Sitting on the couch, Blair looked up from his book as Jim came in the front door. His welcoming smile faltered when he saw the angry expression on Jim's face.
"Hey, man, everything all right? Did something happen today?" he asked.
Ignoring Blair, Jim stalked over to the refrigerator and got a bottle of water. Twisting off the cap and throwing it towards the sink, Jim took a long drink. Stunned, Blair sat on the couch and watched as the bottle cap bounced off the counter and landed on the floor. Expecting Jim to pick up the cap and toss it in the trash, Blair was further surprised as Jim simply turned and went to the bathroom. Hearing the shower start, Blair rushed to the phone and called Simon.
"Hey, Simon," Blair said, "it's me, Blair."
"What do you want, Sandburg?" Simon asked with a sign. It had been a long day and the last thing he wanted to do was deal with the kid.
"Well," Blair responded, "Jim just came home and he's acting like something's wrong. He didn't say anything to me. He just got a drink and then stormed into the bathroom for a shower."
"So?" Blair repeated. "So, tell me what's wrong."
"Look, Sandburg," Simon replied, "Jim got sent out on a pretty lousy case today. Don't push him right now. Just let him deal with it in his own way."
"Listen up," Simon interrupted, "just leave him alone tonight. If he had wanted you involved, he would have called you to the scene. I'd advise you to just drop it."
"Okay, Simon," Blair replied, having no intention of just dropping it.
"Hey, gotta go now." Blair said as he heard the water shut off in the bathroom. "Talk to you later, Simon."
In his haste to hang up the phone, Blair didn't hear the captain's warning, "Don't be stupid, kid. Jim's libel to..."
Rushing to sit back down on the couch, Blair had just picked up his book when the bathroom door opened.
Jim looked at Blair for a moment before turning to stare at the stove. "Where's supper, Sandburg?"
"Hey, man," Blair responded, "don't look at me, it's your night."
"I think I would remember if it was my night," Jim sarcastically replied. "Unlike some people, I actually live up to my responsibilities."
"Just what in the hell is that supposed to mean?" Blair demanded.
"Nothing," Jim responded as he started to the stairs to his bedroom. "I'm going upstairs for a while. When I come back down you had better be fixing something."
Not wanting to give Jim the chance to escape, Blair hurried over to stand at the foot of the stairs. "Look, Jim, I don't know exactly what happened with the case today."
"Wait a minute," Jim interjected, "what makes you think I went out on a case today?"
"Well..." Blair began.
"What did you do, Sandburg?" Jim demanded, as he crossed his arms over his chest. "When I was in the shower, I thought I heard you talking out here."
Hearing Blair's heartbeat speed up, Jim growled, "Whom were you talking to?"
"I only did it because I was worried about you," Blair explained.
"Quit with the excuses and tell me what you did."
"I called Simon," Blair said.
"You what?" Jim yelled. "I can't believe this. I come home and just because I don't want to share my day with you, you call my boss? Who do you think you are?"
Reaching out, Blair placed his hand on Jim's arm. "I'm your friend. Let me help you. C'mon, Jim, talk to me here. Tell me what's bothering you."
Shaking off Blair's hand, Jim yelled, "Just get out of my face and leave me the hell alone."
With that, he placed his hands on Blair's shoulders and shoved the younger man aside. Then he started up the stairs, not seeing Blair stumble and fall to the ground. Stopping when he heard a crash behind him, Jim turned around and saw Blair lying on the ground. Smelling blood, he rushed down the stairs and went to kneel besides Blair. Turning the unconscious man over, he was appalled to see blood covering the side of Blair's face. Looking around, he saw a smear of blood on the end table next to the couch.
"Oh God, Chief," Jim said as he scanned Blair's vital signs. Relieved when he heard his friend's breathing and strong heartbeat, Jim gently brushed Blair's hair away from the wound. Wincing when he saw the extent of the damage, he then proceeded to run his hands over Blair's body. While he was checking for broken bones and any other hidden injuries, Blair started to regain consciousness.
Hearing a soft moan, Jim glanced up to see two unfocused eyes staring back at him. Worried that Blair might have a concussion, Jim said, "Just lay still while I check you over. Then I'm taking you to the hospital."
When he didn't find any evidence of further injuries, Jim helped Blair stand up. Placing his arm around the younger man's waist, Jim supported Blair as they walked over to the couch. Turning Blair and slowly lowering him onto the couch, Jim said, "Just one minute, Chief."
Having said that, he walked over to the front door and retrieved their shoes. Returning to Blair, he knelt down and placed Blair's shoes on his feet. After putting on his shoes, he helped Blair stand again and then guided his friend out the door and into the elevator.
After arriving at the truck, Jim helped Blair into his seat. Jim then got in the truck and started towards the hospital. Growing concerned over Blair's continued silence, Jim asked, "How are you doing, buddy?"
"My head hurts, you jerk," Blair responded. "How the hell do you think I'm doing?"
Deciding that silence wasn't necessarily a bad thing, Jim didn't say anything more until they reached the hospital.
Since it was a slow night in the ER, Blair was immediately taken back to an examination room while Jim sat filling out paperwork in the waiting area.
After Jim returned the forms to the admittance desk, he went to the pay phone and called Simon.
"Simon, it's Jim," Jim responded. "I need you to come to Cascade General."
"What's going on?" Simon asked. "Does this have something to do with Sandburg? I warned him not to push you. You didn't hurt the kid, did you? So help me, Ellison, if you did then your ass is going straight to a jail cell."
"Why do you think I'm calling you, sir," Jim said. "It's not like I can arrest myself, you know."
"You did hurt Sandburg, didn't you? You son of a..."
"With all due respect, sir, could you just please get down here?" Jim asked. "Besides, whatever you're going to say I've already said to myself a hundred times."
"I'm on my way," Simon answered and then hung up before Jim could respond.
Fifteen minutes later, Jim was still sitting in the waiting room when a very irate Simon Banks stormed into the ER. Marching up to Jim, Simon said, "You have exactly five minutes to convince me not to have your ass hauled downtown, Ellison. So, you better make it quick and make it good."
"I can make it quick, Captain," Jim replied, "but there isn't any way to make it good."
Sighing, Simon sank down into the chair next to Jim. "Exactly what the hell happened, Jim?"
"He just wouldn't quit pushing me, Simon," Jim began. "I found out he called you. And then he kept getting in my face, wanting me to talk. I just lost it."
"Lost it how, Jim?"
"He was standing by the stairs, trying to stop me from leaving the room. I just..." Jim started, but stood up and began pacing. "I can't believe I did it."
"Did what, Jim?" Simon demanded beginning to grow exasperated by Jim's hesitation.
"I pushed him," Jim finally admitted. "He fell, or tripped I guess, and hit his head on the table."
"He was unconscious for a few minutes," Jim explained. "It bleed a lot, but I didn't find any other injuries. I helped him down to the truck and brought him here. But, nobody has told me anything yet. What if I missed something? What if he's hurt really bad, Simon?"
Realizing the Jim was extremely upset, Simon said, "I'll go flash my badge at the nurse, maybe get her to go find something out. Okay?"
Seeing Jim nod his head, Simon went to speak with the nurse. After a few minutes he came back and said, "The nurse found out that Sandburg is down in x-ray right now. Evidently they have a machine down so they're kind of backed up."
Having said that, Simon went to get them some coffee. Returning with the coffee, he handed a cup to Jim and then sat down. Taking a drink, they both settled in for the wait.
An hour later, a very harried looking doctor came into the waiting area. Seeing that Jim and Simon were the only people in the room, he approached them and asked, "Are you here with Blair Sandburg?"
"Yes," Jim answered. "How is he?"
"Aside from a slight concussion, a 3inch gash on the side of his head and several bruises, he's fine."
"Can we see him?" Simon inquired.
"Well, he's getting stitched right now," the doctor explained. "But when he is through you can come back to the examination room."
Gesturing towards the chairs, the doctor said, "Why don't you sit down for a moment, gentlemen? There is something I would like to discuss with you."
"What?" Jim asked becoming panicked. "He is okay, isn't he. You said he was."
"Yes, Mr. Sandburg will be fine," the doctor answered. "That isn't what I want to discuss with you."
"Then was is it doctor?"
"Frankly, I don't believe Mr. Sandburg's explanation about how he received these injuries."
"What exactly did he say?" Jim asked.
"He said that he simply tripped and fell down," the doctor answered. "And if it weren't for the hand shaped bruised on his upper arms, I would have believed him."
Receiving no response from either man, the doctor continued, "I believe someone pushed Mr. Sandburg. However, since he's sticking to his story there is nothing I can do about it. You're his friends. Maybe you can convince him to not let this person get away with hurting him."
Glancing towards Jim, Simon responded, "We'll talk with him, doctor."
"Thank you. Now, Mr. Sandburg's stitches should be just about done. If you'll come with me, I'll take you to him."
Reluctantly, Jim stood up and followed Simon as the doctor led them to Blair. Ashamed of his actions, Jim dreaded facing Blair; but his need to make sure his friend was okay prevented him from leaving.
Hearing Simon gasp as they entered the room, Jim looked up and stared at Blair. Rendered speechless, Jim just stood there and looked at Blair. Sitting on the hospital bed, Blair was chatting to the nurse who was getting ready to put a bandage on his stitches. Jim's eyes couldn't help but be drawn to the shaved spot on the side of his roommates' head. A very large shaved spot.
Twisting around, Blair saw Jim and Simon standing in the doorway. "What?" he asked.
"My God, Sandburg," Simon exclaimed, "what the hell happened to your hair?"
"Well, Captain," Blair explained, "when you have a gash on the side of your head, they can't exactly put in the stitches until they get the hair out of the way."
"Blair, I'm so..." Jim began.
"Drop it, Jim," Blair interrupted as he glanced towards the doctor. "Just let this guy know that you're a medic and can look after me. I so don't want to spend the night here."
"Are you sure that's what you want?" Seeing Blair nod, Jim turned towards the doctor, "I was a medic in the Army. I know what to do and can look after him tonight."
Contemplating the man in front of him for a moment, the doctor relented. "All right. I'll make sure the nurse gives you a paper with all the aftercare instructions." With that, he turned and left the room.
An hour later, the three men were at the loft. Blair lay on the couch as Jim got him some water and his medication. Watching as Blair accepted the pill and water from Jim, Simon said, "So, Sandburg, tell me what happened."
"I fell." Came the simple reply.
"It's okay, Chief," Jim said. "I told Simon what happened. And now that you're home, Simon can stay here with you tonight while I go down to the station."
"Why in the hell would you go down to the station?"
"To turn myself in, Sandburg," Jim explained. "I assaulted you. I have to be arrested."
"Of all the stupid, self-serving, un-freaking-believable..." Blair replied. "You're just loving this aren't you?"
"Loving it?" Jim asked. "What in the hell are you talking about!"
"You heard me," Blair shouted back. "What are you going to do when you're sitting in that cell, huh? Have another one of your little guilt-riddled, angst fests?"
Receiving no response, Blair continued, "Well, you don't get off that easy, Jim. You're going to sit your ass down and we are going to talk about this. Do you understand me?"
When Jim just continued to stand there, Blair asked again, "I SAID, do you understand me?"
"Now wait just a minute here," Simon interrupted.
"Simon, with all due respect, stay the hell out of it. This is between me and Jim."
"What," Simon stammered. "What did you just say to me?"
"He's right, sir."
Hearing Jim's quiet words, Simon turned to stare at the detective. "Are you nuts? You think I'm going to leave the two of you here alone? What, and go into the station tomorrow and have to hear about a domestic disturbance call coming from this building?"
"Nothing like that will happen, Simon," Blair reassured. "Jim and I just need to talk. Alone."
Simon was going to protest some more when Jim asked, "Why don't you want me down it a jail cell, Sandburg? I could have killed you."
Staring Jim in the eyes, Blair merely said, "Leave, Simon."
Seeing that Blair wasn't going to back down, Simon relented. "I'm going to go the deli down the street. I don't know about you two, but I could use something to eat." When Jim nodded, Simon added, "You have twenty minutes. No more."
After Simon left, Jim sat down beside Blair. "I am sorry, Blair."
Sighing, Blair asked, "What is up with you tonight? Tell me about the case. Now, Jim."
"This guy shot his wife and kids," Jim explained. "Said he was tired of having to support them. Tired of all the responsibilities. So, he killed them. I've seen some pretty bad stuff, but that just..."
"Why didn't you just talk to me about it?"
"Yeah right," Jim sarcastically responded. "Just come in and say 'Hey, Chief, how's it going? By the way, I had to arrest some guy who killed his entire family. So, what did you do?'"
"No, but I do expect you to talk with me about this stuff. To let me help you deal with this kind of thing. Instead, you come home and take your anger out on me. Again." Blair paused for a moment before adding, "That's not going to happen again, Jim. I'm not going to put up with it anymore. You do it one more time and I am gone. Understand?"
"I already said I would have myself arrested, Sandburg!" Jim yelled. "What more do you want?"
"You know what I want, Ellison?" Blair yelled back. "I want this shit to end," he shouted as he ripped the bandage off of his head.
Seeing the red, inflamed skin, Jim said, "It will, Chief. All right?"
"Really?" Blair responded. "Then tell me something, who are you going to take it out on next time, huh? Simon, Brown, Rhonda?"
"I'm out of here," Jim said as he headed towards the door.
Moving to once again block Jim's path, Blair yelled, "NO! You're not going to run away this time."
Reaching out towards Blair, intent on pushing the younger man out of the way again, Jim stopped when he heard Blair's softly spoken words. "I thought you said this was going to end."
"Shit!" Jim shouted. "Why do you always have to keep pushing me?" With that, Jim brushed past Blair and stormed out the front door.
Turning, Blair started to run after Jim but was overcome with dizziness. "Whoa," he said as he sat down on the couch. After his head cleared and he went out onto the balcony. He searched the parking lot, but didn't see Jim's truck anywhere. "What are you running away from, Jim? From me or from yourself?"
Several minutes later, when he came out the bathroom after replacing the bandage on his head, Blair heard a knock at the door. He opened it to see Simon standing there with a paper sack. "C'mon in,man."
Looking around, Simon asked, "Where's Jim?"
"Look, Simon, I don't want to get into it. My head is killing me. I just want to go to bed. Jim will be back by morning. He always is."
"`He always is'?" Simon asked. "Exactly how often does something like this happen?"
"Oh c'mon, Simon, don't start in with that," Blair said. "Jim and I argue sometimes, but this is the first time I've ever ended up in the hospital. It was just an accident. Let it go."
"All right, Sandburg. I'll let it go. For tonight," Simon replied. "But we will talk about it in the morning."
"Fine. As soon as Jim and I get to the station."
"No," Simon responded. "You can't be left alone tonight. I'm staying here."
Too tired and sore to put up an argument, Blair simply said, "Fine." And then went to his room.
After eating, Simon settled in on the couch for the night. A couple of hours later, he was awakened by the opening of the front door.
"Yeah, it's me," Jim responded. "Thanks for staying with Sandburg. You can go home now, Simon. I'm not going to leave again."
Understanding the uncertainty in Simon's eyes, Jim added, "I swear, Simon, nothing is going to happen. If it does, you can have my badge."
Seeing the sincerity of Jim's words, Simon responded, "First thing tomorrow, detective, you and the kid are in my office and we are talking about this."
After escorting Simon to the door and shutting it behind the captain, Jim went over to Blair's room. Hesitating for a moment, he entered the room. Walking over to the bed, Jim stood there looking at his friend. Slowly, he extended his hand and lightly brushed his fingers over the bandage.
"Hey," Jim said as Blair awakened.
"Yeah, it's me. How are you doing?"
"My head hurts, but I'll be fine," Blair responded. "But you can't keep doing this. Neither one of us can keep going through this shit. Something's got to give, Jim. It has to stop."
"I know, Chief," Jim replied. "I know."
Then Jim turned and left the room. Each step weighed down with regret. Regret that, once again, he had hurt the person that mattered the most to him.
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