New Arrivals
Author-Sherrylou and Author-LindaS
Titles

On Solid Ground
by Sherrylou and LindaS

Summary: The wrap-up to Rising to the Occasion and Hitting the Deck. Rated PG.

Notes: Thanks to our clean-up crew, CJ and Lyn. You both are amazing!

Disclaimer: Not ours!

Slipping by several rescue personnel, Simon entered the building and made his way through the lobby toward the elevator. The phone call from dispatch had been vague. All he knew was that Blair had been the one who made the report of Jim being trapped in an elevator. He wondered what the hell had happened and what they were doing at this location in the first place. However, there was no time for questions now; first he needed to see about his men.

"Damn it! I said put me down!"

Clearly hearing his observer's loud and frantic voice echoing from the stairwell, Simon turned toward the sound. Watching the commotion at the exit to the stairwell, he was stunned by the sight. As the paramedics converted the gurney they were carrying from a sitting position to a flat position, Blair, dust-covered and strapped to the gurney, nevertheless was trying to free a hand to make a grab for the doorframe. The medics quickly sped the stretcher through the doorway before Blair was successful and guided it out into the lobby.

Blair raised his voice again, pleading for someone to listen to him.

Unbelievable! Simon thought as he strode purposefully toward the unfolding scene. Only Sandburg would have enough gall to take on the fire department. Reaching the gurney, he huffed, "Sandburg, what the hell do you think you're doing?"

The tirade stopped and anxious eyes turned toward him. "Oh, Simon...thank god you're here. Tell them...tell them that I need to stay here."

Simon waved a hand at the medics who ceased their forward movement and stepped aside to let him have a word with Blair.

"Jim..." Blair's voice broke upon uttering that name. Simon watched sympathetically as Blair struggled to control his emotions. "Jim's in the elevator...trapped. I need to stay. He'll need me. I don't know how bad he's injured or even if..."

The remainder of the sentence was left unspoken, but Simon understood what Blair meant to say. He was amazed at the kid's determination. Looking at him, with a splint on one leg, a C-collar and short board, assorted cuts and bruises, the only place he belonged was in the hospital. Simon glanced at the two medics standing off to the side. They both shook their heads indicating their disapproval at the unspoken question.

"We really need to get him to the hospital," the tow-headed medic stated softly.

That remark brought another colorful refusal from the patient.

"Blair, be reasonable. How are you going to help Jim in your condition?"

"But..."

Simon held up a hand, shutting down any further protest. "Look. How about I get a progress report, fill you in, and then you do your part by allowing these two men to do their job?"

Blair opened his mouth to reply, his face clearly showing displeasure with the request, but Simon quickly cut in, "It's the only offer you're going to get."

With a soft-spoken "okay," the injured observer reluctantly agreed to the compromise.

"Good." Simon smiled and gently patted Blair's arm.

Heading toward the elevator, Simon sorted through the rescue workers, looking for the person in charge. Spying Captain Miller from Station 10, he moved toward him, making sure to keep out of the firemen's way. His patience was rewarded as the fire captain noted his presence and came over to him.

"I suppose you want to know about your man," Miller stated without being prompted, apparently recognizing Simon from other past incidents.

"If possible, as well as an estimated time until you'll be able to get him out of there." Simon stared at the elevator doors gaping open as the workers hauled up pieces of debris.

"Unfortunately, there's nothing really to report right now. We heard movement when we first arrived, but we're not sure if it was your detective or just some settling of the wreckage. The elevator is on the basement level. We forced the outer doors open to find that the force of the crash had caused the sides of the car to cave in. Because of that, we're unable to get into the elevator on that level without using a torch.

"Since we don't know where your detective is in the car, we decided it would be safer to remove the wreckage from the top of the elevator in order to gain entry through the access opening. We're hoping once we can see inside the car, we can determine the best route for extracting him." The fire captain paused in his explanation, momentarily observing the progress of his men in the removal of the debris. "Until then, we really can't tell how long it'll take."

Simon nodded, understanding the seriousness of the situation. Thanking the fire captain, he made his way back to the gurney where he found two anxious eyes watching him. While it was bad, at least there was still hope. Now he just needed the right words to say to Blair.

Standing beside the gurney, Simon placed a hand on Blair's shoulder. "Son..."

"Oh, no," Blair jumped in, "don't try any of that condescending bullshit on me. Give me the facts...straight."

Simon sighed. Blair was clearly in a lot of pain -- pale, shaking, his breathing rapid and shallow, skin clammy -- and by the way the two paramedics were itching to get moving, he guessed that they were far more concerned about the possible severity of Blair's injuries than Blair was. With his voice low but firm, he began, "Okay, this is the way it is. They don't know how long the rescue will take." He was glad that at this point he could still say 'rescue' and not 'retrieval,' since Jim's fate was unknown for the time being. "I will stay here until they get Jim free. You, on the other hand, are going to the hospital."

Slowly Simon read acceptance in the pain-filled eyes that searched his as if to confirm the truthfulness of that statement, then Blair asked, "You'll really stay?"

"Yes. I won't leave until they have Jim out of the elevator and in the hands of the paramedics. I'll be with him the whole way...all the way to the hospital."

He could see Blair visibly relax, giving up the fight to stay. "That's...uh...that's good, Simon...uh...thanks."

Simon moved aside as the paramedics approached. "You take good care of him."

"Will do," one responded while the other gave one last check of Blair's vitals, then they wheeled the gurney out to the waiting ambulance.

As he scrubbed a hand over his face, Simon remembered the hope held in Blair's eyes. Oh, Lord. What would he tell the kid if Jim didn't make it? No. That wasn't an option. Ellison, you damn well better be alive, he thought impassionedly, because there was no way in hell he'd be breaking that news.

~~~~~

Standing near the rescue operation, Simon had found a not too obtrusive position from which to watch and wait. He glanced at his watch again and wondered how much longer it was going to take. Already dusk had fallen and the last report from Captain Miller had been that the rescuers were getting close to accessing the top hatch.

There was no denying that the need to be careful was imperative and that it was painstakingly intense work. Even though the rescue crew had stabilized the area above where they worked, pieces of wreckage would occasionally break loose to come tumbling down the shaft.

And it was unimaginable what it must be like inside the elevator car. A few words came to Simon's mind... oppressively hot...air barely breathable. The knowledge that Jim had been trapped in that sweat box for hours without any medical aid weighed heavily on him, and Simon slumped against the wall, closing his eyes as he muttered, "Dear Lord."

His thoughts turned toward Blair. With Joel at Cascade General giving him regular updates, he knew that Blair had been taken into surgery to set the broken leg and was now out of recovery, but still very groggy. Joel said the nurse gave him the standard answer: the patient came through the procedure fine and was resting comfortably. Whatever the hell that meant. Comfortable and hospitals were at two different ends of the spectrum as far as he was concerned.

An "ahem" brought Simon from his musing to see Captain Miller standing before him holding two cups of coffee. Offering one to him, the fire captain asked, "Your detective...a good man?"

"One of the best," Simon stated without hesitation. He gestured with the cup and said, "Thanks," then took a sip of the hot brew.

"They're getting close."

Simon turned his head toward the rescue operation. "Thank God," he replied fervently and then felt as if his prayers had been answered as a cry filtered up from the elevator shaft: "We're through! I can see him. Get a medic down here!"

Time seemed to crawl as the firemen lowered the paramedic down the shaft, but after a few minutes came the words he'd been waiting to hear: "He's alive!" Instantly, the mood in the lobby became lighter as the men cheered and patted one another on the back.

"All right, men! Let's get Captain Banks' detective packed and readied to transport. Move it!" Captain Miller ordered as he coordinated the final phase of the rescue.

Simon watched as the Stokes was first lowered and then hoisted back up...this time with a filthy and bloodied passenger. He swallowed thickly, chocking back a gasp of shock at the sight of his injured detective. What skin showed through the dirt and grime was a pasty white. Good god! Was that Jim? No one living could be that devoid of color.

The flurry of activity intensified as the injured detective was quickly readied for transport and then hustled out to the waiting ambulance. Leaving his coffee cup on a nearby ledge, Simon hurried to follow.

~~~~~

The ambulance ride seemed immeasurably long as the medics worked frantically on the injured man. Simon hunkered his six-foot plus frame in the back of the vehicle, trying to stay out of the way while still maintaining contact with his detective. Softly he whispered words telling Jim that Blair was safe, that Blair was already at the hospital. He didn't know Jim's level of consciousness but he wanted the man to know, if he could hear, that his friend was out of harm's way. Perhaps it was his imagination, but for a moment he thought Jim moved his lips and a ghost of a word slipped from them.

"That's right, Jim," Simon encouraged. "Blair is waiting for you at the hospital so you've got to hang on."

The ambulance banked a sharp right before stopping with a jolt. Simon sat back as the doors were thrown open and in a frantic but orderly fashion, the gurney with his detective was rushed through the emergency room doors. He climbed out and entered the hospital. Jim was already out of sight, most likely in the arms of the doctors, and the lady at the front desk was eyeing him knowingly, holding onto a stack of papers to be filled out.

Simon strode over to the desk and sighed. He'd waited countless hours for Jim to be rescued and from the look of his injured detective, he was going to wait countless more hours until he would hear his fate. He took the clipboard full of papers and a pen from the hospital clerk and located an available chair. At least he'd kept his promise to Blair. He'd stayed with Jim all the way to the hospital.

Eyeing back toward the emergency room, Simon really wished he could hear what was going on. He knew it was too soon for a doctor to come out and speak with him. Jim's condition concerned him. He'd realized it was bad from the start when the paramedics decided to pack and run with him. And the conversation he'd heard in the ambulance did little to ease his worry. He needed to know something, hopefully something positive, before going to see Blair. Sighing again, Simon stared down at the pages in his hand. 'Patient's last name,' he read on the top line and then slowly printed: 'Ellison.'

~~~~~

Seated in the corner by the window, Simon opened the newspaper and quickly located the sports section. Turning several pages until he located the column he was looking for, he folded the paper to a manageable size and settled back to read.

It had been a long night. Phone calls to Jim's family, many futile attempts to reach Blair's mother, and all the while waiting to find out if his best detective would survive until morning. Almost immediately Jim had been whisked away for emergency surgery; the doctor unable to tell him anything more than that the next few hours would be crucial.

Now with the proverbial dawn of a new day, Simon was amazed at how the bright sunshine seemed to lighten the dark fears of the night before. "What a difference a day makes," he softly crooned the oldie tune to himself and agreed with its sentiment.

Finishing the article, Simon glanced toward the sleeping patient and was surprised to find a pair of heavy-lidded blue eyes staring at him. Setting the paper aside, he smiled. "Hey, there. 'Bout time you decided to wake up."

Instead of the expected happy spark of recognition, Simon was alarmed to see those eyes fill with tears.

"Y-you promised," came soft-spoken words, barely discernable.

Confused, he scooted the chair closer to the bed and leaned forward. "Blair? What did you say?"

Blair swallowed, his voice gaining some strength. "You...you promised."

"Easy, son. What's this all about?"

"You...you said you wouldn't leave Jim." Blair visibly paled right before Simon's eyes and then gasped, "Oh, no. God...He's...he's..."

Horrified to realize what Blair was thinking, Simon quickly reassured him. "No! No, Blair. Jim's going to be fine. Honest."

"But...but why are you here?"

"Because I'm here with you...both of you." He could see that his statement confused Blair, so Simon stood and walked to the middle of the room. Drawing aside the dividing curtain, he said one word, "Look."

Blair shifted a bit, turning his head to look across the room. A small hitch of breath and then a quietly voiced, "Jim," let Simon know the moment that Sandburg realized his partner was in the other bed. He followed Blair's gaze to the severely injured man. Jim was a mass of tubes and wires, but he was alive...and improving steadily.

"I'm not going to lie to you. It was touch and go for awhile...and Jim's still going to have a long road to recovery...but he's going to be okay." Simon moved back toward Blair's bed. "I had to do some fast-talking to get both of you in the same room. Of course, it was more for my convenience. I couldn't be wasting time wandering all over the hospital keeping tabs on the both of you."

A smile grew on Blair's face. "I got your number, Simon. You're just an old softie."

"I'll have you know I'm neither old nor soft," Simon mock-harrumphed as he reached for the call button.

~~~~~

Standing by Blair's bedside, Simon watched as Blair drifted off to sleep again. The doctor's exam had been brief but thorough; making sure that Blair had function in all of his limbs given the extensive bruising on his back. The doctor seemed pleased with his progress but warned his patient about the possibility of extensive rehabilitation for his back and broken leg.

Simon didn't think the doctor's words made much of an impact on the patient. Blair, while nodding at the appropriate moments, spent much of his time gazing at the patient in the other bed. No sooner had the doctor finished with his exam than Blair began to pepper the man with questions about his friend's condition. Simon was glad that the doctor could confirm to Blair that Jim, while in serious condition, was stable. It was only after that information that Blair allowed himself to give in to the exhaustion and drugs in his system and rest.

Placing the hand he hadn't realized he'd been holding under the blanket, Simon returned to the chair, picking up the paper as he sat down. Flicking through the pages, nothing in the news could distract his thoughts. Setting the paper aside, Simon looked at Blair, making sure the kid was still resting comfortably. Staring at the injured man, his curiosity about the situation invoked all sort of scenarios in his mind. How in hell did Blair manage to be so injured and found on the seventh floor, while Jim was trapped in the elevator on the basement level? Questions he had when he first marched into the abandoned office building still remained unanswered.

Shaking his head in resignation, Simon reflected that when their reports finally landed on his desk, they were going to make one hell of an interesting read.

~*~THE END~*~