The standard characters in the Sentinel do not belong to me, but the bad guys and story are mine.

As usual, a special thanks to my phenomenal beta, who keeps my work true to form and grammatically correct.


Sam Mallory

Chapter 1

Blair rubbed the tension away that was building in his head. He longed for his bed. His researching binge was nearing an end, and he wanted nothing more than to collapse. He shook his head to clear it as he steered the Volvo onto Prospect Street.

Almost home, he thought sighing heavily. He still couldn't believe that he woke up at his desk this morning. Jim would be pissed to put it mildly. Jim worried when he couldn't sense his Guide nearby.

"What the..." he exclaimed as bright lights suddenly flashed up into his face. He squinted, realizing that his reaction was too sluggish, and collided with the oncoming car. A cry escaped his lips as his head hit the steering wheel. His head exploded as he fought to stay conscious: blood flowed freely down his face blurring his vision.

Suddenly, a figure walked toward the car. Blair was grateful that help seemed to arrive so quickly. "I'm dizzy and feeling nauseous," he told the stranger, his breathing coming in irregular gasps.

"I know, Mr. Sandburg," the man replied sadistically as he jabbed a hypodermic into Blair's neck and dragged him out the driver-side window. Blair groaned and fell into black oblivion.

Jim Ellison re-read his robbery reports to ensure accuracy and once satisfied, signed his name to the bottom. He placed his reports in the file and tucked it into Simon's in-box. Having finished the last of the day's paperwork, he decided to head for home and watch the Jags game on Channel 3.

He called Blair's office. Jim was getting a little worried about his Guide. He hardly left his office the past few days, working feverishly on research for his latest theory. Jim was hoping to talk him into watching the game. He grabbed his jacket, took out his keys and headed out the door.

Jim climbed into the Expedition and headed for home. Pulling out his cell phone, he tried Blair's office again, but there was no answer. Well, maybe he's on his way home, he thought relieved that Blair wasn't spending another night in his office.

Just then, a call came over the police radio.

"All units in the vicinity of the 600 block of Prospect. We have an injury accident reported by a civilian at the scene. A 62 Volvo, license plate WA 743FSU collided with a 2001 Ford F-150, license plate WA 829KLU."

Jim started at the license plate. He grabbed the mike hastily, "Dispatch, this is Ellison, repeat the license plate on that Volvo."

"One minute, Detective Ellison. The license plate on the Volvo was WA 743FSU."

Jim drew in a quick breath, "That's Blair's car," he said under his breath. "Dispatch, call Captain Banks and inform him that Police Observer Blair Sandburg's car was involved in the accident."

He pushed the pedal to the floor as he thought about Blair injured in that accident.

"Damnit, he's been so tired. I should've known something like this would happen." He cursed again as he pushed the Expedition even faster down the quiet late night streets of Cascade, Washington.

He pulled up to the accident sight and leapt from the car in a single motion. Running over to Blair's Volvo, he looked inside to see blood on the steering wheel and seat. Turning toward a beat cop, he raised his voice anxiously, "Officer Hanson," he called from 30 feet away, "where's the driver of the Volvo?"

"Gone. We found blood all over the place. We assume he got out of the car and staggered away. In fact, the driver of the other car was killed. M.E. has the body now."

Jim looked around for Dan Wolf and saw him leaning over a body bag off to the right side of the road. "Dan," Jim began, "what do you know about the driver of the other car?"

Dan, dumbfounded, replied, "What are you doin' here, Jim? Traffic accidents are kind of a step down from Major Crimes," he needled.

"The Volvo is Blair's," Jim replied hastily.

"Oh, sorry, man. Do you think he would have just wandered back to the loft? You don't live that far from here, do ya?"

Jim took off running down the street for the loft. Blair must have been dazed and just wandered back to the apartment on foot. He turned to holler at Dan. "Tell Captain Banks, I'm checking the loft and I'll be right back." He concentrated on getting to the loft as fast as possible.

Bursting through the door of the loft, Jim checked every square inch of it. He knew Blair wasn't home, because he couldn't hear his heartbeat, but he had to check anyway. Locking the door, he headed back to the site of the accident.

By the time he returned, Simon was there talking with Dan. Upon seeing Jim run up, he knew that Blair was still missing. "I don't like this, Jim. Where is Sandburg?"

"I wish I knew. He wasn't at the loft." Pulling Simon aside, he finished, "He's not here, Simon. I can't hear his heartbeat anywhere."

"You don't think he's dead, do you?" Simon asked worriedly.

"No, but I'm mixed up with all the adrenaline and I'm having trouble concentrating. Maybe when we get back to the loft, you can help me. Let's go."

Dan came running over as they turned to leave. "Thought you guys might wanna know. The body's been dead for at least 12 hours. He died well before the accident."

Captain Banks turned to Dan, "Now how the hell can you explain that?"

"I can't, but then, that's your job. I just tell you how they died," he said, grimacing.

Chapter 2

Blair woke with a groan. "Wh...where am I?" He asked confused by what he was seeing. His head pounded so hard, he could see tiny black dots dancing before his eyes.

The speaker suddenly roared to life.

"Hello, Mr. Sandburg. My name is Kevin Jenkins, but I'm sure the name means absolutely nothing to you. My brother was killed by Jim Ellison." Blair started at the mention of Jim's name.

"Ah, I see that the name means something to you. Jim killed my brother on a mission in Peru. He was the pilot for the helicopter that went down there. Jim should have saved him, but now he will pay. Smile," Kevin said as he took a Polaroid of Blair. "You will pay the price for my brother's life. Jim values you above all others, and you will suffer as my brother did."

Blair drew in a sharp breath as he realized he was strapped into the pilot's seat of a helicopter cockpit suspended about 40 feet above the floor. "What are you doing?" He asked, gasping for air. He was terrified of heights. He could feel that the cockpit was swaying and started to get sick.

"My brother crashed in the jungle with Captain Ellison. He took what was mine. Now I take what is his. It's that simple," he replied acidly. He pushed the drop button on the crane, and the chopper cockpit went crashing to the floor.

Blair screamed as he felt the chopper drop to the floor. His adrenaline, along with his cracked ribs, were making it difficult to breathe, and he was terrified as the ground rushed up to meet him. The cockpit crashed into the floor spitting glass inside. Blair threw up his hands to protect his face and felt his cracked ribs give as the belt jerked him back into the seat. He couldn't focus through the fear and thought at first perhaps he had died, but he could hear the taunting as his tormentor stated that Phase 1 was complete.

He lay there broken; his chest on fire as three men roughly ripped him out of the mangled remains of the cockpit. Blair cried out as they moved him with no regard for his pain or injuries and dumped him on the rocky ground. He could take the pain no longer and fell obligingly into unconsciousness.

"Ensure that the heaters are at maximum. The conditions are to be identical to my brother's. Room temperature is not to fall below 100 degrees. Drop the temperature down to 50 degrees for 6 hours to simulate nighttime conditions," Jenkins barked at his men.

"Yes, sir."

Chapter 3

Jim paced the loft waiting for Simon. He needed to find Blair. He should be out there looking for him, not sitting on his hands in his loft waiting for the Captain.

A knock on the door roused him from his guilt.

"Come in," he hollered as Simon walked through the door. "Are you ready for this, Simon?" At Simon's affirmative nod, he continued, "I'll see if I can hear Blair's heartbeat. Let me go 5 minutes, then bring me back."

"Alright," Simon capitulated.

The Sentinel closed his eyes and focused all his strength, all that he was, into hearing Blair's heartbeat. He erased the passing traffic, the sirens, and the water, everything except a single heartbeat. He could almost hear it. It felt nearly tangible to him, when suddenly it was drifting away. No, his mind cried out furiously. He could feel Simon pulling him back. Not yet, Simon, he thought. Suddenly, he jolted awake, aware of the loft around him. "Man, it freaks me out when you do that! Did you find him?" Simon asked hopefully.

"I almost had him, but he faded away," he replied sullenly, swaying on his feet.

"Whoa there, Cowboy. Why don't you sit down and rest for awhile."

Jim pushed him away forcefully. "No, I have to try again," he stated emphatically.

Simon paused, sighing heavily, "Um... I don't think that's such a great idea, Jim." Looking over at the Sentinel, he realized too late that it didn't matter what he thought. Jim was zoned. "Damnit, he never listens!"

Jim had reclined on the couch for the second attempt and was having some success, but again, Blair was ripped away before he could locate him. Jim squeezed his eyes shut against the pain threatening to expel his brains from his head.

"Jim! Jim!" Simon yelled as he shook him forcefully. "Jim, get your ass back here now!"

Jim opened his eyes with a start. "What happened?"

"You scared the hell out of me! That's what happened! You stopped breathing! Now I don't give a rat's ass what you say, but you will not attempt this again until you've had a good night's sleep. What's the good of getting Blair back in one piece, if I have to tell him that you're in a coma or worse, dead." He raised his hand to cut off any arguments from the floor.

Jim started to debate the issue when he saw the look in Simon's eyes. He knew it would be pointless to argue with Simon; he would lose.

Chapter 4

Blair could barely breathe. He knew now that he had broken the ribs that had only been cracked before the helicopter fiasco. This guy was nuts. He dropped me in a helicopter and watched me crash to the floor! No, we're not thinking about that Blair, because that sucked and still makes you feel sick, so shut up, he thought wildly.

He tried to take a deep breath but ended up curled in a ball gagging on his own blood. Uh-oh, he thought panicking. The coughing fit produced tears in his eyes and vomit on the floor from the pain that had been inflicted.

"Come on, Jim. Why the hell haven't you found me, yet?" he whispered under his breath.

Just then, he froze. Blair felt something move against his leg. He turned to face a black and gold snake about 2 feet in length. Oh, God, he thought nervously as the snake sank its fangs into his right ankle.

Blair let out a yell and one of the men, under orders, chopped the head off the snake.

"You have just been bitten by a South American Rattlesnake, Mr. Sandburg," Kevin started. "My brother was bitten on the second day of his torture. According to Captain Ellison's report, he killed the snake and administered first aid as well as he could. My brother died the third day, so I hope you can hold out until tomorrow."

Blair's ankle was throbbing. "Look, you said so yourself that Jim administered first aid to your brother, so he was trying to keep him alive, not kill him."

"Ellison killed him when he took him down there in the first place," Kevin hissed angrily. "If I were you, I'd worry more about staying alive than trying to prove Ellison's innocence." With that, Kevin Jenkins turned on his heel and stomped out of the observation lounge.

Blair sat up despite the extreme protest by his ribs. He looked down at his ankle and swore quietly, shaking his head in disbelief. Removing his flannel shirt, he tied it off at the calf, creating a tourniquet. Tears of pain were rolling down his face as he admired his handiwork. Jim, you better hurry, he thought as his mouth went dry with thirst.

About thirty minutes had passed when Blair's eyes snapped open. He turned to the side and vomited up the military ration that they had provided. Blair's agitation grew as he knew that he didn't have a lot of time left. At least I'm not allergic to the snake's venom or I'd be dead, he thought, trying to find the silver lining.

The spots dancing in front of Blair's eyes were beginning to blur.

Jim's fist struck the kitchen table, rattling the silverware.

"Simon, you didn't have to stay here last night. I would've been fine."

"Well, it made for a shorter drive this morning. I don't have Daryl until next weekend," he said, the disappointment showing clearly in his voice.

"I think I'm ready to make another attempt. I think you were right, and I was just too tired to hear him," Jim stated, a bit defeated.

"You'll find him, Jim. You always do."

Jim was disturbed by the knock at the door. He slowly got up from the table and answered it.

"Rafe, what are you doin' here?" Jim asked, a bit confused.

Rafe handed Jim an envelope, shaking his head grimly. "These came for you today, and I thought you would want them right away," Rafe replied urgently.

Jim turned the envelope over in his hands, afraid of what the contents would hold. Inhaling deeply, he tore open the envelope and dumped the contents onto the kitchen table. Several Polaroid pictures lay strewn across the table. All depicted Blair, his face twisted with the torture of the moment. The last one Jim picked up had Blair looking deathly pale, dry blood crusted on his lips. Written in blood at the bottom of the picture was 'For my brother Kyle.' Jim turned away.

"What is it?" Simon asked seriously as Jim pushed the pictures in front of him.

Rafe stepped forward, "They came about two hours ago. Samantha said that there were no fingerprints, but the message at the bottom of the last one was written in Blair's blood."

Jim shuddered at the thought of what was happening to his Guide, his partner, and his friend.

He looked up suddenly. "Take a look at this. In the first picture, Blair seems to be in a cockpit, then in this picture he's lying on rocky terrain. This looks like it could've been taken in a jungle doesn't it?" Jim questioned the two officers.

"Yeah, I guess so," Simon replied.

"But there aren't any jungles around here, Jim," Rafe stated, eyes downcast.

"You're right, but what I'm getting at is the identity of the kidnapper. We've been looking in the wrong place. It's not someone out for revenge on the cop, but the army captain instead. Have Rhonda pull the Peru file and bring it over immediately."

Blair couldn't believe the rate at which the poison was moving up his leg. He had already moved the tourniquet up twice and was concerned about moving it again. Additionally, his face felt numb and tingly. Thinking back to first aid, he realized that the venom was neurotoxic in origin. Blair tried to remember the symptoms of neurotoxic poisoning: numbness and tingling of the face (check), hypotension (check), convulsions (seriously hope not), and visual disturbances (check and check). Great, this is definitely not good, he thought suppressing a shudder. He secretly hoped that the venom wouldn't cause him to hemorrhage (he always forgot that symptom).

Blair winced at the burning pain in his leg. Looking down at his ankle he could see that it was already nearly twice its normal size. A wave of nausea hit him and he vomited weakly until he was reduced to dry heaves. Gently he rolled onto his right side, taking extra care not to move his leg too much, if at all.

"So, how are you feeling, Mr. Sandburg?" Jenkins asked as he squatted down next to the sickly anthropologist.

"You're a real bastard, in case you don't already know," Blair replied bitingly, coughing up bright red frothy sputum in the process.

Kevin Jenkins shook his head with disdain. "It looks like you've started bleeding internally. I really was hoping that you would last as long as my brother did. He drowned in his own blood because Ellison didn't get him the help he needed," Jenkins spat the words at Blair.

"Jim did everything he could for those men. They were just too badly wounded. You're a real prick if you think that Jim just let your brother die like a dog. Jim wouldn't, he couldn't do that. He could never just stand by and watch somebody die."

Kevin Jenkins paused for a moment, thinking as he pulled out the camera for another Polaroid.

"Perhaps, you're right. I'm being unfair," he spoke softly. He motioned for one of his soldiers to join him. He hastily scrawled out a message at the bottom of the picture and handed it to his man. "Sergeant, take this photo to Ellison, right away. Give it to no one else. Move it, soldier!"

"Yes, sir," his man replied crisply.

Chapter 5

Ellison was losing his patience. He had looked through the pictures so many times that he knew every line of pain etched on Blair's face. A knock on the door brought him around, but he didn't move. Simon answered the door.

"This is for Captain Ellison," the man stated. Simon held out his hand to take the envelope, but no offer of exchange was made.

"I'll take it, thanks," Simon stated, holding his hand out.

"My orders are to give this directly to Captain Ellison and wait for his reply," the soldier replied curtly standing at attention.

Jim walked over to the door and took the envelope. Inside, he found the newest picture of Blair with a note scrawled across the bottom. It read, 'Come to me and Blair may live.'

Jim grabbed his jacket and headed for the door.

"Where the hell do you think you're going?" Simon snapped as he grabbed Jim's arm.

"To Blair," Jim blurted out forcefully. He quickly extricated himself from Simon's grasp before the full meaning of what he was doing soaked in.

Another soldier was waiting at the car for him. They bound his feet and hands and threw him into the trunk of the car.

By the time Simon reacted, Jim was in the car speeding off toward Blair.

Jim braced himself as best as he could in the trunk of the speeding car. He was listening for any sounds indicating where they may be headed. Disorientation began setting in as the car made several close turns.

Jim was amazed at how slowly time passed in the trunk of a car. It seemed like he'd been there forever and he felt as though he would be sick.

Suddenly, the car lurched to a stop and the engine shut off. Jim heard the key hit the lock of the trunk and quickly dialed down his vision. The trunk swung open revealing two very large men who promptly dragged him out and onto his feet.

"If you make any sudden moves, we'll kill you and your friend will die," threatened one of the guards in a low voice.

"Yeah, yeah, just take me to him!" Jim commanded.

One of the men blindfolded him and cut the ties around his ankles.

"Move," the soldier ordered.

Jim felt himself shoved forward and counterbalanced appropriately to keep himself from falling. They pushed him forward through a maze of hallways until they finally came to a stop.

The men removed the blindfold and shoved him into the room. He came down on one knee in front of a rather imposing man. Jim looked up into the face of Blair's tormentor. There was no mistaking the man's identity.

"You're Kyle Jenkin's older brother, aren't you? Kyle always said you were one hell of a soldier, and he always wanted to live up to your expectations. I'm just glad he never had to see the man you are today," Jim stated bitterly.

Kevin Jenkins flinched at the insult and raised his hand to repay Jim's insolence.

"We'll see if you can remain as cavalier when your friend dies," he snickered.

Jim's insides ran cold as he commanded, "Take me to him, now."

"He's right down there." Jenkins answered pointing out the observation window. "Let's see if you can do a better job saving him than you did my brother. Take him to his friend," he ordered his men.

They opened the door and Jim was blasted by a wave of stifling heat. He turned down the dial on his sense of touch and was able to tolerate the heat a little better.

One man pushed him into the room and closed the door behind him. Looking around the room, he saw Blair lying on a rock face about 50 paces away. He covered the distance quickly and bent down to assess the damage to his Guide.

"Jesus, Blair. What have they done to you?"

Blair's eyes opened partially at the voice of his friend. Convinced he was hallucinating he closed them again.

"Stay with me, Blair," Jim ordered.

"You're really here?" Blair asked, his eyes glazed over. Blair tried to sit up and was rewarded with a coughing fit that produced bright red frothy sputum.

"Oh my God!" Jim exclaimed shocked at the condition of his friend. He could hear the gurgling in Blair's chest as he assessed his medical condition. "You're a mess," he stated trying to lighten the mood.

"I...I...was bitten by...snake...poison..." Blair rambled through clenched teeth.

Jim looked down at Blair's legs and saw the tourniquet that had been applied. The leg below looked to be a nice shade of blue-purple. "I'll have to move the tourniquet up and relieve a little of the pressure. Are you ready for this?"

Blair gritted his teeth and nodded his affirmation. Jim loosened the tourniquet causing Blair to yell at the sudden onslaught of circulation. He mercifully passed out before Jim could re-tighten it.

Jim's eyes were wide at the amount of damage his partner had suffered. He could detect massive damage in the chest with 3 broken and 2 cracked ribs along with the trauma sustained to the head, lower abdomen and left clavicle. From what he could tell a lump formed over the clavicle and it was swelling. It must have been broken from the impact of the crash.

Jim looked up at Jenkins standing in the observation window. "I need a standard issue army medkit, now."

"I don't think so," Jenkins replied emphatically over the loud speaker.

Jim sighed. "I thought you wanted to see what happened to your brother. I had a standard issue army medkit to treat the men with and used it to treat your brother," he replied tersely.

Jenkins nodded and a medkit was thrust into Jim's waiting hands within 5 minutes.

"Okay, let's see about that clavicle," he whispered under his breath.

"What?" Blair asked weakly.

"You broke your left clavicle, and I need to immobilize it. Hold on one second." Jim folded Blair's left arm gently against his chest and immobilized it using his belt as a harness. Blair groaned at the pain produced by this movement and looked at Jim pleadingly.

"Is there a painkiller in that kit?" he begged quietly.

Jim knew that the pain Blair endured must be intense for him to ask for medication. He nodded. "There's aspirin, but with the snakebite, it would cause complications. We can't risk that," Jim said empathizing with his partner's pain.

"Are you sure?" Blair asked again, coughing up more blood and sputum.

Jim turned his friend's head to the side and held him to keep his ribs and clavicle immobilized as he once again heaved up an alarming amount of blood.

"This doesn't look good, Jim. I don't think I'm going to make it. I've already lost feeling in my feet and hands. If you can make it out of here without me, do it," Blair ordered emphatically.

"That's not going to happen, Chief, so just settle down and let me work."

Jim worked over Blair for 30 minutes trying to stabilize his condition.

Chapter 6

Detective Rafe smiled up at Captain Banks. "We got him," he declared triumphantly.

"Brown, Connors, and Rafe, you're with me. Rhonda, call for back up to the industrial district and get those cars rolling now. Tell them not to go in until they hear my order. Let's go!" Captain Banks barked orders at his unit.

They all jumped up and headed for the door following in Simon's footsteps.

"Sir, what made you bug Detective Ellison?" Megan Connors asked suspiciously.

"I knew he'd go after the guy on his own first chance he got, so I tagged his jacket," Simon replied with a smile. "Now, enough small talk people, let's move it!"

They rushed to their cars and headed to the scene. Fifteen minutes later, 20 police officers were storming the industrial warehouse where the Sentinel and his Guide were being held.

Blair jumped as gunshots cracked all around them. Jim covered Blair's body with his own and waited for the bullets to stop flying.

When the room was secure, Jim stood and hollered to Simon, "Get an ambulance, Sandburg's hurt real bad. I'm going after Jenkins."

Jim ran out the door without a second look back. He could hear Blair's heartbeat was weakening which provided the motivation needed to nail Jenkins. Listening, he could hear a heartbeat in the far end of the building away from the commotion. He pushed himself harder to reach the back docks before Jenkins could escape.

He could now see him running down the back dock stairs. Oh no you don't, he thought angrily and redoubled his efforts to cut the man off at the main loading dock door. He dove off the platform into Jenkins, knocking the wind out of him and breaking a rib in the process. Jenkins groaned with the new effort that breathing cost.

Jim flipped him over onto his stomach and cuffed him with his hands behind his back. He was kneeling on the man's back adding just enough pressure to Jenkin's ribcage to cause him to nearly lose consciousness. Megan Connors came down off the dock and took the ex-soldier into custody, reading him his Miranda rights.

Jim looked venomously into Jenkin's eyes and turned around to make his way back to his partner.

By the time he made his way back, the paramedics were on the scene trying to stabilize Blair before they moved him.

"Don't you need to give him antivenom for the snakebite?" Captain Banks prompted.

"No sir, antivenom cannot be given in the field due to an increased risk of anaphylactic shock for the patient. They'll administer that at the hospital," the paramedic informed them.

"We need to get him to County General before his condition worsens. He's in severe shock. Let's get him on the gurney. Ready? On three. One...two...three." They lifted Blair gently onto the gurney, but not gently enough for him to retain consciousness.

Chapter 7

"What have we got?" the doctor asked as the patient was lowered from the ambulance.

"White male, age 28-32, neurotoxic poisoning, snakebite right ankle, hemoptysis evident, 3rd, 4th and 5th left ribs broken, as well as left clavicle. Patient displays symptoms of severe shock, internal bleeding and abdominal trauma. Vital signs: basal temperature 103 degrees, BP 80/40, pupils reactive and equal, possible head trauma," the paramedic called out while racing down the corridor. Jim followed them down the hall running alongside the gurney squeezing Blair's right hand.

"Let's get him into Trauma 2, stat," the doctor cried as they shoved the gurney through the double metal doors. "Okay people, let's get him on the table. On three. One...two...three."

Blair moaned as the noise went on around him.

"He's on the monitors!"

"Mr. Sandburg, can you hear me? Open your eyes if you can hear me," the doctor asked looking for signs of consciousness. "Okay, we've got a 9 on the GCS; he's got a Grade 3 concussion. I want a CT scan ASAP. Do we know what kind of snake bit him?"

"A South American rattlesnake was found dead onsite," Jim replied unsteadily.

"That's CroFab," the doctor replied immediately.

"Sir, we need you to step outside so we can work," a nurse commanded while pushing Jim bodily out of the room.

"Start an IV with 3g ampicillin and get me an epi kit!"

"We've got a central line!"

"He's seizing!"

"Inject IM 200 mg Phenobarbital!"

Thirty seconds...Sixty seconds...Ninety seconds... The room is silent except for the heart monitor.

"Seizure is subsiding, doctor. Epi in!"

"Set him up with CroFab antivenom. If no adverse reaction occurs, increase infusion rate to 250ml/h. Okay, let's turf him to surgery," the doctor ordered. As they wheeled Blair to surgery, the doctor continued his orders. "Observe the patient through completion plus 1 hour to determine if envenomation control has been achieved and update his tetanus."

They wheeled Blair into the surgical bay as the ER doctor turned toward the waiting room to inform the patient's family of his condition.

Stepping into the waiting room, he was immediately confronted with half the Major Crimes unit. "Just a minute. I can only divulge information to his C.O. and family at this time. If you could please follow me." Simon and Jim followed him into the consultation office.

"My name is Dr. Wentworth. I was the ER physician for Mr. Sandburg. I know you have questions, but try to hold them until the end in case I answer them. Mr. Sandburg is hurt pretty badly. He has a Grade 3 concussion, which is severe, along with numerous broken or cracked bones. His vital signs are weak but stable, and his neurological functions are currently impaired. This may be temporary or permanent. Only time will tell. Our primary concerns are the head injury, the snakebite and the internal bleeding. We got him stabilized enough to operate, but he seized in the trauma room and that's not a good sign."

"Seized?" Simon asked concerned.

"Yes, he went into convulsions, and we had to administer an anticonvulsant to stabilize him. Does Mr. Sandburg have a history of epilepsy?"

"No, so why would he have convulsions now?" Jim demanded.

"His system has sustained multiple traumas, Detective. It could be the head injury, the fever, the snakebite's neurotoxic effects, or even something as simple as blood loss. There are too many variables to count. He should be out of surgery in the next 5-8 hours depending on the extent of the internal injuries. We'll keep you posted."

Chapter 8

Blair awoke to the sound of the monitor's rhythmic beat. He tried to take a deep breath, but something was blocking his efforts. He started to panic.

"Blair, it's Jim. Calm down, Chief. You're on a respirator."

Blair's eyes widened as he realized he couldn't move, and he was clearly terrified.

"It's gonna be okay, Chief. They're giving you paralyzing drugs to keep you from moving around a lot. You had lots of injuries, Blair. Basically, you scared the shit out of us," he replied with a smile. This was the best he'd felt in the last week. He couldn't believe that it had been 5 days since Blair had been taken.

Blair started to settle down but was still having trouble with the respirator.

"They told me if you can't stay calm, they'll have to sedate you. You've been unconscious for 3 days. I'd rather have you around for the company to be honest, but if you feel the need for the extra sleep, who am I to stop you?" Jim goaded with a smile.

Blair closed his eyes and calmed down through the meditation methods Naomi had taught him.

After a few minutes, he was settled and listening to Jim talk about the weather, the hospital food, work (or lack thereof) since he'd been in here.

"The doctor says you'll be off the respirator tomorrow and will be able to go home in about a week if all looks good and there are no other complications."

Blair smiled as much as he was able. So I made it. I'm going to be okay, he thought. His eyes closed heavily and he finally went to sleep.

Chapter 9

Blair awoke to screaming, then pushed his palms into his eyes when he realized he was the one screaming. The nightmare was back. He was falling, yelling, in pain, confused, but most of all, Blair Sandburg was pissed. Kevin Jenkins had taken his sense of balance, and he was fighting like hell to get it back.

"You okay?" Jim's unsteady voice filtered into his consciousness.

"Yeah, sorry I woke you. You hungry?" Blair asked, looking to change the subject.

"I can always eat," Jim replied with a smile, allowing his friend off the hook momentarily.

Sitting at the table with leftover Chinese food, they waited in awkward silence.

Jim broke the tension first. "Chief, you've had nightmares every single night for the past 10 days. If you were up for it, I'd suggest a camping trip. Look, Simon's not going to let you come back to work until you see the department shrink. All I'm saying is, maybe you should go tomorrow," Jim finished awkwardly.

"The shrink! Isn't that the pot calling the kettle black?" Blair goaded.

"What does that mean?" Jim demanded, glaring.

"You've been moping around here ever since I got home. So out with it. What's your problem, Jim?"

Jim shifted his gaze to the floor and replied, "It was all my fault, Blair. If it weren't for me, you'd have been safe and sound in some classroom teaching about some obscure Indian tribe. But instead, you were being tortured by a crazed ex-soldier bent on killing you because you're my friend. Doesn't that bother you?"

"Only the 'tortured by the crazed ex-soldier' part. Look, Jim, it wasn't your fault. You couldn't have known that Kevin Jenkins was so far-gone that he'd come after you through me. You just couldn't. And unless I missed the memo, you have no control over another person's actions, only your own. You saved my life... again. So knock off the moping or Simon will make you see the department shrink in my place," Blair teased mercilessly.

"He already did," Jim laughed at the astounded look on his partner's face.

"And you went?"

"I love my job. What can I say?" he said, his eyes twinkling mischievously. "Seriously, Chief, it helped straighten a lot of stuff out in my head. I think it could help you too, if you let it. But more importantly, until you drag your butt in there, Simon won't let you come back to work. Just think about it." Jim said as he got up from the table, washed his dish and put it back in the cabinet. "I'll see you tomorrow, Chief." Jim walked up the stairs and went back to bed.

Blair sat in stunned silence as he mulled over everything in his head. He knew Jim was right and once Simon set his mind to something, nothing could change it. Getting up from the table, he set his dirty plate in the sink and went off to bed. I guess I have an appointment to make in the morning, he thought grimly. He smiled as he pictured Jim's reaction to the psychologist's probing questions.

"Goodnight, Jim," he whispered as he shut off the light and went back to bed.

The End

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