eyes, the anguish in their depths touching her. “Very well, but you’ll do exactly as I say and no more then ten minutes.”

“Thank you.” Jim slumped back in his chair, his body limp with relief.


Jim stopped in the doorway and adjusted his mask, feeling suddenly nervous despite his insistence that he be allowed this visit. When the doctor nodded and motioned him forward, Jim tried to lift his foot, but found his feet frozen by fear. Was he ready for the reality of all the doctor told him? Ready to see his friend broken and bloodied? Hooked up to another respirator?

Shaking off the moment of doubt, Jim drew a deep, steadying breath and took his first step toward the bed. Then another. Before he knew it, he was standing next to the bed, gazing down at his partner’s torn, bruised, precious face.

“Chief.” He whispered through a suddenly tight throat, blinking back the tears that seemed to spring from nowhere. Snagging a chair with his foot, he pulled it next to the bed, careful to avoid the web of tubes and wires that centered on his partner.

Jim reached up with one gloved hand, resting it on the bruised forehead and leaned forward to place his mouth next to Blair’s ear. “You know, Chief, if you wanted to give me a heart attack there were a lot easier ways to do it. You could’ve just cut your hair. Or maybe gone to law school. Maybe joined the academy? You didn’t need to go to all this trouble.”

Biting back on the lump that was forming in his throat, Jim leaned back in his chair and let his senses wash over the man before him. Each one cataloging the blessed signs of the life coursing through his friend. The gentle, steady ‘thu-thud, thu-thud, thu-thud’ of his heart. The faint hint of herbs that clung to him, despite the harsh medicinal smells of the hospital. The heat rising from his body. Even the measured breaths forced in and out of his lungs by the respirator.

A clearing throat finally drew his attention away from Blair and Jim looked up to see Dr. Myers standing in the doorway, tapping her watch.

Rising to his feet, Jim brushed his hand across Blair’s. “It’s time for me to go, Chief. But I’ll be waiting when they bring you down to the ICU.” Jim lingered a moment in the doorway, reassuring himself a final time, before stepping away.


Megan Connor rushed out of the elevator, looking around anxiously for the man who had called her. Movement behind a glass wall down the corridor caught her attention and she focused on the figure pacing like a caged tiger.

“Captain?” She hurried to the waiting room, noticing Jim for the first time as he sat stiffly in a nearby chair, his gaze turned inward as he focused his attention beyond the confines of the room. “Captain.” Megan stepped into Simon’s path, “Simon, what’s going on? Where’s Sandy? What’s wrong with Jim?”

“Connor, thank God you’re here.” Simon grasped her shoulders and lowered his voice as he glanced around to ensure that no one overheard. “He’s been like that for twenty minutes. I don’t know if he’s zoned or what and I’m afraid to touch him. This is Sandburg’s venue. I don’t do this Sentinel stuff.”

“Let me try.” Megan gave Simon’s hand a quick squeeze and sat next to Jim. “Jim? Jim?” When she got no response, Megan carefully lay a hand on his shoulder, trying to remember how she’d seen Blair reach him in the past, “Jim, come back to me. Jim . . .”

He jerked away from her suddenly. “I lost it. Damn it.” Jim turned slowly, fixing a cold glare on her. “What the hell did you think you were doing?”

“Getting you out of a zone, or whatever it was.” Megan’s eyes flashed with temper as she returned Jim’s glare. “Pardon me for giving a bloody damn.”

“I wasn’t zoning.” Jim growled, his voice dropping as he turned away., “I was listening.”

“To what?” Megan’s expression softened and she gently lay one of her hands over Jim’s. “Jim, what were you listening to? Was it Sandy?”

Jim nodded slowly, refusing to meet her eye, choosing instead to study the worn linoleum. Withdrawing her hand, Megan looked to Simon for support.

Simon sighed softly and nodded, taking Megan’s place next to Jim, but before he could speak Jim stood suddenly and started for the hallway.

“He’s here.”


Jim waited outside Blair’s room in the ICU, watching as his partner was carefully lifted onto the bed. He waited while monitors were checked, IVs were adjusted, and the portable respirator replaced with the one in the room. He waited while Dr. Myers examined Blair, checking his pulse, his pupils, listening to his heart, his lungs, running a critical eye over each stitch and bandage before finally satisfying herself that her patient hadn’t suffered any ill effects from the move.

“You can come in now, detective.”

Jim stopped waiting. In less time than it took to blink an eye he was brushing past the doctor without a thought and settling into the chair next to Blair’s bed. He ran his senses quickly over his friend, noting each change in his friend’s condition.

Frowning, he turned to glare at the doctor., “He’s got a fever.”

“Yes.” Dr. Myers couldn’t hide her surprise as she looked at Jim. “It’s unfortunate, but not unexpected under the circumstances. His body has been through a great deal of trauma. I’ve had blood samples drawn and sent to the lab, so if it is an infection we should know soon. In the meantime, I’ve started him on some broad spectrum antibiotics just to be safe.”

“If that doesn’t work?” Jim demanded, his hand settling unconsciously over his friend’s.

“Detective." The doctor smiled sympathetically. “Let’s not borrow trouble. We’ll deal with any problems when and if they arise. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have other patients to check on. The duty nurse knows where to find me if either of you need anything.”

Jim grunted dismissively, the doctor faded into the background as he settled in to begin waiting again.


“How’s Jim doing?”

Simon shook his head at the quiet question, casting a quick glance over his shoulder at closed door. “I don’t know. He hasn’t come out since Sandburg was brought down.”

“Maybe one of us should go in and talk to him?” Rafe suggested uneasily, looking over at his own partner. “See if we can get him to go to the cafeteria or . . .” He shrugged his shoulders helplessly.

“Not yet,” Simon addressed the small group gathered in wait. “Visiting hours are up in an hour. If he hasn’t come out by then I’ll speak with him. In the meantime, the rest of you should head home and get some rest. I have a feeling tomorrow’s going to be a long day.”

“Are you sure, Captain?” Megan frowned and she peeked through the blinds covering the door., “I could just pop in and have a quick word with him.”

“No Connor!” sighing deeply, Simon lifted his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose, knowing his response had come out harsher then intended. “Sorry, Connor. It’s been a long day. Everyone’s out of sorts.”

“That’s all right, Captain.” Megan’s eyes once more drifted toward the closed door. “I know you’re concerned about Sandy, we all are.” Taking a deep breath, she turned back to the Captain. “Alrighty then, we’ll get out of your way. Just promise to call us if there’s anything we can do or . . . if there’s any change, good or bad.” Linking an arm through Rafe’s she drug him toward the elevator, “Come on, you blokes can escort me down to the blood bank. I hear Sandy exhausted their supply and they’re looking for a few good men, but I bet they'll be willing to settle for you.”

With an imploring look over his shoulder, Rafe allowed himself to be led away, hoping his partner wouldn’t be far behind.

“Simon, you should go home and get some rest, too.” Joel’s quiet voice pulled Simon’s attention away from the good-natured bickering going on as his detectives waited for an elevator.

“And you’ll be right behind me, right Joel?” Simon eyed his friend knowingly.

Taggert bit back a small laugh and shook his head. “Should I pick you up anything besides coffee from the cafeteria?”


Jim silently thanked Simon as he listened to the dwindling crowd outside the door. He knew they were there because they cared, about him, about his partner, but he simply couldn’t find it within him to deal with anyone’s pain but his own right now. Even the slow, but steady improvements in Blair’s vital signs did little to change his mood.

Closing his eyes, he shifted in the uncomfortable hospital chair, trying to ignore the stiffness that crept into his limbs and turned his attention to the question that had plagued him all evening. How the hell did this happen?

Maybe that wasn’t the right question. Jim knew how it had happened, or at least the bare bones of it, snatches picked out of the conversations at the accident scene and pieces of Simon’s discussions with his co-workers. A woman in a station wagon, probably distract by her children, had crossed into oncoming traffic, setting off the chain of events that had brought him here.

Maybe the better question was why. Why did this happen? Why Sandburg? The kid wasn’t even supposed to be there. What sick twist of fate threw him in the middle of that mess and left him to there to bleed for God knows how long?


Simon’s soft inquiry caught him by surprise and Jim jumped forward in his chair. “Jesus, Simon, you scared the crap out of me.”

“I noticed.” Worry colored Simon’s expression. “I don’t remember the last time that happened. Are you all right?”

“Yeah, I guess. I just . . .” He gestured vaguely toward the bed. “I’m just trying to understand this. Looking for a way to rationalize this to myself.”

“There is no way to rationalize it.” Simon stepped closer to the bed, his gaze settling on the pale figure lying there. “It was an accident, Jim, they don’t make sense, they just happen.”

“Maybe.” Jim crossed his arms, almost glaring as he studied Blair. “But they seem to happen to Sandburg a whole hell of a lot.”

“Yeah.” A fond smile graced Simon’s face. “The kid’s definitely a trouble magnet.”

“Is he, Simon?” An intense stare zeroed in on the captain. “Or is it just the company he keeps?”

“Come on, Jim, you can’t possibly be blaming yourself for this.” Simon shook his head in disbelief as his detective suddenly refused to meet his eye. “You are. You’ve found some way to make this all your fault. Damn it, Jim, it was an accident. Some woman got distracted and strayed across the median. She hit Blair, not you. Random, senseless, but just an accident. This had nothing to do with you or your senses or even Sandburg’s work at the station. It was an accident. Do you understand me, detective?”

“Yes, sir.” Jim’s gaze drifted back to his silent friend. “But every time I look at him, I can’t help thinking of all the other times he’s ended up here. Times that were because of me, because he was helping me do my job.”

“Jim . . .”

“Why the hell do you think he does it, Simon?” Jim leaned forward to brush a stray curl from Blair’s pale forehead, letting his hand linger for a few seconds longer then necessary. “Why does he keep sticking around, getting hurt, when he’s even said he’s got enough information for ten dissertations?”

“That’s an easy one.” Simon’s hand settled on Jim’s shoulder, giving it a reassuring squeeze. “Because you’re his friend. Come on, Jim, let’s get out of here and get something to eat.”

“I think I’ll stick around a while.” Jim slumped back into the uncomfortable chair. “I want to be here when he wakes up.”

“All right, just . . .” Simon paused in the doorway, taking in the scene before him. “Just give me a call if either of you needs anything.”

“I will. And Simon.” Jim waited until Simon turned back, a tired smile touching his face. “Thanks.”


Jim groaned and stretched, standing slowly. “Hey, Chief, I’m going to run to the cafeteria and get some coffee, don't go anywhere.” He tapped Blair’s arm lightly before walking into the hallway, contemplating the nature of hospital chairs.

“Jim, how’s he doing?”

Jim shook his head and gestured vaguely. “I don’t know, Joel. The same. I guess that’s good. What’re you still doing here?”

“I don’t really know, I started to go home when Simon left.” Joel shrugged. “But I only made it as far as the front door. You heading home?” He glanced pointedly at the clock on the wall.

“No, just down to the cafeteria for some coffee.”

“You want me to get that for you?” Joel offered, his eyes drifting back to the closed door.

“No, thanks, I really just need to stretch my legs a little. These chairs aren’t exactly built for comfort.” Jim watched as Joel’s gaze was pulled once more to Blair’s room. “If you don’t mind, though, could you sit with Sandburg while I go? Just in case he wakes up. I don’t want him to wake up alone.”

“Sure, Jim. I’d be happy to.” Joel’s face lit up. “Take your time, maybe get a sandwich while you’re down there.”

“I won’t be too long,” Jim promised as he stepped into the elevator. “And you know where to find me if there’s any problem.”


Jim stared in disgust at the soggy excuse for a sandwich that lay on his plate. Not that the finest prime rib would be able to whet his appetite at the moment, but there had to be something better than this in the hospital cafeteria even at this late hour.

“Mind if I join?”

The hesitant voice pulled Jim away from his interior dialogue regarding the nutritional value of food that tasted like Styrofoam and he found himself looking into a pair of warm blue eyes. “Rosie? What are you doing here?”

“Looking for you.” She motioned toward the seat next to him, sitting when he nodded. “You took off in such a rush today that I didn’t get a chance to thank you for all your help.”

“Just doing my job.” Jim shrugged uncomfortably, picking at the sandwich. “I just wish there was more we could’ve done.”

“Me too.” Rosie leaned forward, cupping her hand over Jim’s, stilling it’s restless movements. “How’s your partner?”

“He’s still alive.” Jim met her eyes, his relief evident. “The doctors tell me he’s doing as well as can be expected for someone in his condition. I’m not sure if that’s meant to comfort me or not, but so far I’d have to go with not.”

“I’m sorry.” She squeezed his hand gently. “If it helps, you learn a lot about the different hospitals in my line of work and the doctors here really are the best.”

“Thanks, it does help.” Jim rose slowly, giving her a brief smile. “It’s just hard, sitting around, waiting, not knowing. And the second I stop thinking about this, I start thinking about that damn fountain.”


Jim sank back into his chair, rubbing his fingers over the surface of the table. “A few months ago Blair drowned in one of the fountains at Rainier.”

“Oh my God,” Rosie’s hushed whisper brought Jim’s attention back to her. “I heard about that. The paramedics who worked that scene said it was nothing short of a miracle. That the guy was stone, cold dead, but his partner refused to believe and then he just started breathing again.” She cast a guilty glance in Jim’s direction. “That partner was you?”

“Yeah, it was. And I can’t . . . I just can’t believe that he came back from that just to die in some stupid traffic accident.” Jim closed his eyes and shook his head, trying to chase away the unpleasant vision of Blair’s cold, slack face. “Listen, I appreciate your stopping by, but I’ve got to go. I need to get back to my partner.”

Rosie watched as Jim trudged tiredly to the elevator. “Good luck.”


“Detective Ellison.” Dr. Myers looked at Jim with mild surprise as she entered Blair’s room. “What are you still doing here? I thought you would’ve left hours ago.”

Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, Jim spared a second for a quick glance at his watch and suppressed a groan. 5:23 am. “I could say the same to you.”

“The difference is, I did manage to go home, even slept in my own bed for a few hourse.” She picked up the chart at the end of the bed, reading it over before making some notations. “But the duty nurse called about an hour ago. She was concerned about Blair’s lungs.” The doctor missed Jim’s stricken look as she pressed her stethoscope against Blair’s chest, listening carefully to both lungs. “I asked her to keep an eye on them particularly after I read the records Cascade Memorial faxed over.” Dr. Myers straightened the blankets again. “Sounds like she made a good call. There’s fluid gathering in his lungs.”

“Fluid? What does that mean?” Jim demanded, pushing back a surge of panic to concentrate on the matter at hand.

“More than likely it’s side effect of the fluids we’ve been giving him to keep his blood pressure up.” Dr. Myers made another notation before closing the chart and hanging it on the end of the bed. “Because his kidneys still haven’t regained enough function to eliminate the excess fluids from his system.”

“What . . .” the words stuck in Jim’s throat. “What are you going to do about it?”

“I’m going to cut back on his fluids and start him on dialysis.” She sighed softly and rubbed her forehead. “I was hoping to avoid this while his system was still depressed from the accident and the surgery, but I’m afraid it can’t wait any longer for that.”

“Is this why he hasn’t he woken up yet?” Jim clenched his fist, trying to stop the tremor of fear that still ran threw him. “The surgery was hours ago, shouldn’t he be awake by now?”

“Detective, I know you’re worried, but Blair’s been through a great deal of trauma,” Dr. Myers explained patiently. “Along with the high doses of pain killers and antibiotics he’s on, I have him on sedatives as well. We won’t even begin to taper off on those until he’s removed from the respirator, which will probably be another 72 hours. Certainly enough time for you to go home, get some sleep and clean up before you come back.”

“I’m not leaving,” Jim replied resolutely.

“Detective, Mr. Ellison, I understand that you’re worried about your friend, but he’s made it this far and there’s nothing you can do for him right now.” She looked at him kindly. “Save your energy for when he’s going to need you.”

Jim ran a tired hand down his face, finally conceding her point with a slow nod. “Okay. But you’ll call me if there’s any change or he shows signs of waking?”

“Personally, detective. Now go, get some sleep. He’ll still be here when you get back. I promise.”


Jim tossed his keys in the basket by the doorway, trying to remember the last time he’d been this tired. A brief flash of trickling water played at his memory, but he pushed it back. That was a place he’d visited too much for one night, for one lifetime.

Looking around the loft, vaguely aware that he should be doing something, Jim let the calm and quiet wash over him. But even that was wrong. It was too quiet, too still, in the loft. When had the solitude he’d always craved become a burden?

Groaning, he shrugged out of his jacket and trudged by the stairs. He was getting way too philosophical for this hour of the morning and this state of exhaustion. Six blissfully uninterrupted hours was all he asked, then his psyche could return to torturing him.

Setting the alarm as he kicked off his shoes, Jim was asleep before his head hit the pillow.


Bleary-eyed, Jim reached over to smash down the snooze bar on his alarm, cutting off its ear-piercing squeal. Sitting up with a groan, he rubbed the sleep from his eyes and tried to work the kinks out of his neck. Damn, he was getting too old to spend hours contorting his body into those institutionalized chiropractic nightmares that passed for chairs at the hospital.

Memories of the night spent at the hospital drove all thoughts of his own discomfort from Jim’s mind and he quickly reached for the phone. Dialing as he hurried downstairs, Jim listened impatiently to the repeated rings. Just as he was about to hang up, the vivid pictures of life or death scenarios playing out in his imagination suddenly too much to handle, the phone was answered by a coldly efficient voice that informed him that he’d reached the ICU.

“I’d like to check on the status of a patient. Blair Sandburg. No, b-u-r-g.” Jim fidgeted, shifting from foot to foot with unconscious tension as he listened to the nurse’s report. “Has he regained consciousness yet? No? Oh, okay, thanks.” Disappointed, he hung up the phone and stepped into the shower.


Jim took a deep breath and steeled himself for what he knew await him before pushed the door to Blair’s room open. Despite his talk with the doctor early that morning, Jim still felt a stab of anxiety at the sight of more machines hooked to his partner’s thin form. Dialysis. Jim remembered dimly.

“You can go all the way in, Detective Ellison.” At Dr. Myers’ amused observation, Jim realized that he was still standing in the doorway.

“Sorry.” Jim stepped aside with an embarrassed shrug. “I guess it just took me by surprise. The new machines, I mean.” With gestured vaguely toward the bed. “I know you told me about it, but . . .”

“Don’t be too put off by them, detective . . .”

“Jim.” He responded dully, his attention captured once again by Blair’s slack features.

“Jim, try not to let them get to you.” She reached out to squeeze his hand in reassurance. “This round of dialysis is almost over and it appears it will be the last one he’ll need.”

“What the hell does that mean?” The doctor found herself pinned by a nearly savage glare. “You can’t just give up on him.”

“Detective, calm down. This is good news.” Dr. Myers quickly assured him. “Blair’s kidneys are functioning again. He still doesn’t have full function, thus this final round, but his output has been slowly increasing over the last three hours.”

Jim slumped against the wall as a wave of relief washed through him. “He really is going to be all right, isn’t he?”

“I’m not going to lie to you, Jim, he’s still going to have a rocky road ahead of him, but yes, I think he’s going to make a full recovery.”

“Thank God.” Jim moved closer to the bed, his hand settling gently over Blair’s. “How much longer until you take him off the respirator?”

“Well, detective, unless my math skills are off, it’s been seven hours since I told you 72. Which should leave another 65.” She smiled at the embarrassed shrug Jim aimed in her direction. “Try not to be so anxious, detective, this isn’t an exact science. I’ll take Blair off when his lungs are sufficiently recovered. In the meantime, try to be a little patient.”

Jim watched as she slipped from the room and settled into uncomfortable chair again. “Try to be patient? When have I ever not been patient?” He asked the figure on the bed, and although he couldn’t swear to it, Jim thought he saw a hint of a smile gracing those still features.


“Bugger, Ellison, would you stop pacing already.” Megan glowered menacingly up at him. “The doctors know what they’re doing.”

“Then what’s taking so long?” Jim stopped to fling an accusing hand toward the closed door. “It’s been almost 20 minutes. How long does it take to remove a respirator?”

“As long as it takes.” Megan leaned forward and snagged Ellison’s sleeve, dragging him toward the chair next to hers. “Now sit down and let the doctors do their job. They’re probably just giving Sandy a once over before coming out.”

As if summoned by Megan’s words, Dr. Myers stepped out into the hall and motioned for Jim. “I thought I might find you still out here, detective.”

“How is he?” Jim jumped immediately to his feet, peering around the doctor to get a glimpse in the room. “His lungs . . .”

“Sound good. And he’s breathing on his own with no problems.” She motioned toward the room. “You can go in now, but only one at a time.”

“You go ahead, Jim,” Megan gave his arm a quick squeeze. “I’ve got a phone call to make.”

“We started tapering off on the sedatives a few hours ago, so he should be regaining consciousness in the next hour or so.” Dr. Myers watched Jim eye the door anxiously. “Jenni left a cup of ice chips next to the bed, so when he wakes up . . .”

“I know.” Jim cleared his throat, shifting uncomfortably. “We’ve been through this before.”

“Yes, that’s right. Very well then, go on in, detective. We’ll talk later.”

“Thanks, doc.” Jim smiled gratefully before slipping into the room.

Shutting the door quietly behind him, Jim crossed the room slowly, finding himself absurdly gratified by the simple sound of air moving in and out of Blair’s lungs, unassisted. Taking up his now too familiar position in the chair next to Blair’s bed, Jim leaned forward and spoke quietly. “Hey, Chief, doc says you can wake up anytime now. What’d you say?”

Silence met his request and he settled back in the chair to continue his vigil.


The morning's fog, so like that of the day of the accident, had finally burned off, leaving Cascade to bask in the glow of a rare sunny day. Jim's thoughts were filled with memories of the simple pleasure his friend drew from basking in the warming rays, every activity from studying to eating, and even once, teaching had taken place outside if at all possible. It was a perfect day to wake up. Perfect. And if the gradual increases in Blair’s pulse and respiration were any indication, Jim’s wait would be ending soon.

A small, pained gasp caught Jim’s attention and drew him away from the post he'd assumed by the window.

“Chief?” Jim settled carefully on the edge of the bed, his attention divided between the fingers that twitched ever so slightly and brief flutter of eyelashes. “Sandburg?” He curled his hand around the chilled one and leaned forward. “Blair? Come on, Chief. That’s it. You can do it. Just open those baby blues.”

“‘im?” Hoarse from disuse, it was still the sweetest sound Jim had heard in a very long time.

“Right here, Chief.” Jim tightened his grip on Blair’s hand. “How you doing? Should I call the doctor?”


“You were in an accident,” Jim replied quietly, smiling down at the sleepy form. “But everything’s going to be all right now.”

“‘k,” Heavy-lidded eyes drifted close again, a small sigh escaping as Blair snuggled back into the pillow.



Jim stopped with a frown outside the loft, listening to the noises coming from within.







‘What the hell?’ Jim juggled the bag of groceries he held from one arm to the other and fished in his pocket for his keys.

More then two weeks after the accident, Blair had finally been released from the hospital three days ago and this morning had finally convinced Jim to go to work, if only for a half day. But that half day had stretched into ten hours as Jim tackled the paperwork that had built up while he’d been distracted caring for his partner. Jim had swung by the store on his way home, hoping to appease his own guilt by fixing dinner.

“Chief, are you all right?” Jim burst through the door, concerned, to find his friend perched precariously on one crutch as he pushed a large tome across the floor with the other. “Sandburg, what the hell are you doing?”

“Huh?” Blair glanced up from his chore, surprised to find Jim watching him. “Oh hey, Jim, how’d it go?”

“Fine.” Jim set the groceries carefully on the counter and glanced down at the book again. “Now, you planning on telling me what, exactly, you’re doing?”

“Oh, I need this book for some research I’m doing and . . .” Blair stopped in mid-sentence as he took in the expression on Jim’s face. “Is something wrong?”

“What’s wrong is, you’re supposed to be resting.” Jim scooped the book up off the floor with one hand, wrapping his other around Blair’s arm and directing him to the couch. “And you’re supposed to stay off the crutches for another week unless it’s absolutely necessary. Broken ribs, remember?”

“Yeah, I remember, believe me, I remember.” Blair bit back a wince as he gently lowered himself onto the couch. “This was necessary, man, I was going stir crazy in there.”

“No, going to bathroom is necessary. Getting out of a burning building, necessary.” Jim dropped the book on the floor next to them, carefully lifting Blair’s broken leg onto the couch, gingerly placing it on a pillow. “Getting a book to read, not necessary. Besides, you’ve got a whole library in your room. Why not just grab one of those books?”

“I told you, I’m doing some research.” Peering over the top of the couch, Blair watched as Jim continued into the kitchen, taking the crutches with him, and started putting away the groceries. “I needed that book.”

“And it couldn’t wait till I got home?” Jim shook his head and raised a hand to stave off Blair’s protest. “Nevermind, I’m sure you thought it couldn’t. I thought the university gave you the next month off. So, what’s this research that couldn’t wait?”

“My dissertation.” Blair shrugged and looked down at the book. “I guess being in the accident kind of put a lot of things in perspective for me. I don’t want my degree to be one of those things that never quite got finished. Besides,” a pair of twinkling eyes turned on Jim, “how much trouble can I get into finishing my diss?”


Okay, so I admit it, I wanna know if anyone's reading it.