I really should make my musae finish the stories I've already started. Really, I should. However (and we all knew that that was coming), I was reading an email this morning and, well... it reminded me of something.
The standard disclaimers still do apply. They have to for at least another twenty years, I believe, until the characters pass into the public domain, unless they renew their copyright, that is. Until then, I am very grateful to the owners of the intellectual properties I'm using, for having the kindness and generosity to not sue me for their use... and after today, I doubt seriously that they'd want the dog... he stood out in the back yard for half an hour in a driving rain (It wasn't just raining cats and dogs, it was raining wolves and panthers, folks), watching some stray dog out in the pasture, he then came inside, trotted into the living room, stood between my roommate and the television and shook... Now, I know that isn't unusual, but Sheffield has some very long outer guard hairs, and this thick, soft undercoat, as the water flew everywhere, soaking the entire room, his pretty white coat went POUF, and he turned into this eighty pound puff-ball of fur... Good boy, Chief.
Sometimes, Your Best Just Isn't Good Enough.
And Sometimes, It's More Than Enough
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Friday night. The workweek was over and, barring any sudden complications, they were all off for the weekend. No one would remember why they had decided on dinner at their local steak house, but it was certainly not an evening any of them would soon forget. It also permanently removed that particular restaurant from everyone's list of places to go.
It wasn't so much that it was any fault of the restaurant, far from it. It was just that no one who had been there when it happened would be able to see the place again without remembering what had occurred there...
The members of Major Crime had decided on the spur of the moment to all go for dinner together. They had just wrapped up a very difficult and complicated case and were in the mood to celebrate. Simon Banks, as their captain and the man in charge, had suggested the Steak House. The others had quickly agreed, gathered their coats and any other belongings and headed out.
The restaurant wasn't particularly busy at five-thirty that afternoon, after all, it was still a bit early for the big dinner crowds, and definitely after even the latest of lunch-goers. So they entered as a group into the nearly empty restaurant and were seated almost immediately. With seven of them, they were placed in the center of the room, at the largest table in the regular dining area. Since they were frequent customers, they all knew what they were going to order and so were quickly served. The mood was jovial, even though no one was drinking. After all, it wouldn't do for Cascade PD's finest to be out drinking in public without a designated driver. Most were drinking iced tea, although the die-hards, including the captain, himself, chose coffee... and Megan, who was drinking milk, albeit with a great deal of teasing from her comrades
There was talk of the latest big case they'd wrapped up, with a great deal of teasing and laughter over how Detective James Ellison had managed to capture their perps. Jim's eyes were still red and even Simon, whose sense of smell was extremely limited to his cigars and possibly his coffee, had been able to follow the trail by the suspect's cologne. The suspect had tried to hide under a house, but Jim had gone right in there after him, only to meet the poor guy rushing to get back out the way he'd gone in. Jim managed to back out fast enough not to be touched by the guy, but just barely.
Fortunately, the skunk that the suspect had blundered into hadn't gotten a full shot at him, but it was enough that none of the cops were at all interested in being the ones to physically take him in. Jim's eyes were streaming from the caustic and nearly lethal combination of the man's cologne and the skunk spray. His partner had been forced to pull him away and let the others take charge, reading the suspect his rights and handcuffing him. The patrol unit that lost the toss for transport had pulled a pair of DOA sheets from their trunk and basically sealed the man in the plastic to try and keep his stench from the upholstery. They also had to drive through the soggy Cascade rainstorm with their windows all the way down to keep the disgusting odor from overwhelming them.
As the detectives finished eating and settled back to continue their conversation, one of the waiters, who had been at the counter making coffee, suddenly collapsed, falling over backwards and hitting the floor with a loud thump! Jim, with his more sensitive hearing, turned to the sound and was immediately on his feet to go see what was wrong. The rest of the party turned to see what had attracted his attention. Blair Sandburg, Jim's partner, automatically rose to follow his partner.
Seeing the man lying unconscious on the floor, Jim called out for someone to call the paramedics. Blair, despite being the newest member of the police force, was the quickest one to have his cell phone out and 911 punched in. He gave the location and when asked the nature of the emergency, repeated Jim's diagnosis of a heart attack. Once Blair had heard the 911 operator repeat his information back to him, he disconnected his cell phone and joined the rest of the group as Jim and Rafe performed CPR on the waiter.
Blair was shocked at the strange, gray-green color the man's skin had turned. He glanced at his colleagues, wondering why they were all looking at him so strangely.
"What?" Blair asked, confused.
Megan shook her head and looked back down at the controlled panic of the scene. "Sorry, Sandy. It's just..." she shook her head again, swallowing hard, and refused to meet his eyes. He basically got the same reactions from Simon and Brown. None of them would meet his eyes.
"What'd I do?" Blair asked, plaintively. Finally, he met Joel's gaze, who took pity on him and explained, drawing him aside.
"I wasn't there, so it doesn't bother me, Blair."
"What? Why are they looking at me like that?" Blair whispered back, looking again at his partner and Rafe working desperately to try and get the unconscious man's heart to start beating on its own.
"Because..." Joel turned away from the scene, using his greater bulk to block Blair's view at the same time, "That's what you looked like at the fountain, Blair."
'The fountain, Blair... The Fountain... The Fountain... The Fountain... THE FOUNTAIN!!!!!'
Suddenly, it was as though there wasn't enough air to breathe, as if all the oxygen had been sucked from his lungs. He was gasping for breath, suddenly remembering...
Then, he was enveloped in a warm, comforting embrace, one that smelled faintly of cigars... Joel.
"Easy, Blair. It's all right, son. Take it easy, okay? Shhhhh. It's all right. I'm sorry. I didn't think, man. Shhhh." He continued murmuring soft, soothing things to the smaller man, and shaking his head when the attention of the others was drawn to them. He had it all under control, he hoped.
There was something so soothing about the deep rumble of the larger man's voice, kind of like a big teddy bear... which make him giggle, albeit a bit inappropriately. Still...
"I'm sorry. I just..."
"I know, son. It's okay. I understand," and he did; and Blair understood, as well. Pulling away from the gentle embrace, his face flushed, he was unable to meet the older man's eyes. "It's all right, Blair. Honest. I wouldn't tell you if it weren't true. You do know that, don't you?"
Blair had to look up, then; and seeing Joel's honest concern, he was able to smile, although it was a bit timid, still, it was a smile. "Yeah. Thanks, Joel." He stepped away and saw the rest of his colleagues looking at him with concern, even Jim, who was still pumping the waiter's chest, compressing the heart to move the blood, was gazing at him with worried concern. He managed another shaky smile and, taking a deep breath, forced himself to calm down and watch the two men performing CPR with some detachment.
Five minutes later, the paramedics arrived. Taking in the scene as they set up their equipment, they questioned the other restaurant staff members as to the man's general health, what problems they knew of him having, anything they might know that could help them. Although it was known that he had a heart condition, no one was aware of any medication he was on, nor even whether he'd been seeing a doctor regularly.
As the paramedics attached the electrodes for their portable EKG machine, Jim and Rafe stopped their CPR for a minute or so for them to get a reading. Then, as one paramedic took over, using a bag to force air into the man's lungs, Jim returned to doing CPR while the second paramedic prepared to defibrillate the still unresponsive victim. Finally, as the paramedics prepared to apply the paddles, Jim rocked back onto his feet and stood up, backing away from the team working on the still unresponsive man.
"Jim?" Simon's voice was soft, as he looked at the now trembling detective.
Jim didn't hear his captain, however. All his senses were focused on his partner. "Chief?" his voice barely above a whisper.
"I'm okay, Jim. What about you?" Understanding that as shocked as he'd been at the analogy, that his friends were even more distressed, particularly his partner.
"I'll..." He had to turn away and swallow hard a couple of times to regain control. "I'll be fine, Chief." His eyes said so much more, showing the distress the memories brought, the reminder of how close it had been, how it could have ended.
Blair moved away from the warm, protective bulk of Joel Taggart and slipped in beside his partner, allowing his physical presence to reassure his friend. "I'm fine, Jim."
"This time," Jim's voice was hoarse with held back emotions as he reached out a hand to reassure himself of the reality of the man before him. Needing the tactile conviction to go with the visual, even though it had been a year since... it happened. This reminder was too close, even though it was a stranger, it was too close. Even though it wasn't a drowning, still...
"I'm fine, Jim. We all are." Blair's soft voice soothed him further, allowing his fingers to ghost over the now shorter hair, scenting the odors that would always remind him of his partner, his Guide, his friend. Touch, scent, sight, sound... everything told him that it was all right, that Blair was alive and right there before him.
"Yeah. We are, aren't we?" Jim glanced around at the concerned faces of his friends and colleagues. He managed a tentative smile as the paramedics finally got some sort of sinus rhythm on their patient and scrambled to prepare him for transport. The group of cops watched as the waiter was taken from the room, the expressions of some other early arrivals showing their concern... not so much for the victim, but definite second thoughts about dining in this particular establishment.
"So, who gets to write up the reports?" Simon asked, taking a cigar from his case and looking it over very carefully.
"The paramedics?" Jim opined, hopefully.
"If we were just regular citizens, they'd do the paperwork, wouldn't they?" Blair asked, all innocence.
"But we aren't regular citizens," Rafe admitted.
"Sure we are. So we happen to know CPR, so do a lot of people. Just because we're cops doesn't make this something reportable, it's not like there was a crime or anything, is it?" Blair insisted.
"He's right, Simon," Brown agreed. "Besides, they have all our information for their report, so why should we have to duplicate the work?"
Everyone stared at the captain, awaiting his decision. "Fine. We'll let them do the paperwork. You'd just better hope it doesn't come back and bite you."
"That's what the 'Good Samaritan' laws are for, Simon," Joel added, patting Jim on the shoulder. The others were maybe missing the clues or, more likely, ignoring them, but Jim's body language was screaming out loud and clear that the waiter wasn't going to survive. Jim looked up at the bigger man and faintly smiled, understanding.
Jim's arm tightened across his partner's shoulders, still needing the reassurance of the smaller man's presence, knowing that this time, there was nothing he could do to bring the victim back; but feeling very grateful that his friend was there with him.
"I think the party's over fellows," Megan said softly, as the rest of the restaurant workers went back to work. No one felt like dessert or anything else to drink. Not now. Not after this. They paid their bill and quietly left the restaurant, each deciding for themselves that they wouldn't want to come back here... not after this.
"Yeah, Chief?" Even though it wasn't all that late, both men were exhausted, primarily from the emotional upheaval at the restaurant. Jim was in the kitchen, looking for something to ease his upset stomach. Blair noticed how his friend's hand kept rubbing the offending area and the pained expression on his face. Automatically, he went to the kitchen and started making some peppermint tea.
"I was wondering... that man at the restaurant... uh, is he going to make it?" He was careful not to look directly at his friend, but he kept glancing; quick, little sidelong, surreptitious looks.
Jim sighed. "I don't know, Chief." He turned to watch as Blair prepared the tea and gratefully accepted a cup when it was offered.
"But you think...?"
"I don't think so, Blair." His voice was barely above a whisper and there was a deep, abiding sadness in his tone.
"Oh." Blair looked out at nothing, "Uh, everyone s-said that it was like when I..."
"Yeah. A little." Jim sipped at his tea, immersing his senses in the smell and taste of the hot peppermint drink.
"Was...was..." He took a deep breath, "Did I look like that? That funny greenish-blue color?"
"No. You were more gray." He swallowed hard, turning his injured gaze to his best friend. "It was hard, Chief. Doing CPR on that man, today. It was so much like when you..." He looked away, unable to meet his friend's eyes.
"Hey, you brought me back, man. I'm right here." Blair moved into his friend's space, reaching out two very warm and alive hands to clasp together over Jim's. "We're OK, man."
Jim raised his eyes to meet the warm, sincere glow of his best friend's. "Yeah. We are. I'm kind of sorry for that waiter, though. I'm pretty sure he isn't going to make it." His voice was sad.
"What makes you so sure?" Blair's curiosity was piqued, despite the morbid subject.
"Well, he fell over backwards... that's not the usual thing. Most people just kind of go limp and fall forward."
"Generally, when someone falls backwards, it's because their system has had a paroxysm, going totally stiff, also, his color indicated a sudden stop in oxygenation, that's why he was that weird shade of greenish-blue. Maybe... I don't know, Chief. I just don't know."
"Hey, Jim." Blair waited until the sad blue eyes came up again to meet his own, "You did the best you could, man. No one could have done any more that what you and Rafe did. There is no way you could have reacted any faster. So lighten up on yourself, please?" His hands squeezed Jim's around his cup.
"Yeah. I know. I just started thinking..."
"Oh, man. You know how dangerous that is. You should never try that without a..."
"Guide?" There was a slightly sardonic twist to the taller man's lips, as the gentle teasing got through to him.
"Yeah." Blair smiled up at his friend.
"Maybe what?" Blair tilted his head, puzzled.
Jim drew in a deep breath and then exhaled, slowly, taking another sip of his tea, "Maybe I need you more than you know. Maybe I need to tell you that I need you. Here. With me. When..."
Light and dark blue eyes met, and a world of communication passed between them. Blair finally released his hold on his friend's arms, where they had slipped down when Jim had raised the cup for a sip. Eyes still locked together, Jim nodded; relief flooding his expression. Blair understanding meant that he didn't have to try to put it into words.
"Thank you, Jim."
Puzzled, his brows drawing down in confusion, he asked, "Why?"
"For bringing me back. For being there for me when I need you, for not giving up on me when everyone else said to quit."
"Oh." Jim looked away, a slight blush raising in his cheeks, "You know, the same goes for me, too." He wished he had the words, the facile tongue to express emotions the way his friend could.
"I know." Their eyes met again, and once more, communication was made without the necessity of words.
"Thanks for the tea, Chief. It's already working." Knowing that Blair would understand that it wasn't just the tea that had helped. Blair smiled his understanding.
"Glad I could help, Jim."
"Yeah. Me, too."
They smiled gently at each other. Then, Jim finished his tea, rinsed his cup, and then nudged his friend toward the living room and an evening watching the Jags lose to the Sacramento Kings, despite all their armchair coaching.
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