Remember the Sandburgian ramble in I Know? Well, this is a companion piece, and is an Ellisonian ramble, I suppose. Sometimes, I start wondering what they must be thinking at different times and, unfortunately, I just have to share. <g>
Thanks, K. (She beta'ed, but the mistakes are mine.)
Hope you enjoy!
I wonder if he knows.
"With a head injury such as this, if and when the patient wakes up, he may experience disorientation, nausea...."
The doctor drones on, but I've heard it all before...much too often. Sandburg's head is always making contact with some solid object, usually on my behalf, because I've done something stupid, and he thinks it's his duty to rescue me. This time really shouldn't have happened. The suspect was in custody, hands in cuffs and everything. We were taking the stairs, because Sandburg still has this thing about elevators, and I have this bad habit of indulging him whenever I can. Some people don't see this, and they mouth things about our relationship behind my back. But there's no such thing as talking behind a Sentinel's back, so I know what they say...and I know they're wrong.
They wonder why he hangs around a shit like me. I can be rude, arrogant, domineering, scornful, and spitefully obtuse...and that's just with my friends. So, there are two schools of thought: one, Blair will do anything to get his degree-- including putting up with the biggest asshole in the Cascade P.D. (and let me assure you, that has to be pretty big), and two, he enjoys being my bitch. Okay, both ideas offend me...no, not me; I'm offended on Sandburg's behalf. He is not the type of man who thinks the world revolves around him getting those three letters behind his name. He is a man of integrity and honor. Sure, he's kissed ass before-- and will probably do so again-- but, hey, haven't we all? I mean, I never would have made it through the military without some lip time, but I had my limits...and so does Sandburg. I know that by being a Sentinel, I'm his version of the holy grail, and all that, but I can't see him living with me just for some stupid paper. Besides, I need him more than he needs me; if any ass-kissing is to be done, it will be yours truly puckering up.
Oh, and that second one.... They apparently do not know the man I live with. Sandburg putting up with being anyone's bitch? That ain't gonna happen, folks. He's too sure of himself, too much his own man to be led around on a leash and owned. This is the man who practically raised himself, who has traveled all over the world, who has always landed on his feet. He could stuff that ragged backpack of his, and walk out of the loft forever, and I wouldn't worry about him surviving. My survival on the other hand, would be questionable. Maybe they're labeling the wrong one of us....
But the one thing they never come up with is friendship, that Blair puts up with me because we're friends, and that it gives us both the extra patience, the special understanding, which allows us to function as we do. Looking back on it, I don't think Carolyn and I were friends until after the divorce. We dated, we slept together, we got married...but we weren't friends, and so, we went our separate ways. Her annoying habits are on par with Blair's, but his I can tolerate-- because I know he's tolerating mine.
"If I order you to go home...." the doctor's saying.
"You'd be wasting your breath," I reply crisply.
"And if I have you escorted out?"
"Then you better post a guard at every entrance. On second thought, that might not be enough. Did you know I ran special ops in the military?"
"Give it up, Doc," Simon says wisely. I'd forgotten he was in the room. I knew he was around, because he's the one who found out which room Blair was in, and helped me get here, but quite frankly, once I settled into the chair, I had stuck him in the general background, and ignored him. See? I am a shit to my friends. I know it. I'm trying to change. Honest.
"But he's injured, too. He needs to rest."
"Believe me, Doctor, he'll get more rest crammed up in that chair than he will at home, where he'll be worrying that Sandburg will wake up scared, and alone. Just let them heal each other," Simon pleads on our behalf.
Damn. I didn't know the man cared so much. I mean, I knew he cared, but...damn. Maybe I'll let him light up that cigar in the loft one night. Nah. A steak dinner is a better idea; just the thought of the resulting headache from the smoke leaves me nauseous. Or maybe it's the antibiotics they loaded me up with. Blair would probably have a fit when he saw the list of drugs coursing through my system without his approval.
"Jim? I'm leaving now."
I nod. "Thanks, Simon. Tell everyone I said thanks." The Major Crime Unit is a family; no one will ever convince me otherwise.
"You want anything, you just give me a call, okay? I'll stop by in the morning on my way in. Maybe the kid will be...."
"He'll be awake, Captain. I know it."
"You do, don't you?" he asked wonderingly.
"Yeah, Simon. I do."
He leaves, wary of finding out too much, I think. We scare the man, individually and as a unit. He calls Blair a trouble magnet, but, okay, I admit it, certain dark elements are attracted to me as well. We don't ask for these...complications. In fact, we hope for the alternative. Every morning as I leave the loft, I send a thought in the direction of anyone who's listening at the time, that I would be extremely grateful if Blair and I return in one piece. So far, it's worked (no, I didn't set any time limits. Just as long as whoever gets the return part right, okay? The one piece is negotiable as well, if it's a choice between dismemberment or death...well, we'll deal.).
I really didn't think we'd be playing the odds today. As I said before, the perp was in cuffs. We were headed down the stairs. He tripped, his foot slipped, something. I reach for him. Sandburg reaches for him. I miss; Sandburg doesn't. He and the perp go tumbling down the long set of metal stairs. I run down after them, Joel Taggert following. I hadn't mentioned him either, had I? Damn inconsiderate of me, because when I reach the bottom of the stairs and see Blair, lying there like a broken doll, and the perp no where in sight, I sort of lose it. I check out Blair, recognizing the familiar signs of a serious concussion, and yell to Joel to get an ambulance. Of course, the man was already on it, cell phone in hand. Then I told him to take care of Blair, because Sandburg was not going to wind up in the hospital, while that thieving son of a bitch got to run free.
The perp, Johnnie Anderson, was young, and fast, but hurt. I tracked his blood easily. When he saw me on his tail, he tried running down this filthy alley, hoping to lose me among the debris and trash strewn along the way. Bastard didn't know a Sentinel was on his ass. I caught up with him and we scuffled. Okay, people have been on my case because I always seem to let the bad guy get the best of me. But honestly, its hard for me to fight these people after what I used to do when I was employed by the U.S. of A. The justice system wants defendants to prosecute. The Justice Department (well, certain factions of it) prefers not to prosecute, if at all possible-- if you catch my drift. So, I go from playing for keeps to playing fair. Sometimes, when the fur starts to fly, it gets iffy, and I have to pull back...and I get pummeled in the process. It's a real pain sometimes (I really mean that), but it's what I signed on for, and I do my damnedest to play by the rules which I've been handed.
Anyway, I finally subdued Anderson, and dragged his ass back to the spot where Blair was being loaded into the ambulance. I dropped off the trash at Joel's feet, and hopped into the back. The paramedic just shrugged and said, "Thought we were gonna have to leave without you, man." Uh, that would be Jerry. He does a lot of our pickups.
We reached the hospital, and I obediently stopped in the waiting area, knowing I would only be in the way as the doctors fixed my partner. But surprisingly a nurse came up, and told me to go on back. I was stunned, and quickly worried that Blair had taken a turn for the worse. But no, I heard his heartbeat, and it was its usual steady staccato. Hmm. Must be my lucky day, I thought happily. Until I was steered to a table, forced upon it, stripped, bandaged, stitched, and dosed with a couple of needles full of antibiotics. That nurse was one slick sister, I tell you. I'm gonna do my best to make sure I don't get hurt on her watch again.
By the time the she-devil released me from her cage, Blair had been scanned, and prepped for surgery. They used a complicated ten-dollar word when they came for my signature on his papers, but they couldn't fool me-- veteran of a thousand head injuries. They were planning to drill a hole in his skull to relieve the pressure. Standard procedure. Thankfully, they pretended not to see my hand shake as I scribbled my name on the forms.
The surgery didn't take long. At least, I don't think it took long. Nurse Ratchett apparently slipped me a mickey with my other meds. I hung onto consciousness, but just barely. Three doctors came out to tell me Sandburg had come through the surgery just fine. Now, just because all three of them looked alike, sounded alike, and spoke in stereo, doesn't mean a thing. I'm a Ranger and a Sentinel. I can fight the effect of drugs rather magnificently, thank you very much. You see, the reason I hit the floor when I saw three Nurse Ratchetts, well, that wasn't from the drugs; that was sheer terror.
I came to a couple hours later, mad as a wet hen, I heard Simon mutter, as I continued a rant on the practice of sadistic demons posing as E.R. nurses. Simon really should have kept quiet because I focused my attention on him, and realized he could have caught me if he had tried. Rubbing the latest bruise on my butt, which I figured came from that fall the captain could have prevented, I told my dear friend to take me to Blair. He tried to talk me out of leaving the bed they had dumped me in, but I knew how to push his buttons, and eventually he produced a grocery bag of clean clothes that he had secured from the loft. I immediately forgave him for letting me fall. The clothes I'd worn earlier had been confiscated by the E.R., and probably sent off to be burned. That was definitely one skuzzy alley.
While I sat hidden around the corner, Simon went up to the Nurse's Station to ask about Blair. I was relieved to hear that Sandburg was out of recovery and in a regular room. We slowly made our way to the correct floor (I have no idea why the captain was moving at a snail's pace; good thing I could hear Blair's heartbeat and knew I didn't have to rush). I smiled when I saw that once again, my partner's hair had survived a close shave with the hospital barber. Lucky hair. Unlucky head.
So, that's how I got to be here, sitting by his bedside and waiting for him to wake up. It's weird. He's the one with the brain injury, and I'm the one with the crazy thoughts running through my head. I wonder if he knows how attached I've become to him. Does he know my senses instantly glom onto him whenever he walks into a room, or I walk into a room where he is...or has been? Does he know that I can't fall into a deep sleep until he's safely secured in the loft at night? It's a good thing I have Sentinel sight, or I would get pretty damned bored staring at the skylight, waiting for him to bring his ass home.
Does he know how many times I've turned to say something to him at the station, only to belatedly remember he couldn't come to work with me that particular day? Does he know the telephone calls on those days, the invitations to lunch, the complaints about broken house rules, the little, "Sandburg, what did you do with the so-and-so file", are about me making sure he's okay? Does he know that I panic every time he's with me on a case, and that I panic when he's not with me on a case? I hate putting him into danger, I fear going into danger without him, and I worry what danger he's in if I'm not with him. That's pretty fucked up, isn't it? I'm serious. I was a Ranger. Yeah, I worked with a team, but we were a defined team. I did what I was supposed to do, and the rest of them did what they were supposed to do. The trust was not so much in the other members, but in the other members' ability to do what the plans called for. It was more about cooperation, not partnership.
Blair is all about being a partner. We don't have any set scheme when we answer a call. I don't expect him to be doing A while I'm doing B. I just expect him to do the best he can to protect me, himself, and any victims who might be involved. The protecting me and the victims he does quite well. Himself? That's where the partnership comes in. I have to be constantly aware of this, always looking out for him, because, while I myself am guilty of putting an innocent's life ahead of mine, Blair has this damn fool notion that I'm more important than he is. That makes me so angry. Maybe that's why they are so convinced that he's some kind of masochist. Because I rail at him, and yell, and yes, once or twice, shove him against a wall, after he's taken chances with the one life that is so very precious to me. It's not because he likes the pain, or I like giving him the pain. It's because I'm so damn scared he's going to be taken away from me....
"Hold still for a second."
Of course, that just makes me flinch. I turn to face the nurse. "Your patient is the one in the bed, miss," I say politely.
"According to his chart, I'm supposed to take the vitals of his roommate. Considering this is a private room, I was a bit confused when I read that. But taking one look at you, I see the necessity of the order."
"What did they serve at your staff meeting today? Ground glass?"
"Arsenic," she says, as she writes something down. "It's good for our disposition."
"Yeah. I sorta noticed that."
"Your temperature is elevated. The chart indicates you rolled around in some nasty stuff. I'm going to ring your physician, and see if he wants to order more antibiotics."
"You get perverse pleasure out of sticking people with needles, don't you?"
She smiles. "You bet your ass. That's why they stuck me on the night shift, by the way. I'm just not fit for polite company."
I want to agree, but can't. I had watched her take care of Blair, the gentle way she had poked and prodded. "How is he?" I ask quietly.
"He's recovering. But you know that, don't you?"
I nod, and she goes away. At some later point, she returns and wields her hypo-- rather deftly, I must add-- then it's just me and Blair again. Yes, he is getting better. His heartbeat is stronger, his color has improved, his skin is warmer...but not too warm. He's apparently handling his antibiotics better than I am. He'll waken in about.... I look down at my wrist to see what time it is, then remember. Anderson had broken my watch when he slammed my hand against the edge of a rusty fire escape. Good thing I'm not into Rolexes. No, sir. I'm a Timex man. Usually, it takes the licking and keeps on ticking, and when it doesn't, it doesn't take my whole paycheck to replace it. Practical. I've been that way my entire life. Funny, how the intervention of one man changed all that.
I take the stairs, because he still has issues with elevators. I can navigate Rainier University with my eyes closed, because I have to be able to get to him at a moment's notice (and because that was one of his damn tests). I eat stuff I can't pronounce, don't eat stuff that I love, know how to make horrid algae shakes, have museum quality artifacts junking up my loft, big dusty tomes cluttering up my tables, college students traipsing in and out of my home day and night, strange jungle drums pulsating through the rooms, scented candles burning at odd hours...all because it makes him happy.
And a happy Blair, equals a happy me.
I wonder if he knows how happy he makes me.
I wonder if he knows how much I need him.
I wonder if he knows how much I love him.
The hand beneath mine jumps, and I lean forward. "Take it easy, Chief. You're okay."
The blue eyes open, and damned if that doctor wasn't wrong. There is no disorientation, no "Who am I? Where am I?" All I see is recognition and worry.
"I'm fine," I say quickly, as his hand twitches free from mine, and reaches up to caress the bruises that decorate my face. "You protected Anderson from the worst of the fall, and in return, he tried to escape. To make a long story short, he's in lock up."
"Go home," he murmurs weakly.
He looks at me, and I nearly zone in the depths of his eyes. They see me-- not the outer shell, not even the inner shell, but the absolute heart of what I am, what I have become...with him. Standing naked, I would be more dressed than I am with him at this very moment, and I shiver, not in embarrassment, but out of vulnerability...and fear. What if all that I am, is not good enough? What if he decides my offer is not worth the cost to him? What if he decides to cut me loose, and let me flounder on my own, lost in a world that stings me with its sights, sounds, smells, sensations.... What if he decides I'm not worthy to be saved?
His hand cups the back of my head, and tugs it down until it rests against his chest. "Sleep," he whispers. "Just sleep."
I can now. This wasn't the straw that broke the camel's back, the end of the line, the coup de grace, the final indignity. Blair wasn't giving up on me. He saw what was inside...and it was enough.