Disclaimer: The Sentinel and its characters are the property of Pet Fly and Paramount
Much appreciation goes to Kathleen (dolimir) for her beta work on the initial version of this story, and to Shallan for her beta work on the final version! My appreciation also goes to Sheila and Lucy for the great editing job... thanks!
Originally published in "The Comfort Zone #2"
Rating: Suitable for all ages
Simon Banks took a deep breath as he shifted in his seat, twisting his tall frame around to see the clock on the wall behind him. With a disbelieving shake of his head, he checked his own watch for confirmation, then let out a heavy sigh. While it had only been a little more than three hours since he'd arrived at the hospital, thanks to a minimally padded chair that only offered a meager measure of comfort or support, his back ached.
The call had come in only minutes after he'd arrived at his desk. Details of the accident that had befallen his best team had been sketchy at best, with injuries to both men described as 'serious', and the initial report included the suspicion that the driver of the other vehicle had enjoyed a liquid breakfast that morning. Now, it was just a waiting game for their friend and captain.
If there was one saving grace, Simon reflected, it had to be that the vehicle involved in the accident had not been Jim's blue and white Ford. That truck, Jim's pride and joy, currently resided safely at the shop of a local mechanic, undergoing a few routine but time-consuming repairs. Instead, Jim had been driving a rented Honda Civic. That car, unlike the Ford, came equipped with air bags which had in all probability served to protect, at least to a point, both men.
Wanting to redirect his thoughts, at least for a time, instead of dwelling on the 'what ifs', Simon thumbed through the well-perused stack of magazines on the low table in front of him. He'd already skimmed through his first choice, a tattered and torn volume of Field and Stream, during the early minutes of his vigil. Now, he was forced to make his decision between Women's Day, Family Circle, and Good Housekeeping. With a grimace and a wry smile, he finally settled on the May 1997 issue of Family Circle as the lesser of three evils.
Eyes focused on the magazine propped on his bent knee, Simon raised his almost empty styrofoam coffee cup to his lips and swallowed the last few drops with satisfaction. While hospital coffee would definitely not be, under normal circumstances, his beverage of choice, it had hit the spot.
"Captain Banks?" Standing in the doorway was one of the many volunteers that served the hospital during daytime hours, wearing the familiar pink-bibbed uniform that distinguished her from the nursing staff.
"Yes," Simon answered, jumping to his feet and hoping that he would finally receive an update on the condition of his men.
The young woman gave him a wide smile as she gestured down the hallway. "You have a phone call, sir."
Managing a faint answering smile despite his disappointment, Simon nodded. "Thanks." He set the magazine down on his chair, tossed the empty cup in the nearby trash receptacle, and made his way to the telephone at the nurses station.
"Simon, it's Joel. Any news?"
Simon pursed his lips, wishing there was news to deliver. "Not yet, Joel."
"Want me to come down?"
"No, thanks, Joel. There's no sense in both of us sitting here. You hold down the fort and I'll call as soon as I have any word."
"Okay. Tell Jim and Blair that we're all thinking about them."
"I will," Simon said, fervently hoping he would be able to do just that within a short amount of time. The Major Crime Unit had become a tight knit group over the past few years, both professionally and personally, and he knew that the accident had hit all of them hard. Their response, after the initial shock, had been as expected, with all of them ready and willing to support and encourage both men as needed during their hospitalization and recovery.
After hanging up the phone, Simon paused at the desk. Already knowing his request, the nurse on duty simply shook her head and cheerfully repeated her oft-made promise to, "let you know as soon as there's any news."
Returning to his seat, Simon glanced up at the television. Suspended from the ceiling, it was showing one of the more popular soap operas. From just a brief glimpse, it appeared that someone was cheating on someone else. What a surprise. With another sigh, he picked up the totally uninteresting magazine once again.
Simon quickly rose to his feet at the sight of the white-coated doctor, dropping the magazine on the chair beside him. He stretched out his hand to meet the doctor's firm handshake.
"I'm Doctor Peterson." The doctor took a moment to push up his glasses with one finger before gesturing for Simon to reclaim his seat and taking the seat beside him.
Simon sat down as directed, but leaned forward, his expression dark with concern. "How are they?"
"Detective Ellison has a mild concussion, some ligament damage to his right knee, and a broken wrist," the doctor began after a brief glance at the chart in his hand. "But he should be just fine."
"Thank God," Simon said with feeling. He hesitated for a second before asking, "And Sandburg? I know the paramedics suspected some internal bleeding?"
Peterson nodded. "I'm not the doctor of record but, knowing you'd be concerned about him as well, I did take the liberty of checking his chart.
"More good news," the doctor answered, grinning as Simon exhaled loudly in relief. "There was some bleeding, and they did have to remove his spleen but, baring any unforeseen problems, he should make a quick recovery."
"Does Jim know about Blair?"
"No." The doctor shook his head. "He hasn't been awake for more than a minute or two at a time since he was brought in." At Simon's sharp intake of breath, he added, "It's nothing to be concerned about and I expect that to change very soon."
"When can I see them?"
"It will be a while before you can see Mr. Sandburg, but Detective Ellison is being moved to a room as we speak. You're welcome to join him. He's in room 321."
Mentally making a note to call Joel on his way to Jim's room, Simon reached out to shake the doctor's hand. "Thank you."
"You're very welcome," Peterson replied. He tucked the chart under his arm and stood up. "Let me know if I can be of further assistance."
As the physician turned to leave, Simon rose from his chair and held up a hand. "There is one thing," he began. "About their room assignments..."
The doctor nodded his comprehension. "You're hoping they can share a room?"
"Yes, you see--"
Peterson held up his hand in turn. "It's already been arranged," he said with a laugh. "We know better than to split them up."
Simon grinned. "I take it you've dealt with the two of them before?"
"Oh, yes. It was quite a memorable experience."
The police captain chuckled at the doctor's tone. "They do have a tendency to, shall we say, disregard hospital rules."
"They do indeed," Peterson agreed. "Perhaps if you'd let Detective Ellison know that his friend's room assignment is dependent upon his staying in bed?"
"I'll let him know," Simon promised with a nod. "Thanks again, Doctor." He quickly shook the doctor's hand again, and then turned to head for the third floor.
Waiting in yet another uncomfortable chair, Simon wished he'd thought to bring at least one of the magazines with him, just to help pass the time.
Jim had been sleeping upon the police captain's arrival in the small two-patient room, so he had pulled a seat closer to the bed and sat down. Now, almost an hour later, the detective was still sleeping. Simon took solace in the knowledge that, if Jim slept much longer, a nurse would be along soon to wake the concussed man.
Glancing up at the hospital-supplied television, he reached for the remote on the side table. Careful to keep the volume below what might irritate even a sleeping Sentinel's senses, he watched the local news for a few minutes before switching it back off.
As he leaned back in his chair, he heard a small sound. Rising to his feet, he rested his hands on the safety railing and looked down at his friend. "Jim?"
Jim slowly opened his eyes, groaning as he shifted his position. "Simon?"
"Yeah, take it easy." The older man straightened the blankets that had been disturbed by Jim's movements.
"What... what happened?" Jim asked groggily.
"You were in an accident."
"Accident?" Jim repeated, his brow creased in confusion.
Simon nodded, giving the dazed man a few moments to process the information before continuing. "You were hit by a drunk driver on your way to the station."
Jim shook his head slowly, grimacing at the small movement. "Don't remember."
Simon caught Jim's hand as he reached for the bandage on his forehead, saying, "Uh, uh, don't touch." He lightly squeezed Jim's fingers before letting go. "I'm not surprised, my friend. You banged your head pretty good. I--"
"Sandburg!" Jim interrupted. His panicked eyes swept the room. "Simon, where's Blair?"
"Take it easy, Jim. He was hurt in the accident, but he's going to be okay," Simon answered quickly, gently patting the anxious detective's shoulder, but ready to hold Jim down if he attempted to sit up.
Jim visibly relaxed at Simon's words. "Where is he?" he asked again, this time more calmly.
"He's in recovery at the moment. He came through surgery with flying colors and the doctor doesn't expect any complications.
"Surgery?" Jim repeated with a flinch, his face paling.
Simon nodded. "He had some internal bleeding, probably caused by the seatbelt, and the doctors removed his spleen. But, he's going to be fine."
Closing his eyes, Jim tipped his head at a familiar angle. Simon waited patiently, knowing the Sentinel was employing his senses to find his Guide.
"I can't hear him," Jim finally admitted, opening his eyes, disappointment written on his face. "There's too many noises, too much..." He shook his head. "Simon, help me up."
At Jim's request, Simon glanced down at the detective's heavily wrapped knee and shook his head. "There's no way the doctor is going to let you out of this bed, Jim. In addition to banging your head pretty hard, you've got a badly wrenched knee and a broken wrist."
Jim waved off Simon's concern, as if his injuries were of no consequence. "I don't care. I don't want him to wake up alone. He'll be confused, and if I'm not there, he'll think--"
"I've already got it covered," Simon interrupted. "The doctor gave me permission to sit with him until he wakes up, and once he's awake, well, do you think you're up to having a roommate?"
"Really?" Jim asked, his face beaming.
"Yes," Simon confirmed. "But only on one condition."
Jim immediately nodded his assent. "Anything."
Folding his arms, Simon assumed a stern expression. "You stay in bed like you're supposed to. No sitting next to his bed."
"You've got it," Jim promised with a grin.
Simon wasn't surprised in the least at Jim's easy acquiescence, past experience having proven the man would agree to most anything when it came to Sandburg. He matched Jim's grin, then looked around before speaking in a lowered voice. "Jim, any problems with your senses? Are you handling the pain okay?" Simon paused, trying to remember what Blair would ask. "Did you, uh, turn down the dial?"
"I'm fine," Jim reassured him.
Simon nodded, sinking back into the bedside chair.
"But maybe you should..." Jim gestured toward the door. "I mean, Sandburg might wake and..."
"I'm going, I'm going," Simon chuckled in exasperation, shaking his head as he rose back to his feet with a groan. "But I'll tell you one thing. I'm finding a comfortable chair before coming back."
Seated in his third uncomfortable chair of the day, Simon crossed his legs and then uncrossed them again in an effort to find relief for his aching back. Finally giving up, he stood and crossed the room, deciding to read the policy and procedure notices posted on the bulletin board on the wall.
Three minutes later, Simon knew more than he'd ever wanted to know about Cascade Hospital's rules and regulations. Turning around, he momentarily entertained thoughts of running downstairs to retrieve another cup of coffee, but soon dismissed the idea, not wanting his charge to wake up while he was absent from the room, never mind having to explain to a certain detective why he'd been derelict in his duty.
Unhappily heading back toward the four-legged instrument of torture next to Blair's bed, he stopped in his tracks as the young man moved his head slightly.
Simon positioned himself next to the bed, slightly leaning over the rail. "Sandburg?" he called, placing his hand on Blair's arm.
Moaning again softly, Blair slowly opened his eyes.
"Take it easy, Blair. Don't try to move around."
"Hurts," Blair mumbled, his face creased with pain.
"I know it does," Simon said sympathetically. "You were in an accident, but you're going to be okay."
At first, Blair just blinked in confusion, then his eyes went wide with panic. "Jim?" he called, searching the room.
Simon leaned closer. "Jim's not here, but he's fine," he said in a soft, soothing tone. "You'll be able to see him in just a few minutes."
After studying Simon's features for a long moment, Blair nodded faintly. His eyes slipping to half-mast, he yawned. "Tired," he admitted.
"Then close your eyes," Simon directed, not surprised in the least, knowing that the young man had been worn out by his ordeal. "Jim will be waiting for you when you wake up."
"Okay," Blair murmured, and soon drifted back to sleep, a small smile on his face.
Simon looked fondly at the observer, patting his arm gently, before reaching for the extra blanket at the foot of the bed. Unfolding it and placing it over Blair, he tucked it in around him carefully.
The young man mumbled softly, but didn't waken, and Simon retook his seat, intending to stay with him until Blair was moved out of the recovery area and into his room.
Half-dozing in the comfortable chair he'd borrowed from a nearby room, Simon looked up as Jim let out a hiss of pain. "Jim, what's wrong? Is the pain worse?"
Jim shook his head. "No, I just moved too fast. I thought..." He paused, his gaze fixed on the pale face of his Guide.
"Simon, he's waking up." There was an air of excitement in Jim's words.
Simon straightened up in his seat, gaining an unobstructed view of the young man, but was unable to see any change in the still figure. He looked over at Jim. "How can you tell?"
A slight smile crossed Jim's face. "His heartbeat is speeding up."
Rolling his eyes, both amused and awed at the display of Sentinel abilities, Simon moved to stand next to the bed. "Sandburg?"
Blair stirred, releasing a soft moan at the movement.
At the pained sound, with one hand, Jim pushed himself to a sitting position. Slowly swinging his legs off the bed, he painstakingly got to his feet. Dressed in a thin cotton hospital gown that gapped slightly in the back, he stood awkwardly on one foot, holding to the side of his bed to keep his balance.
"Get your butt back on that bed," Simon snapped, glaring at his detective. "Remember what you promised?"
With his attention focused fully on his partner, it took a moment before Simon's words sank in. Jim hesitated briefly before nodding reluctantly. Moving very deliberately, he climbed back onto his bed, but this time, he rested on his side, facing the supine younger man.
"Sandburg?" Simon called again. "You with us?"
"Hmmm? Simon?" Blair rasped, his eyes flickering open.
Simon gently grasped the young man's shoulder. "Yeah, kid. I'm right here."
Blair blinked his eyes several times before reaching up to grab Simon's arm with an unsteady hand. "Is Jim okay?" he asked.
Simon chuckled, moving to the side as he glanced at Jim. "Why don't you ask him yourself?"
Following his gaze, Blair turned his head toward the other bed. "Hey," he breathed out, his face brightening at the sight of his partner.
"Hey yourself," replied Jim. "Yeah, I'm okay. Just some bumps and bruises. Nothing to worry about."
Blair cast a doubtful look at Simon. When the police captain simply shrugged in response, he swung his gaze back to his partner. "Bumps and bruises?"
Simon had to laugh at the look on Blair's face, knowing that the tenacious observer wouldn't rest until he had the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
Ellison obviously knew it, too, because he sighed heavily before reciting, "Bump on the head, twisted knee, broken wrist."
Seeing Blair's look of dismay, Simon chimed in with, "He really will be okay."
"What about me?" Blair asked, one hand tentatively reaching toward his bandaged abdomen.
"Don't mess with the bandage, Chief," Jim said quickly. "The doctors removed your spleen."
"Oh," Blair commented. "Guess I didn't need it?"
"Nope. You'll do just fine without it."
Temporarily forgotten as the two men reconnected, Simon sat down, finally able to relax. He glanced around the sparse room with a smile. His call to Major Crime has resulted in a multitude of promises to visit that evening, and he knew it wouldn't be long before the room was overflowing with elated well wishers, gifts, and cards.
Simon looked back at his friends, picking up the thread of their conversation with ease. Both men wore smiles, and the warmth and joy in two sets of blue eyes overshadowed the faint pain-induced lines that marred two brows.
Jim surveyed his friend, contentment written on his face. "Me, too, buddy."
"When can we go home?" Blair asked with a yawn.
"I think we're both stuck here for a few days."
"Figures," Blair sighed. He slowly lifted his hand toward Jim just as the Sentinel reached toward his Guide. The distance between the beds made it impossible for the two hands to meet.
The desolate look on both faces tore at Simon's heart, and he moved without a word to pull his chair between the two beds. Sitting down, he carefully took Blair's left hand in his own before reaching out to hold Jim's right hand. Each hand was given a gentle squeeze as he bridged the gap, connecting the two.
"Thanks, Simon," Jim whispered gratefully.
"Thanks," echoed Blair, snuggling deeper into his pillow.
"You're welcome," Simon said. "Now why don't the two of you close your eyes and get some sleep. You both look like you could use it."
"Simon, you won't...?" Jim began.
Simon smiled and shook his head. "I'm not going anywhere." A few minutes later, as he carefully maintained his hold, both of his friends were breathing slowly and evenly, lost in sleep.
Looking at their intertwined hands, Simon chuckled softly at the unlikeliness of it all. He shifted in his seat, leaning back into the soft cushions, and closed his eyes, joining his men in sleep.
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