In An Instant
When it happened, it happened fast. Too fast. One moment they were just standing there and then the next there was blood, the painful gasps and the labored breathing. He always knew it could happen. That there would be a time when he didn't move fast enough, wasn't alert enough. But he always thought it would be during a bust or a raid gone bad. Not here. Not now.
This was supposed to be their day off. No paperwork to be filled out, no pressing cases, no classes to teach or papers to grade. A day to themselves with no responsibilities and no cell phones ringing. A chance to enjoy a rare sunny, warm day. A day to just be together, doing nothing and everything. There hadn't been enough time for that lately. There was always something coming up. A new case, a court appearance, a test to give, or a paper to write. So, when the chance came to take the day off, they didn't hesitate to take it.
Now, he wished something had come up. A frantic phone call from the university needing a class to be covered, a DA needing to go over some last minute details for a court appearance or Simon calling with a new case. Anything so that they would have been anywhere else but here. At this moment in time.
And now, he cradled his partner in his arms, knowing that if he didn't get help soon, very soon, that the body he held would give up its struggle for each painful breath. That the heartbeat he felt would keep slowing until it stopped forever. He tightened his arms around his friend, his brother, and tried to will his strength and energy into his friend's body. Anything to help him continue to fight and to keep clinging to that thread of life that remained.
And then blue eyes fluttered open, locking with his own. So many emotions passed in that look. Friendship, affection, regret and acceptance. He wanted to shout at his friend to fight, to live, to not leave. But he knew he couldn't speak, not now. So, he tried to convey those thoughts through touch. Stroking his friend's forehead softly, clasping his hand and squeezing tightly. All to convey the message to stay, to fight to live, to not give up. Then those eyes closed as his friend surrendered to unconsciousness. The pain once again becoming too much to bear.
He looked up, hoping his pleas for help might be answered this time. But then there was the sound of exploding glass and shots fired. He covered his friend's body with his own, hoping that this time he might be able to shield his friend from harm. Like he failed to do the first time. Failed to protect and keep his friend safe. Then it was over, Simon and the others entered the bank. The paramedics rushed over and began treating his friend. The oxygen mask on, the IV's in, the bandage on the gunshot wound.
He was so focused on this friend that he didn't notice Simon's approach or the hand placed on his shoulder. The hand that guided him to the car and helped him into the seat. The trip to the hospital seemed to take forever but he didn't remember a single second of it. Then they were in the waiting room. A blanket had been draped around his shoulders. A now cold and forgotten cup of coffee placed into his hands. Through it all, everyone asking if he were okay and offering assurances that his friend would pull through and be okay, repeated questions from Simon about what had happened, he sat silently never answering or looking at anyone. Unable to open his mouth now for fear that if he did he would start screaming and crying. Knowing that if he started, he wouldn't be able to stop.
Then the door opened and the doctor walked into the room. He placed the cup of coffee on a table and the blanket slid off his shoulders and onto the floor as he slowly stood up. Finally, the silence was broken by Simon as he asked voiced the questions everyone was almost afraid to ask. Is he alive, will he be okay. Then the room was filled with tears mingled with laughter. The sounds of relief and joy. Yet he still remained silent. The news slowly sinking in to allow relief and happiness to replace the fear and grief.
But the guilt still remained. The guilt of knowing that he had once again failed his partner when it mattered the most. Failed at what he considered his greatest, most important responsibility. Failed to guard and protect his partner. All these emotions filling his head and his heart. Threatening to overwhelm him. Threatening to make him shut down and block everyone and everything out.
The only thing keeping him going was the thought of seeing his partner. Seeing him still alive, still breathing. And then he was being led down a hallway. Towards his partner's room. Towards his salvation and sanity. He walked in the room trying to prepare himself for what he would see. But he couldn't. He never had been able to and knew he never would. The sight of his friend laying
there in the hospital bed, so pale with all the IV lines and monitors connected to his body. Laying there so still and quiet. The only movement the slight rise and fall of his chest as he breathed. Breathed easily now with no strain or painful gasps.
He approached the bed hesitantly, almost afraid to get close. But then he was there, by his friend's side. Back in his rightful place. The place he belonged for now and for the rest of his life. He reached out and took his friend's hand, holding it between his own trembling hands. Slowly, blue eyes opened to lock with his once again. He reached out one hand and placed it on his friend's forehead. He smiled, his eyes showing everything he longed to express to his friend but couldn't in front of the doctor and Simon. So, he settled on the one thing he could say.
Putting all of his relief, joy and love into a few softly spoken words. "Welcome back, Jim".
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