New Arrivals
Author-Sherrylou and Author-LindaS
Titles

Hitting the Deck
by Sherrylou and LindaS

Summary: A companion piece to Rising to the Occasion. Rated PG-13 for language.

Notes: Many thanks to CJ (Alberte) and Lyn, who took time to check over this piece. We truly appreciate the wonderful beta job and the quick turnaround. You're the greatest!!!

Disclaimer: Not ours!

*Should have known he'd see right through me.* Jim wiped a damp hand across his face and squinted at the two...no, make that four legs dangling through the open hatch. Shaking his head, he tried to clear his vision. He had told Blair that he was a bit dizzy, but it was more than that or else he would have been up the ladder behind the kid. His vision kept cutting in and out, sometimes seeing double, sometimes it was like looking through a convex glass. Jim wasn't sure if it was a concussion or his senses or a combination of both.

Losing his balance, he staggered back, placing more weight than he would have liked on his right knee. Wincing, he turned his pain dial down another notch. In his head he could hear Blair saying how pain was nature's way of warning you of an injury, but right now help was a long way off and he was hurting. Placing a hand on the wall, Jim moved back underneath the hatch.

"Sandburg. Can you see what floor we're on?"

"It's a little dark out here. Sentinel eyes would certainly be handy right about now." There was a slight pause, then Blair responded, "We're between floors three and four, Jim."

"Do you think you can get the doors open?"

"I don't think so." Blair's answer was brief. "But the blast opened a hole up on the seventh floor. I can climb up the ladder to that floor."

"Just be careful," Jim offered.

"Riiight."

Jim looked up and watched as Blair climbed the rest of the way onto the elevator's roof. Through the hatch's opening, Jim saw his partner quickstep it to the ladder. He held his breath as the car shuddered under Blair's weight, the walls vibrating with each step. He could hear Blair's heart beating wildly, and then saw the kid grab the ladder and felt the elevator slowly stabilize.

"Uh, I'm on the ladder heading up, Jim."

Releasing the breath he'd been holding, Jim leaned back against the wall of the elevator in an effort to take the strain off his aching knee. As he continued to watch Blair's progress, Jim knew that Blair hadn't been totally upfront with the condition of the car. Just the slight quiver in the younger man's voice gave away the seriousness of the situation.

*You think I don't know how unstable this whole elevator is, yeah...right. You should know better than to try to fool a sentinel, Chief.* Even without his sentinel sight taking in the damage from above, just touching the walls allowed Jim to feel the tiny vibrations shuddering the car and the quivering of the cable.

*How did we get into such a fucking mess? Oh...yeah, right. I was just so eager to get a lead on the Donato case that I jumped on the anonymous tip without checking it out. And then I compounded the error by not really letting anyone know where we were going. A rookie mistake. So who would want to set me -- or us -- up?* "Whoa, don't answer that, Ellison," Jim muttered to himself. "Just about half the criminal element in Cascade."

Jim looked up once more, trying to focus on his partner. The tilting of his head caused a sudden wave of vertigo. To avoid falling over, Jim slowly lowered himself to the floor, stretching out his aching leg.

Angling his head just right, Jim watched -- or attempted to watch -- Blair's progress up the ladder. At least his hearing was fully online and he chuckled as he listened to Blair's running commentary. He could tell, though, that the kid was terrified; the pounding of his heart, the timbre of his voice, and the occasionally gasped "Don't look down!" all gave testament to that fact. In spite of that, Blair had the wherewithal to remind Jim that it was his turn to cook tonight.

As Blair proceeded up the ladder, Jim began to relax. There was nothing more he could do but wait. He had every confidence in his partner. Maybe, just maybe the two of them would get out of this without too much damage. He stared through the opening trying to will the two figures of Blair into one. It looked like Blair had made it to the sixth floor, only one more to go. Because Jim was so sure of the outcome, it made what happened next even worse.

A loud, resounding crack from above pierced his ears. Clamping his hands over both ears, he tried to issue a warning to Blair. His shout was lost in the rumble of twisted metal and building material falling down the shaft. The noise sounded like an approaching train to his sensitive ears. Jim instinctively slid back into the corner of the elevator.

The debris struck the car causing it to shudder, with smaller pieces falling through the opening while larger pieces blocked the hatch. What must have only been seconds, seemed like hours to Jim. He extended his hearing even though his ears were still ringing from the clamor. He couldn't hear anything...no voice, no heartbeat. Was Blair still on the ladder or had he followed the debris down the elevator shaft?

"Blair!" he screamed. Getting to his feet, Jim kicked the wreckage on the floor to one side. "Chief, can you hear me?"

Ignoring the flare up of the pain in his knee, Jim tried to jump up to the opening. His hand connected with some pieces of metal hanging down, the sharp edges tearing the flesh of his fingers, but he was unable to clear the hatch area. Landing hard on his leg, the weakened knee gave way and Jim crumbled to the floor.

"Blair! Sandburg!" he hollered again as he pounded the floor in frustration. "Damn it, Blair, answer me. So help me god, if you don't answer me, you're going to be typing all my reports for the next month!"

Jim wasn't sure how long he screamed Blair's name, but as the ringing in his ears cleared, he finally heard the sound he'd been waiting to hear...Blair's heartbeat. Yes, it was beating a mile a minute, but it was there. And then he heard the whispered words that soothed his soul..."I'm okay, I'm okay, Jim."

Jim almost sobbed in relief.

Trapped in the box, cut off from Blair, Jim relied totally on his hearing to track Blair's advancement up the shaft. His spirits lifted as his partner's ranting comments on elevators reached his hearing.

"If I make it out of here alive, I swear I'm never taking another elevator again." There was a pause, and then Jim heard Blair continue, "You listening down there, Jim? I mean it. Elevators and me are a thing of the past. We're history. Finito."

He smiled. Right now he might even agree with Blair and swear off elevators for a while. Relaxing a bit, Jim rested his head against the wall, closing his eyes. He let Blair's rambling words wash over him, soothing his jangled nerves.

The quiet was only a momentary illusion, snatched away along with Jim's breath. The whole elevator began to vibrate. Above him, a loud screeching noise roared down the shaft toward him. Jim grabbed for the railing as something impacted the roof of the elevator. As the roof of the elevator caved in from the sudden force, the car began to plummet down the shaft.

Jim's stomach knotted with the weightlessness of free fall. There was little time to think of his impending death as the car struck bottom. His hands lost their grasp on the railing and he wondered among the metallic groans and grating whether his limp body was bouncing off the floor, the walls or the ceiling. Before he could conjecture an answer, his head slammed painfully against a solid object. He saw shooting stars, bright lights before darkness and then there was nothing.

The first thing Jim realized when he regained consciousness was that it was dark...dark, silent and he couldn't feel anything. Was he dead? Was this how life ended? It was dark and he was numb. He tried to move a finger, a toe, but there was nothing. Was he even in his body? Was he even alive? The air was heavily laden with dust and he realized that he was still breathing...maybe shallow breaths...but he was breathing the dry air. But he was still numb in his extremities. Oh god! Maybe he was paralyzed.

He screamed, but there was no sound. Panic seized his mind. Maybe he was so badly damaged that he was deaf, dumb, blind and paralyzed. He began to gulp the air wildly, on the verge of hyperventilating when the soldier inside him took over.

Impartially categorizing his situation, he searched for another cause for his predicament. Could the fall have done all the damage? Possibly, but what else could affect his senses? His senses! Carefully he checked the dials and realized that they were all set on zero. Perhaps it was a defense mechanism. Maybe when faced with death, he unconsciously turned down his senses.

Not eager to discover what injuries he may have incurred, Jim slowly turned up his dials. Hearing, taste and smell seemed to be okay but sight was still affected. With what little light entered into the broken car, Jim could make out the twisted metal trapping him, before it blurred in and out of focus.

Touch he saved for last and was barely able to raise it before feeling the pain. There was pain everywhere. He was sure several ribs were broken, some of which were pressing on his lungs. And every time he coughed, there was a searing pain on his right side. But what was worse was his back. The pain rippled in excruciating waves across his body. Any little movement set it off, leaving Jim gasping for air, trying to control the spasms.

Foregoing Blair's warning, Jim shut down the dial for touch. He was in no position to help himself, and even if help was to arrive in the next few minutes, it would be hours before he would be out of here. Judging by the collapsed car and broken debris, the rescue workers would probably need a torch to cut him out.

Rescue workers...would any be coming? Oh my god...Blair! Jim nearly lost control again of his breathing as he wondered about his partner's fate. His eyes filled with tears as he shakily extended his hearing. Only silence met his first effort. Did Blair fall down the shaft? Was his battered body lying on top of the crumpled car?

Taking several deep breaths, he was afraid he was losing control of his senses. Suddenly, he felt assaulted on all fronts. His dials shot up...all of them. His nostrils were hit by the greasy, dusty, bloody smells in the car. The grinding of metal settling against metal seared his eardrums. The pain in his back made it feel as if he was being cut in two. Without realizing it, he was screaming...screaming for help, for his sanity, for Blair. And then he heard it and every thing slipped back into place.

"911, how may I help you?"

"This is Blair Sandburg. I need help..."

Jim was crying and laughing, maybe even sobbing as he listened to Blair explaining their situation to the operator. "Knew you could do it, Chief," Jim whispered before releasing himself to the comfort of the darkness.

~*~THE END~*~

Sherry: A wrap-up will follow in the story, On Solid Ground. I know, I know... we'll try to write quicker. <eg>

Linda: Uh, maybe we will...or maybe we won't! Time fluctuates differently between the writers and the readers. <beg>