DYC asked for a story where Simon has to comfort Blair. I worried at it over the weekend (like my dingo with a marrow bone), and as I was walking from my car to work this morning, it hit me. Good muse, good bash. It's turned into another crossover with Due South. What can I say? They're two of my favourite shows. This one has a prequel somewhere, I've promised to write it, but I want to wait until I see the final (Sigh) eps of DS, first. I hope it goes the way I want it to. Otherwise, this is going to end up AU (and I don't mean Australia). OK, enough rambling.
I used a map, and chose real roads and a real town. I know nothing of the town of Lyman, Washington. I merely used the place name as a logical location, as it is pretty much reachable from the west only by highway 20. I mean no harm nor do I intend to disparage any office nor person of that no doubt delightful town. My assumptions are merely that it is small, a ranching community, and that it is probably a wonderful place to raise a family. The characters I created for this story are not based on anyone living in Lyman, nor are they intended to. Any similarity is entirely accidental.
The disclaimers still hold true. I don't own any of them, I will make nothing but the kind comments of the readers. Thank you for not suing me, as I don't have a whole lot.
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"JIM!" He awoke abruptly, sitting up, his scream of agony falling close on the heels of his cry of horror. He gasped, trying to breathe, it hurt so much. Strong, gentle hands pressed him back against the pillows. Finally, the voice became familiar, but not the voice he wanted to hear. He struggled to breathe and remember. As his memories surfaced, the tears rolled down his cheeks.
"Sandburg, take it easy. You've got a lot of broken ribs. They would have put you in a body cast, except for your other wounds. Easy. Shhh. You're going to be all right. Can you remember what happened?" He had a pretty good idea, but the kid had been unconscious since he'd been found three days earlier. He'd already given up hope for his other missing man.
"Jim. Where's Jim?" Blair gasped, finally able to speak again, his eyes closed with the strain of keeping under control from the pain of his bruised and broken body.
"We didn't find him." Simon's voice held all the same sorrow and grief that suddenly washed over Blair. "What happened, Blair?" He picked up the kid's hand, trying to impart a little comfort to the seriously injured young man.
"Oh, Simon." The tears ran freely down the younger man's cheeks. Tears of pain, fear, grief, and desolation.
"I'm sorry, Blair. We looked everywhere, but we couldn't find him." He absently massaged the frail hand he held between his own. Hid most of his own grief, not wanting to add anything to what the kid must be feeling.
"You didn't find him?" There was a spark of hope in the voice.
"Sandburg,...Blair, the slide covered more than a mile of the road and involved half the mountain. It's doubtful we could ever find him in all that. I'm sorry."
"If you didn't find him, then there's still a chance. What about the truck?"
Simon barked a short humourless laugh. "The truck is fine. If you'd been in the truck, you'd both be fine. The slide missed it by about fifteen feet. It's totally undamaged."
"What about the people in the car, the ones who missed the turn and hit the guardrail?"
"They died, Blair. From the crash, not the landslide." He tightened his grip on the limp hand. "I'm sorry."
"He isn't dead. Not yet. I have to..." He gasped in agony as he tried to sit up. Falling back, biting his lip to keep from screaming in his pain and frustration. Simon leaned over him, pressing gently on his shoulders. He gently reached out and wiped the tear streaks from Blair's face, stroking the tangled hair back.
"I'm sorry, Blair. We even sent in dogs. There was no trace found of him." Blair looked up and recognized his own feelings reflected back at him from the captain. He reached up with the hand that wasn't stuck full of IVs and pulled the larger man in for a hug.
Simon didn't resist. He gently gathered the much smaller man to him and held him, as he would his son, while together they cried out their grief and anguish for their missing friend.
After Simon had finally left, Blair struggled to reach the phone, finally successful, he dialed the operator and placed a long distance call. Maybe dogs hadn't been able to find his friend, but there was someone who might be able to help. If he could get away, and if he'd been practicing.
"C'mon, Benny. You can do it." Ray Vecchio was having a ball watching his friend trying to identify the ingredients in Ma's Marinara sauce. Ray Kowalski was watching intently, as well.
"C'mon, Fraz. You can do it. Filter out the taste of the tomatoes and garlic. What else is in there?" His voice was low and soothing. Ben had a hard time practicing his senses with this particular audience, he usually ended up frustrated and angry at their amusement at his expense. Kowalski tried hard to keep him calm and focused, but Vecchio tended to make it into some slapstick act intended solely for his own amusement.
"Ray, Vecchio. If you can't be helpful, go away." Ben almost snarled, Ma liked to add little things to her sauce to spice it up. Kowalski liked to use their visits to the Vecchio house to test his senses of smell and taste.
"Clove. She put ground clove in it." He suddenly announced, in triumph.
Ma looked up from her cooking. "Don't tell anyone, Caro. It's supposed to be a secret." But she smiled as she said it. She was smiling all the time, now. Ever since her son had returned to them. All three of the friends spent at least one meal a week at home. It was nice. Of course, the fact that Frannie and Ray Kowalski were dating didn't hurt, either. Especially since they were taking things slow. Working on friendship first. Content to do so.
Everything was going well in Ma Vecchio's world. It was Saturday, and the boys had been doing a few repairs on the house. As a reward, she was preparing a couple of her more exotic recipes. Chioppino, the wonderful fish stew, and fusili with Marinara sauce. She often would change or add an ingredient, just so Benton could practice his odd talent for being able to tell what was in a recipe. She had taken advantage of him on several occasions, bringing him samples of friend's recipes and having him identify the ingredients so she could duplicate the recipe. Much to a number of people's annoyance.
The phone rang, and one of the children screamed that he would get it. The portable phone was brought in and handed to Ben. "Some man wants to talk to you, Uncle Benny."
"Thank you, Antonio." Fraser smiled at the boy, then spoke into the phone. "This is Constable Fraser."
"Ben? This is Blair. Sandburg. I need your help. Jim's missing. Please, can you come?"
Ben could hear the hiss of, of what? Oxygen? "Blair, where are you?"
"I'm in the hospital. I can't go. Please. They think he's dead. It's been three days. If he isn't found soon, he will die. Please come. You're the only one who can find him." Pleaseohpleaseohpleaseohpleaseohplease.
"Give me a number to reach you, I have to do a few things here, first. I'll come as soon as I can."
"Thank you." Was the whispered reply, followed by the phone number. (You know you spend too much time there when you've memorized the hospital's telephone numbers.) Kowalski had moved over and placed a hand on Ben's shoulder. After he hung up, Ray asked. "What's wrong?"
"Jim Ellison's missing. They think he's dead, but Blair doesn't believe it. He's in the hospital. Been there three days. They've given up looking for Jim." He reactivated the phone and punched in the number for his inspector.
"Sir. I have an emergency. I will need a week off..."
"What kind of emergency?"
"It's personal, sir."
He sighed, then brightened, remembering that she had met the missing man and his guide. "Yes, sir. It's James Ellison. He's missing. Blair Sandburg is in the hospital, and they've stopped looking for Jim. I need to go to Cascade and look for him. One way or another." His tone giving away only slightly, the agitation he was feeling, his determination to go, no matter the consequences.
She remembered. Their brief encounter had been interesting, to say the least. "Very well. You've accrued enough leave to take an entire month. We'll start with a week. If that isn't enough, call me back." Her voice strong and decisive, then she added, "Let me know how it goes. They were, are, good people."
"Thank you, sir. I shall keep you informed." He disconnected the call. Both Rays were watching him closely. Kowalski took the phone from him and called the district house.
"Yeah. A family emergency has come up and I need a week off." He flatly stated. "Yeah. Kowalski. Stanley Raymond. Right. Thanks." He disconnected and looked at Ray. "You comin' too?"
"Cascade, Ray." Fraser reminded gently. Jim is missing and Blair is in the hospital. "Do you want to come with us?" He'd noticed that his friend would occasionally lose track of a conversation, it had been happening ever since he came back from his deep undercover job.
"Oh, sure. Let me call in." He took his turn with the phone. His excuse being a sick uncle.
Kowalski then made plane reservations, the next flight being that evening, giving them four hours to pack. He then offered to run Fraser around to pack. Vecchio agreed that he would ride with them, and avoid having two cars at the airport. Especially since he and Kowalski were still rebuilding his Riv.
Four hours was barely adequate, but they managed to get their gear together. Vecchio was waiting when they returned to pick him up. Ma Vecchio insisted they eat before they left. Ben called Blair just before they left for the airport, letting him know that they would be in Cascade in six hours. They would get rooms at a motel and try to sleep and see him in the morning.
The trip was uneventful. Kowalski falling asleep quickly and easily. Ben and Vecchio exchanged rueful grins.
"He's never traveled with you?" Ray asked.
"Well, we went to Toronto, once. Nothing happened."
"Must be me, then."
"Our other trip to Cascade was uneventful. Well, that is, the flight was uneventful. What did you bring this time?" Curious.
"Tent, stove, coffee, MREs, dishes, pots, space blankets, sleeping bag, warm clothes, tennies." He paused, "You?"
"Oh, the usual." Ray grinned.
"What did he bring?"
"Warm clothes, hiking boots, sleeping bag, two extra guns and four boxes of ammo." Kowalski mumbled, still more asleep than awake. The other two exchanged amused grins.
They got one room, with two beds and a rollaway. Ben eschewed any bed at all and made up his bedroll on the floor, so Diefenbaker got the rollaway. The other two collapsed into bed.
Two hours later, Kowalski asked softly. "Anybody else want to get this show on the road?" All three simultaneously sat up. Within the hour, they were dressed, packed, checked out and on their way.
They had no trouble sneaking into the hospital. Ben had gotten Blair's room number when he'd called him, so they slipped silently through the corridors, relying on Ben to notify them of any problems.
Finding Blair's room was easy, so was slipping silently inside. They expected Blair to be asleep, but they hadn't expected to find the enormous black police captain sitting in the chair beside the bed, dozing at his vigil.
"Captain Banks?" Ben softly whispered. He reached out and gently touched the dozing man's shoulder. "Sir?"
Simon woke, abruptly. He immediately checked on Blair's condition, then realized there was someone else in the room. He turned in surprise, then recognized the Canadian in his jeans and flannel shirt. With another glance at the sleeping Blair, he stood and motioned them out to talk. Once outside the room, he asked: "What are you doing here?" He vaguely remembered Vecchio, but the third man was a complete stranger. Then he remembered that the Mountie was...another Sentinel, like his missing man. A faint flash of hope appeared momentarily in his eyes, to be immediately swallowed up by his grief and dispair.
"Blair called me. He wanted us to come and look for Jim. If you could give us directions, we can go and get started."
Simon shook his head. "I can give you directions. Hell, I can take you there, but we've been over and over the area. There were about a million tons of mountain that slid down and covered the road. We were lucky to find Blair and recover the bodies of the people who had crashed before the landslide hit. We even took in dogs to search. They couldn't find anything, either. I don't know what you think you can do, Sentinel or not."
"I have to at least try." Ben answered softly.
"Fraser here is better than a dog. Besides, we brought Dief, too. Between them, they'll find him. One way or the other." His confidence caused Simon to look closely at the slender younger man.
"Who are you?"
"Oh, I'm terribly sorry, Captain. This is Ray Kowalski. My Guide. You've met Ray Vecchio, my...our partner. They're both detectives with the twenty-seventh District in Chicago."
Simon looked at the intense younger man. The solid calm and confidence in his Sentinel, the barely leashed energy, the faint vibration of a ... Guide. He was like Sandburg, only older, more in control. He looked closely at the close cropped blond, recognizing what Blair might become with a few more years with Jim. Oh, God. He closed his eyes, fighting the hope the arrival of these men tended to engender.
"How you doin'?" Kowalski asked. Both Vecchio and Ben winced at his poor choice of words.
"I've been better. Blair nearly died. He's got multiple ribs broken, some of them were compound fractures. I guess he was lucky that they went out, through his skin instead of into his lungs, he still almost bled to death." Simon replied. The other three men winced in sympathy.
"You need any blood donations?" Kowalski asked, rather matter-of-factly.
"Always. You volunteering?"
"Just as soon as we find Jim. I might need it until then." Kowalski smiled, looking up at the extremely tall man. Simon nodded his agreement.
"Where do we need to go?" Vecchio asked, starting to get a little impatient.
"Go south on I-5, then east on the 20. You won't be able to miss it. The road's closed, probably until late summer." He looked at the three men, then reached in his wallet and removed a business card. "If you find out anything, call me." He looked up from writing his cell and home numbers on the card. "Please." Just a hint of desperation in his voice.
"We'll keep in touch." Both Rays chorused, then glared at each other, then shook their heads and grinned, colouring slightly.
Simon couldn't help but smile. Looking at Ben, he asked "Do they do that often?"
Ben heaved a martyred sigh. "All the time. When they aren't complaining in chorus, or nagging, or..." The two Rays started laughing. Ben rolled his eyes in mock long-suffering, much to the added amusement of his companions. Even Simon had to smile at their antics.
"I understand. It's like having two Sandburgs to contend with, isn't it."
"Worse. At least Blair and I can talk, these two..." He just shook his head. "Sometimes they can be so, so juvenile." Then he smiled at the captain, the smile informing him that Ben wouldn't have it any other way. Simon nodded his understanding.
"I know what you mean. I'll tell Blair you were here when he wakes up. Please, if you find anything..."
"We'll call. In fact, we'll call when we get there, and every time we find something. Will that be sufficient?"
"Thank you. Good luck."
The three searchers left on their mission.
Blair woke up at daylight. The first thing he saw, was Simon, sleeping in the chair beside him, holding his hand. He smiled, softly. Tears forming, unbidden, trickling down his face. He watched his friend as he slept.
Simon had the feeling of being watched. He opened his eyes to the tear-streaked countenance of his injured observer. He straightened up, spine popping in protest. Squeezing Blair's hand in concern.
"That Mountie was here with his friends." He spoke softly, not wanting to agitate the injured man. "They're on their way to look for Jim. They seemed pretty confident that they could find him, one way or another." Not wanting to get the kid's hopes up too far.
"Good. If they've been practicing, they should be able to do it. Did they bring Dief?" Another note of hope in his voice.
"They said they did. I didn't see him. He's got two Chicago cops named Ray with him? I only remember the one."
"Oh, sure. Don't you remember when Jim and I went to that seminar in Chicago? We told you about it, didn't we?" Suddenly unsure.
"Oh, yeah. I guess you did. It just didn't quite compute, I suppose. I feel sorry for Fraser, those two seem like a real handful." Blair frowned in puzzlement. "You'll see what I mean when they come back." Neither man was willing to talk about the possible results of the search.
"Well, this is it." Kowalski stated as he stopped by the barricades next to the slide area. The three men and the wolf disembarked, stretched, and looked over the vast area of devastation.
"Wow." Vecchio murmured, in awe at the sight. It looked as though half the mountain had slid down across the road and on down into the valley below.
"OK, Fraz." Kowalski started in his 'Guide' voice, "Can you track where they were when the dirt hit them?"
Ben motioned to Dief, crouched before his wolfdog, and gently grasped him by his cheeks, speaking softly into his face. "Dief. Jim Ellison was here. He's missing. We need to find him. Help me find out where he went, and what happened. You remember Jim?" Dief opened his mouth and swiped his tongue across Ben's face, then grinned, and winked. Ben released him, and the animal quickly crossed the barricade and started searching. The humans following closely in his wake.
They climbed up the pile of dirt, trees and rocks, Ben pointed out the obvious mark of where a body had lain; guessing it had been Sandburg, based upon the size of the impression. Dief ranged ahead, following his nose. Ben, with Kowalski's help, followed the path of the animal, and suddenly pointed.
"What is it? What do you see?" The Guide asked the Sentinel, the calming voice helping to focus and extend his abilities.
"I can see where he was, before he was swept away." He followed the path that only he could see, with his eyes. "He went down that way." He pointed.
The three men and the wolf followed the minute smudges that denoted the passing of a human body, down the steep slope, and along the road. The landslide hadn't just crossed the road, it had run along it, diagonally. Moving further along the road than it had across it.
They traveled more than a mile, with Ben pointing out the minuscule traces of Jim's passage. When they reached the end of the trail, there was a flat spot, indicating where Jim had come to rest. But no body. The three men looked around, puzzled. With one accord, they split up and started searching for any signs of what had happened to the body, for none of them expected to find the missing Sentinel alive.
It was Vecchio who found the clue.
"Hey, guys. C'm'ere." When they came, he pointed to the track he had found. "Isn't that a tire track?" Ben crouched down to examine the track. Touching the impression to determine its age, sniffing the crushed vegetation to verify. He looked around and spotted some more signs. He looked up at his friends and smiled.
"There were two men in a four wheel drive vehicle. There isn't enough here to tell what kind of vehicle, not very big, probably an older Scout, or some such. They were just missed by the slide. They must have seen Jim, because, there's signs of two men carrying something heavy." He pointed to the two sets of footprints. "They probably loaded him in their vehicle and took him to a hospital." He stood and pointed, "That way."
"Let's get back to the car, find our way around this mess and go take a look. What's the nearest town that way?" Vecchio asked.
Kowalski pulled the map from his hip pocket, opening it to their location. He traced the highway eastward, "The next city is called Lyman. There aren't any other roads, unless we go south and take Hamilton Road. That takes us through Lyman and on to Hamilton." Ben and Vecchio looked over his shoulders to see. "That was a good idea you had about renting a four wheel drive, Ray. I think we can get down this slope, follow the slide and get back up right there." He pointed to the still crushed vegetation from the other vehicle's passing.
Both Rays nodded, then looked at one another, their faces mirroring their question. Then they turned in unison to Ben. "You drive." They chorused. Ben flinched and shook his head, "Stereo." He muttered, to the amusement of his friends.
They got safely through the slide area, then back on the road. Within the hour, they had reached the town of Lyman. Finding the police station, they parked and entered.
It was a very small office, just room for two desks, both filled. One of the occupants looked up. "Can I help you?" He asked, curious at the three strangers. Knowing that the highway was closed to the west, wondering where they had come from, and why.
"Yes, please." Ben began.
"Oh, you're Canadian." The man rose and came over to the counter. "Are you lost?"
"No. We're looking for a friend who was caught in the slide a few days ago. He appears to have been picked up by two people who were four wheeling near where the slide occurred. We..."
"The John Doe? You're looking for a big guy. Six-three, two hundred pounds, or so? Short hair, blue eyes?"
"That's him. You say you have him as a John Doe?"
"Yeah. He had no ID on him. Couple a kids brought him in, found him in the ravine, they said. Didn't say nothin' about bein' near that slide..." It was obvious that the officer was putting two and two together and not liking the answer he was getting. "He's still unconscious. Concussion, the Doc isn't sure he'll ever wake up. I can take you to him. We don't have a hospital here, just a clinic, but the Doc and his wife, she's his nurse by the way, have been takin' real good care of him. He's breathin' on his own and all." He picked up his hat, then did a double-take when he saw Ben's nearly identical head cover. He blinked, but didn't comment.
The clinic was less than a block away and they walked the short distance.
"Hey, Doc?" The policeman called out as they entered the front of the clinic. "Doc?"
"In the infirmary, Joe. What do you need? Got another paper cut?" The voice was jovial.
Joe laughed. "Nah, I got some fellas been lookin' for your John Doe. I'll leave them here with you. I gotta go talk to the Stephens boys about a little matter of a missing wallet." He smiled at the three visitors and left.
The doctor was probably closer to sixty than fifty, but he moved like a much younger man. All the fresh air and healthful living in his small town probably had a lot to do with it.
"Why don't you boys come back and take a look at our patient. Make sure he's the fellow you've been looking for." He led the way to the back, where they found their missing friend, comatose. Ben touched his brother Sentinel's face, pulling back the eyelids to check for pupilary reaction. He looked up at the doctor.
"Has he shown any sign of regaining consciousness?"
"He's moaned a few times, called out someone's name...Blair? I'm pretty sure that was the name. He's also called out Chief' a number of times. I can't seem to quite get through to him. I think he's so worked up over whoever he keeps calling for. Why don't you gentlemen give it a try. He seems to be hovering just on the edge, but can't, or won't, quite come out of it. I'll leave you alone." Suiting actions to words, he left them. Closing the door behind him.
"Jim?" Ben asked, touching the unconscious man's arm. "Jim, can you hear me? Jim?" No reaction. Vecchio didn't even try, only having known the unconscious man briefly, and not been able to get to know him very well due to injuries that time, either.
"Jim?" Kowalski asked, his voice soft and low, matching the tones of Jim's guide, Blair. "Jim, I need you to come back, now, man. Blair needs you. Simon's with him, but he really needs you. If you wake up, I'm sure they'll let us take you to him. C'mon Jim. Open your eyes and talk to me. You remember me, don't you? Ray? From Chicago?" He reached out his left hand, taking Jim's right hand and gently squeezing. With his right hand, he gently smoothed the short hair back from Jim's uninjured left temple. The bruise on the left side of Jim's head was a livid purple and magenta, showing no signs of fading, even after four days.
"Jim. Wake up now. They won't let us take you to Blair unless you wake up and tell them it's OK. C'mon, man. Talk to me." He continued stroking Jim's temple and squeezing his hand. Feeling a slight twitch of the lax hand, he started talking again. "That's it. Come on back now. Blair's waiting for you in Cascade. We can't..." He pulled away, smacking himself in the head for a fool. "Idiot." He muttered, not noticing the confused expressions on his partners' faces. He pulled out his cell phone and dialed for information. Getting the number for the hospital in Cascade, the realization of what he was doing occurred to the other two, who matched his disgusted expression.
"You're right. We are idiots." Vecchio groused.
Blair and Simon had been waiting all day for some contact from the search party. Simon could see Blair losing hope, but he was unable to help as he had lost hope himself days earlier, while Blair was still unconscious. All he could do was be there for the kid, just like Jim had always been. Every time Blair would start crying, he would carefully pick him up and hold him until he could regain control, sometimes longer. Neither man spoke. There was nothing to say.
When the phone rang shortly after five p.m., Simon answered it.
"Banks" The dispair and exhaustion apparent in his voice.
"We got him. He's alive. I need to talk to Blair." It was one of the Rays, he wasn't sure which one. He couldn't hide his relieved grin from the apathetic Blair.
"He's alive. They found him." He whispered in order to keep from shouting. He was dying to know the details, but knew that it was more important for Blair to know what was happening.
"Hello?" His voice weak because he couldn't take a very deep breath, but firm, nevertheless.
"Yeah. It's Ray. Kowalski. He won't wake up. He doesn't quiet believe me that you're alive. Talk to him. I'll let you know when it's enough." He held the cell phone to the unconscious Detective's ear, able to hear the voice coming through, but not able to make out the words. Ben could understand what the other Guide was saying, but didn't repeat it, feeling there was no need.
"Jim? Jim! C'mon, man. Wake up. Please Jim. I need you, man. I need you here. Please, Jim. Wake up. Jim? Jim?" He started crying, Simon moved to shift the distraught young man so he could hold him, sliding behind and holding Blair to his chest, acting as a bolster pillow. Supporting and comforting.
"Please, Jim. Open your eyes now, man. Please? Jim?"
Kowalski resumed holding the unconscious man's hand, while he held the phone to his ear. It took several minutes, but finally, Jim took in a deep breath, his hand tightened on Ray's and his eyes fluttered open. He looked dazed and confused. Staring up at the three men, only two of whom he remembered.
"How'd I get to Chicago?" He mumbled.
"You're not. You're in a town called Lyman. Still in Washington. Do you remember anything?" Ben asked, softly.
"Jim? Jim!" The voice of his guide came through the telephone. He turned toward the sound, "Chief? Blair? Is that you?" He had been certain that his Guide hadn't survived.
"Jim? Oh, man. We've been so worried about you. Are you OK? What happened to you? Where did you go?"
"Uh," He looked up at his fellow Sentinel, helplessly, not knowing what was going on.
Vecchio took charge of the phone. "Look, kid. He just woke up. He's been out for what, four days? Give him a chance. You both know that the other one's gonna be OK, now, so chill out some and let us see what we can do to get him back home, OK?"
Blair replied with a rather sheepish sounding "Yessir."
"I promise to have him home within a day, so, you just relax and heal some yourself. You can explain everything to each other later. You got it?"
"Yes. I got it. Take care of him, please?"
"You know it, kid." Vecchio disconnected the phone.
"Now, what happened?"
While Ray had been speaking to Blair on the phone, Ben had gone after the Doctor.
"Well, welcome back. Your friends have been quite worried about you, young man. How are you feeling?"
"Like I got run over by a freight train. How bad is it?" Too tired and sore to try and find out for himself.
"Concussion, multiple contusions and abrasions. Possible skull fracture, but no displacement, quiet consistent with a fall, but you say you were in the landslide?"
"Yeah. We were going camping. Heading east on the twenty. There was a car ahead of us, they were going too fast and lost it on one of the curves. We stopped to see if we could help, when there was this, it sounded like an explosion, and then the entire side of the mountain came down on us. Somehow, I managed to get above the flow and basically body surfed down to the bottom, managing to stay pretty much on top of the wave. It seemed to take forever. I was still conscious when I got to the end of it, but there were some late falling rocks. I guess one of them conked me on the head." He gingerly felt the bruised side of his face. "That's all I remember."
"Well, considering you've been unconscious for four days, you're doing well to remember your name, let alone the landslide." The doctor checked out his patient. Satisfied, he straightened up. Turning to the three strangers, he smiled. "If you take it real easy and take him straight to his doctor, you can take him home tomorrow. It's too late today to let you try and get back across the slide area. Besides which, I think our little Police Department has a few questions to ask the boys who brought you in." There was a tiny glint of anger in the doctor's eyes. "Your friends had a lot of needless worry, and you could have been seeing your own doctor, if Joe is right."
"Is there a hotel around nearby?" Fraser asked.
"Not nearby. You can stay here. I've got plenty of room. Raised ten kids in this house, and maintained the clinic. Don't worry, you're more than welcome to spend the night. Although I would suggest you have dinner over to the cafe. It's a good night for steaks." He turned, picked up Jim' s chart and made several notations. "Any of you boys got names?"
"Oh, I'm terribly sorry," Fraser began. "I am Constable Benton Fraser, RCMP..." He was interrupted by a chorus of Rays.
"He first came to Chicago on the trail of his father's killer, and, due to circumstances that don't need going into at this juncture, he's stayed on as Deputy Liaison Officer with the Canadian Consulate."
Jim chuckled, holding his bruised and aching ribs. The doctor grinned, as well.
"Says that a lot, does he?" You're a long way from Chicago, however." His tone encouraging further information.
"I'm Ray Vecchio, he's Ray Kowalski, Chicago PD. Your patient is one James Ellison, Cascade PD. His partner called us to try and find him, cause after the landslide, they couldn't."
"So, we flew out here last night, got directions early this morning, and drove out here, Dief and Fraser found where Jim surfed down the slide and then Ray found some tire tracks, we hiked back to the car, drove and here we are." Kowalski finished.
"You tracked him down the slide?" Slightly disbelieving.
"Yeah. Fraser, here is from the Northwest Territories" Kowalski explained, emphasizing the fact that he had learned not to call it the Areas. "He's a great tracker, and Dief can track a jelly donut like you can't believe." With a smirk at Vecchio, who's donuts were usually favoured by the animal.
"Who is Dief?" The doctor asked.
"Oh, he's my wolf, well, half wolf, anyway."
The doctor took it with aplomb. Such animals were quite common in the area. "So, he tracked by scent."
"My name is Peterson, by the way. Folks around here just call me Doc. My wife is off visiting a couple of shut ins, and won't be back until late. I suggest..."
He was interrupted by the return of Joe, the local cop. He didn't look very happy, but the two teen-aged boys with him looked even unhappier. "Go on, you two. Tell 'em what you done."
The boys looked at the formidable quartet arranged before them, their gazes drawn to the piercing blue eyes of the man in the bed. The smaller one shivered and looked away, only to find his gaze captured by the angry blue eyes of the blond with the short spiky hair. The bigger one finally spoke.
"We took yer wallet. Here it is. We...We spent some of your money, but all your credit cards and stuff are still there." He held out the missing item. The blond man took it and handed it to the invalid, who glanced through the wallet, then closed it and passed it back to the blond, who placed it on the bedside table. Both boys were squirming in embarrassment.
"Tell them why you did it." Joe demanded.
"We figured he was gonna die. We couldn't see how anybody coulda lived through that slide. We brung him to Doc, but, well, he had so much money in his wallet, we just...We're sorry, mister. We'll pay you back. Every penny. Promise."
"How much money did you take?" Jim asked, mildly.
"Twenty dollars." The smaller one whispered, ashamed.
The two Rays looked at each other and had to turn away to hide their grins, careful to not look at one another for fear of bursting out in laughter. Twenty dollars? Kowalski had seen that there was well over a hundred still in the wallet. He happened to catch Jim's eye and recognized the amused glint. Ray couldn't stop himself, his shoulders started to shake with his silent laughter. He tried to cover it with a fake coughing fit. Doc, recognizing the symptoms, went to him and gently led him from the room, carefully closing the door behind them.
"You think those boys stealing is funny?"
"No, sir. I think the fact that they took twenty out of close to three hundred is funny. I think it's great that they're so embarrassed by it. You gotta understand, I'm from Chicago. If it had been there, they'd a killed him to make sure no one came looking for 'em. You folks raise 'em right here. It's obvious that they were already feeling pretty guilty when Joe confronted them. They're probably glad they got caught."
Doc smiled. He liked this young man. In spite of his City ways. "They're a little wild, pretty normal, for that age. I think you're right about them wanting to be caught. Their folks raised 'em right, they just forgot for a minute or two, there." Ray had his amusement under control, so the doctor led him back into the infirmary.
Joe was speaking. "I apologize for these boys, Mr. Ellison, I'll see to it that they're punished." He looked hopefully at the injured man. Knowing that if he decided to press charges, that the boys could be looking at hard time.
"Joe," Doc touched the policeman's arm. "Mr. Ellison is with the Cascade PD." Joe closed his eyes for a moment, then looked sadly at the Stephens boys. "Go out in the other room, boys. I'll be out in a few minutes." The two frightened young men did as they were told. It never occurred to them to run. It wasn't how they'd been raised, but then, neither had stealing.
Joe cast pleading eyes on the injured detective. "I'll make sure they pay you back. It's hard for folks around here since the lumber business has been so bad. They're not bad boys, just young and foolish..."
"Officer. Joe." Jim interrupted, he exchanged glances with his fellow peace officers, gaining a consensus. "You do what you think you have to. I'm not about to press charges against the kids who saved my life by bringing me to medical help. They could have taken all the cash and I'd still be grateful to them. Hell, I'd still like to give them a reward for saving me. But you're right. They did something wrong. Because I was without ID, my friends and family have been needlessly worried."
"Simon thought you were dead." Ben interjected, softly. "He was only willing to let us look for you because Blair had already called us and we were here. If he'd been able to, I'm sure he'd have found a way to stop our coming."
Joe and the doctor flinched at the scenario Ben's words conjured up. Exchanging looks with Doc, Joe nodded. "They need to be punished for what they did wrong. I can't see how we can also reward them for what they did right. If you're willing to not press charges, I'll see to it that they reimburse you for what they took."
Vecchio smiled. "You could assign them some community service project, like mowing the lawn at the park, painting over grafitti, oh, you probably don't have that. Uh, you get the idea, don't you?"
"Then, when they've finished their chores, you can pay them." Jim reached for his wallet, taking out the remaining cash and offering it to the policeman.
Joe refused to take the money. "You've been more than generous already. I can't let you do that. They need the lesson. Course, I might let them know that you'd have been willing to pay them for rescuing you."
Ben asked, "What did they use the money for?"
Joe looked embarrassed. "They bought some groceries for one of their neighbours. Elderly woman, can't get around much any more. Her daughter moved to the city, hardly ever comes to visit." Even more embarrassed.
Jim looked at the doctor, holding out the money. "Go fill her freezer, please?"
Doc smiled and took the money, nodding. "No problem." He smiled at Joe.
"I'd like to pay you with a credit card, if I may, Doc. My insurance will reimburse me."
Doc looked surprised. "If you like. Eighty dollars, including tomorrow."
Jim looked shocked. "What?"
"This is a small practice. I make enough to live on. You didn't need any expensive medication. All I had to do was use a little oxygen, some antibiotics, antiseptic, first aid supplies. You've been unconscious, so I kept you fed and hydrated with some IVs. None of it was very expensive." He smiled. "Don't worry. I made my profit." He wasn't about to charge extra just because the man was a stranger from the city. Especially since he was being so understanding about the Stephens boys.
Jim nodded. "OK. I can easily deal with that." He'd only been awake about an hour, but even the little that had happened had left him exhausted, ready to go back to sleep, except he was hungry. And thirsty. He was having trouble staying awake anyway. He relaxed, letting the weariness wash over him. The doctor noticed and motioned the others out. Kowalski shook his head, indicating that he would stay with their friend. Doc nodded his agreement and gently closed the door behind him.
"Could I have a glass of water, Ray?" Jim asked.
"Sure." He found a pitcher on the table and filled it from the tap across the room. "It's not real cold, but that's probably better for you." He helped the larger man sit up a bit, holding him up so he could drink. It took two and a half glasses before he was satisfied. "You OK, now?" Easing him back down.
"Yeah. Thanks. ... For everything."
"You're welcome." Ray pulled a chair up to sit by Jim's side. "You want I should call Blair again? So you can tell him what's goin' on?"
Jim perked right up. "If you don't mind? I'll gladly reimburse you for the time."
"Nah. Don't worry about it. You want me to leave?" Comfortable, tired. He could only imagine how the others were feeling, they hadn't slept on the plane, like he had. They'd been running on adrenaline for a full day, on top of a full day's work at the Vecchio house.
"You can stay. Relax." Jim hit the re-dial and waited for the connection.
Blair and Simon were glad when Jim called back. He quickly filled them in about things on his end. He was worried and upset when he heard about Blair's injuries. "Are you sure you're OK, Chief?"
"Yeah, I am. Or, at least, I will be." They were silent for more than a minute, thinking of how things might have turned out. Grateful that, once again, they were both going to be all right.
"Doc is going to let the guys bring me home, tomorrow, providing I immediately check in with the doctor. So, I'll see you sometime tomorrow afternoon, OK?"
"That's great, Jim. I'll..."
"Simon? Is something wrong?"
Simon chuckled. "No. The kid just fell asleep." He was silent for a moment. "I'm glad you're all right. Hell, I'm just glad that you're alive. We were going crazy, looking for you. We all figured you were buried under all that mess; that we'd never even be able to find your body. Damn. I need to call the station and let them know that you're OK. I can't believe I forgot to do that."
Jim chuckled. "It's nice to know you care, Simon."
"Jim, You have to promise me that you'll never put me through anything like this again."
"What do you mean?" puzzled. He glanced at Ray, realizing that the Guide had fallen asleep.
"First, we got the call about the slide and that Sandburg had been found. He was unconscious until yesterday, around noon. Three days, Jim. When he came to, all he could think about was you. Distraught is not the word, Jim. It doesn't come anywhere near to describing what Blair was going through. He called the guys from Chicago because we hadn't been able to find you, not even with using rescue dogs. I mean, I'm glad you're OK, that they found you. I just don't ever want to have to go through this again. It's too hard. I... I just can't..."
Jim froze, nearly zoning on what he was hearing. Simon was crying. Why? "Simon?" Soft, tentative. "Simon, it's OK. I'm OK. I wish I were there, I'm sorry, Simon. It's going to be all right."
"I know it will, Jim. It's just..."
"Yeah, I know. Me too, you know?" Trying to comfort his friend, hard to do long distance. "I'll be home tomorrow. We can all sit down and talk about it, OK?"
"Yeah. It is. Welcome back, Jim."
"Thanks, Simon. It's good to be back."
Doc took the others over to the local cafe. He happily introduced them to the owner/cook/server. They ordered dinner for themselves as well as the pair still at the clinic. The meal was delicious. When they returned to the clinic, they had to wake up both Jim and Ray to eat. Jim was still very sore, so Ben cut up his steak for him. Both men praised the meal. Of course, they probably would have praised some of Fraser's pemmican, at that point, they were both so hungry.
Kowalski insisted on staying near Jim, for the night, so Doc set up the other three beds in the infirmary for them. Amused at the concern they had for each other.
The morning dawned, overcast and threatening rain. They decided to make a run for it, so they could get through the slide area before it turned into a mud bog. The cafe was open and they stoked themselves up on steak and eggs, the house specialty. In spite of Jim's weakened condition, he insisted on driving, once they got to the slide area. It had started raining, and, in the end, they were glad they had trusted the man with the most experience to do the driving.
Once through the mountains and back on I-5, Jim willingly turned over the driving to the Rays. He got the passenger side front seat, reclined it slightly and went to sleep. Never waking up until they pulled to a stop in the hospital parking lot. Jim had stiffened up a lot, so he needed a little help getting from the car to the hospital. Simon had warned the staff to expect him, so they were unsurprised to find the ER ready and waiting for him. It was another six hours before the hospital staff was satisfied with his condition and decided to let him go home. Instead, he went to his partner's room.
Slipping quietly through the door, he spotted the pale, frail looking waif in the bed, snuggled in the lap of Jim's superior. Jim smiled, wondering what to do about it.
"Hey, Simon." He whispered. Simon's eyes opened, a little surprised at seeing Jim there.
"When did you get in?" Yawning.
"About six hours ago. They cut me loose a few minutes ago. I sent the guys to the loft for some sack time. They'll be back in the morning before catching their flight. How's Blair?"
Simon shifted, a little. "He'll be fine, once he sees you." He gently rubbed Blair's shoulder, waking the younger man. "Blair, Sandburg. Wake up and see the Sentinel." His voice soft and soothing. Blair slowly opened his eyes, looking up at Simon with complete trust.
"Wha?" Not quiet awake yet.
"Jim's here. Whoa!, whoa, there. Take it easy or you'll hurt yourself, and I can't afford the hospital time." Simon smiled at Jim and started to slide out from under Blair's head, but a hand reached up to stop him. He looked down in surprise at the anthropologist.
"Stay, Simon. Please?" Simon looked from Sentinel to Guide and back, unsure of his position in the mix.
"Stay, Simon. You were here at the start, you should be here for the end." Jim reached out and picked up Blair's hand. "So, how are you doing?"
"I'm fine now. Simon took good care of me." He smiled, happy and content that his friend had been returned safely. Jim smiled and reached out his other hand to grasp Simon's shoulder, forming a circle of friendship.
The flight back to Chicago was quiet, Vecchio couldn't believe it. For the first time, ever, they hadn't fallen out of the sky. He commented on it, just as they landed. They made it safely into the terminal and picked up their luggage. They even made it out to the car, and all the way to the Vecchio house. Ray couldn't stop commenting at how smooth the trip had been. Kowalski just looked puzzled, not understanding Vecchio's attitude, nor Ben's amusement. They were trudging up the steps to the porch, when Vecchio's prediction finally came through. He turned to say something to Ben, when a number of Vecchio type children came screaming and running around the corner and slammed into them. Vecchio shouted as he tumbled down the steps. Italian invective spewing forth as the children all froze in fear. They all knew better than to run down Uncle Ray. Or Uncle Benton, or the other Uncle Ray. Kowalski and Fraser set down Ray's luggage and bent to lift the angry man, only to hear his wail of pain. They re-deposited him on the ground, Ben checking him out.
"Oh, dear. I'm terribly sorry, Ray, but your leg is broken."
"See? See? I told you that I can't go on a trip with you without something bad happening. This proves it!..." The rant looked like it was going to go on for a while, so Ben stood and looked at Kowalski, who asked, "Is he always like this?"
Ben sighed. "I'm afraid so."
Kowalski looked down, "Oh, dear."
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