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"Hang in there, Bri." Jim's teeth chatters, and he clenches his jaws to keep them still. "Hang in there, baby." He cuts away the blood-soaked cloth and tries to tell himself that everything is going to be fine. He's seen men shot before, in all sorts of places.
But it's not going to be fine. This is Brian Gamble. Brian doesn't get shot. He's supposed to be a jackass, annoying the shit out of everyone with his higher-than-thou intelligence and snark. He's supposed to be Jim's boyfriend, smiling that bright, crooked smile at him.
Brian grips at his hand weakly. "Hurts." He rasps, before he coughs and wheezes and blood splatters down his lips. Jim's hands are trembling as he cuts away the shirt. There's a messy hole oozing blood, right in the middle of Brian's chest. It's missed Brian's heart, obviously, but from what Jim can tell from the wheezing it's punctured a lung.
"You're going to be fine." Jim says, and Brian nods sluggishly. "You're going to be okay." He repeats, and his hands shake as he traces the wound. Brian winces. The bullet's still lodged in there, Jim can tell. It's the worst kind of wound, messy with the bullet still embedded, most likely still inside the lung. The flesh is raw and Brian whimpers when Jim's fingers brush against the ragged wound.
He tears apart his own shirt, making strips as long as he can. He doesn't have water or fire or – anything. He has nothing. Even the radio is dead. But he can't sit here and let Brian bleed to death. He kisses Brian's forehead tenderly. "I won't let you die, Bri. You know that." He promises, and Brian only nods again, his eyes fluttering and fighting to stay open. "Don't sleep, baby." Jim begs, pulling Brian closer as gently as possible. "Keep your eyes open for me, Gamble. Don't go to sleep."
Jim pulls the torn strips as tightly around Brian's torso as possible. Brian cries out when the bullet inside is jostled and Jim presses too hard on the raw wound, but Jim grits his teeth and lets the cries of pain tear into his heart. "Sorry." Jim whispers, wiping away the cold sweat that forms on Brian's forehead. It leaves a streak of blood. "I'm so sorry."
He moves downward, to Brian's leg, and winces at the calf that bends where it isn't supposed to. His hands are shaking, and Brian whimpers when Jim's hands brush on the injury. "I'm going to set it, Bri. It's going to hurt more if I leave it alone."
Brian shudders but says nothing, so Jim pulls off Brian's gloves so Brian can bite down on it. He doesn't count down – from his experience that's just even worse – but Brian lets out a shrill cry as Jim wrenches the bone back to normal, which ends up in choking and coughing and blood splattering over his chin again, and Jim feels his chest tear into pieces again.
"I'll kill him, Bri." Jim promises, pushing an arm under Brian's knees and shoulders. "I'll kill him, but you gotta stay alive to see him die."
Brian doesn't have the energy to cry out anymore. He falls limply against Jim's chest as he stands. They're in the middle of a fucking desert, and he doesn't know which direction is which.
But he starts walking anyway, clutching Brian to his chest.
Jim blinks twice, and then shoots upward. Boxer puts up his hands. "Easy." Boxer says, pointing to the IV in Jim's arm. "You're in a hospital in Los Angeles. Do you know who I am?"
"Okay, fine, that works, too." Boxer sighs, running a hand through his short hair. "Gamble's in surgery." He glances at Jim. "You walked back home." He says dryly. "You walked over fifty miles. In the desert. Carrying a half-dead person."
Jim swallows. "Is Brian…"
Boxer sighs again. "He's alive. In surgery, like I said. Been in surgery for a hell of a long time. You've been out for about 10 hours, Street. Severe dehydration and fatigue. You must've walked for over 15 hours. We all thought you were dead. TJ saw Gamble get shot, and when you two didn't show up at rendezvous…"
Jim nods, and then tries to get off the bed. He can't – his body won't respond no matter what he wills his legs to do. "I want to see Brian." He says, and Boxer stares.
"He's in surgery." Boxer repeats. "You can't. Listen, Street. He's – he wasn't in – the nurses said he might be too far gone."
"Take me to the surgery room, then." Jim grits his teeth. "Brian won't leave me, Boxer."
Jim spends the next few hours in a wheelchair that Boxer manages to secure, ignoring all the complaints the nurses are giving him. Boxer just nods at whatever they say and sends them on their way.
It's not until much later and the nurses have given up on them that the in surgery sign blinks off. The doctor takes a look at Jim and sighs. It's a familiar face – Jim and Brian has seen her all the time when they come in for injuries from SWAT. "You should be resting."
"I'm as rested as I can be," Jim growls back. "How is he?"
The doctor glares at him. She takes off her mask and lets it hang off one ear, penning something on a clipboard, sighs and looks up at Jim. "Not good. We got the bullet out, but it took a while and he lost a lot of blood. It punctured his left lung and the bullet got embedded in the back wall, and the wound got badly infected." The doctor sighs. "You set his leg, right? You did a good job doing it. His leg is the least of our problems. Listen, Jim." She rubs her forehead. "He might not make the night. You have to be prepared for the worst. Go see him. He's in ICU, room number 5."
"Shit," Boxer says. "Shit."
Jim says nothing and sits next to Brian. Brian's a mess. He's pale, his eyes are sunken, and his lips are blue. His face is a mess of bruises and cuts that Jim couldn't have even known about in the dark, but an oxygen mask is covering most of it. Even his arms are covered in bandages, and his leg is in a thick cast. "He looks like a mess." Jim manages, and gingerly takes a hand into his.
It feels cold and clammy, like a dead person's hand, but Jim grits his teeth and brings the hand up to his lips. Brian won't leave him. That much he's sure of.
Brian makes the night, and the next, and the next. What he doesn't do, however, is make progress enough to be moved out of the ICU.
Or wake up.
"He's a slow healer." Their doctor tells Jim. "You couldn't tell that from all his colds? He doesn't have the best defense system in his body. You should be happy. He's over the worst of it. Yes, he's not going to be breathing on his own for a while. He's definitely not going back on the force for about half a year. But he's alive. And he's healing."
Jim crosses his arms across his chest. "Of course he's alive." Jim says. "He wouldn't leave me, just like I wouldn't leave him."
The doctor snorts. "Don't get shot at the same time, then."
Two weeks later, Brian is still in ICU. Boxer stares at him, and Brian doesn't have the sunken eyes anymore. Most of his shallower cuts have healed, and are soft lines that might scar lightly or might heal completely. "I feel like he's just trying to bullshit all of us and staying asleep because he likes to see us worry about him."
And Jim has to laugh because that's probably exactly what Brian's doing. "At least I don't have to pay for ICU." He says, rubbing Brian's now-warm hand with his thumb.
Boxer puts the basket of fruits by Jim and rolls his eyes. "Taking his own sweet time, is he?"
"Yeah." Jim smiles, no longer burdened by the prospect of Brian's pain. The heart monitor beeps steadily, and Brian hasn't had a scare since day one. Brian does things in his own pace, after all. Jim presses a kiss onto Brian's forehead. "He'll be fine."
It's not until a month later that Brian's gray-green-blue flutters open. Jim knows the exact moment it's going to happen by the way Brian's breath hitches out of pattern. "Hey." Jim greets, closing his book.
Brian lets out a pained wince and he gingerly pats his chest. "Do I have a hole in my chest?" His voice is still wheezy, weak, but the perpetual smirk on his lips is back, and he even attempts to sit up before Jim puts a hand on his shoulder. "Jimmy." He rasps. It's nothing like the gentle, smooth voice Jim's used to, but that'll be back once his lungs are fully healed.
"You were out for a month." Jim says, thumbing Brian's shoulder.
"You miss me?"
"No, I was here the whole time." Jim grins, and Brian snickers for a bit before he winces and forces himself to stop laughing. Jim strokes his cheek, and Brian leans into the touch. "I'd kiss you, if you didn't have a fucking mask."
In response, Brian reaches up and pulls the mask off of his lips. It's probably not the best idea, but Jim can't help but grin down at Brian's huge smile. Jim bends down to press a gentle kiss onto Brian's lips, and the snaps the oxygen mask back on. Brian grumbles for a bit, but then smiles back up at Jim.
And Jim isn't relieved. He knew Brian was going to be waking up, and he's just been waiting. He's not relieved to see Brian waking up because he hasn't been worried about it happening.
But happiness is a different emotion from relief, and Jim feels plenty of that right now.