Notes: Takes places immediately after the fountain. Like, that day
immediately. The challenge was "domesticity" but somehow we got
"home" instead. Close, but don't give Simon a cigar.
"You're sure about this?" Simon asked, as he stopped the car in front of the loft.
Jim was looking out the side window, his eyes a little blank, and Simon wasn't positive that Jim even knew where he was. "Yes, sir. I'll be fine."
It was almost midnight. Simon knew that he didn't feel fine after the day he'd just had. He wasn't fine, not after a morning spent on his knees, futilely trying to compress Sandburg's chest while Jim did the mouth-to-mouth, and so he was damned sure that Jim wasn't fine, either. And the rest of the day, spent shuttling between the hospital and the PD, all the while avoiding the Feds and discussions about missing nerve gas canisters and trying not to think about the fact that he'd witnessed something very close to a miracle, hadn't been any less stressful.
He sighed. "The doctors say he should make a full recovery. They think he might even wake up tomorrow sometime." Of course, they also said that some degree of brain damage was a strong possibility, but he knew he didn't need to repeat that. One part of his mind accepted that it was inevitable, but the other part denied that what he had seen earlier in the day would be... allowed to end badly.
Jim nodded and Simon tried again. "Look, it's late, how about if I catch a few hours on your couch? We need to get started on this first thing in the morning: that nerve gas could wipe out most of the city and the sooner we get it back the better."
No response. Simon swore and got out of the car, slammed the door and then winced as Jim flinched from the sound. He hurried around to Jim's side of the car and caught Jim's arm as he was slowly getting out. "Sorry, Jim, I'm just a little tired. Your, uhhh, senses, how are they?"
Ellison pulled away from him. "I'm fine," he repeated, a little sullenly, and walked toward the building..
Simon followed in silence, shaking his head and silently swearing.
The door to the loft stood slightly ajar, but before he could say anything, Ellison pushed the door open and walked across the empty room to the balcony windows. Simon blinked as he looked around the bare, cold loft. The only light in the room was from the full moon coming in through the skylight in the loft bedroom and the yellow streetlights glowing beyond the balcony.
"Christ, Jim, what happened here?" He remembered Megan, at the hospital, telling him that Jim had gone "wacky" and packed up the loft, but he'd had an image of furniture pushed against the walls, useless decorative items removed, not... nothing left at all.
"It was... I thought..." Jim shrugged, unable to finish. He moved sluggishly; Simon knew he was beyond exhaustion. "She's still out there, somewhere," he whispered. "I can feel her." He began to pace in front of the windows, back and forth, pausing at the end of every lap to turn his head first one way and then the other, straining to hear something.
For a moment Simon simply stared at him, trying to connect this stripped-down version of Ellison with the first-rate detective and former Army Ranger he'd always known. Sleep, Simon decided. Ellison needed sleep, then food and some good news about his partner in the morning. A quick tour showed Simon that the loft was completely empty; no furniture, no food, nothing -- not even dust. It was like looking at an immaculate and empty tomb.
"Where is all of the furniture, Jim?" His voice was sharper -- more tired -- than he had intended, and Jim stopped pacing to look at him.
Simon sat down heavily on the stairs and ran a hand over his face, trying to put his thoughts in order. His own home was across town, almost 45 minutes away, he was already feeling dead on his feet and Ellison was in worse shape. They could find a hotel for the night, but that meant getting up again. The wood floor looked cold, hard and unappealing, worse than the rocky ground he and Daryl had camped on the weekend before. The camping gear from that trip was still in the trunk of the car and Simon looked around the loft and snorted. They could camp for the night in this ghostly shell of a home.
It only took one trip to bring the sleeping bags and mattress pads up; by that time Jim had reset the breakers for the loft and Simon could hear the furnace running and the compressor for the refrigerator. The bathroom light was on, providing enough light for Simon to finally get a good look at Jim's face. His skin tone was grey and the lines of exhaustion were cut deep into his face. He looked like a man pushed past his endurance.
As Simon took a step toward him, his cell phone rang from deep in an inside coat pocket. Even muffled as it was by the layers of heavy cloth, the sound was piercingly sharp in the quiet loft. Simon cursed as he rummaged for the phone, finally pulling it out. "Banks!" he snarled into it. Whatever it was, whoever it was, would have to wait until morning.
"Captain Simon Banks?" the female voice on the other end asked tentatively.
"This is Dr. Chowdhuri, from Cascade General. I'm Blair Sandburg's physician?"
Simon felt a huge cold fist slowly squeeze his chest. "Yes?"
"Well, I am sorry to disturb you so late at night, but you and the detective spent so much of the day here and we had no news for you, and I thought that you might appreciate some good news for a change."
"Good news?" Simon asked, feeling numb.
"Yes, Mr. Sandburg woke up on his own a few minutes ago. He wasn't awake long, and he was weak and tired but seemed very coherent. He was able to respond to our questions."
"He spoke to you?"
"No, he is still in ICU on the respirator until we can further assess potential lung damage, but he was able to communicate simple "yes" and "no" answers with us and we are very pleased with his progress. Very pleased indeed."
"That's... very good news," Simon said, weakly.
"Yes," she said gently. "it is very good news, and I wanted to share it with you. Dr. Carmichael, head of pulmonology, will be here in the morning to do a full evaluation, and he'll be able to tell you more then. But at this point the prognosis is very good."
"Thank you for calling to give us the news."
"My pleasure, Captain Banks."
Simon hung up the phone and looked over to Jim, who was standing with his forehead resting on the wall, his hands on the wall on either side of his head, knuckles white with the press against the wall. His eyes were closed and he seemed to be breathing in short, sharp pants.
"You heard, Jim?"
Jim pushed away from the wall and nodded. "I heard," he whispered. He leaned back against the wall and slowly slid down to the floor, eyes closed. "I heard."
"Jim," Simon said, as softly as his gruff voiced allowed. "Get some sleep. Blair's going to be okay. We'll bring him home."
Jim's eyes opened, a ghostly, burning pale in the low light as his eyes swept the empty rooms. "Home? It's all so wrong, Simon, itís out of control."
Simon shook out the sleeping bags and laid them on top of the foam pads. "In the morning, Jim, we'll work it out."
Jim nodded, kicked off his shoes, and settled on top of the sleeping bag closest to the balcony windows, his head turned to look out at the night sky. Simon had no idea what Jim could see out there, but suspected that he was keeping his eyes open to avoid the replay of the day's events behind closed eyelids.
Simon closed his own eyes and tried not to think, tried not to see those same images himself. In the morning, he decided firmly, he'd call Brown and Rafe and get them to hire movers to bring Ellison's furniture back up from the basement, and to find wherever Sandburg's things had gone and bring all that back. Then the loft could go back to looking like a home again.
In the morning.
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