Three hours. They'd been sitting in this waiting room for three fucking hours. His senses were telling him nothing, except that they were evidently on some kind of roller coaster ride. Three hours.

Blair had been taken into surgery by the time both Jim and Simon had arrived. Joel had given them what little information he had and the three men sat down to wait. Not something Jim was good at. Waiting.

Blood. Joel had said Blair lost a great deal of blood, and his lung had been pierced and subsequently collapsed. His condition was critical, but according the doctor, Blair was young and healthy and he was a fighter.

Blair *had* been a fighter, but now? Jim couldn't know how closely his thoughts paralleled those of his friends at that moment, all of them wondering if Blair was still a fighter. And oddly enough, all three men quickly dismissed that thought, Blair *was* a fighter and he would win this one.

Jim got up and went to the payphone, stopped just as he got to it, paused, scratched his head, and turned around to walk back to Joel and Simon.

"I should call Shalene, but I don't know her number. I don't even know her last name."

"It's Shalene Edwards. I'll get the number for you." Simon offered, and he got up and went to the phones, made two quick calls and came back, a number written on a piece of scratch paper.

Jim retraced his steps, dialed and on the third ring, a young woman answered.

"Shalene? Shalene Edwards?"


"I'm Detective Jim Ellison, Blair's partner. I thought you'd want to know, Blair has been hurt and well, would you like me to send a car for you?"

She didn't answer right away, but he could hear another voice, muffled, but a man's voice, asking what the fuck was going on, and Jim felt the hair on the back of his neck rise, and his anger swelling.

//Detective Ellison, why should I....I mean, Blair was nice, and all, but we, I'm ~ we're not seeing each other, not after I found out what he did, I mean I don't wish anything bad....I hope he's okay, but//

Fuck. And Jim hung up on the great Shalene.

How dare she. How dare she...God dammit to hell.

Oh, God. Blair.


Jim walked back to his friends. Shalene had broken up with Blair, because of.....dear God. And Blair hadn't said a word. Not one word. But he'd kept staying out late.

"Jim? You okay?"

He shook his head at Simon's question. No. He wasn't okay. He fell back into his seat, leaned foreward and held his head in his hands.

"Jesus, Jim. What is it?" Joel pleaded.

"Shalene. She and Sandburg , not seeing each other, she broke up with him, because of the press conference."

Simon and Joel caught each other's gaze, eyes widened.

"Shit." Simon breathed out.

"She's not good enough for him." Joel added.

Jim wearily sat back, his head resting against the wall, his eyes closed against the lights, against his tears.

"He can't die. Not again."

Simon put a comforting hand on Jim's arm, "He won't. He's tough, you know that. Pit bull. That's Blair Sandburg."

"Tough? Not really. Tougher, yes, resilient, always, but now? Too much, finally? I should have done, should have said....".

"Jim, stop it." Joel demanded. "Stop it right now. There will be time, plenty of time, he's going to be fine."

The tears rolled down Jim's face then, as he whisered, "My fault. He did it all for me. I gave him no choice, actually told him I thought he'd done it on purpose, I told him that. Accused him." Jim turned his head to face Joel. "What else could he do? And what career choice did he have? None. Just this. And now he's been shot and he's not even a detective yet."

What could Joel say? What could anyone say? The truth, Joel could give Jim the truth.

"Ellison, it's time you faced a few facts, before he comes out of surgery, before you face him." He stopped, to make sure Ellison was listening, saw the questions in Jim's eyes and continued.

"Jim, you and Blair have been working at cross purposes since Barnes. I don't pretend to know all that went on, but I *do* know this ~ Blair died. And later, I watched how you behaved, how many of us reacted."

Jim started to open his mouth, to argue, maybe to defend, but Joel went on.

"You were different. You saw him once in the hospital, then you and Simon went off to Sierra Verde. And Blair followed. You all came back, and POW, things were so different between you two. Sandburg was everywhere, so feisty, fighting at the drop of a hat, not taking guff from anyone, impatient, full of piss and vinegar, as my old man used to say. He was so full of emotion, and there was no where to let it out. You shut him out, we all did. Or we took our cues from you and Simon. And I watched Mr. Motormouth, go quiet inside, deep inside." Joel stood, unable to sit, his anxiety pushing him to move, to walk, to pace.

"Tonight, in the bar, he was so ~ not right. I look back and I see that. I see this young man, pushed to the end, and if we're going to blame anyone, we have to blame me, because I've seen it all happening, knew there was something wrong and still, I let him leave. He'd had several, I could see that, but he was steady, not drunk, so I let him go. And isn't that what we've all been doing? Letting him go?"

"No, Joel." Simon interceded, "Not your fault, not Jim's, not anyone's. Distance. We kept our distance. Like the strong men we're supposed to be. Don't ask, just move ahead."

"Why didn't he tell me about Shalene?"

"You want a theory here? Because Jim, that's all Taggert and I could give you. A theory. And mine is, I don't know."

"But we've both had failed relationships before, too many. Why was this different?"

Joel sat back down, and offered his theory.

"This break up was different. This was because of something he didn't even do, but it involved you, so he was protecting you, and trying to show you he had a life, outside you. That this partner thing would work. Because he had a life?"

Further discussion was halted as the waiting room was filled by one more individual, the doctor.

"Detective Ellison?"

Jim stood, "I'm Detective Ellison. How is he?"

"He's come through the surgery, we repaired the damage, and I believe you've already been told about the blood loss. He's semi-comatose right now, in critical condition. You're listed as an emergency contact, so let me give it to you straight. My concern is phuemonia. He has some scar tissue, on his lungs, from a near drowning, I understand. That makes him very vulnerable to infection right now. We'll be moving him into ICU in about two hours, you can see him, briefly, at that time. The next forty-eight hours are critical."

The doctor looked at each man, "If we can keep him stable, stave off infection, if he'll fight....well, as I said, the next forty-eight hours."

Fight? Did Blair have any fight left in him?

If not, Jim would do the battle for him. Go in after him again, bring him back again...whatever it took. Or ~ go with him.

One way or another, Jim would not be without Blair.


The world seemed to narrow into this one room, coalescing around the man lying so still, so pale, in the hospital bed. Nurses came, checked, changed, noted. Doctors moved in and out, shaking their heads, and friends came, cajoling, prodding, but Jim stayed, holding on, talking, refusing to leave.

Hospitals had rules for ICU. Jim broke them. He ate and slept in the room, while outside, others went about the daily task of running lives. Naomi had been called and was on her way. Simon came and went, as did the others from Major Crimes.

On the third day, with Blair still unconscious, pnuemonia set in. His body temperature rose, his breathing became raspy and inconsistant and he was put under an oxygen tent. And still, Jim didn't move, didn't let go.

By the evening of the third day, Jim was no longer alone. Naomi had arrived, picked up by Simon. When she walked into her son's room, she wasn't sure what shocked her more, how fragile her son looked, draped by the tent, pale and unmoving, or how Jim looked, with three days of stubble, dark circles under his eyes, and his hand, almost frozen around her son's.

Her thoughts mirrored Simon's. If Blair died, Jim would follow. She could see the truth of that thought, but refused it. Because it would mean accepting that Blair could die, and that, she would never do. Not Blair. Not her son.

By the fourth day, Blair's fever had risen dangerously, and with the fear of convulsions, new drugs were administered and a special cooling pad was placed under his body. But in spite of their best efforts, at two o'clock in the afternoon, Blair convulsed and for the first time, Jim had to let go.

He stood back, just outside, Naomi clutching his arm, squeezing tight enough to leave a bruise, as they watched in horror, helpless as the body that was Blair Sandburg, jerked and shook, the doctors and nurses doing all that they could......

But in the space of two hours, he suffered three convulsions.

At four thirty, he was placed on a respirator.

And Jim was finally back by his side, a cold, pale hand firmly held in his own, strong hand, and Naomi on the other side, holding the other hand.


Dr. Richard Evans stood just outside his patient's room, watching the two people inside, listening to them as they both talked to the young man, alive because of machines. This was not what he wanted to do, but he had no choice.

"Mrs. Sandburg? May I have a moment?"

Naomi looked up, saw what she'd instinctively known was coming, gazed down at her only child, and slowly rose to meet the doctor and knowing Jim would be listening.

Once outside the room, Dr. Evans carefully guided her to a seat and after she made herself comfortable, he took the chair next to her.

"Mrs. Sandburg," he started.


"Yes, *Miss* Sandburg, this is very difficult to say, but I believe we've reached the point where a decision must be made. Your son is on a respirator and it's the only thing keeping him alive. Do you understand this?" At her nod, he continued, "There is minimal brain activity. We are near the time where you may have to decide.....".

"To turn off the machines?" She finished for him.

Relieved, he nodded. "Yes, to turn off the respirator."

She turned her gaze back to her son's room. The unthinkable had happened. Her son. A vegetable, kept alive by hoses and electricity.

God, how he would have hated that thought. And her hand flew immediately to her mouth, as she realized what she'd just thought. "Would have" if he were already dead. Dear God.

Blair. Blair. Tears ran down her cheeks as it finally hit her. Her son, her beautiful, intelligent son. And the kindest man she'd ever known. A strange thing to say about one's own son, but true, none the less.

"When....", she barely choked out.

"That is a decision only you can make, but the longer you wait....", he didn't need to finish.

She stood. "Thank you. I'll ~ let you know."

She turned to go back, to face Blair and to face Jim Ellison.


"You heard?"

Haggard eyes lifted to meet hers.

"yes. but you won't, will you?"

Jim Ellison was pleading with her. Pleading.

"Is this how you want him to remain? Only machines keeping his lungs and heart going? Is this what he would want?" It tore through her to say these words, but they had to be said. She couldn't turn them off without Jim's consent, she wouldn't.

"no," he whispered, then stood. "I've got to go think." And for the first time, he voluntarily let go and stumbled from the room.

Where he went didn't matter, but as it happened, he found himself on an elevator, going up to the roof and once there, he walked to the edge and looked out over his city and prayed.

"please. not him, don't let this happen, don't take him back. we, no ~ *I* ~ need him."


Jim whirled at the voice, but saw nothing.


<Now is not the time for the great machine to end>

Jim closed his eyes and listened.

<He is not strong enough to survive now. You must wait. And you must go to him. He is tired, defeated, he will need your strength, to trust again>

Jim's head moved, as he saw and understood.

<So young, for such responsibility, but he is capable, but not without you, Enqueri. It is time you took the journey you feared>

"Yes, Incacha."

Then Jim was looking out at the city, as if nothing strange had just happened. He quickly went back down to Blair.


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