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Written for the Sentinelangst themefic for March 2005 in an attempt to kickstart my muse. Many thanks to Annie for the beta and her help with the title.

The eerie howl of a wolf pierced the dark night air and Jim Ellison startled awake, dialing up his sight to see in the inky blackness, fingers curling around the butt of the gun that lay beside him in readiness to defend against attack.

His partner, Blair Sandburg, made a soft indistinct sound and huddled closer, shivering a little. Jim checked his watch and realized he’d slept through Blair’s hourly neuro check. While he thought Blair’s head injury wasn’t too severe, he knew enough from his days as a medic to know that there could still be bleeding within the brain that could kill within hours if left untreated. The problem was of course, that they were out in the middle of nowhere, and they had no idea where the nearest help might be.

Jim’s cell phone had been damaged beyond repair when the truck had skidded on a slick patch of road and careened down a steep hill before coming to rest against a large tree. Blair’s cell phone was still back at the apartment on the coffee table, where it had been left to charge and then forgotten. The truck’s radio was out of commission too and it looked like they were on their own. Jim could hear no sound of traffic. He was still debating if either of them was in any condition to climb back up the hill and hopefully flag down a passing car.

Carefully he pushed away from Blair and managed to kneel up, gritting his teeth against the pain that clawed through his side, not wanting to alert Blair to his own injury. He was certain that the piece of metal that had pierced his side had not hit any major organs. The bleeding had slowed considerably and as long as he took it slowly… He sighed and picked up the flashlight, switching it on and shining the beam over Blair’s pale face, checking the laceration on his forehead and nodding in satisfaction when he saw the bleeding had stopped. The bruising below Blair’s right eye had darkened and stood out starkly against the pallor of his skin.

Reaching out, he shook Blair’s nearest shoulder gently. “Sandburg? You wanna wake up for me?”

Blair grumbled a muttered response that had Jim remembering how often this scenario had played out in the comfort of their own home when all that was
at stake was them being late for work.

“Blair? Come on. Wake up for me, huh?” Jim flicked a finger against Blair’s cheek, relieved to see Blair’s eyelids flutter then open. “Hey, there you go. How are you feeling?”

Blair gave him a lazy smile in return. “Good,” he drawled.

“What’s your name?” Jim asked.

Blair rolled his eyes but responded. “Blair Sandburg.”

“Good.” Jim nodded. “What’s my name?”

“Pain in the ass… for not letting me stay asleep,” Blair replied. He laughed then clutched at his head, his face scrunching up. “Oh god. That hurts.”

“Okay, deep breaths,” Jim said, “you’re okay.” He waited until Blair relaxed and looked up at him before he spoke again. “We need to get moving. I don’t think anyone is gonna find us where we are. The truck skidded off the road and went a ways down a hill.” He gazed up at the hilltop rising above them. “A long way. So, you up for a little hike?”

“I’m guessing no isn’t the right answer,” Blair replied with a sigh. He held out a hand. “Give me a hand up – and be ready to catch me if I fall down again.”

Jim couldn’t hold back a chuckle despite their dire circumstances. Reaching out, he grabbed Blair’s hand and pulled him to his feet, gasping as pain lanced through his side. Blair was immediately alert though he staggered a little.

“What’s wrong?” Blair asked. “Where are you hurt?”

Jim waved Blair’s searching hand away. “It’s nothing. Got poked with a bit of metal. It’s not serious.”

“Uh, Jim…” Blair rested his hand against Jim’s sweater. “So, where did all this blood come from?”

“Since when did you get Sentinel eyesight, Chief?”

“Since you were so focused on me, you didn’t notice it getting light.” Blair leaned closer and almost fell to his knees. Jim grabbed his arm and halted his downward descent. “Thanks,” Blair panted. He peered again at Jim’s side. “This looks bad, Jim. You lost a lot of blood.”

“It’ll be fine as long as I don’t have to keep hauling your ass up off the ground,” Jim groused. “It’s already stopped bleeding.” He paused a moment before he spoke again, knowing he’d get an argument. “Look, I’m thinking it might be better—“

“If you go alone?” Blair finished with him. He shook his head then grabbed hold of Jim’s arm to steady himself. “Gotta stop doing that. No! No way, Jim! We need to stay together. What if you start bleeding climbing up there?” He pointed at the hillside. “If you pass out, you could fall.”

"So could you,” Jim countered. “You’re the one with the head injury and you can barely stay on your feet now.”

“Then I’ll hang onto you and you can hang onto me. You coming?” Blair swallowed convulsively, tightened his grip on Jim’s arm and started walking, somewhat drunkenly, toward the hill.

“Stubborn son of a—“

“No casting aspersions on my heritage, Jim. I’m telling Naomi when we get back.”


Blair had already stumbled twice before Jim called a halt. Looking down, he realized they’d made barely any progress and he had to admit he was ready to
pass out himself. His side was bleeding sluggishly again and he was beginning to feel light-headed. “Hold up, Chief,” he said, pulling Blair to a stop. “This isn’t going to work. We might need to go through the forest, after all.”

Blair stared at him for a moment with a slightly puzzled expression on his face then he nodded. “Okay, good. No more hiking?”


“Yeah.” Blair nodded then winced and held a hand to his head. “Oh right. That’s right. The truck… down the hill. Can’t you use your cell phone?”

“I told you already, it got broken in the crash.” Jim frowned at Blair. “You feeling okay?” He cupped Blair’s chin and tilted his head upward. “Let me
check your eyes.”

“They’re blue, same as yours.” Blair jerked his head away. “I’m fine, Jim, I just got focused on climbing and forgot where we were.”

“I don’t believe you, Sandburg, but there’s not much else I can do for you out here anyway.”

“So, we go through the forest, maybe find some campers or a cabin?”

“Sounds like a plan,” Jim said, “though this area’s pretty deserted at this time of year. It’s why I like it.”

“You are so anti-social,” Blair said, accepting Jim’s helping hand to get back down the hill. “You need to get out more, socialize, meet new people.”

“I do just fine, Sandburg.” Jim waited until Blair stood beside him then scanned the area. “Which way?”

“Which way? You’re asking me, the most directionally challenged person you know?”

“You did okay the night we had to track Dawson Quinn,” Jim said.

“Don’t remind me,” Blair said. “I got shot, remember, jumped into a creek, got hit on the head…”

Jim pointed to the east. “I say we go that way.”

“Can’t you listen?” At Jim’s quizzical look, he added, “for traffic, sounds of civilization. Your ears aren’t broke, are they?” He frowned. “Your senses

“My senses are fine, Sandburg,” Jim said gruffly. “It just slipped my mind, that’s all,” he added, feeling stupid.

“Slipped your mind.” Blair shook his head but grinned. “You do your thing, I’m just gonna take five.” He lowered himself carefully to the ground and
looked up expectantly at Jim. “Well, come on, man. Do your thing.”

Jim was seriously beginning to worry about Blair’s head injury again. The kid could be wacky at the best of times but even this was a little weird, even for him. He closed his eyes and focused his hearing on the forest, tilting his head as he scanned each direction, pausing now and then to sift through sounds, discarding them as he recognized the wind in the trees and the scurrying of small animals through the brush. A whisper came to him, faint, almost indecipherable, then a moment later, a little louder.

“It’s got to be this way, Bill.”

“Hey!” Jim cupped his hands around his mouth. “Over here! We’re over here!” He opened up his hearing again.

“Did you hear that, Joe?”

“Nope. I think you’re going the wrong way…” The voice was fading again.

“Damn it!” Jim reached out and hauled Blair to his feet. “I can hear people. They might be searching for us. Come on.” Without explanation, he dragged an
unprotesting Blair over to the wrecked truck. Leaning in through the driver’s side window, Jim pressed on the horn… and hastily pulled his
hearing back to normal range.

It took a few minutes then two men burst out of the forest in front of them at a run. “Thank god!” one of them said. “We saw the truck. Couldn’t figure
out how to get to it to check for survivors. You two all right?”

Jim nodded and offered the man his hand. “We will be, thanks to you both.” Then suddenly there was a ringing in his ears and his sight was fading. He
heard Blair shout his name and then there was nothing but the ground rushing up to meet him.


“…hear me, Jim?”

Jim could hear Blair. Had in fact been listening to him rant about how he was never going camping with Jim again unless he got to pick the location and frankly, if he had his way, five star hotels were looking pretty appealing right now, and how the truck was a write-off and Simon was pissed because they’d be laid up for at least a week and—

Damn! The truck! Jim shifted in the bed and couldn’t hold back a groan of pain. Touching his side, he could feel a thick bandage covering his injury.

“Jim! You’re awake!” Blair came padding over to Jim’s bedside. He was wearing a green scrub top over his grubby jeans. A neat line of stitches adorned his forehead and he had the beginnings of a heck of a shiner.

“Truck’s a write-off?” Jim croaked. “Damn it! Wonder if the insurance will cover it.”

“I wouldn’t get your hopes up, man,” Blair said a little too cheerfully for Jim’s liking. “Maybe you could reconsider that SUV I was telling you about. Marty, my mechanic, would give you a great deal on it and—“



“Don’t you have a headache?”

“I did but the ER doc gave me some painkillers and now…” Blair tapped the side of his head. “No headache!” He grinned loopily.

“You’re stoned,” Jim grumped. “Go lay down before you fall down.”

“The doctor said you were lucky you didn’t damage your spleen on that piece of metal,” Blair went on, unfazed. “And how lucky were we those guys saw the
truck?” He patted Jim’s shoulder consolingly. “Bet that SUV is looking pretty appealing about now, huh?”

“Sandburg!” Jim repeated menacingly.

“Bed! Going!” Blair gave him a sloppy salute and another silly smile and wandered over to the other bed, flopping down on it.

There was blissful silence for several minutes. Jim contemplated green SUVs and tried to remember just what his insurance did cover.

“So, I was thinking,” Blair said, sounding sleepy.

Jim groaned inwardly. “Thinking what, Einstein?”

There was another long silence then a deep snore from the other bed. Jim sighed and closed his eyes. SUVs weren’t so bad and he was sure his
insurance cover was fine, and he was pretty certain once he showed Sandburg his other secret camping spot, the kid would be more than happy to tag


October 2013

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