by Veronica




This is part of the One Step From Heaven series but doesn't follow the chronological storyline.



He knows I'm here, even if he can't see me.

The doctor is explaining again what this surgery is going to accomplish, even though we've heard it before. I know it's just his way of settling Sandburg down, letting him deal with this latest setback intellectually until he can get around it emotionally. When Blair knows what's involved, when he can envision the process, he feels like he has more control - until reality sets in and we're back to the rough nights, the frustrating days, the heartbreakingly optimistic moods and the stubborn refusal to admit when he's down.

I hate this. I honest to God, fucking hate this. The damn thing is that he's putting up a brave front for me, doing the PT with endless enthusiasm and making fun of his limp before anyone offers that embarrassing sympathy crap. He'll let me know when it hurts - he's never been shy about that - but he's keeping the inside stuff to himself, and only rarely do I get a glimpse of the fear shadowing his eyes. Because of that, I make sure to treat him the way I always have, with my own carefully constructed brand of offhand affection that's hard to maintain when I hear him tossing in his bed at night. He won't tell me in so many words, but he thinks he's a load now - and that scares the shit out of me because knowing Sandburg, he's going to start making desperate choices before I have a chance to offer him an alternative.

Sandburg is now giving the doctor a hard time, even though he's half asleep with the pre-op meds. Today's procedure is past the point of Sandburg being allowed visitors; I'd been kicked out over an hour ago. I'm supposed to be going to the waiting room where I could be making some calls but instead, I'm listening to his weakening voice as he makes a bet with the doctor that the Yankees will take the divisional playoff series in six. The doctor isn't buying it - smart man.

So why am I standing out in this corridor, steeling myself against all the bad smells and the loud noises and the faint cloud of chemicals that makes my skin crawl? Behind that door, in a metal-framed hospital bed, covered by a thin blue blanket, is my reason. Wild-haired gimp that he is these days, he owns me. He just doesn't know it. And I can't tell him, not yet. Not until he decides he's whole again. I don't care about the limp or the scar; I couldn't care less about the loss of a career, his or mine. Nothing matters anymore - nothing but him.

I'm going to have to tell him about my plan. I'm still on admin leave but he doesn't know why and I intend to keep it that way - Simon be damned. I need Sandburg to take my idea and buy into it, not for me - or him - but for us. The us I hope we'll be someday.

The door is opening and the doctor is coming out. He's surprised to see me but he doesn't make a big deal about it. I'm rewarded with only a glimpse of Blair's blue-covered toes before the door swings closed again, cutting me off from hearing, seeing, touching, but - he knows I'm here.

Even if he can't see me.

I know he's out there.

The doctor is babbling about things like scraping and repositioning and range of movement but I'm only half listening to him. We've been over this before - me and the doc, me and Jim - jeez, I think I know the drill better than the surgeon does. But the doctor seems to get some satisfaction out of rehashing this, so I let him go on, all the while knowing that Jim is just outside my door, like the sentinel I'd once thought him to be. Took me too damn long to realize that he's much, much more than that.

Things are weird now. Simon is all but ignoring us and Jim is tight-lipped about why. On the other hand, I know Jim's cooking something up, something he's excited about - he keeps making these calls and then grinning like a kid before Christmas. I can't imagine what he's all goofy about, but I like seeing that smile on his face. My only - my greatest - fear is that whatever he's got up his sleeve, I'm not part of the plan.

The drugs are making me loopy. Well, loopier than usual, anyway. I finally get the doctor to shut up by trying to get him to bet against the A's, but he's not having any. He leaves me alone and as the door opens, I lift my head to see if I can spot Jim. Unfortunately, my neck has all the strength of an over-cooked noodle and I end up staring at the ceiling, wondering if he'll manage to stick around long enough for me to see him in the corridor. Stupid of me, I know. Jim has a lot on his plate right now, what with the inquiry and this thing with Simon. He shouldn't be hanging around hospitals, waiting for his former partner to get his bolts tightened - but he is.

My eyelids are getting heavier, which isn't surprising since I didn't get a lot of rest last night. While not exactly worried about this latest surgery, it's a setback that I can't afford. Whatever Jim is planning, if there's a place for me, I have to be able to keep up, to carry my share. I don't want him keeping me around out of a misplaced sense of loyalty - that would be far worse than any physical pain.

But even though I'm laying in here - sleepy, broken, scared goober that I am - I know Jim is still out there.

Even if I can't see him.





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