I just wrote this for the heck of it. The guys don't belong to me. They belong to someone that has a lot more money than me. So be nice and let me have a little fun here. I wrote this because some one challenged me to. And of course I couldn't resist a challenge, so here it is. And guys I don't claim to be a writer so don't expect a masterpiece. O.K.? If you like it, let me know, and I might be motivated to write harder on the many different plots running around in my head. If you don't like it, that's o.k. too, just don't flame me. That definitely doesn't inspire me to share my little stories with the rest of the world. Special thanks to my beta readers and friends for the wonderful suggestions and the much needed support: Andromede, Zeo, Wanda, Cindy, and Troi. Also thanks to all those that sent me comments on Rocky Top. Without those, you probably wouldn't be looking at this now.
Standing on the balcony overlooking the streets below, Blair stared up at the full moon shining brightly through the cloudless sky. It was definitely a wonderful night. The sound of children laughing pulled his attention away from the luminous orb to the activity below him. He watched the multitude of costumes- ghosts, superheros, ballerinas, witches, goblins, and ghouls- ducking in and out of the apartments across the street. Feeling the excitement of the children below course through his blood, Blair smiled to himself. Growing up, he had always looked forward to Halloween, not just for the treats but the tricks as well.
Some people considered Halloween pranks as evil or an excuse to hurt others and cause a ruckus, but that wasn't the way Blair saw it. He had never hurt anyone or caused any serious damage with his Halloween excursions. To him it was just a way to let off a little anxiety and to get even with friends in a light-hearted, non-threatening way. All his life, he had been one of those people with too many friends. Being a friend to all, but at the same time having no one to turn to, to count on. This year was different. This year he had Jim, a true friend in ever sense of the word. Sure he still had his typical arrangement of friends and acquaintances, but they didn't come anywhere near the relationship he shared with his roommate. The idea of having someone close to share the holiday with was adding to Blair's excitement. This is going to be a very interesting night, Blair thought to himself, a flicker of mischief in his eyes.
A knock drew his attention back to his surroundings. Scurrying into the living room, he picked up the plastic cauldron of candy sitting by the tv and jerked the front door open.
"Trick r treat!!"
Blair gasped in mock horror at the monster standing before him. "Whoa! You scared five years off my life," he feigned as he clutched the front of his Rainer University sweatshirt. Smiling through the thick makeup caking his face, the small boy extended his bag. "Trick r treat," he repeated.
"Looks like you've been busy tonight." Blair glanced into the ladened bag then twisted his face into a grimace. "Man, that's disgusting!" he giggled childishly as he leaned over to peek in the bag again.
Reaching into the pouch, the boy pulled out one of the offending items and held it up for Blair to see. "They're fake!" he beamed proudly, placing it in Blair's hand. "See!"
Blair let it roll around in the palm of his hand, an idea forming in his mind. "Hey!" he whispered conspiratorially. "I'll give you this whole bowl of candy for this," he offered, indicating the prize in his hand.
Placing a finger to his chin as if he were deep in thought, the boy turned to study the proffered candy intently. "Deal!" he stated, holding his hand out to confirm the negotiation with a shake.
Blair grinned at the boy's professional gesture and accepted the handshake. Dumping the contents of the candy bowl into the boy's sack, Blair smiled. Yep! This is going to be one fun night.
Rubbing a hand over his tired face, Jim sat at his desk studying the computer screen in front of him. He was getting nowhere on the Sampson case. The three brothers had tried to rob a convience store downtown a couple days ago. During the holdup, Jim had been forced to shoot the youngest brother, David, when he had fired on him. The other two had escaped out a back entrance in the ensuing melee. So far all Jim had was one dead end after the other. Glancing down at his watch, he sighed and stood up to stretch his legs. Halloween. He had always hated Halloween. His father had refused to let his children participate in such an unorganized, undisciplined holiday. He would always say, "Parents should control their children more. Letting them run around at all hours of the night, doing only God knows what. And for what? Candy! Most ridiculous thing I ever heard of." Having to watch all the other kids the next day during class tell about their adventures that night and sharing their goodies, Jim had always felt like he was missing out on something wonderful throughout school. Then as he got older and joined the army it became unimportant, just another day of the year. Now, he hated it. Being a cop he saw all the horrible acts and childish pranks that accompanied the holiday. Halloween meant more work, more crime, and more problems than it was worth.
Jim glanced at his watch again. 8:00pm. Damn!! I've already worked two hours of overtime tonight. Jim took one last look at the screen and flipped the computer off. "I just want to go home, stretch out on the couch, and forget Halloween even exists," he mumbled to himself as he grabbed his coat and headed to the elevator.
Glancing down at his watch for the hundredth time in the past 15 minutes, Blair swore under his breath. Jim was late again. He should have expected it. Actually he had expected it. But two whole hours! Blair rose from the couch and paced across the living room floor in the dark. He wanted to surprise Jim when he walked in the door. Originally he was going to do the typical jump out and yell boo' routine, however he nixed that idea immediately. Not a good idea to jump out on one of Cascade's finest. Besides it probably wouldn't work anyways, not with Jim's heightened senses. So instead he had settled on stringing an old skeleton from the anthropology department to drop down when his roommate came through the door. It's not one of my most imaginative tricks, but I still have a few more cards to play tonight, he smiled to himself, thinking about his recent acquisition now residing in the big pot of soup he had prepared earlier.
"Ouch!" Blair yelped, the smile vanishing from his face, as he danced on one foot, holding the one that had collided with the corner of the couch. "Man," he hissed through clenched teeth, "that hurt!"
Hearing the key rattle in the lock of the front door, Blair halted all movement and settled anxiously onto the couch he had previously been cursing. Hopefully Jim hadn't been paying attention and had missed the sound from his little floor show.
Holding his breath, Blair waited as the door cracked slightly then swung the rest of the way open, connecting with the string he had rigged. Acting as a trigger, the door released the skeleton, allowing it to swing down directly in the middle of the entrance way.
Hearing the clacking of the bones before he could see it, Jim immediately reached for his weapon. But before his gun could clear the holster, he was greeted face first by the swinging skeleton. A rush of emotions raced almost instantaneously across his face- surprise, fear, concern, panic, awareness, relief, and fury- but amusement never surfaced. Brushing the skeleton aside angrily, Jim focused his vision through the dark room, zeroing in on the soft chuckling coming from the couch. "Sandburrrggg!!!" Jim blared.
"Oh man, Jim," Blair snickered. "I wasn't sure I was going to be able to pull that off. You know, with your sentinel abilities and all. I thought you might catch on too quick."
Flipping the lights on, Jim continued to stare heatedly at the young man. "That wasn't funny Chief," Jim seethed. "Do you know I could have shot you?"
"Nah, man," Blair smiled, not fully understanding the depths of his partner's anger. "I knew it wouldn't take you that long to catch on."
"Blair..." Jim started, then clenched his jaw in an attempt to reign in his anger.
Sensing that his joke hadn't gone the way he had planned, Blair rose from the couch and started in Jim's direction. "Jim, I...."
Diverting his eyes, Jim raised his hand, effectively stopping Blair both verbally and physically. "Of all the stupid, irresponsible things you have done..."
"Come on Jim! It was just a joke." Blair exclaimed helplessly.
Jim stalked toward the kitchen, putting as much distance between them as he could. "I'm not in the mood for this right now, Sandburg," he said with forced calm, as he pulled a beer out of the fridge and twisted the cap off.
"But Jim..." Blair tried again, moving toward the counter.
"No!!" Jim barked. "I don't want to hear it."
"Fine," Blair replied, hanging his head and drumming his fingers absently on the counter top. "Whatever man!" Stealing a quick glance up at his fuming roommate, he turned on his heel and headed to his room.
Jim jumped as the door slammed behind the younger man. Damn. All I wanted to do was come home, grab something to eat, stretch out on the couch and watch some tv. But what do I get- childish pranks, a pissed off roommate, and more aggravation than if I would have simply stayed at work. Turning his hearing up, Jim detected the sound of pages being violently turned. Suddenly the pages ceased flying and Jim heard Blair collapse back on to his bed with a disheartened grunt. There was no way the kid was going to make him feel guilty about this. Blair had been out of line with that little stunt of his. Taking another swig from his beer, Jim strode angrily toward the couch and flipped the tv on, trying to tune out any sound from Blair.
Looking for nothing in particular, Blair shuffled through his notebooks, giving his hands something to take their frustration out on. Finally growing tired of the feeble attempt, he leaned back on his bed, his mind searching frantically for what had just went wrong. Why is Jim so pissed? O.K. Maybe it had been somewhat childish. I'm not saying I think I should win prank of the year or anything, but it had only been a joke. Blair pressed his palms against his temples and rolled onto his side as he felt the beginning of what was going to be one massive headache take hold.
After unsuccessfully flipping through the channels several times, Jim decided he needed to get some fresh air in order to clear his head. Draining the last of the contents from his beer bottle, he rose from the couch and headed to the door. He stopped briefly and listened for any sounds coming from Blair's room. The kid was meditating or whatever it was that he did. I guess he's more upset than I thought, Jim said to himself. Guilt started to slowly creep into Jim's conscience, but he immediately pushed it back as he let his earlier anger resurface. Slinging the skeleton aside, Jim grabbed his coat and slammed the door behind him. As he cursed the holiday for the hundredth time that day, Jim stalked out of the loft and down the stairs out into the frigid night air.
The slamming of the door reverberated through Sandburg's already pounding head. Great, just great. Pushing himself up into a sitting position, he scooted off the bed and ambled toward the kitchen to retrieve one of the pumpkins he had bought earlier, along with a carving knife and the day's newspaper. He had been saving the pumpkins for when Jim got home-a little pumpkin carving contest. However, that looked pretty doubtful at the moment. Not wanting to confront his roommate again when he got back, Blair scooped the pumpkin off the counter and headed toward his room.
Trying to minimize the pounding in his head, Blair continued to control his breathing as he spread the paper on the floor of the bedroom. "If Jim isn't in the Halloween spirit, fine," Blair mumbled to himself as he started to cut the top off the pumpkin. "But I'm not going to let him ruin it for me."
After scooping out the pumpkin filling, he started to carve out the face as some of the tension from the last hour started to ebb along with his headache. Feeling relaxed for the first time since Jim had traipsed in and ruined his good mood, Blair was unprepared for the sudden sharp, piercing pain that shot through his temple, causing the knife to slip and slice deeply into his palm.
Clutching his hand, Blair slowly stood up on wobbly legs and headed for the bathroom. After rinsing the cut, he rolled up some gauze from the first aid kit and pressed it into the palm of his hand to staunch the flow of blood.
"Perfect! Just perfect! What else can go wrong?" Blair asked his reflection in the mirror. A knock at the door caused him to jump. Trick or Treaters, Blair thought to himself and considered not answering it. He had already given away all the Halloween candy and he was more concerned with the small puddle of blood pooling in the bathroom sink from his hand. But the knock came again...and then again.
Sighing, he headed across the loft only to be blocked by the skeleton still hanging in front of the door, taunting him with the memory of the recent wrath that had been directed on him. With his good hand Blair jerked on the pulley, moving the skeleton back in place. However this time, he didn't attach the string behind the door; he left it hanging by the door frame. There was no way he wanted to replay that scene with Jim again when he got home. The only way that skeleton was coming down this time was if someone intentionally pulled the string. And he was pretty sure Jim wouldn't have that urge. He would worry about taking it down tomorrow. He simply didn't feel like fooling with it tonight. Between the pounding in his head and the throbbing in his hand, he doubted he could have if he had wanted to anyway.
With the skeleton finally out of the way, Blair reached out and opened the door. Expecting to see a group of persistent trick or treaters, he was surprised to find himself face to face with a large man dressed in a pirate costume.
"Can I help you?" Blair asked, looking around for the man's children.
"Yes. I believe you can," the pirate sneered, as he pulled a gun from his waistband and pointed it at Blair.
"Hey man," Blair said, turning quickly to close the door. "I don't know who you are, but..."
Sticking his foot inside the frame, the pirate shoved the door open and pushed his way in. "The name is Sampson. Harold Sampson."
Jim circled the block for what seemed like the hundredth time. The fresh air was doing wonders for his mood. Maybe he had over-reacted a little. He and Sandburg needed to have a long talk. And they needed to have it now before things got any further out of control. Shaking off the chill that was blasting through his coat, he headed toward the loft.
Intent on setting things straight with his partner, Jim didn't notice the unfamilar dark sedan sitting in front of the loft with the motor running. However a sudden jab in his back stopped him cold. "Detective Ellison," a voice scoffed. "We've been waiting for you. You really should be more careful. It was so easy to follow you home yesterday from the police station, but we decided to wait until tonight to get better acquainted. Halloween is a much more appropriate night to die, don't ya think?" The gun barrel pressed yet deeper. "My brother will be back shortly. He went to see if you were home. But it looks like I was the lucky one. I'm going to enjoy this. David was very special to me, you know?" he whispered menacingly.
David, Jim immediately recognized the name of the youngest Sampson brother, the one he had killed in the failed robbery.
Jim started to turn, but Patrick wrapped an arm around his throat. "No, I guess you wouldn't know. Would you?" Patrick answered himself, slowly maneuvering Jim towards the sedan. "But don't worry. I'm sure me and Harold can teach you all about it."
Panic settled in the pit of Jim's stomach. Harold went to see if I was home. Blair!! Grabbing the arm circling his throat with one hand, Jim dug the elbow of his other arm into Patrick's ribcage, forcing the gun away from his body, then shifted his weight and flipped the assailant over his shoulder. Patrick landed with a loud thud and scrambled hurriedly to his feet only to be knocked back down as a fist collided with his chin. Springing onto the dazed man, Jim landed another blow that rendered him unconscious.
Wanting to check on his partner's safety, Jim controlled himself long enough to look for something to restrain his prisoner. Glancing through the window of the sedan, he noticed several ropes and rolls of duct tape-that had obviously been meant for him. Jim turned back to his attacker, noticing for the first time the childish vampire costume he was wearing. Hoisting Patrick the few remaining feet toward the car, Jim lowered him into the backseat, securing his arms and legs with the rope and placing a strip of tape across his mouth. Undoing the cape from the costume, he spread it over the unconscious man. After removing the keys from the ignition, Jim locked the doors, retrieved Patrick's gun from the sidewalk, and bounded up the stairs.
Backing slowly across the living room floor, his arms raised, the gauze still clutched in his left hand, Blair tried again, "Look, I don't know what the problem is, but I'm sure if you put the gun down we can work something out."
"We'll work something out all right," Harold hissed. "Where's Ellison?"
Blair swiftly covered the dread that rose at the mention of his friend's name. "Ellison?" Blair asked stupidly. "I don't know an Ellison." Jim would be back any minute now, and Blair simply wanted to get the guy out of the apartment. It was obvious that he wasn't looking for the detective to set up a lunch date. Well, not unless Jim was going to be lunch.
"You don't huh?" Harold threatened, taking a step closer.
Ignoring the gun aimed at him, Blair decided to flee for the back door. The look in the man's eyes didn't do much to assure him that he would be safer staying put. Turning on his heel, Blair took off like a shot for the fire escape. Halfway to his destination, he felt his feet fly out from under him as he was flung violently to the floor. Disoriented from the impact, he didn't register his arms being jerked painfully behind his back as his wrists were wrapped in sticky duct tape.
Realization slowly dawning on him, Blair struggled to find his footing, but before he could get to his feet, he felt the floor rush up to greet him again as Harold pressed him back to the ground with a boot planted firmly on his back.
Blair blinked up at the man towering over him. "What....?"
"Did I tell you that you could get up?" the pirate asked scornfully. Not waiting for an answer, he reached down and grabbed one of Blair's bound arms and jerked him to his feet.
Blair stifled the cry that sprang to his lips as his arm resisted the upward motion, the gauze falling from his limp digits. He could feel the blood oozing from the cut on his hand and sliding down to drip off the ends of his fingers.
"Now once again. Where's Ellison?" he asked, fiercely shaking his captive.
When the jarring had stopped, Blair tried to still the pounding in his head that was back with a vengeance. "I don't know what...."
His words were cut off by the resounding crack that split the air as Harold's palm made contact with Blair's cheek. "Ellison?" he repeated.
Blair stood defiantly, saying nothing.
"So that's the way you want to play it. Makes no difference really. I've got all the time in the world. If my brother doesn't get him downstairs first, I'm sure we can arrange a nice little Halloween surprise for him when he gets back," Harold said pointedly, tearing off a generous length of duct tape, firmly pressing it against Blair's mouth, and wrapping it completely around his head until the ends met at the nape of his neck. "I guess you two are pretty close huh?" Harold asked, pushing Blair toward the kitchen table and down onto one of the chairs. "This might work out for the best after all."
Cautiously approaching the front door, Jim listened for any movement inside the loft. He could detect two heartbeats. Both beating rapidly. And there was no doubt in his mind that one of them was Blair's. He tried to judge their positions from behind the closed door. They were close. There was no way he was going to be able to get the jump on Harold without Blair being right in the middle of things. Again.
The ringing of Jim's cellphone pulled him from his contemplation. Damn!! he swore, hurriedly reaching inside his jacket pocket and flipping the ringer off the traitorous phone.
Waiting several seconds to see if his position had been compromised, he wasn't surprised when a voice called to him through the closed door. "Detective Ellison, is that you?" the voice yelled. "If so, you better show yourself."
Jim hesitated, weighing his options, but was suddenly spurred into motion at the sound of flesh striking flesh followed by a somewhat suppressed moan from his partner.
Flinging the door open, Jim stepped into the room his gun drawn. As he leveled the weapon at Harold, his eyes swept over his roommate, still bent over from the well-placed punch Harold had delivered to his stomach.
Jerking Blair from his doubled-over stance, Harold positioned the anthropologist between Jim and himself, one arm wrapped around his throat the other pressing a gun into his side.
Blair's arms were obviously bound behind his back, probably with the same duct tape that was wrapped securely around his mouth. Jim's gaze shifted upwards to meet Blair's eyes. His heart lurched at the fear and trust that he saw reflected there. His gaze broke, settling on the bruise deepening on the side of his friend's face, then downward to a small pool of blood collecting on the floor. Anger clashed with concern. Snapping his eyes back up to meet with Harold's, Jim took a step closer, trying to maneuver around for a better shot at the man holding his partner.
"Hold it right there Ellison," Harold hissed, as he shifted Blair so he was once again blocking off any clear shot Jim might have at him. "Drop it," he ordered, pressing the gun into Blair's ribs. "Or you're going to have one very messy spot on your floor."
Blair winced slightly at the gun poking against his ribs, his eyes following the sentinel's every move.
"You drop it," Jim said steadily, never releasing his focus from his target.".
"Oh come on detective! How stupid do you think I am?" Harold asked, his arm tightening around Blair's throat. "Do you really think that I think that you're going to risk your little friend's life here? I get the feeling that the two of you are fairly close. You ought to have seen the way the little guy stood up to me. Even with a little added persuasion he refused to tell me where you were," he gloated, smiling. "Maybe...you're even as close as brothers. Now wouldn't that be just perfect for me."
"It's over Sampson," Jim countered. "There's no way you're getting out of here. Your brother is already in custody."
Harold glared at Jim, anger bubbling within him at the thought that something could have happened to his only remaining relative-thanks to Ellison. "What did you do to my brother you pig?"
Feeling Harold's arm tighten even harder against his neck, Blair struggled weakly against him as his oxygen supply started diminishing rapidly.
Jim noticed the sudden panic in his friend's eyes as he fought to draw in air. "He's fine. I just restrained him. Now let him go," Jim said, gesturing at Blair with his head. "He's not part of this."
"The hell he's not," Harold shouted. "As long as I have him, I have the upper hand here." Harold picked up on the arm clenched around his prisoner's neck, forcing Blair to stand on the tips of his toes. "Well," he said forcing calm into his voice, "what's it going to be?"
Black circles danced in front of Blair's eyes as he felt his lungs burning from their deprived need. His gaze pleaded with Jim, his toes no longer supporting him, his full weight resting on the arm under his chin.
"O.K. O.K.," Jim quickly relented, holding his hands out to his sides and lowering the gun to the floor.
"Now kick it over here," Harold ordered.
Righting himself back to a standing position, Jim deliberately kicked the gun several feet away from it's supposed destination.
"Cute detective," Harold quipped, coldly staring at the man who had ruined his life.
Trying to keep track of the conversation, Blair battled to keep his eyes open, but the encroaching darkness started to win over. Just as he was about to relent and slip into peacefulness, he heard Jim angrily shout something like "release him....can't breath." The next thing he knew the pressure around his neck had diminished significantly, his knees giving out beneath him as his feet made contact with the floor. A hand grasped under his arm and immediately hauled him back up. Blair's eyes flew open as his lungs drew in as much of the blessed air as possible through his nostrils. Thankful for the restored air flow, Blair ignored the scratching in his throat, the burning in his ears, and the activity that suddenly flared up around him.
Seizing advantage of Harold's brief distraction of righting his hostage, Jim rushed forward, hoping to occupy him long enough for Blair to make a getaway. However, Harold recovered faster than Jim had anticipated. The next thing he knew was exploding pain as the butt of a pistol slammed into his head, driving him to the ground.
Studying the unconscious man for several minutes, Harold finally grew bored and used his foot to poke Jim in the ribs. "Jimmy....oh Jimmy..." he sang tauntingly. "I really want you to be awake for this."
Moaning softly, Jim shook his head and focused on the man standing over him still using his partner as a shield.
"That was pretty stupid there Jimmy," Harold denounced, clucking his tongue and moving back several feet. "But based on what I've seen here tonight, I think I've changed my mind about killing you," he smiled. "That would be way too easy. I want you to suffer like me and Patrick. I want you to feel the loss of someone close to you." Harold sighed, craning his neck toward Blair. "He might not be your brother, but I think he'll do just fine in a pinch. I mean the way you rushed in here without backup. I think that says something about the way you feel about him. What do you think?"
Why didn't I call for backup? Jim berated himself as he gathered his feet under him and pushed himself up, locking eyes first with Blair, who was trying to remain calm, and then with Harold. "If you hurt him...." Jim's voice trailed off.
"Oh come now. What are you going to do?" he asked, shuffling Blair toward the loft door. "My only dilemma is where I'm going to do him. Sure I could shoot him here and make a run for it. You might or might not get me before I got away, depending on whether or not you stayed with your friend here during his last minutes on earth. Or," Harold suggested, "I could let Patrick in on it. I did promise him he could be there to watch you die. I'm sure he is more anxious than ever to participate now. But if I do that then I have to take your little pal with me and dump him somewhere for you to find later."
Jim started forward.
"Att...att," Harold challenged. "Don't make the choice for me. I have no qualms about shooting him here and now."
Jim knew that Harold was serious. The man would have no second thoughts about pulling that trigger. Seeing his own weapon out of the corner of his eye, several feet away, Jim mentally gauged the distance. There's no way I can get to it in time. Looking in anguish at his partner, Jim let several different scenarios play out in his mind. None of them had an ending he cared to see. The pleading, frightened look in Blair's eyes tugged at his heart, reminding him that his last words to the younger man had been full of ire.
Feeling the string tickle against his shoulder, Blair shifted slightly until it played in the palm of one of his bound hands. He was rewarded with both a swift yank of his hair from Harold and a surge of renewed determination.
Jim grimaced, forcing himself to stay rooted to the spot beneath him, as Blair shifted slightly to his left and was then rendered immobile by the hand that snaked around his neck and wrapped itself in his long curly hair.
"Blair..." Jim started, wanting to say something to reassure his friend. But his words halted as the expression on Blair's face changed to one of anticipation and hope.
Willing Jim to read his mind, Blair shifted his gaze up slightly toward the skeleton, hanging directly above his and Harold's head then back down to his partner.
Jim followed the trail of Blair's eyes, his gaze shifting back to his friend and zeroing in on the small string that ran down the side of the door frame and disappeared behind Blair's back.
"Well..." Harold beckoned, "aren't you going to say bye to your roomie here?"
"Yes, yes I am," Jim nodded at Blair, preparing to launch himself at the assailant.
Wrapping his hand around the string, Blair pulled forcefully, shooting pain through his injured hand but at the same time sending the skeleton flying through the air, crashing into the both of them.
Startled, Harold released his hold on his captive and raised his arms to protect himself from the sudden barrage of bones.
Feeling the arm restraining him fall away, Blair dropped to the floor, rolling out of the man's reach, at the same time that Jim barreled into Harold, taking them both through the doorway and into the hall.
After slamming the astonished man into the wall, Jim managed to wrestle the gun from his grip, letting it fall to the floor, as he landed several blows to the costume clad man's mid-section and face.
Coming to his senses, Harold fought back, planting a knee in Ellison's stomach followed by an uppercut that would have knocked most men flat on their backsides. But Jim recovered quickly, delivering a well-placed blow to the temple, knocking Harold cold.
Retrieving the discarded gun and sticking it in his waistband, Jim grabbed Harold's arms and dragged him back inside the loft. Taking his cuffs from the basket at the door, Jim quickly slung them into place and scanned the room for his friend.
Locating him huddled in the corner by the door, Jim rapidly approached. "Are you O.K.?" he asked, grasping his partner under the shoulders and lifting him up.
Blair nodded vigorously, imploring Jim with his eyes to remove the duct tape binding his wrists and covering his mouth.
Jim laughed lightly, moving toward the kitchen. "What's wrong Sandburg? Nothing to say."
Rolling his eyes, Blair turned around, offering Jim access to the duct tape around his hands. Returning shortly with a knife, Jim started to slice through the tape when he noticed the hands covered in blood and remembered the pool of red liquid that he had seen earlier on the loft floor.
After cutting through the thick tape, Jim turned Blair back around to face him, lifting the bloody hand up. "Did Sampson do this?" he asked angrily, studying the deep gash across Blair's palm.
Shaking his head, Blair waited as Jim finished inspecting the wound. "Then how...." Jim looked up again and stopped as he realized Blair still couldn't answer.
Releasing Blair's hand, Jim picked up the phone and called first Simon then the paramedics. Heading back to the kitchen, he rummaged through the drawers finally coming up with a pair of scissors. After ushering Blair over to the couch and motioning for him to take a seat, he carefully slid the scissors down the side of Blair's cheek, severing the tape strands. "This might hurt a little Chief," Jim said looking up at Blair and then jerking the sticky tape from over his mouth, letting it hang still entangled in the young man's hair.
"Ouch!!" Blair yelled, raising his good hand to wipe at the stinging flesh, leaving a small smudge of blood on his cheek. "You did that on purpose!"
Jim grinned and reached down to wipe at the small bloody spot. "It hurts a lot less when you just take a deep breath and get it over with."
"Well next time give me a chance to take the deep breath. O.K.?"
Rubbing at the lump forming on the back of his head, Jim sat down on the couch beside his partner. "Are you alright?" he asked again, reaching out to turn the lowered face toward him.
"I'm fine," Blair replied, pulling his head away and leaning back against the cushion, before elaborating, "now."
A knock at the door drew both men's attention to Simon Banks, who was leading three uniformed officers and two paramedics into the room.
Two hours and ten stitches later, Blair scrubbed one-handedly at the blood-stained spots on the floor. Jim was still at the station, filling out paperwork, but was expected home any minute now. Blair studied the stubborn spot in front of him. Jim had tried to get him to stay with him at the station until he had finished, but Blair had insisted on having Brown drive him home. The busy squad room had only increased the pounding in his head and besides he really wanted to straighten up the mess in the loft. He was willing to brave the insistent pounding as long as it assured him the absence of one of Jim's lectures later. Blair scolded himself. He knew Jim would never lay in to him for the blood- his blood- splotched throughout the loft. Maybe he needed to have things back in order, to make amends for the argument that had been blown way out of proportion earlier in the evening. He had obviously over-stepped Jim's limits. And he could understand Jim's reaction. Jim relied on him, expected him to be there to back him up. Halloween pranks and childish behavior certainly didn't do much to reinforce that expectation.
Keys jangled in the lock and Blair looked frantically at the door, now minus the skeleton thanks to a couple of officers. With a tremendous sigh, Blair looked around at the bloody spots still in need of scrubbing. So much for having the place spic and span for his roommate.
Staring anxiously at the door, Blair waited for his partner to make his appearance. He didn't have long to wait as Jim strode through the entrance way with something in his arms. From Blair's position on the floor he was unable to make out the mysterious object.
"Blair?" Jim called out, looking around the living room as he walked into the kitchen. Spotting his partner kneeling on the floor, Jim unburdened his arms and rounded the counter to face him. "What are you doing?" he asked, holding his hand out to help Blair up. "Come on."
Blair looked disgustedly at the floor then back to Jim. "I want to finish this man."
"Come on." Jim repeated, gesturing for him to get up with the fingers of his outstretched hand.
Blair looked once more from the bloody floor to Jim then reluctantly reached out to clasp the extended hand in his own.
After pulling his partner to his feet, Jim made his way back to the kitchen with Blair in tow.
"What?" Blair asked stupidly as he was lead back around into the kitchen. His eyes lighted on the counter top. "Jim..." he started excitedly then squashed his enthusiasm as he asked, "why did you buy a pumpkin? We already have one." Blair indicated the pumpkin sitting on top of the refrigerator.
"Yeah. I know," Jim said, disappointed that the eagerness he had heard in Blair's voice had disappeared so suddenly, "but you can't have a pumpkin carving contest with only one pumpkin."
Warmth flowed over Blair as he thought of the pumpkin he had mutilated when his knife had slipped. Jim had insisted on knowing what had happened to his hand while the doctors had stitched it up. After filling Jim in on the incident, he had went on to explain why he had bought two pumpkins.
Now staring at the pumpkin before him, Blair accepted it for what it was, an apology for the earlier argument. Clapping Jim on the back, Blair grinned affectionately. "No, you can't."
Smiling down at the younger man, Jim turned the burner on to warm up the soup Blair had prepared before the events of the night had unfolded. Neither had eaten supper and Jim was sure he could eat the whole pot himself and still want more.
Turning back around, Jim caught a glimpse of curly brown hair ducking behind the counter. "What do you think you are doing?" Jim asked, peering over to stare at the hidden form.
Leaning back, Blair looked up then back down at the floor as he scrubbed harder. "I...can't... get... this... to... come... out," he managed between scrubs.
Feeling his earlier guilt resurface, Jim realized the only reason his usually untidy roommate was so determined to remove the numerous splotches was to make up for his earlier prank. "Blair?" No answer as the vigorous scrubbing continued. "Sandburg?" Jim raised his voice.
Startled, Blair looked up. "Yeah?"
"Don't worry about it. Let's eat some soup, carve these pumpkins, and watch a movie."
Blair stood slowly. "But..." he started.
"No argument, Chief." Jim interrupted, shaking his head. "We'll worry about the mess tomorrow."
"O.K." Blair smiled as he started toward the cupboards to retrieve some bowls for the soup. "Can we watch Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde? It comes on in a few minutes." Blair asked hopefully, not wanting to spend Halloween watching Jim's usual action/cop/shoot'em up movie.
The pleading look in the young man's eyes as he moved to stand next to Jim, one bowl outstretched was too much for the detective. "Sure," he sighed.
After ladling two bowls full of soup and grabbing some bread from the counter, both men sat down at the table to enjoy a very late and much needed supper.
"Blair," Jim started, "I just want you to know that I'm not mad about earlier. I've just never cared much for Halloween, and I was in a foul mood to begin with. Your little surprise...well it just hit me the wrong way."
"I know and I'm sorry. I've always been a little over zealous around Halloween. I promise nothing like that will ever happen again," Blair apologized. Something at the back of his mind was trying to push its way into his memory, something he had forgotten about in the excitement of the past several hours.
"O.K. then. Let's eat. I'm starved," Jim announced, tearing off a chunk of bread. Stirring his soup slowly, he found himself staring at an unusual piece of something. A potato, an onion, some type of bean? As it rolled closer to the surface, Jim gaped disgustedly at the very real-looking plastic eyeball staring back at him. "Sandbuurrggg!!!!"
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