Originally posted to the SentinelAngst List back in early 2000, finally appearing at Idol Pursuits some 18 months later. Unbeta'd.
The crushing weight against his chest made him long for oblivion again, but tendrils of awareness forced him back towards consciousness. Deep breaths were impossible, so he gasped with short, rapid pants in an effort to force air into his pain-wracked body. He could smell smoke and something sharper, more pungent, tainting the air.
Sounds were garbled and distant in his ringing ears: voices shouting incoherently, bleeding into one another with their urgency, the crackle of flames, the thud of large objects falling or being moved, a loud hiss that could have been pressurized gas...no, the sound came from a fire extinguisher.
He tried to form words in the dryness of his mouth, but only the merest whisper escaped, lost in the cacophony of noises. "Jim?"
There was no answer to his nearly silent plea, so he struggled to remove the weight pinning him down. It wasn't as heavy as he'd first feared. Just a toppled desk chair. He was able to shift it, although the effort took almost all of his remaining energy.
He looked around before attempting to rise. He was wedged between the wall and Jim's desk. At least he thought it was Jim's desk -- most of the contents were strewn on the floor around and atop him, so there was no immediate way to recognize the desk itself. Although it was skewed from its normal alignment, it was in the right location in relation to the wall and side door of the bullpen.
Reaching up, he gripped the edge of the desk and pulled himself up. A moan escaped his lips as new aches assailed him, but sitting up gave him a greater sense of control.
The bullpen was a mess. The front double doors and nearby windows had shattered inward. Much of the ceiling was collapsed; great gaping holes revealed the crawl space above. Some panels hanging down still swung slowly in the aftermath of the blast. Cables and wires dangled from above, but if there had been a fire, it wasn't apparent anymore. A uniformed police officer Blair didn't recognize held an aggressive stance in the middle of the room, a fire extinguisher held like a weapon in his hands as he searched for any errant spark that had escaped his first assault.
In fact, the room was filling quickly with people he didn't recognize, people who had converged from all over the building to help.
Blair did his best to assess his own injuries. He'd taken a solid thump on his head, which caused a dull headache that thudded in time with his rapidly beating heart. But his vision was clear -- well, mostly clear -- so he figured he'd avoided any serious head injury. Numerous cuts stung his cheeks, and he could feel tiny rivulets of blood trickling down his chin. He continued his inventory by flexing his fingers. They were all in good working order, although his left wrist felt extremely tender; maybe he'd strained it in the fall. Arms, feet, and legs all seemed to be functioning properly.
His chest ached where the chair had struck him, but he was breathing without major difficulty. His ribs hurt the worst, and he reckoned he'd bruised or maybe cracked a few.
Inventory complete, he figured it was time to try standing up. Easing his legs beneath him, he pushed himself to his knees.
Whoa! Some dizziness there. He clung to the desk until the whirling bullpen settled down again. The wave of dizziness brought a cold sweat and a churning nausea, and he waited with dreadful anticipation for it to pass. He breathed deeply despite the resulting stabs of pain, and his stomach finally settled down again.
"You should stay there," an unfamiliar voice advised. "Paramedics are on the way."
He never saw the speaker clearly, but nodded as the figure swept past him deeper into the turmoil of the bullpen. Ignoring the advice, he managed to stand. The room spun wildly again, and he held grimly to the desk in an effort to maintain his hard-won progress. The dizziness lasted longer this time, and he felt chilled and weak when it finally passed.
He had no time for this. He looked around, seeking the familiar figure he most wanted to see. There was no sign of him amid the chaos. Straightening with determination, he began a slow, shuffling circuit of the room.
He found Megan first. Her desk had been one of those closest to the doors and had taken the brunt of the explosion. She was sitting against the wall, the floor around her littered with shards of glass and other debris. Taggart was beside her, helping her hold a towel against a deep gash in her scalp.
She was conscious and looked at him with bleary awareness. "Sandy, are you all right?"
His first attempt to speak caused him to cough, but he swallowed a few times and found his voice. "I think so. How about you?"
She gestured vaguely in the direction of the hallway. "Not bad, considering."
Blair hardly spared a glance for the destruction in the hall outside the bullpen, where several officers were taping off the crime scene and its grisly remains. It was funny, but the explosion was etched permanently in his memory. He recalled the nervous deliveryman exiting the elevator. He could see the box clutched so desperately in the man's shaking hands the moment before it exploded. "Do they know who he was?"
Taggart stood up with a groan and eased a hip against the ruins of Megan's desk. "I doubt there's enough left of him to identify." Although his words were calm, his wide-eyed expression and the ashen pallor of his face testified to his shock.
Blair didn't care about the bomber. He was grateful the bomb had gone off prematurely. Even if the bomber had planned to sacrifice himself in the blast, it was likely he'd intended to detonate it inside the bullpen rather than in the hallway. But he had more urgent matters on his mind. "Have you seen Jim?"
Taggart flexed his shoulders as if working out some stiffness. "No, I don't think he's here." He looked down at Megan. "If you're okay here, Connor, I'm gonna see if anyone else needs help."
She gave a casual salute with the bloody rag she'd been holding to her head. "I'll be fine, Joel. Thanks."
Taggart looked at Blair. "You should sit down until the paramedics check you out."
Blair managed a slight smile. "So I've been told." Satisfied at least two of his colleagues were all right, he continued his halting tour of the devastated bullpen. Ricardo, one of the uniformed officers who regularly worked with the detectives, was unconscious, and paramedics were checking him out. Two other officers hovered nearby anxiously awaiting word on their friend's condition. Firefighters in full gear clomped around the room clearing wreckage and securing potential hazards.
Rafe sat on the floor against a toppled desk, and he was clearly in a lot of pain. Judging from the way he rocked slightly from side to side and cradled his arm, he probably had broken a bone. Henri and Rhonda were tending to him, and Blair decided not to interrupt.
Firefighters and police were scrambling around lifting debris from other victims still buried in the rubble. Blair searched their faces, looking for the one he most needed to see. Everyone who'd been caught in the explosion, even the uninjured, looked stunned by the sudden violence that had shattered the day's normal routine. He watched it all with a sense of detachment, his thoughts fixated on finding his partner and making certain he'd survived the blast.
It took a moment to recognize the sound of his name, and he turned sluggishly toward the speaker.
Simon, looking equally dazed, studied him with concern. "Sandburg, you need to sit down." He held a cell phone to his ear, listened for a moment, and then snapped an impatient answer to some question.
"How are you, Simon?" Blair asked, noting the myriad tiny cuts crisscrossing the captain's face.
"I'm OK. The blinds in my office blocked most of the flying glass. Sandburg, sit down."
"Can't." He shook his head stubbornly, then instantly regretted the motion. "Gotta find Jim."
Simon looked perplexed. "Blair, he's not here."
Doubtfully, Blair looked around at the tumult. For the first time, he noticed the two shrouds covering motionless figures on the floor. The sight sickened him. He turned desperate eyes back to Simon. "Is Jim all right?"
"Sandburg, Jim is fine as far as I know. He had to give a deposition this morning, remember? He's at the DA's office. I'm sure he'll be back as soon as he hears what happened."
The words finally made sense. Jim's all right. He hadn't been there when the bomb had gone off. He was all right.
Some of the tension faded from Blair's ragged thoughts. He nodded. "Thanks. I think I'll sit down now."
"Good idea." Simon moved off to continue monitoring the care of the people in his command.
Blair picked his way through the rubble and returned to Jim's desk. Everything had been swept from its surface in the blast, so he didn't have any trouble finding a place to sit. Hitching a hip over the edge of the desk, he closed his eyes and hung his head, blocking out the sights and noises around him, seeking to calm the turmoil of his thoughts and ease the growing pains flaring through his weary body.
Miraculously, Jim was suddenly beside him. "Chief, you all right?"
Blair raised his head and smiled. "Jim. You're OK."
Jim looked surprised at the comment. "Of course I'm OK. I wasn't even here. Let me check you over."
He felt hands brush over his head and neck, then prod his torso cautiously for punctures and fractures. He winced when the fingers touched an especially tender part.
"I think you're OK. Some ribs may be cracked."
"Think so," Blair agreed woozily. "Can we go home now?"
"OK." He started to sag and felt strong arms wrap around him in support. His cheek rested against the soft fabric of Jim's shirt, and he could hear the reassuring cadence of the heart beating strongly beneath his ear.
"Easy, partner. You're white as a sheet. Just sit still until the paramedics have a chance to look at you."
A cool palm stroked away the thin sheen of sweat beading on his forehead, further sweeping away the tension.
"I think I'd like to pass out now, Jim," he mumbled, satisfied with the knowledge that his partner was beside him and unharmed.
It was all right to let go.