Petfly, not me. Money? Never heard of it.
This is the third story beta'd by the Cellar. Thanks again to Shelia, Annie,
Pat, Linda, Dina, and DebraC. You guys are the best!
And thanks to the TSL'ers who caught the last minute boo-boos. Thanks K, Maig, and Debra!
NOTES, THE SEQUEL: big thanks to Seabreeze and Gloria for their song vids. They have motivated a good third of my stories, and this one is no exception. Their song vid to 'The Crying Game' is wonderful.
Lyrics from the song introduce a few segments of the story. Thank you again for your great vids, ladies.
Warnings? Nah, you know how to look both ways before crossing the street.
I spend a great deal of time looking at Jim.
When you consider that he's a sentinel and a detective, staring at him without his noticing is tough. But I've had a lot of practice and I'm now remarkably adept at it.
I can't honestly explain why I look so much (okay, I could, but you don't need to know everything), other than the fact that I'm so amazed by him. I can admit to a raging case of hero worship three years ago when we first met, but that's long gone now. Jim's human, and as supermen go, he puts his pants on one leg at a time, just like the rest of us mere mortals.
And yeah, he needs the spray just like I do, probably more considering his diet.
When I first met the guy, he was, to put it bluntly, a wreck, and understandably so. He was going through hell and I foolishly signed on to be his guide and head cheerleader on the journey. No surprise really, after all, I was -- am -- an anthropologist and my job back then was to observe and teach, and it didn't take me all that long to figure him out.
Does marshmallow center ring a bell?
You know, a stoic cop with a marshmallow center is like, a major clich and doesn't work.
Gentle soul? Yes.
Jim has the gentlest soul of anyone I've ever known, my own mother included. But don't get me wrong, that gentle soul is heavily protected by a core of steel.
Jim's been hurt countless times by the very people he protected and who should have been protecting him. He's also lost so many people who were near and dear to him, that I have to wonder how he goes on.
But go on he does.
Never give up -- never surrender. Galaxy Quest. One of Jim's favorite movies and the motto describes him rather well. He can be confused and hurt, but he'll try to hide it, bluff his way through by going all quiet and internal, then do something swell for someone.
His pain can be raw and bleeding out for all to see, or it can be buried so deep that only through his eyes can it be recognized.
I'll never forget the night Danny Choi died - never. The brutal, tortured, animalistic scream that was torn from Jim's throat, or the horrible silence that followed. How his senses were sent reeling for days afterward. I wonder if Danny knew how much Jim cared? How it would tear him apart if he died?
I can still see Jim's expression when he knew Incacha was dying. The way he looked up at me, shocked eyes begging me to change it, to make it better, to cure Incacha -- but of course, who the hell was I? I could do nothing but telegraph every feeling for Jim that I had.
It wasn't enough, though -- it never is. Oh, sure, I gave him some help. Managed to guide him back to his senses, so to speak, but that's about it. And yeah, I know that's what he wanted at the time, in order to catch the man who murdered Incacha, but I suspect that later he resented what I did. He had them back, and while he did indeed catch the killer, he was also once again a sentinel, a burden that until now, he never truly accepted.
In my years of observing Jim, I've learned that he needs silence when he's in pain, and he needs solitude. That's a rough one to accomplish when you live with someone like me. I'm, um, not quiet, and I tend to butt in and start microscopically dissecting Jim's feelings. Yeah, I'm a charmer, but hey, as mentioned before, I'm an anthropologist, with a minor in psychology, thank you very much.
He's my friend, my -- best -- friend. In the whole fucking world. I hurt when he does and I just naturally want to make it better. I probably go about it a bit too scientifically, but no matter how much I want to make it better for him, I rarely succeed. Never could, really.
But I try. Me and Hertz. Or was it Avis? Yeah, I know, who cares.
I can get him to talk, but only enough so that he can get himself where he needs to go, then it's back to silenceville. I remember when Lila died, and God, I wish I didn't.
Man, he loved her so much. So God damned much. He redeemed her, saved her, even as she saved him, although I suspect the first time she saved him was after Peru. She gave him a touch of love, hope, sex, and, oddly enough, normalcy. Even while she was killing.
I think Jim has loved only three times in his life.
Lila was one, Veronica another, Michelle, the third. I could be wrong about Michelle, the widow who wasn't. He might have just been lonely, plus she had this great son, a boy with whom Jim bonded, the child that Jim never had with Carolyn.
No, he never loved Carolyn that way. She was a women who shared common interests, had the same sense of humor, same stoic, no-nonsense way about her. She was safe at a time when he desperately needed safe. It wasn't good for either of them and died quickly. But I'm right about Lila and Veronica. Lila disappeared. Veronica married his best friend. Of course, years later she made sure Jim killed that "best friend".
She was just so nice. Not.
From what I can figure, it was the vulnerability thing with Veronica. And those eyes. Both she and Lila had eyes to die for, literally. Beautiful, both of them, but the eyes do if for Jim every time. Windows to the soul and I think he saw two frightened women crying out for help. In Lila's case, he was right. In Veronica's case, she was hopeless. No conscience. But he didn't know that--still doesn't.
But I do. Did.
There have been other women, but none able to really capture him. Laura tried, but she had ulterior motives (duh) and he was simply reacting to her pheromones.
Thank God he has that under control.
I should probably get off the women for now. It's so damn depressing.
Which leaves me with Jim's family.
Father, mother and brother. And he was betrayed by all three. The Ellison family in a nutshell. A father who thought Jim was a freak and demanded a world where Jim's abilities didn't exist; a mother who abandoned her children and chose not to see them again; and a brother who lied and drove Jim away.
At least, that's how Jim saw it, but it's not exactly an accurate picture. Try a father who did the best he could, and made some serious errors in judgment; a mother who was in over her head and lost everything; and a brother who was too young to know any better, but in reality, worshipped his older brother. Much closer to the mark.
Of course, we haven't even touched on the guilt that plagues Jim. Everyone he lost has their own guilt chip in Jim's brain. His men in Peru, Jack, Danny, a couple of rookie partners, Incacha, and my all time favorite-- Alex Barnes.
Maybe we'll just -- skip her.
So many God damned losses. So much blame. I often want to ask him if the cross he bears isn't finally getting a bit too heavy.
There is good news though. Really. His relationship with his father is going gangbusters. Same with his brother.
His sentinel abilities are stronger than ever, and he's awesome now. He wears his heightened senses like a comfortable coat, and it's so natural for him that he no longer has to think about how to use them; he just does it.
With a life finally giving him what he needs, Jim's step is lighter, his smiles more frequent. He actually looks younger than when I first met him.
He's with his dad right now. They're having dinner together, just the two of them. When he left two hours ago, he was whistling. Man, it felt good to see him like that. He was happy, carefree, and had that gentle, easy-going, life-is-sweet smile of his firmly in place. Jim's eyes were sparkling in anticipation of seeing his dad, talking with him, and sharing his week. Yeah, Jim looked good.
He and Steven are playing a round of golf on Saturday, then meeting Simon and his new lady for dinner. By the way, Simon's new lady is Connor. She doesn't work in Major Crime anymore, thanks to her new relationship with Simon. She's in Homicide now.
You know, I'm thinking my work here is done.
Don't want to go though. See, a few weeks ago I discovered that I loved Jim. Not sure when it happened, but happen it did. It's a strange love, kind of gentle, always there, following me wherever I go, but hardly bothersome. Just there, like the sun, soft rain, and velvet nights. And Jim.
It doesn't hurt to love him. Not much anyway. Well, not all the time. Unlike Jim, I've never been in love before. Maya was close, but no cigar. I've never lost a great love. Never even lost a great friend. I've lost friends, just not -- great friends. I had no Danny Chois or Incachas in my life to lose.
Actually, I don't have friends. Never have had. Co-workers, sure. Fellow students, definitely, but real friends? No.
Until -- Jim.
I've had a few girlfriends (never as many as Jim thinks), and a few boyfriends (none that Jim knows about). I've got an uncle who isn't, and one cousin -- who is.
There a great many men who could have been my biological father (good sons don't dwell on such things), and lots of men who could have become my father, (good sons don't dwell on such things) but didn't. Lots of men who could have become my father, but never even knew me (good sons don't dwell on such things).
I could use a good night's sleep. Going now.
"SANDBURG, YOU'VE GOT TWENTY MINUTES!"
Argh. What the hell time is it? Oh, shit. Legs over the edge of the bed, scratch where it feels good, run hands through the mess that is my short hair, stand.
Twenty minutes for a shower, shave, etc. I can do this. "I'm coming, I'll be ready, just get out of my way and leave the path clear," I mumble as I stagger out of my room.
Jim is holding out a coffee cup, and as I walk by, he grabs my hand and sticks the mug into it.
"Drink, and hurry up. Late again and Simon will have us for lunch."
"You. Have you for lunch. I'm too skinny and hairy."
Jim ruffles my new short hair and grins. "Not so hairy anymore, Chief."
No. Not so hairy anymore. But it got me through the academy and now it's growing back. I take a much needed sip of the hot brew, then say, "How much time do I have now?"
"Seventeen and counting, buster."
"Bet I make it."
"You're on. Five bucks."
Sixteen minutes and forty-seven seconds later, I exit my bedroom, one shoe hanging from my mouth, but otherwise, dressed. I notice he's looking at his watch. I grin around the shoelace, remove it, then say, "I'm good to go. I can put this on in the truck. You owe me five bucks."
He opens the door, mutters, "Cheaters never prosper," then promptly hands me five dollars. Even as I hop out the door, I'm grinning.
I'm gonna miss this, but it is time. Time to stretch the old wings and find a place of my own before the scuttlebutt has us pegged as two old geezers who can't get a woman anymore.
The call comes in three blocks from the station.
Armed robbery, the Bryson Jewelry Store on Kennedy.
That's only two minutes from where we are, so Jim calls it in. The truck takes the next corner on two wheels, then we're on Kennedy, tail skidding to the right as Jim pulls to the left. The silent alarm for the store has gone public and is no longer silent. Jim and I are both out, guns drawn. I remind him to dial down, the alarm probably bothering him. He shakes his head, moves forward, and I figure he's already compensating.
I move cautiously around my door at the same time as a squad car, siren blaring, careens around the opposite corner. Jim freezes and I know the pain must be bad. The thieves choose that moment to charge out of the store, guns blazing and trying to look like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
I'm still sheltered by the truck, but one look is all I need to see that Jim is in the open, a prime target. I have just enough time to launch myself at him.
My hands hit his back, followed by my shoulder. Something slams into me. Hard. Painfully.
Jim hits the ground, rolls, comes up firing. I hit the ground too, but I don't come up doing anything.
I don't come up at all.
"God, no. No. Come on, Chief, open those baby blues, please? Need to see you in there, Sandburg, so open up--"
Pain. Haze, red haze, swimming before my eyes -- and Jim's voice, wrapping itself around me, coaching and pleading. Oddly enough, I have no burning need to answer him, to do as he says. I'm floating and I know, in this land between worlds, that I'm dying. I know this.
And I'm willing to go. Just seems -- easier --somehow.
In the back of my foggy mind, I understand that I've done this before, but this time it's real and permanent. Jim went through it with me, but it wasn't as painful as Incacha or Danny, and certainly less painful than Lila or Veronica, so he'll be okay this time.
No crying game for me, just sorrow.
Mom'll be okay, she's a survivor and seeing your son only a couple times a year has to go quite a ways towards softening the blow of never seeing him again. Besides, now she can stand over my grave and say what she's been dying to say for months--
"I told you so."
She'll try to make it rough on Jim, but he'll have Simon and his own strength to shove it right back at her.
I hope he remembers me a bit. Just -- a bit. Not in the same category with Incacha, Danny, Veronica or Lila, but hey, I lived with him longer than Carolyn, right?
Wait, that might work against me.
There are more voices now, and a siren.
Wow, this is weird. I can smell Simon's cigar, but he can't possibly be smoking, can he? Nah, it just clings to him, settling on his clothes, which means he must be close. Second time for him too, but no biggie, except I'm really one of his now. He'll be the one to inform mom. Poor Simon. Hell, I'd almost not go just to save him from that. Almost.
The crying game. Only I'm the one doing the crying.
I'm dying, letting go, and I'm crying because my life will no longer be, and while that's okay now, I can't stand the idea of Jim going on without me.
Is that selfish, or what?
Jim's voice again, and this time I think I'll listen, do as he asks -- because I*am* selfish and want to see him one more time.
I open my eyes and he's there, holding me awkwardly, his handsome face hovering above me, frowning, one hand pressing down on my chest. I manage to smile weakly and lift my hand to rest it against his cheek. I have just enough strength to speak.
"It's -- okay, Jim. Sssh, I'm all right, you can let go now, honest. Love you, man."
Good exit line. Hell, great exit line. Besides, the darkness is enfolding me and the pain is drifting away and I know I need to follow. So I do.
Too fast. It happened too damn fast. Why didn't I dial down like he said? Where are the GOD DAMNED paramedics? This is not going to happen again. It isn't. I won't let it. Not ever again. He's going to live forever even if I have to wrap him in a protective bubble and roll him around for the rest of our lives, which means fucking FOREVER.
Aw, shit, no. No, no, not gonna let him go. Come on, no, no. Not here, not now. Not in the middle of a fucking STREET -- on some fucking GRASS, too much like last time. Okay, no fountain, but damn, here I am on wet grass again, holding him in my arms and he's drowning -- in his own blood.
"WHERE ARE THE FUCKING PARAMEDICS?!"
People are surrounding us, blocking out the world, staring at him, at his blood, red and thick and staining the grass. They're staring at the bubbling pool coming from the wound until I press my hand down, down, down, trying to capture the escaping oxygen.
Twice in a lifetime is two too many times.
I need to see his eyes, see him in those eyes. I need to know that he's still here, with me, but he's so still and pale and -- and -- almost -- lifeless. I can't -- can't--
"God no. No. Come on, Chief, open those baby blues, come on, please? Need to see you in there, Sandburg, so just open those eyes--"
PLEASE! I scream inside my head.
Pleasepleaseplease, just open them for me. It's the only way I can make sure you stay.
His arm -- his hand. Eyes fluttering, then blue, wonderful blue, staring at me -- but, but, so -- not there. What? What? Can't quite catch --gotta lean down, listen--
"It's -- okay, Jim. Sssh, I'm all right, you can let go now, honest. Love you, man." WHAT!? Let go? Sandburg, are you crazy? You think I'm gonna let go, let you bleed to death all over the FUCKING GRASS? Let you DIE?
A dark hand on my arm -- Simon -- but I can't pay attention to HIM, not when Blair is -- when Blair is-- letting go? Asking me to let him go? NO WAY!
"NO WAY ARE YOU LETTING GO, SANDBURG! YOU HEAR ME? NOFUCKING WAY!"
He doesn't hear me.
His eyes are closed again, and his head, his head just fell against my arm, and I can't see his face, but I see Simon's fingers on his throat and I don't CARE what he says, Blair is ALIVE, he IS.
Uniforms. Gloved hands. Red box, black box, open, they know I can't move yet, can't take my hand from the wound, WON'T take my hand from the wound. They're talking, asking me questions--
"How long ago?"
"Was he conscious at any time?"
"How old is he?"
I answer, Simon answers, they start to work on him. One freckled hand replaces mine and I sit back on my haunches, unwilling to move, but still -- out of their way.
"Can you hear his heartbeat, Jim? Can you? Is he -- is it -- Jim?" The fountain again. Simon asking me the same question, only this time -- I can concentrate and listen. I sigh. It's there. Faint, thready, fast, but it's there. Sandburg is there, still here, not gone -- yet.
Words spoken by the paramedic into the mobile phone, ringers lactate, a bag with fluid, but they can't find a vein, they're having trouble so the needle finally goes into the back of his hand. This is good, isn't it? If they're doing this, he's alive and this is good.
They don't like his breathing and I'm thinking, well, duh. Bullet in the chest, bubbles, lung punctured, and
Ambulance arrives, doors swing open, more dark blue uniforms, a gurney and it's time for that trip in the back of an ambulance. It's as they lift him and place him, at the count of three, on the gurney, then pop the gurney up to normal height, that I notice the blood on Sandburg's neck. Speckles of it and it's on his hair, clinging to the short curls. My gaze traces another spatter that travels up the left side of his face and his shirt is soaked with it and I have to ask myself, "Have I ever seen this much blood -- and the person -- lived?" No. No, I haven't. God, dear God, I haven't.
The machine that monitors my partner is now between his legs and one paramedic is holding the bag of fluid that is keeping Sandburg stable and we're moving. The by-standers are stepping aside, but I can see their eyes, glued to my partner, to all the blood and they can't avert their gaze, it's too much like the proverbial train wreck. They have to look.
We're at the back of the ambulance and as the gurney hits the door, its legs fold and we're lifting and he's up and inside, one paramedic already there, in position. The other jumps up and, without a word, so do I. It's a given. I didn't ride with him last time. I'm riding this time. I'm not letting go. As the doors close, the last thing I see is Simon. God, he looks lost. There's blood on him too and I wonder vaguely how. His arms are at his side and his glasses are in his hand. I'm a sentinel and after the doors are closed, I look through the small window and see the track of tears on his face. He cried at the fountain too, but that was after Blair had started breathing. They were tears of relief. But not now. Not now. I know what his tears mean today.
Simon is wrong. Blair will live.
I turn back to my partner and take his hand. I lace my fingers between his and hold on. The paramedics are busy, they're not paying any attention to me, so I lean in close, brush my lips against his ear and whisper, "Stay."
Now this really is weird. No jungle, no bright light, no freaky animals. Just this -- nothing.
I'm in -- nothing.
No one's ever mentioned "nothing", and I've done this before, you know? So what's wrong this time?
Well, I could. I'm pretty darn comfortable right now. No pain, no worries, it's warm and snug, why the hell not?
I'll stay here for awhile, see how this plays out.
Of course -- I don't know where here is, but I'm easy that way.
I have to let go. I know that, yet I can't. My hand is gripping the railing hard enough to bruise. It takes Simon's strength to pry me loose, to pull me back and away. His arm comes around me and we both hold each other up as the gurney carrying my partner is whisked away to disappear behind a sickly green curtain. Neither of us move. Both of us continue to stare at that evil curtain. We can hear the two Emergency doctors barking out orders, I can hear the scissors cutting up through his jeans, then his sleeves, and only I can hear the plopping sound the wet shirt makes as it hits the Hazardous Waste receptacle. It's followed by the jeans, and Blair's shorts, shoes and socks.
They've efficiently stripped him in seconds.
He's got to be cold. Blair has got to be cold.
More commands barked out, commands that are followed by the sound of -- Blair choking. I start forward, Simon stops me.
They're doing a trach.
A nurse is making a call -- to OR. Scheduling a room. Demanding a room.
"Jim, you've got to stop listening. This'll kill you. Come on, I'm taking you to the waiting room."
"That won't stop me," I say softly.
"I know, but I'm telling you to stop. Ordering you to. Let's go."
He tugs at my arm, I almost move, then a loud beeping sound comes from behind the curtain and one of the doctors yells, "WE'RE LOSING HIM!"
I can hear blood pressure readings yelled out over the din of frantic medical staff, all trying to save my partner. The numbers drop lower, lower, lower still. They're losing him. "Stay," I whisper again.
I'm not surprised to hear Simon whisper the same word.
"Stay," we order together, louder.
Like a rumble of thunder, followed by the zigzag of lightning, I understand that this whole thing, what's happening, is a kind of turning point. Blair can go left, or Blair can go right. It's one hundred percent his choice. I believe that, I know that.
Blair, and Blair alone, can decide whether to live or die. This time I can't go after him. I think I've forfeited that right.
So how do I make him choose me?
The answer is more simple than I could have dreamed: I need to make sure he knows that I've finally chosen him, Blair Sandburg, above all others, for all time.
"Stay," I say one more time. "I love you, Sandburg. Stay, for me."
Simon is staring at me, dark eyes sharing nothing of what he's thinking now that I've said it, here, in Emergency, standing in a corridor outside a room where men and women are working on my partner.
I discover that I don't care what he thinks. I find that I'm praying that words really do have the power that Sandburg believes.
Words backed by emotion, truth, and reality.
I do love Blair Sandburg. In every sense of the word. I want nothing more than to spend the rest of my days with him.
Lord, let me spend the rest of my days with him, please?
We've been so close, yet the closeness I seek now will enrich my life, shade it with nuances I've only dreamed of. I want those moments where we sit quietly, bodies touching, silence golden. I want to be the first one to awaken, so that I can catch him sleeping next to me, and I want those silly 'we've known each other too long' orchestrated movements in the kitchen, to take on an all new meaning. Because we're a couple. I want to sit in a darkened theater, our fingers entwined, and I want to share a look -- a look that promises sex when we get home -- if we can wait that long.
I want to share the bathroom with him in the morning. Ducking, bobbing, weaving, as we both work the mirror, laughing as he accidentally spits toothpaste on me. I want to fight with him, and make-up later.
I want desperately to see Blair Sandburg with gray hair. I want to see which of us has to get false teeth first.
I want to make love to him when I'm sixty-five and he's fifty-seven.
I want to say, "I love you, Blair Sandburg" and have him hear me. I want to see that smile after I say it.
I want him to stay.
The curtain is being shoved aside and they're moving-- fast.
Oxygen, hospital sheet, one bare arm, swinging bag of vital fluids, and they're moving away, almost running, one nurse yelling for people to clear the corridor.
Surgery. They're taking him to surgery.
Simon and I silently follow, but I know what we're both saying--
Did I call Naomi? No, it must have been Simon. Anyway, she'll be here in a few hours. She's flying in from Los Angeles. And I followed Simon's orders -- I've stopped listening.
We're in the small waiting room just outside OR. I know when they're done, he'll be moved to Recovery, then, unless I miss my guess, ICU. I'm prepared to be patient. I'm simply waiting for the opportunity to take his hand and say the words.
It's been five hours since he was taken into surgery. I look up to see one of the doctors I'd noticed earlier, his scrubs telling me he just came from OR. I stand, he nods and walks over. Simon stands next tome.
"I'm Doctor Meller. Mr. Sandburg made it through the surgery, but it was iffy more than once. He's in Recovery now, but in about an hour, we'll be moving him to ICU. I'll have a nurse let you know when you can see him. We've repaired the damage to his lung--" The words pour over me and it's not that I'm not listening, because I am. But I not hearing anything new. Next forty-eight hours critical; watching for pneumonia and infections; system in bad shape; loss of blood; in shock -- yes, I know it all and it matters not at all. I just need to see him. Sit with him. Hold him. Say it.
Sometimes life can be remarkably simple.
Jim is -- calm. Too calm. I'm worried, and it's altogether possible that worrying about two men is more than I can handle.
I'm expecting to hear it any minute, every minute. To hear that Blair Sandburg is dead. It hasn't been said yet, but I'm expecting it. Which means I won't be in the least prepared for it if I do hear it.
It's been a long time since I lost a detective. Four years.
That's wrong. I lost one of my men several months ago, but we got him back at the last minute. I don't think -- that I'll think about that. I've had to accept some pretty weird shit with all this sentinel stuff, and if I don't dwell on any of it, I can get by and pretend it's all perfectly normal. I can pretend that Jim is normal. And that Blair Sandburg is normal.
Nah. Even if Sandburg were, he wouldn't be.
Life is a precarious proposition.
Sandburg would be proud of that line. He'd understand it too. I'll share it with him later, and maybe he can explain it to me.
Okay, now that was hopeful. I said, "I'll share it with him later" as if there's going to be a later. I'm talking nonsense.
There is NO FUCKING WAY that Daryl is going to become a cop. NO WAY. If this is how I handle Blair, then no way is my son going to be a cop. I'll put my very large foot down on his head if I have to. He is simply not going to become a cop.
Amazing what you remember of past experiences when you're sitting in a waiting room.
Ben Kingsford, instructor, Police Academy, to Simon Banks, rookie.
"Don't get used to people dying, Banks. The world is weakened with every death. Our karma is weakened by every passing." I've never shared that with Sandburg. He'd love it.
I can't imagine this world without him in it. How bizarre is that? I can't imagine Jim without Blair Sandburg. That's even more bizarre.
And Jim loves Blair. Jim's in love with him.
If Sandburg survives, I think I'm going to be breaking more rules.
I pray I get the chance.
If Sandburg has to be in ICU somewhere, I'm glad it's here at Cascade General. Instead of one large room with a few patients separated by curtains, CG has individual cubicles, separated by glass and blinds that cover said glass.
In other words: Privacy.
When they finally let me see him, the nurse takes a few minutes to gently prepare me for his condition. I don't need her words, but I find that I do need the time. Time to collect myself, to project an air of confidence when I walk into his cubicle. I suspect that confidence is going to be vital.
I believe that truly ill individuals, like animals, sense fear and dread and react accordingly. Blair would sense my emotions in a New York minute.
She's finally ready to lead me in, and I'm ready to follow -- in more ways than one.
The first surprise I receive is his hair. I guess, for a moment, I'd forgotten that it was shorter. I was expecting to see those long curls tied back. The tubes and machines, the IV, his pallor and incredible stillness -- all expected. But the hair, the short dark, damp curls, aren't.
"We couldn't wash his hair, exactly, Detective. But we did our best to clean it, to remove the blood."
She backs out of the room and I'm again surprised, this time by the lack of warning. No, "You can stay ten minutes," is issued. Maybe there's something about me?
There is one chair and I immediately move it to his side and sit down. I'm on his right, the IV on his left. I take his right hand. It's time.
"Sandburg, I know you can hear me. The question is --will you listen? I'm banking on the fact that you can't not listen. So here I go."
I shift a bit, tighten my hold and brush some hair from his face.
"I love you, Chief, and I need you to stay with me. It's that simple. I should have said it months ago, and I could take precious minutes now telling you why I didn't, but I suspect you know the whys better than I do."
There's no movement, no response. The machines continue their steady beeping, giving me no clue as to whether he's listening. I have no choice but to continue if I'm to keep him here with me.
"You gave up back there on the grass. You were telling me good-bye, and I've got to tell you, Sandburg, I'm not accepting that. Simon isn't accepting it either. When your mother gets here, we both know she'll give you hell. My best advice is to just come back, and --stay."
I lean down and kiss his cool, dry, chapped lips, then whisper against them, "Will you stay? Please? For me? I need you, Chief. Just fight, hold on, and come back, okay?"
It's all I can do. I've said it, I've begged and asked, now I must wait. But not in silence.
I begin to tell him about our future. I plan our fights and our make up sessions. I plan what to do with the closet that has served as his room, and I give him my argument as to why it should be a weight room for me, not a study for him. I think it's a winning argument.
If I'm there, at home, working out, I'm closer to him. I'm hoping that seeing me work out and getting all sweaty will get him horny. Yeah, it's a good argument.
I offer to redo the upstairs bedroom, to move his desk up there, and his computer. Make a real study area for him in the corner to the left of the bed. I figure I have a good argument for that too. I can stretch out on the bed and watch him surf the net, and when his glasses slip down his nose, and I get horny, guess who will be nice and close to me and the bed?
Yeah, another good argument.
I tell him how much I want his treasures up in our room and how they'll give the bedroom new life. How his artifacts, books and blankets reflect both of us.
I explain how the bedroom will be our safe harbor, how we'll do so much up there, sex being one of the primary activities. I'm smiling as I look down at his quiet face.
The future holds such promise, how could he choose to do other than stay here and live it?
"Our future, Chief," I whisper. "Years and years of our future. You just have to make the right decision, okay? That's all you have to do."
Naomi is here. I stand up as Joel guides her over. We hug without words, but when we step back, she looks up at me and asks, "Simon, how--"
"He was in surgery for over five hours, Naomi. All we can do is wait. Jim is with him now."
She nods, then her gaze moves past me to the ICU door. I walk to the phone on the wall next to it. A nurse answers and I tell her that Blair Sandburg's mother is here. A moment later, the door swishes open.
Naomi walks through, leaving Joel and me on the outside. My body almost aches with the need to follow her.
The door slides shut.
The lighting in ICU is soft and dim. The walls here are a creamy beige with white trim, the floor a similar color with small teal-colored triangles every few feet. There are three patients to each nurse and aboard on my right tells me that Blair's nurse is Mrs. Sampson.
A tall gray-haired woman is walking toward me now and I know it's her.
"Mrs. Sandburg, I'm Eva Sampson, Blair's nurse for the night shift. Please, have a seat and I'll tell you what I can." She points to a comfortable chair by a low counter that holds two computers, three phones, and behind it, a male nurse who looks up and smiles at me. I sit, afraid to look at any of the cubicles yet. I clutch my purse to me as if it were a baby.
"He's holding his own, Mrs. Sandburg. The surgery was quite extensive, but they were successful in repairing the damage to his left lung. At first, it was believed that his heart had been nicked by the bullet, but once inside, they were able to determine that the left ventricle was bruised, but not torn or invaded by the bullet.
"He lost a considerable amount of blood and his system shut down. We almost lost him twice, but he's stable now and holding on. The next several hours are critical, but we're hopeful. He's young and healthy.
His doctor is Doctor Samuel Jeffers, and he'll be here later this evening. Is there anything else you'd like to know?"
Anything else? My mind is already reeling. I don't think I could take any more information. I shake my head. I want to see him.
The woman stands and, with a gentle smile, guides me to the third glass- enclosed cubicle. I can see Jim now, and he's holding my son's hand. He's leaning down and talking softly to Blair.
I find myself wondering where the detached Detective Ellison is. The man I'm looking at now is as far from detached as it's possible to get. He looks like my son's lover.
I pause at the door, suddenly unsure.
This is my baby, but somehow I know I mustn't dislodge Jim from his side. The nurse takes the decision from me.
"Let me get another chair. Doctor Jeffers believes that our patients need their family and friends around them."
I think I love Doctor Jeffers.
When she enters the room on rubber-soled shoes, silent and efficient, the chair in her hands, Jim finally looks up. He sees me, smiles, and holds out the hand not holding Blair's. I take it gratefully.
This is right. This is good. Together, we take our places beside Blair.
"He's going to be fine," Jim whispers.
I nod, unable to take my eyes from my son's face. He doesn't appear to be in any pain and the pallor is, I suppose, to be expected. I reach out and touch his skin, then his short curls.
"He cut his hair," I say unnecessarily.
"Yes. But it's growing back. He's letting it grow again."
Our voices are so soft that it's comforting. Neither of us is looking at the other, both our gazes fixed firmly on Blair.
"He saved my life, Naomi. The bullet that took him down was meant for me."
It's funny, because there are so many things I could say to that. But only one seems right and honest.
"He wouldn't have it any other way, Jim. And you'd do the same for him."
Our shoulders touch and we go quiet.
It sure is quiet here. Wherever 'here' is. The quiet is nice, gentle, and easy. A short time ago, I thought I could hear Jim's voice, but that's gone now.
There's a rhythm here, a strange comforting rhythm that I've yet to identify. I wonder if the womb felt like this? Man, I'm so sleepy. Sleep. Just warm soft sleep. I drift, float, and sleep.
"I love you, Chief, can you hear me? Your mother is here, she'd really appreciate it if you'd open your eyes."
Mom? Here? Where? Hell, I still don't know where here is, and I sure as hell don't see mom anywhere. And you what? What did you say, Jim?
"Sweetie? Can you hear me? I'm squeezing your hand and I really need you to squeeze back. Can you do that?"
Squeeze? Hand? I don't feel -- wait, I do feel --something. What will it mean if I squeeze? And what the FUCK did Jim say?
"Jim, take his hand, maybe he'll respond to you."
Yeah, Jim, you take my hand. And say it again, okay? I'm not sure I heard you right.
"Blair? Can you feel my hand? Did you hear me? I love you, your mother loves you, and we need you to squeeze my hand."
You love me? How am I supposed to take that? And squeeze your hand? Sure, I can do that--
I'm holding on with everything I have, begging him to hear me, to do something as simple as squeezing my hand -- but so far, nothing.
"Blair? Can you feel my hand? Did you hear me? I love you, your mother loves you, and we need you to squeeze my hand."
I glance down to see if there's any movement and I feel it. His fingers flex slightly and he's squeezing.
HE'S SQUEEZING MY HAND!
"That's it, Chief," I say excitedly. "You can hear me, can't you? Okay, just one more thing, Chief. Open your eyes, see us, you can do that, can't you?"
I watch, amazed, as his eyelids flutter, then open. He blinks, turns his head, coughs a bit, then his eyes focus. He sees us, knows us. I lean close, just as I did hours ago, and with my lips once again next to his, I say it.
"I love you, Chief. I love you."
There it is -- that smile. Soft, uncertain, and I kiss it.
Naomi is sobbing beside me, but all I care about is the feeling of his lips on mine.
He's going to be fine. He may have let go once, but he's holding on now. He's back.
Three months later:
I'm awake. I turn my head and find the spot beside me empty. I listen, and find him. He's in the bathroom. Good place to be right now, according to my bladder.
I stumble downstairs just as Blair flushes the toilet. There's the sound of running water, then the door opens and he's smiling at me.
"Morning," I say, my voice still husky with sleep. I move past him, eager to get to the toilet. "I'll start the coffee."
I nod and make a beeline for the white porcelain God.
I can hear him getting the coffee maker going, and he's humming.
Just as I finish my business, he's back. I make room for him at the sink and he scoots in front of me. I reach for my razor, he reaches for the toothpaste, we both reach for the hot water handle. Our hands touch and we smile at one another in the mirror.
He's wearing the bottoms of his sleep sweats and nothing else. His chest hair has grown back, but it doesn't hide the scar. Today will be his first day back to full duty.
I shave, he brushes. While I wipe down what's left of the shaving cream, he wets my brush and squirts a line of toothpaste on it, then when I'm ready, he hands it up to me. I take it and he grabs his razor. I brush, he strokes. We bob and weave.
Then it happens.
Mouthful of water and foam, I need to spit. He moves right, then bends low to dip his razor under the water. The move surprises me and I can't stop in time. I spit out the toothpaste -- and it lands on the back of his head.
"Aw, shit, Jim," he says as he brings his hand to the back of his much longer hair. He straightens and his blue eyes meet mine in the mirror. He's stunned because I'm -- grinning.
With a mouth ringed in white, I say, "You had to be there." Then I turn him around and add, "Wait, you were."
I kiss him, toothpaste and all.
Life is just as I planned it in his hospital room all those weeks ago, only better.
I spit on him instead of the other way around.
End The Crying Game