Staring at the now-useless cell phone, he folded it and put it back in his pocket, wondering what he should do now. Deciding that his best chance was to see if Jim had his cell phone with him, he made his way back to his friends.

Both men were only semi-conscious, their minds reacting to the shock of their injuries. Speaking to Simon, he explained that the batteries on the cell phone had died and he needed to see if Jim's was working. Simon nodded his understanding, accepting his dead cell phone and putting it in his pocket.

"Jim? I know you're hurting, but do you have your cell phone with you? Jim?" He picked up his partner's hand, careful not to lift it so far as to pull on injured back muscles. Jim's eyes fluttered open and the Sentinel had to struggle to focus his eyes on his friend.

"Phone? Yeah. Should be in my jacket pocket."

"OK. Uh, Jim? You're lying on your jacket. I'm going to have to move you to be able to get to the phone. Can you manage that? I'll just help you roll over onto your side, get at your jacket, brush out some of the rubble from under you and roll you back. Can you handle that? Or is it too much?" He waited.

He'd never felt pain quite like this, before. It was pretty obvious that he'd done more than just throw out his back. Closing his eyes, he concentrated on trying to figure out where and what was injured. With Blair hovering over him, waiting for his response, he was able to trace his pain to... Well, part of it at least, was from the chunks of concrete he was lying on, sharp, jagged chunks, none of them very big, but it was like lying on a bed of nails. He might actually be better off if he moved.

"OK, Chief. Sounds like a plan." Blair positioned himself beside his friend. Carefully placing his hands on Jim's shoulder and hip, he prepared to move him.

"Chief? Can you brush some of the junk away first?" Jim softly asked.

"Oh. Yeah. Sure, Jim." Blair was glad that Jim had his eyes closed and couldn't see him blush. He backed up a few inches and used his hands to clear away the rubble from beside his friend, so that when he moved him, he would not just be rolling him onto more painful rubble. Ready once again, he carefully rolled Jim toward him, reaching over his body to brush away the rubble and pull Jim's suit coat from under him. Setting the coat aside, he gently rolled his friend back onto his back. Even though Jim had made no sound, Blair was able to tell that his friend was in horrific pain. As soon as Blair had gotten Jim's cell phone from the pocket of the coat, he carefully draped the fabric over his friend to provide a little protection from the cold. Not that it helped much, as the concrete was rapidly leaching all the warmth from both injured men, but it still made him feel better. Turning to Simon, he pulled off his own sports jacket and draped it across the larger man's chest and shoulders.

"Thanks, Blair," Simon murmured, then watched as Blair attempted to give him a smile of encouragement. "Make the call."

Blair headed back toward the elevator to make the call. The first time, the line was busy, but he immediately hit redial and heaved a sigh of relief when it rang. When it was answered, his first words were "Joel? There's about two or three pounds of C4 left. What should I do now?"

"Well, Blair. I'm right outside. We've cleared a path to the central stairwell and opened the door, but we can't go up until you finish clearing the explosives."

"OK, how do I do that?"

"Well, it's risky, but I figure that our best hope is for you to go over to the elevator and hit the call button. Then run like hell to shelter. I suspect that if one bomb goes off, the other one will, too. It's risky, but I can't really see any other way to do this. Are you game, Blair?"

Blair had paled as he listened to the instructions, but he also knew that there was little hope for them otherwise. "Got it. I'm on my way." He looked up at the indicator. The elevator was only up one level, which would give him less than a minute to get to shelter. "OK, Joel. The elevator is only up one floor. I'm going to push the button and run like hell. I'll call you back. I hope." With those parting words, he disconnected the phone, placed it securely in his pocket, took a deep breath to steady his nerves and pushed the call button. He spun and sprinted back toward his friends. If this didn't work, he wanted to be close to them. As he ran, he shouted "FIRE IN THE HOLE!" just like in the movies.

Outside, Joel Taggart checked to be sure that everyone was clear. It was a pretty paltry showing of police, but the fire department was ready and in force. There was a muffled WHUMP-whump! from the building, Everyone stared as dust rose from the various openings. Joel held his cell phone, ready to punch the button, praying that it would ring and Blair Sandburg would be there to tell him that they were OK.

Everyone waited, and prayed. Unless this worked, they would be unable to get to the injured and trapped on the upper floors, not to mention the three men in the garage.

Joel Taggart waited. It had been three minutes since the explosions had occurred. He was the center of attention for cops and firefighters alike, as he was the only one who had contact with the three men trapped in the garage. The underground level had been clear and they had been able to access the stairwells, but they had, thanks to Blair's first phone call, known that the stairwells were unsafe.

Four minutes. Joel was starting to seriously worry. It was too long. If Blair were all right, he should have called by now, shouldn't he? He exchanged gazes with the fire captain, who was shaking his head in commiseration.

Five minutes.

Six. The fire captain was shaking his head, casting pitying glances his way. But Joel was still confident. Well, hopeful, anyway.

Eight minutes. The rest of the firemen were fidgeting, wanting to get on with their jobs; afraid to head into the unknown.

~ring~ Joel jumped, nearly dropping the phone. Heaving a relieved sigh, he punched the button.

"Blair? Are you OK?" Relief tinged with panic.

"Yeah, I'm fine. Just got the wind knocked out of me. You were right. Setting off one made the other one go off. There doesn't appear to be any structural damage, although the door is pretty well mangled." Blair chuckled dryly. "Jim and Simon are hoping you're gonna come in any minute now and haul our sorry butts out of here. Jim's back is really hurting him, and Simon's leg is swollen really bad."

"We're on our way, Blair. You just sit tight and holler when you see us, OK?"

"You got it, Joel. And Joel?" There was something in the observer's voice that made the big man pause.

"What do you need, Blair?"

"Just to say 'thanks'. For everything."

"You're welcome. I'll be there in just a couple of minutes with the firemen and paramedics. You hang in there." Suddenly thinking that the younger man might need a little more support, Joel asked, "Blair, do you want to stay on the line?"

"Thanks, Joel, but I'm OK. Just hurry, OK?"

"You got it. See you in a few."

It was quite dark in the parking garage. With the lights out, the only light available was what filtered in from outside. Joel and a team of paramedics with two gurneys made their way through the darkness and rubble, mag-lights providing some needed additional light.

"Joel! Over here!" Blair shouted, the relief obvious in his voice. He was standing about thirty feet from the stairwell, motioning them toward him. While the paramedics took the gurneys over to begin to prepare the two injured police officers for transport to the hospital, Joel took a few minutes to assess the damage to the structure. There was a good-sized chunk of concrete missing from the hinge side of the door, and the entire door was a crumpled mass of steel. Shaking his head in awe, he looked around and found the pillar that Blair had stacked the C4 behind. He smiled when he realized that Blair had managed to sculpt the putty-like explosive into what looked remarkably like a sandcastle. He shook his head, amused that even under the stress of handling high explosives, the observer had managed to make something so ugly and dangerous look less awful.

"I'm not sure what possessed me to do that." Blair's soft voice drew his attention. "I don't actually remember doing that. Only moving it from there to here. I wonder if I did the same thing at the other end?"

"Don't worry about it, Blair. You did a great job." He noticed the paramedics getting ready to move the two injured men out. "Come on, let's give them a hand getting Simon and Jim down the stairs and out to the ambulance. You look like you could use checking out, too."

"I'm OK, Joel. Just a little bruised, is all." Blair disagreed.

"Yeah, then why is your face swollen and you can barely keep your eyes open enough to see?" He gently patted the shorter man on the shoulder, "It's OK, Blair, I'm going to tag along."

"What about the explosives?" Blair asked in surprise.

"Well, technically, I'm no longer with the bomb squad. There's a couple of guys with the fire department who can take care of things here. My job is to take care of you and Simon and Jim." Joel insisted, drawing the smaller man after him toward the gurneys.

"You sure?" Still uncertain.

"Yeah, I'm sure. I managed to do my part. The rest of the bomb squad is still working on defusing the other bombs they found around the city. I think I can back off for now. If they need my help, they'll call."

"Oh." It hadn't occurred to Blair that Joel might have overstepped his bounds by helping out without authorization, but still... "You won't get into any trouble, will you?"

"No. I may be assigned to Major Crime, but I'm still an explosives expert. Besides, this was a citywide emergency. Anyone who could help, did. Now that the danger here is over, we can let the experts take over and go back to our regular jobs; which for me, at this moment, is to make sure you guys get to the hospital and taken care of." With one arm across the smaller man's shoulders, he had maneuvered them over to the paramedics. Taking up a stance at the end of Simon's gurney, he lifted and helped get the awkward device through the shattered stairwell door and down the stairs to the bottom level of the parking lot. Once they were on level ground again, he then stepped back to allow the paramedic to push the gurney the rest of the way out to the ambulance. Blair had struggled along right behind them, trying to keep his partner from being jarred too hard as they made their difficult way down the stairs to the lowest level where there was, remarkably, no apparent damage. They loaded Simon in the first ambulance, Joel reassuring Simon that everything was under control. He promised to be right behind him and to keep him apprised of what was going on. Backing away, he closed the ambulance doors and signaled the driver that she was clear to go. He turned away toward the second ambulance, where they had just lifted Jim into the rear. It was obvious from the injured man's clenched jaw that he was in considerable pain, despite their best efforts to be gentle. In the daylight, Sandburg's face looked rather like he'd been used as a punching bag. One cheek and his chin were scraped and both eyes were blackened and swollen. He was also holding his right wrist, rubbing absently at the pain as he concentrated on his partner. Joel gently grasped the younger man's elbow and urged him into the ambulance with Jim and the paramedic.

"I'll be right behind you, Blair. Make sure they take care of you, too." Blair nodded absently and settled down out of the way, but still close enough to be able to lay his injured hand on his partner's shoulder, providing comfort and reassurance to them both. Exchanging a look with the paramedic, Joel closed the door and signaled the driver to go. Turning away, he walked to his car, trying very hard to avoid looking back at the courthouse and the men and women working there. As he got to his car, however, he couldn't help but see the first of the survivors from the upper floors as they were escorted from the damaged building. Seeing so many of them uninjured, although shaken, brought a smile to his face. He was just unlocking his door when the media swooped down on him.

"Captain Taggart?" a voice called. He turned, recognizing the newscaster from Channel 3. "Can you tell us what happened in the courthouse? We saw you come out with three victims. Who were they? How did you manage to get past the booby traps? How many are dead?"

"I'm sorry, but I'm not in charge here. You should talk to Captain York with the Fire Department. He's overseeing the rescue efforts."

"But Captain Taggart, you used to be the head of the bomb squad. How did you disarm the explosives? We heard that the building was rigged to come down if you tried to access it," another voice called out.

"We got lucky. When the first bomb blew, three of our people were on the second parking level. Two of them were injured in the blast, but the third was able to dismantle most of the explosives and set off the rest, resulting in minor damage to the building's parking garage and giving us safe access to the rest of the building."

"Who was this hero? Is he an explosives expert?"

"No. He just followed instructions, more or less. He managed to remove most of the explosives from the bombs and place them out of reach of the detonators. He then simply activated one of the booby traps and ran like hell. When the first one blew, it initiated the second explosion, giving us access. As you can see, the fire department has it well under control now. You really should be talking to Captain York." Smiling, he opened his car door and got in. He watched with amusement as the horde of reporters surged over and converged on the unsuspecting fire captain. York turned and spotted him grimacing and shaking a finger at him in admonishment, but then the tall, balding, blond fire captain gave him a thumbs up to indicate his real feelings as he turned to start answering the reporters' questions. Joel smiled back at his old friend and started his car. Checking carefully, he pulled out into traffic and headed for the hospital.

By the time he got to the hospital, both Jim and Simon were down in x-ray. He checked on Sandburg's location and, after showing his badge, made his way back to the curtained-off room in the ER. He tapped on the metal curtain support and waited for Blair's "Come on in," before he entered.

"How's it going, Blair?"

"Well, Jim and Simon are getting x-rayed and I'm sitting here with my wrist packed in ice and waiting for them to come back and torture me some more. I swear that they were trying to flay the rest of the skin off my face. Do you think it'll scar?" Blair was sitting on the gurney, idly swinging his legs back and forth.

"No. It just looks like a little road rash, is all. If they hadn't cleaned it real good, then it might have gotten infected and scarred. Don't worry," Joel smiled, "You'll still have the same pretty face you've always had."

Blair's legs stopped swinging. "Pretty? Me?" He seemed startled at the words.

"Well, of course. Why do you think all the ladies fall all over themselves trying to get to you?" Joel seemed surprised that Blair didn't know he was pretty.

"Yeah, well, I figured I was cute, but pretty?"

"Well, maybe that's not quite the right word, but to quote my wife, you're adorable. Is that better?" Joel was having a hard time keeping from laughing.

"Much better." Blair grinned back. "So, your wife thinks I'm adorable?" His legs started swinging again.

"Yeah. But don't forget, she's my wife, so keep any ideas firmly away from her. Besides, we're old enough to have kids your age."

"Hey!" Blair suddenly realized that Joel was teasing him; but seeing the wide grin on the older man's face, he couldn't help but smile back. "Yeah, well, I wouldn't want to poach, anyway."

Both men looked up as a middle-aged woman entered, looking at a chart. "Mr. Sandburg?" She asked.

"Yes?" Blair replied, his expression expectant.

"I'm Dr. Collier. I see from your records that you seem to be rather... accident prone, shall we say?" She looked at the battered man before her, then rather accusingly at the large black man standing beside him. "Is this your domestic partner?"

Blair looked startled. Joel stifled a laugh. The doctor cast a scathing look on him. "I'm glad you find abuse so amusing, Mr...?"

"Joel Taggart, Cascade PD. Mr. Sandburg is one of our officers, and he is a little accident prone, but nobody beats up on him. Not if they have any sense, anyway."

"Oh?" Dr. Collier didn't sound convinced.

"Yeah. He's right. In fact, if you look through that file, you'll see that just about every injury was received on-the-job with the Cascade PD," Blair added, hoping to get the woman to back off.

She was unconvinced. "It says here that you are an observer. Why would you be getting hurt? Don't they protect you, keep you out of the line of fire?"

"Well, I'm not an observer, any more. I'm actually a detective." He managed to lift his backpack up and rummage around in it to find his wallet and badge case. "See?" He held out the items for her to examine. "My three and a half years as an observer and consultant allowed me to be partnered with the detective I was working with; he's down in x-ray. We were in court and headed out for lunch when that bomb went off. He and our Captain, Simon Banks, were injured. We were trapped in the courthouse until we could dismantle the bombs and then set the smaller charges off, which let the Rescue crews into the building." He smiled up at the still suspicious woman. "And nobody beats up on me," he added with an annoyed expression and tone of voice.

She looked from the battered young man to the large man beside him, still uncertain and suspicious. "Most battered domestic partners defend their abusers," she stated.

"Well, Joel isn't my 'domestic partner'. My roommate happens to be my partner on the force, but we're hardly domestic partners. And if you'd bother to check, you'll see he's injured his back from this little incident today, and I assure you, that I had nothing to do with his injuries, just as neither he nor our Captain had anything to do with them. In fact, the Captain has a broken leg. I suggest you find someone else to harass, because I'm not in the mood. Now, unless you're going to wrap my sprained wrist or put some kind of antibiotic cream on my face, I suggest you find somewhere else to be; because I'm going to go find my friends and make sure that someone more intelligent than you are is caring for them." With that, Blair slid off the gurney, grabbed his badge and ID from the doctor, stuffed them in his backpack, looked at Joel to see if he was going to follow him, and stormed out.

"I think you annoyed him," Joel said mildly, as he followed the angry young man from the room, shaking his head in dismayed amusement.

"I can't believe these people. Don't they have anything better to do than harass people? I mean, sheesh. How long have we been coming here? How many times have one or the other of us needed stitches, been shot, bruised ribs... Just where does she get off? 'Domestic partner' abuse? Good grief, what will they think of next? Where would she have gotten such an idea?" Blair stalked down the corridors, Joel close behind him, calmly listening to the smaller man's mumbled tirade. The agitated muttering continued all the way to the x-ray lab.

"Blair, she's obviously new to the ER," he finally managed to say during one of the brief gaps when Blair stopped speaking long enough to breathe. The smaller man stopped abruptly and spun to face him.

"That's no excuse! All she had to do was ask anyone in the ER. Most of them know us on a first-name basis. She should have asked before coming in and making accusations. I hate being so short. I know, I'm 'average' in height, but when you work with a bunch of behemoths, everyone seems to assume that I'm some little wimp who can't defend himself. I can take care of myself, though. I don't need to be 'protected' or coddled. I..."

"Blair, you're one of the smartest and toughest men I know. Don't forget, I was there when you took on Kincaid the first time. It may have been all bluster and bravado, but you did a great job. And you've never done anything to change that early opinion I had of you."

Blair stopped, turned and stared at the older man. Looking into the calm face of his friend, he suddenly deflated. "Thanks, Joel. That means a lot to me." He suddenly grinned. "Do you think Dr. Collier can learn from her mistake?"

"If she can't, I can think of several people who will be more than willing to set her straight, providing we keep Jim out of it. He's terminally protective of you."

"Yeah, well... it goes both ways, you know?" His grin turned sheepish.

"You're going to have to go back and get your wrist tended, you know."

"Yeah. Just as soon as we check on Jim and Simon, OK?"

"OK." Joel smiled and patted the smaller man on the shoulder, leaving his hand in place as they walked into the x-ray lab.


Simon had already been moved to the casting room, where they were setting his leg and packing it in ice to reduce the swelling preparatory to applying the cast. Jim was still in x-ray, so they sat in the waiting room for word. After nearly half an hour, Blair was paged over the loudspeaker, requesting he return to the ER. Scowling, he approached the nurse's station and asked to be patched through to the ER. After identifying himself, they allowed him to use the phone.

"This is Blair Sandburg. What do you want?" he asked, his voice sounding annoyed.

"Mr. Sandburg, we need you to return to the ER."

"Why?" He turned to watch as Jim was wheeled out of the x-ray room and left until they got the films developed.

"You aren't finished being treated."

"Who's going to do the treating? If it's that idiot you sent in before, I can take care of my sprained wrist myself."

"Dr. Collier was only doing her job..."

"Her job? Her job is making baseless accusations to people regarding their non-existent supposed home life? I am tired of being treated like some wimpy little boy who can't take care of himself. In case nobody's noticed, the two people I was with are far more seriously injured than I am. We had a building blow up on us, and that... that... overzealous, so-called doctor acts like the injuries I sustained from that were inflicted by my 'domestic partner'? All she had to do was ask and she would have known that I don't have a domestic partner. My roommate and I work together, but we're not involved in anything more than a really great friendship." He stopped to breathe and the nurse on the other end interrupted him.

"I'm sorry for the misunderstanding, Mr. Sandburg, but we really need you to come back to the ER now."

"Why?" Still seething.

"Well, to finish treatment of your injuries," she replied, sounding surprised.

"My injuries are doing just fine, thank you."

"But Dr. Williams is asking for you."

He knew Dr. Williams. Nice, older gentleman... "Oh." Slightly mollified. "OK. Just as soon as I know about Jim. We're waiting for his x-rays to come back, then we'll be back in the ER, OK?"

There were several seconds of silence while the nurse spoke to someone, probably Dr. Williams, then she said, "That will be fine, Mr. Sandburg."

It was another half hour before Jim's x-rays were ready, after which Blair followed Jim back to the ER, and Joel went to check on how Simon was doing. Jim was conscious, and they had given him something for the pain. Fortunately, the ER personnel who had treated him were aware of his difficult medical history, and had been careful with what they had given him.

Dr. Williams motioned for Blair to join Jim in the ER room, where he instructed a nurse to apply an antibiotic cream to Blair's scraped face and to wrap his sprained wrist. He didn't bother to defend or apologize for Dr. Collier's behavior, knowing that it would be a waste of time. He was wise enough to keep the partners together, which was just what was needed to calm the smaller of his two patients.

"Now, Detective Ellison. Let's take a look at these x-rays and see what the problem is, all right?" He placed the series of radiographs on the backlit viewer. When the nurse was finished wrapping Blair's wrist, he sent her for a consult on the diagnosis.

A second doctor entered and Blair immediately bristled. "I don't want her here," he declared. There was no way he was going to let Dr. Collier anywhere near his partner.

"She's an excellent orthopedist, Mr. Sandburg. I wouldn't ask her for a consultation, otherwise," Dr. Williams replied. The woman seemed surprised to see Blair there, but didn't say anything. She'd already gotten an earful from every ER nurse and doctor on the floor. She had certainly not made any friends there today and was wise enough and experienced enough not to compound her earlier mistakes.

Instead, she chose to ignore him and concentrate on the task at hand. Looking closely at the x-rays, she pointed out the injuries to Dr. Williams, who nodded his agreement. Jim was nearly asleep from the pain medication he'd been given, so Blair was paying very close attention to the two doctors. He inched closer to be able to hear better, as well as to see what they were talking about.

"So, he's got a cracked vertebra and some torn ligaments? How bad is it? Why can't he move?" He waited for the doctors to acknowledge him. Collier stiffened at his questions, but Dr. Williams took it as par for the course.

"Basically, he's got a minor whiplash, but with some tendon and ligament damage along the rest of his spine. Frankly, he was fortunate that he didn't break his neck," the older man said softly.

"But he has a cracked vertebra!" Blair protested.

"Yes, but that's not the same as broken. There's no separation, no splintering of the bones, no damage to the disks or spinal cord. It isn't all that serious. Just a week or two of bed rest, followed by therapy and careful exercise. The sooner he starts working on it, the better off he'll be."

"I wouldn't prescribe more than a week's bed rest. Statistics show that the sooner a patient gets back to work, the fewer long-term problems they have," Dr. Collier added.

"Well, yes. However, Mr. Ellison is something of a special case. He is very sensitive to medications. Did you notice the minuscule amount of pain killer he was given?" Dr. Williams countered. "In his case, we need to take it day-to-day. Although he always does better after we release him into his roommate's care," he stated, smiling knowingly at Blair.

Dr. Collier cast a quick, puzzled glance at the younger man, wondering what the situation was here. Everyone else seemed to take the pair in stride; were, in fact, quite protective of them. It was odd to say the least. She decided to hold her own counsel and simply watch and wait, hoping that in doing so she would be able to figure them out.

"Well, I think we should probably keep him for a day or two until he's at least able to get about on his own, somewhat," Dr. Collier countered.

"You mean until he can get himself to the bathroom?" Blair asked, stifling a grin.

"Well, basically, yes," the woman agreed, almost smiling herself.

"So, when will you put him in a room?" Blair asked.

"Just as soon as Captain Banks is settled, we'll move him into the same room. That way we won't have to worry about one or the other of them wandering off and getting lost looking for the other," Dr. Williams explained.

Blair was surprised. "You're going to be keeping Simon?"

"At least for a few days," Dr. Collier explained. "We're putting him in traction to make sure his leg heals properly. There were a number of bone splinters, and we want to make sure that they all reattach properly. Once we're sure, we'll release him to his family to care for him for a couple of weeks and then release him back to limited duty."

"Oh." Blair stared at Jim's x-rays and contemplated the meaning of the doctor's words. "So, he's going to be OK?" He looked askance at Dr. Williams, ignoring Dr. Collier.

"He should be just fine in a few weeks. There's no permanent damage. In fact, considering the explosion you were all involved in, I'm surprised that there weren't more deaths," Dr. Williams said.

"Yeah, well, I know that some of the people in the file room died. There was a hole from the garage up into it, where the ramp support had been and I could see the bodies. Is there any more word on injuries and stuff?" Blair looked at the doctors, then past them as Joel Taggart came in, just in time to hear the last question.

"Reports say that there were three killed in the file room. There would have been more, but it was lunch time," Joel explained. "The elevator shaft you had just left was demolished, the explosives set on a timer. You just missed being vaporized, which would have happened if you had still been in the elevator. You were lucky, Blair. All of you were." Looking at the doctors, he added, "Simon's been moved into his room and is asking about you and Jim. I figured I'd tell you guys everything we know, once we get Jim settled in and he wakes up. That way I won't have to repeat everything."

"That's OK by me." Blair agreed, glancing at his still unconscious partner. "How soon do you think Jim will wake up?"

"Probably the minute we try to move him into a bed," Dr. Williams replied with a grin. He'd been through this often enough with the partners to know that his biggest problem was going to be convincing the injured one to stay in the hospital, at least overnight. Although this time, what with Captain Banks having to stay, it might just make it a little easier to convince Ellison...Well, maybe.


Jim and Simon were both sitting up; Jim wearing an expression of annoyance, while Simon just looked resigned. At least the medication kept the pain at bay. They were both going to be spending at least a couple of days in the hospital, although the way both men were behaving might just get them thrown out early. Their current surliness could be directly attributed to what the hospital laughingly called 'lunch'.

"What the hell is this stuff?" Simon asked, cautiously stirring the pale, mushy melange around with his fork. Jim glanced over and saw that Simon had been served the same weird looking mess that he had. Taking a cautious sniff, he hazarded his guess.

"Well, I think it might be chicken a la king... maybe." He grimaced in distaste and pushed the tray away, wincing as his back reminded him that it was in spasm.

"Oh," Simon replied, replacing the cover on the food and pushing it away. "So, how long did they say they were going to be keeping you?" he continued, attempting conversation to take his mind off of his hunger (and what the hospital attempted to pass off as food).

"With any luck, I'll be getting out of here tomorrow. They want to get me into therapy, starting with a massage and whirlpool. I think I can handle that." Jim almost smiled, anticipating the pleasure of a good massage.

"Oh, yeah. The torture chamber. Their idea of a massage is to throw you on the rack and see if they can make your joints bend backwards," Simon teased, knowing that it was probably closer to the truth than either man wanted to consider.

Jim started to reply, but instead turned his head toward the door, which opened to admit the rest of the members of Major Crime.

"Hi, guys," Blair called out cautiously, checking the two patients' expressions to see if it was safe. Seeing only welcoming smiles, he walked over and took a look at what Jim and Simon had on their trays. Wrinkling his nose in disgust, he smiled at them. "You're in luck. We brought lunch." With that, Rafe pulled out two enormous pizza boxes. Brown cleared the discarded food from the trays, setting the serving trays outside the door, while Rafe set the pizzas on the bed-trays and Connor pulled out paper plates for everyone. Joel Taggart grinned and dragged in some extra chairs for them all, turning the hospital room into a party.

Simon tried to glare but, upon seeing the pizza, could only grin with a silly expression on his face. "Thank you," he said like a blessing. "This looks much better than that stuff they were trying to feed us." He sniffed appreciatively. They'd even remembered his favorite, combo with everything, including artichokes. He allowed Connor to serve him, "Thank you, Megan."

"No worries, Captain," the Australian replied with a smile. Blair served several slices of pizza to Jim, then took his own and settled on the foot of his partner's bed, being very careful not to bounce or jar his friend in any way. The hospital room was quite crowded with all of them in it, but no one seemed to mind. Soon they were all munching away on their pizza. Joel had even managed to smuggle in a case of various cold soft drinks, which went very nicely with the pizza. Soon they were comfortably full.

Simon finished his third slice with a sigh. It was excellent pizza, but he was full, already. Looking over his squad and wondering who was working if they were all here, he couldn't help asking, "So, who's minding the store?"

Joel held up a pager and his cell phone. "I am," he grinned. "We just figured you'd like to be filled in on what's been happening since yesterday." He glanced around at the others, "Besides, we need your statements. Blair wrote up his report and turned it in this morning, so now we need yours."

"That's OK with me," Jim agreed, with a smile at his partner. "But I want to know if you caught whoever was responsible for all that mess, yesterday."

The entire group looked grim. Joel, as acting supervisor, was spokesman. "Unfortunately, they got away." He looked pointedly at Blair for a moment, who blandly returned his gaze. "It was Schofield and friends. They were trying to spring Perkins, but he was well guarded and never had a chance to escape. The FBI has taken over since this falls under the domestic terrorism laws. As much trouble as they were in before, I'd sure hate to be one of them now. There's more than a million dollars worth of damage to the courthouse, but at least we got to all the other bombs in time to prevent a real disaster. That guy, Short, had also cut into the P.A. system at the courthouse. As soon as the first bomb went off, he was announcing to everyone in the building to remain where they were, that the stairs and elevators were booby-trapped and that if anyone tried to leave, the entire building would be reduced to rubble."

There were several seconds of silence as they considered the situation. Finally, Blair dug up the courage to make an observation. "I guess that's a point in their favor."

"How so?" Simon asked in surprise.

"They kept anyone else from setting off those explosives. Can you imagine what would have happened if someone had opened one of those doors before we got them stripped?" Everyone shuddered at what could have happened. "Not that I think the people who died were unimportant, but maybe the WFF deserves a couple of points for not just pulverizing the building first off... sure, they thought they might get their associates out, but they also made contingency plans, in case it didn't work out."

"Yeah, like the idea of killing close to a thousand people? Not a good thing," Megan pointed out.

"I don't know. I'm kind of thinking that they really just wanted to let us know that they're still around and in our faces." Joel added. "Yeah, they could have taken down the whole building, but maybe it was more of a warning to Perkins and company that there's no place safe for them, should they decide to talk."

"I hadn't thought of that," Simon agreed. "You could have a very good point there, Joel." There were several moments of silence as each one thought about what 'might' have happened, and how truly helpless everyone was when it came to terrorist activities.

"Why d'you suppose they didn't just blow up the building?" Megan asked, unable to comprehend the idea of terrorist attacks.

"Because, if they had, the Feds would have never stopped looking for them. This way, they can hope that things will cool down for them after a while, then they'll strike again," Jim explained.

"Personally, I just think that they're nuts," Brown grumbled. "Even if the Feds stop looking for them, we never will." There were murmurs of agreement from all present.

"Oh, hey!" Rafe interrupted them to change the subject, "Did you hear the latest?" At the puzzled looks he got, he continued, "Seems that our little rookie here, made quite an impression on the Mayor and the City Council. They've been sending out feelers about some sort of award for bravery or something. I even heard tell that some of the judges at the courthouse wanted to meet him and thank him personally for disarming the booby traps and letting in the rescue workers." Playfully ruffling Blair's just-over-the-collar curls, he then bowed and stated, "We stand in awe of our newest hero!" chuckling as Megan and Brown joined him in the mocking kowtowing.

Blair grinned. "Hey, just don't tell them that I didn't do it for them, OK?" He looked at his captain and partner and caught the expressions of pride on their faces, "But, I'd do it again, if I had to," he said softly, knowing that his partner at least, could hear him. Apparently, Simon could, as well.

"Hopefully, there won't ever be a next time, Sandburg." Simon said softly, as the others quieted down. His wish was answered with an "Amen to that," from Joel and nods from the others.

Just then, the door opened and a surprised intern tried to squeeze into the overcrowded room. "What the...?" he said, startled. The visitors crowded together to make room for him, "I'm sorry, but you're going to have to leave. I need to prepare the patients for rounds this afternoon." He was a bit nonplused by the lack of reaction from the group. He tried to glare at them, but most of them were so much bigger than he was that it only brought smiles of amusement to the stern faces. Finally, Joel sighed and turned to the two patients.

"I guess we'd better get going. We'll stop by later, maybe, tomorrow for sure," Joel promised. Then, turning to Blair, he added, "I'll see you tomorrow, Blair. You take it easy, OK?" He patted the younger man on the shoulder. Blair grinned and nodded; keeping his seat on his partner's bed as the others filed out with various calls of good-bye. The intern looked at him rather oddly as he checked out the patients, but didn't say anything. When he had gone, Blair hopped down from Jim's bed and began to gather up his coat and backpack.

"I wanted to stay and talk to you guys," he began. Looking at his friends, he swallowed once, hard, then continued. "Thanks for not telling them what a basket case I was. I..."

"Sandburg," Simon interrupted in his best 'I'm the Captain' voice.

Blair stopped and blinked in surprise, "Yes, sir?"

"You did above and beyond the call, Detective," Simon said insistently. "I doubt if even Joel could have handled it any better, and you can run faster than he can." He smiled, "You did good, kid. I'm proud of you."

"Me, too, Chief," Jim said softly. "You did everything right."

"But I panicked," Blair complained, embarrassed.

"So?" Jim asked, "Hey, Chief, don't sweat it. If I hadn't been hurting so much, I would probably have been just as scared. I was just distracted."

"Me, too, Sandburg," Simon agreed. "Sure, you were a little panicky at the beginning, but you did what had to be done and no one else had to die. You are responsible for minimizing the damage to the courthouse and saving everyone inside, not just us."

"But I only did it to save you guys. You know that, don't you?" Blair looked up through his tousled curls to read the expressions of the two men.

"Yeah. I knew that, Blair," Jim said. "And I'm grateful," He glanced across at Simon, who smiled and nodded, "We both are. The fact that you only were worried about saving us doesn't make what you accomplished any less important, it only makes it simpler."

"Jim's right, Blair. It doesn't matter why you did it, only that you performed admirably in the face of overwhelming odds."

Blair hung his head, thinking; then, glancing mischievously up through his curls once more, he slyly asked, "So, Jim, think you're still gonna be policeman of the year?"

The two older men stared at him for a moment, then at each other, huge smiles stretching across their faces, "Not with any luck, Chief," Jim chortled.

"Won't do you any good though, Ellison," Simon chuckled. "He's still your partner, and if he wins, they're still gonna ask for you both for all those special little details you so love." Jim stopped laughing and stared, first at his captain, then at his partner, then he sighed.

"Well, maybe we can work this so that you can join us, sir," Jim mused, catching Blair's eye and winking. Blair caught it and nodded almost imperceptibly.

"Yeah, I can probably skew my report so that Simon gets all the credit. How does that sound, Jim?" Blair asked, all innocence.

"Sounds great to me, Chief."

"Oh, no. No way! You are not gonna push this off on me. Huh-uh. No. You can't possibly." Simon's voice rose in near panic at the thought. Jim and Blair stared at him for a moment, then looked at each other with wicked grins on their faces. Blair raised his eyebrows in question and was answered by a slight shrug by Jim.

Turning on his most innocent expression, with the big puppy-dog eyes, he said, "But, Simon. You're the captain; you were in charge. I only did as instructed."

He grinned, mischief sparkling in his eyes. Jim started laughing, long and hard, as the other two sparred over who should get the credit for disarming the bombs. Holding on to his sides, trying to control his nearly hysterical laughter, Jim had tears trickling down his cheeks, both from the laughter and the pain it brought to his back. When the doctor and the interns came in on their rounds a few minutes later, they found one hysterical sentinel, one grinning guide, and one laughing captain. While the doctor waited for the hilarity to quiet down, Jim suddenly sneezed, rather explosively, at which point everyone became quiet, wondering if he had managed to hurt his already aching back any more.

"Jim?" Blair asked as the doctor moved to check Jim out, "You OK there, man?" Jim had the oddest expression on his face. He turned his head, rolled his shoulders, and then looked up in surprise.

"Are you all right, Mr. Ellison?" the doctor asked, concerned.

"Yeah. I'm fine. In fact," Jim looked up, an expression of wonder on his face, "I feel fine. It doesn't hurt any more." He cautiously stretched and gently twisted from side to side. He smiled joyfully. "So, can I go home, now?"

"Well, let me check you out and run a few tests, then we'll see." The doctor cautiously replied. Simon glared.

"Don't you dare suddenly get better and leave me here all alone," he growled.

Blair leaned over to whisper in Simon's ear, "But just think, Simon, peace and quiet. No one to worry about. No grumpy Jim around to annoy you. And I promise that we'll bring you real food for lunch and dinner," he vowed. Simon just glared.

"Not good enough, Sandburg," Simon growled back. "I don't want to stay here any more than Jim does."

"But Simon, you've got a broken leg. You need to take it easy and give yourself some time to heal. Hey, it'll only be for about six weeks, man..."

"Followed with another six weeks of therapy," growled the annoyed captain.

The doctor interrupted, "I'm sure we'll have you out of here within a week, Mr. Banks. Now that the swelling's gone down and your cast has dried, you should be able to go home in a couple of days. Providing your family is able to take care of you." He didn't notice the expression of dismay that crossed his patient's face.

Jim and Blair, however, did. They looked at one another, the question in their expressions. Jim shrugged his acquiescence. With an enormous grin, Blair made his suggestion, "Hey, Simon? You can stay with us while you heal. I can sleep on the couch and you can take my room."

Simon looked from Blair to Jim, seeing the smug expression on Jim's face and the overly helpful expression on Blair's. He shook his head, an expression of horror on his face. "And let Ellison drive me to work? I don't think so. Not to mention all the weird stuff you cook and try to pass off as food. No way."

Jim grinned, "Well, I suppose you could get Daryl to come over and take care of you. I'm sure he'd be more than willing to drive you around town..." Jim let his voice trail off, allowing his captain to think about his limited options.

"Or you can stay here. That might work. That way, by the time you're back on light duty, say in a couple of weeks, you'll have managed to miss the nine-day wonder of this whole thing... and maybe we might even be able to catch Schofield and Short." Blair's expression turned grim, "I know that I'd certainly like to catch those two, and anyone else they've managed to pick up along the way."

Simon Banks looked at his former observer and noticed, for the very first time, just how dedicated and determined that young man could be. Shaking his head in wonder, he murmured, "I was joking when I told you that it was my office and to stop eyeing it... I think I may have been speaking more truth than I thought."

Blair's expression softened, "Don't worry, Simon. I do not want your job. There is no way I'd want to have to try to tell Jim what to do," he began, only to have Jim's pillow thwap him upside the head.

"I heard that, Sandburg," Jim groused good-naturedly. "There's no way you could tell me what to do, anyway."

"I could if I were your supervisor," Blair countered. The expression on Jim's face was priceless as he blankly stared from his partner to his captain.

"No way," Jim insisted.

"What, you don't think I have supervisory skills?" Blair asked, undaunted. "Hey, I've taught bunches of uninterested students. Compared to that, you'd be a piece of cake."

While they had been talking, the interns and doctor had examined Jim and were discussing his case.

"Mr. Ellison," the doctor interrupted, "Just as soon as I can get the paperwork filled out, you may go home. Take it easy for a couple of weeks, no lifting or bending. I'll give you a couple of prescriptions for muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatories just to make sure, but your sneeze seems to have been just what you needed. You're sure you're not in any pain?"

"Well, I feel a little stiff, but no pain," Jim agreed, his expression and tone reflecting his hope of getting out of here and home.

"Then I see no reason not to release you," the doctor replied. Jim and Blair exchanged pleased smiles. Turning their attention to Simon, the residents and interns went over the chart and watched the examination. Satisfied, the doctor marked the chart, explaining his notations to his students.

Jim and Blair waited patiently until they were finished, then Jim asked, "So, when can he be released?"

"Well, I should think he can go home in a day or two, but he's going to need some special care for a couple of weeks, until the bone starts to knit together. After that, he can be on light duty, on crutches or in a wheelchair, but no walking cast. And nothing too strenuous. I don't want you straining or damaging anything else just because you don't like waiting to heal. Is that understood?"

"Yes, doctor," Simon said with a resigned sigh, knowing that if he wanted out of the hospital, he was going to have to agree... which didn't necessarily mean that he was actually going to follow through with the instructions.

"So, you have someone to take care of you for the next couple of weeks, until we can check and decide whether or not you can go back to work on light duty?" The doctor had dealt with dedicated people before and wanted to make sure his orders were followed, or else.

"Yeah. He'll be staying with us," Jim declared, meeting Simon's challenging gaze with a faint grin and a wink to let him know that getting him sprung from the hospital was near the top of his list of things to do. Simon scowled anyway, but settled back to accept the offer.

The doctor wasn't fooled, but decided that it was probably going to be his best offer. He well remembered the last time the captain had been there and did not look forward to a repeat performance. "Well, as long as all of you follow instructions, there should be no problems. Mr. Ellison, just as soon as I can get the paperwork ready, you may leave. As for you, Mr. Banks, at least two days. Then, if you behave yourself and your friends are up to it, you can leave as well... providing you follow all instructions. Is that clear, gentlemen?" He used his sternest expression... to no avail. He was dealing with experts when it came to intimidating behavior.

"I'll make sure they follow all your instructions, Dr. Eiser," Blair replied for them all, receiving scowls from the two very large patients. He merely smiled benignly. "If they don't behave themselves, I'll whip up one of my 'native' remedies." He grinned with his threat and his friends' expressions reflected the horror they felt, knowing that he was perfectly capable of following through on his promises.

Dr. Eiser, seeing their expressions, smiled. "That would be fine, Mr. Sandburg. I'm somehow confident that you will be able to keep them both in line. And now, I need to continue with rounds. Gentlemen." With a nod, he and his entourage were gone.

Blair looked at his friends. "Well, since you're feeling so much better, Jim, I guess we'll be going home in just a little while. I thought I'd make a chicken stir-fry for dinner. That OK with you?"

"That'll be just fine, Chief. Thanks." He looked over at Simon, who looked rather miserable with the knowledge that he'd be stuck there all alone with hospital food for dinner. "Maybe we can bring some back for Simon?" he suggested.

"Well, I probably can. You're supposed to go home and take it easy, remember? You can camp out on the couch and channel surf while I come back and sneak Simon in some real food. How does that sound, Simon?" Blair asked, realizing that his idea for dinner might not meet with his friend's approval.

"That would be just fine, Sandburg. Thank you," Simon said graciously, grateful to have something to look forward to besides being alone and eating horrible hospital food.

"You're welcome, Simon."

With Jim's prescriptions in hand, Blair headed to the pharmacy, stopping to make a phone call along the way. Grinning broadly afterwards, he picked up the meds and returned to the hospital room to wait to sign Jim out and go home, ignoring their captain's disgruntlement over having to remain behind. Once in the truck, Jim asked the question he'd been wanting the answer to ever since Blair had returned with his meds.

"OK, Sandburg. You look like the cat that ate the canary. What else did you do when you went to the pharmacy?" he growled.

"Who, me? Why do you ask that?" Blair asked, unable to keep the broad grin from his face.

"I recognize the signs. What did you do?"

"Nothing much. I just called Daryl and asked him to stop by and take his dad some decent dinner this evening. That way, he has an excuse to come and see him that his mom can't very well deny." Blair's teeth glittered with his self-satisfied grin.

"You can be a real sneaky SOB, you know that, Sandburg?" Jim smiled with real amusement at his partner.

"You're just mad because you didn't think of it first," Blair countered.

"Oh, I don't know. When they took Simon down to x-ray this afternoon, I gave Joan a call and told her to make sure that Daryl had wheels to get here this evening. She decided real quick not to give me any flack. I told her that if I had to, I'd send a patrol car to escort him to the hospital... and that her neighbors might not like it very much."

Blair glanced quickly at his friend, in shock at his words, turning his eyes immediately back to the road. They drove in silence for a few minutes, then Blair chuckled ruefully. "No wonder Daryl was in such a good mood at the idea of stopping by to pick up dinner and take it to his dad. He'd already gotten word that he could go." He glanced again at his friend. "So, do you think he's going to need any more help?"

"Nah. I reminded her that Daryl is nearly an adult and that she might not want to alienate him at this point in time." They glanced at each other and both broke into chuckles.

"So, you going to tell Simon?" Blair asked as he pulled into his parking slot in front of their building.

"No. He's got enough to worry about without increasing his chances of an ulcer by putting him at odds with Joan, or putting Daryl in the middle of one of their fights. I doubt that Daryl will say anything, so neither will we." Jim cautiously climbed from the Volvo, casting his senses out to check the area as had become his habit over the years. Something caught at the edge of his senses. Stopping and leaning on the top of the car, he scanned the area, searching for what had alerted him. Blair stopped, recognizing his partner's pose.

"Jim? What is it?" His hand reached automatically for his cell phone.

"Short," Jim answered, his gaze settling on his partner. "He's upstairs, waiting for us."


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