Notes: The one big complaint I received about the first version of this story was that I hadn't allowed the readers to see the emotional payoff between Simon and Blair. At the time, I didn't understand what they were asking for; now, I do.
Setting: Probably sometime during the second season.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Never will be. No money was made in the sharing of this story
Blair Sandburg, anthropology student and civilian observer to the Cascade Police Department, laid sprawled, face up, on the tiny rock ledge which had momentarily stopped his fall into the deep chasm below. His mind instantly grasped that it was only a momentary reprieve as he listened to the tiny cracking noises of the shelf beneath him.
Barely shifting, he reached into his coat pocket and pulled out his cell phone, hoping it was intact. He flipped it open, hit the speed dial and slowly brought the phone to his ear, praying the signal would make it over the mountains.
"Rhonda, it's Blair," he whispered. "Can I speak with Simon? Yeah, it's important."
He closed his eyes in gratitude when the Captain's gruff voice boomed through the phone.
"Banks, here. What's going on, Sandburg? Blair?"
"Jim's been shot."
"Where are you?"
"Jim's at the top of Anderson's Gorge, near the historical marker. Simon, I heard the bullet enter him. I have... I have no idea how bad it is."
"Give me a moment, Sandburg. Do not get off this line."
Blair felt the pebbles shift beneath him. "Yes, sir. I'll try."
After what seemed to be an eternity, Simon's voice returned. "Sandburg?"
Blair barely breathed. "I'm here, Simon."
"What happened, son?"
Blair tried to laugh, but it came out as more of a whimper. "Tell H he wins the pool this time. Man, I tell ya, just once I'd like to have a normal day off. You know?"
"Blair, where are you?"
"We came across Carlos Manduche 'getting away from it all,' but he couldn't resist taking out his number one thorn. He was going to put a bullet in us and dump our bodies in the gorge. Jim... Jim tried to jump him, Simon. I... I--"
"Blair," the captain interrupted him. "Where are you?"
"I got knocked into the gorge. I'm on a ledge about fifteen feet down."
"Can you climb up?" A loud cracking noise echoed off the chasm walls. "Jesus, what was that?"
"I won't be climbing up, Simon."
There was a moment's silence. "There should be someone to you within twenty minutes, Blair."
The anthropology student swallowed hard. "I'm afraid I don't have twenty minutes, Simon."
"Simon, I just want to thank you, man. You've been the best. Promise me that if Jim survives- -"
"There's no need for--"
"Promise me, Simon," Blair shouted, then immediately dropped his voice to a whisper as his echo bounced off the stone walls around him. "Promise you'll watch after Jim. He's getting better at controlling his senses, but he still occasionally zones. Maybe... maybe, you could tell Joel about how special Jim is."
"You listen here, Sandburg. Jim needs you. I don't completely understand your relationship with him, but I know how important you are to him, to this department. You hang in there, son, you hear? You hang in there."
"Yes, sir," he whispered, but his reply was drowned out by the snapping of the ledge as it tore away from the wall.
"Promise me, Simon. Promise me, Simon. Promise me, Simon." Blair's voice echoed around him as Detective James Ellison stirred to consciousness. Was Simon here already? He gasped in pain, feeling the burning edges the bullet trail had made through his shoulder. Using the dials Blair had taught him to visualize, he slowly turned them down until he knew he could move with only minor discomfort. His hand went up to his wound and although he knew he was bleeding, he realized he was in no real danger of bleeding to death. No bones appeared broken. A part of his mind whispered that he had been incredibly lucky. So why didn't he feel lucky?
Sitting up slowly, he focused on his surroundings only to find himself alone. Well, not completely alone. Carlos Manduche laid sprawled at his feet. Unhooking his cuffs from the back of his jeans, he cuffed the unconscious drug lord's hands behind his back.
"Sandburg?" he called out when he was finished. "Sandburg?"
A loud cracking noise like a rock breaking in two echoed up from the gorge, and Jim felt his heart sink into his stomach.
"Sandburg." He ran to the gorge's lip, dropped to his stomach and scanned the rock wall beneath him. Twenty feet below him, he spotted his partner's hands, bloodied and bruised, clawed onto a tiny rock protrusion.
"Sandburg!" he called down and was relieved when his partner's dirty face turned up toward him. "Hang on, Chief, I'm going to get you out of there."
The cerulean eyes which looked back at him expressed doubt, but there was a tiny flair of hope in them, too.
Jim scrambled to his feet, surveying his surroundings. Manduche's jeep sat nearby.
Racing to the back of the opened vehicle, he searched through the supplies under the canvass, throwing the unless items to the ground. A white bundle of rope shone like a beacon under the Coleman stove. The drug lord started to stir and Jim kicked him.
"If he falls, you'll be joining him," he swore under his breath.
Tying the rope around the bumper of the jeep, he raced back to the ledge and threw the remainder of the rope into the gorge, maneuvering it so it lay right on top of his friend; but Blair made no move to reach for it.
"Sandburg, grab the rope."
Although Blair's face was resting against the stone wall and he spoke in a whisper. "I can't, Jim. My fingers a-are cramped up. I-I can't m-move them."
"Then I'll come down after you." Jim started to pulled against the rope, testing its connection to the Jeep.
"No, Jim!" Blair shouted. "The wall is unstable. It'll fall down on me before you ever reach my position."
"Blair, either I pull you up or I'm coming down. There's no other option."
His roommate looked up at him, everything he wanted to say in his eyes.
Jim's heart beat wildly in his throat, but he managed to call out in his best military voice, "Failure is not an option here, Sandburg. You will wrap your arms around that rope and you will do nothing until I pull you up. Do I make myself clear?" When his partner didn't immediately answer, he yelled down fiercely, "There's only one answer to that question and it's, 'Yes, sir'."
Blair looked up at his friend and smiled sadly, as if knowing he would never be able to hold onto the rope, but determined to try for Jim's sake. "Yes, sir."
"Chief, I know you're hurting." Jim laid on his stomach and looked down at his friend. "I know every muscle in your body is screaming in more pain than it's ever been in before. But I need you, Blair. I can't do this without you and I'm not just talking about the sentinel crap. Please, Blair, for me."
"You play dirty, Ellison," came the hoarse reply.
"I learned at the feet of the master."
"You son of a..." He gasped as pebbles fell down on him.
"Just wrap one arm around the rope, Chief. Don't worry about the circulation in your arm; I'll have you up here before you know it."
Jim prayed quietly to himself as he watched his friend's battered left hand move slowly to the rope and wrap his arm around it several times. Standing, Jim pulled with all his might, hand over hand. The progress was slow and he felt the muscles tearing in his already wounded shoulder. He tried to concentrate on the dials, but couldn't. He gritted his teeth against the pain. Nothing was as important as getting Blair to safety. Pain be damned. He pulled again; the weight on the rope assuring him that his partner was still with him.
Finally, he watched as bloodied fingers splayed over the ledge looking for a handhold. Pulling the rope as he advanced, he fell on his rear, reached out and clasped onto Blair's wrist and pulled the younger man into his arms.
Jim held his friend tightly to his chest. "Let go of the rope, Chief."
"I-I c-can't," came the pain-filled reply.
Gently, Jim pried his guide's fingers away from the rope and rolled his partner onto his back, vigorously rubbing his roommate's arms, trying to push the blood through oxygen deprived veins. Blair cried out, begging him to stop, but he continued his assault until his friend passed out from the pain.
"It's okay, Buddy," Jim whispered, holding his guide's unconscious form against his chest, listening to the precious heartbeat and the steady siren moving up the hill. "It'll take more than a mountain to separate us."
Simon Banks pushed his way through the emergency room doors and quickly targeted the first nurse he saw at the waiting station.
"Jim's in surgery. The bullet went straight through his shoulder. The doctor's just making sure he didn't do any permanent damage when he pulled his partner up," Sandra King, long-time ER nurse, said as the no-nonsense captain approached her.
Simon opened his mouth to speak.
"Blair's fine, although he's got some pretty spectacular scrapes and bruises."
Simon tried again.
"He's in the surgery waiting room on the fourth floor."
"Damn, woman, I come here way too often, don't I?"
Sandra chuckled, pushing him toward the elevator. "As far as I'm concerned, captain, way too damn often."
Simon closed his eyes and released a deep breath as the elevator approached the fourth floor. He really did spend too much time at the hospital; and there was no comfort in the fact that this incident hadn't happened during work hours. He still had to face a partner, scared, lost, and racked with guilt. It never mattered which one was waiting, the results were always the same. He had seen cops who had been partners for over a decade who didn't have the sort of bond Jim and Blair shared.
A cop and a civilian.
It blew every regulation out of the rule book, and yet it worked. During the first year, Simon had debated a lot with himself about severing the partnership, but even then he knew the bond between the two men could not be ignored or broken. Each new obstacle and challenge only made them that much stronger.
The elevator pinged and he immediately moved to the right toward the family waiting room. He stopped in the doorway, taking in the tattered appearance of the man in front of him. Blair lifted his head expectantly, lowering it when he realized it wasn't a doctor, not recognizing his captain. Simon took a moment to drink in the observer's presence. When he had heard the ledge give way, his only thought had been... He closed his eyes briefly, sending up a quick prayer of gratitude to his maker for allowing them at least a little more time with the living, breathing, dejected man, who currently looked no older than his own son.
Blair looked up at him and blinked. "Hey, Simon."
"No word yet?"
Blair shook his head, seemingly unable to speak.
Simon sat beside him and rubbed a large hand over the observer's back, knowing the young man would speak when he was able, knowing he would have to purge the emotions he was keeping bottled up inside.
"He saved me," Blair whispered raggedly, but didn't look at the captain. "He pulled me up, even though he ripped the muscles around his wound."
Simon remained silent.
"He rubbed the circulation back into my arms even though he was bleeding himself." The student's breath hitched. "I don't deserve a friend like Jim."
Simon growled softly, pulling the younger man to him and holding him tight. "As I recall, you were the one who called for help after being knocked over the side of a cliff."
Blair groaned. "Oh shit. Simon, I lost my cell phone."
Simon chuckled for a moment, but never loosened his hold. "Forget the cell phone. I'm just relieved you're in one piece." Then shaking the observer, he added, "Don't ever scare me like that again, kid. Do you understand?"
Blair opened his mouth to respond when Jim's surgeon cleared his throat from the doorway. Both men stood quickly.
"Detective Ellison came through surgery with flying colors. There should be no permanent or long-term damage. We'll be moving him into a private room soon. Why don't the two of you go home and get some rest?"
Blair opened his mouth to protest, but Simon beat him to the punch. "Why don't you put a chair next to Ellison's bed and let this young man sit quietly by his friend."
"That's against hospital regulations."
Simon ground his teeth in frustration until he saw the smile growing on the doctor's face. "I assume you remember the way, Blair?"
"Thanks, Patrick. I owe you one."
"You can pay me back by not making me see either you or Ellison for the next two months."
"I'll see what I can do, man." Blair turned and smiled his thanks to his captain then disappeared into the hallway.
The doctor hummed a tune under his breath as he watch the observer leave. Simon frowned as he tried to place the song. "Well," Patrick said, turning his attention back to the police captain, "I had to, at least, make a token protest, otherwise they'd just walk all over me next time."
Simon chuckled softly, knowing the doctor's assessment was entirely too accurate.
"You can poke your head in for a moment or two to check on them, but then I want you out. I'll put Jim in a room with an empty bed beside it. Don't worry, I'll make sure Blair's insurance never knows about it."
"Thank you, Doctor. For everything."
The doctor nodded, then turned and left.
Simon shook his head in wonderment. It was nice to know he wasn't the only one who understood the bond between these two. He rubbed both hands over his face. It had been close this time, too close, but they had prevailed -- like always. If a drug lord and a fall over the side of a mountain couldn't separate these two, he didn't know what could. The words to the tune the doctor had hummed played suddenly through his mind. "Ain't no mountain high enough. Ain't no valley low enough. Ain't no river wide enough... to keep me from you."
For now they were both safe and that was all that mattered.
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