Note: This story is a bridge between two of my stories: "Some are Silver... The Others Gold" and "No Center Line"
"Night all." Simon Banks clicked off the light and the room disappeared into darkness. "We've got a busy day planned tomorrow if we're going to see Stanley Park and take a look at some of the other sights before the game."
"I know, Dad," Daryl said, with the proper air of long-suffering guaranteed to bring chuckles from the room's two other occupants.
"I know you know, son." His father shuffled around on the bed, trying to get comfortable, and Daryl rolled his eyes in the dark.
"And I know that he knows that you know," Blair Sandburg added, from the other bed, then dissolved into sharp laughter as he was poked or something. "Stop that."
"Then go to sleep, Chief. Now," Jim Ellison ordered, the lightness of his tone belaying the harsh words.
"I will. I will."
After another round of saying goodnight to each other, the room quieted.
Until Blair spoke suddenly, causing both Jim and Simon to groan. "Great game, wasn't it? I knew when the Jags called that twenty-second time-out right near the end of the game, that they'd be able to pull out of their tailspin in time to win. It was close, though."
"The Grizzlies were losing until the last ten minutes, then they started getting points. When they pulled ahead -- I thought we were goners," Daryl said.
"Down by three with half a minute to go -- sound familiar anyone?" Blair asked.
"It's been happening too often lately," Simon said. "I don't know about Jeffries. They should trade him if he keeps on pulling shabby performances like he did tonight."
"Wasn't Wallace great, though?"
"You say that every game, Chief."
"Did you see that slam dunk?"
"I did. We all did. And we saw the replay of it. Go to sleep," Jim ordered again.
The room once more became silent. Daryl could hear the heating unit come on. Someone passed by in the hallway, indistinct voices fading as they kept walking.
Daryl was almost asleep when Blair's voice came again, whispering softly, mimicking the announcer's words as he relived the moment, "He's in the air! It's in! The ball is in! And this game is over! The timer has signaled the end of the game and the Cascade Jaguars are on the court! The Vancouver Grizzlies made a valiant effort to pull out of their mid-season slump, but the stunning play of Orville Wallace in the last few seconds cost them the game. The score: 101 for the Jaguars, and 100 for the Vancouver Grizzlies. Mmmff," he ended, unable to continue due to what Daryl assumed was Jim's hand over his mouth.
"Go. To. Sleep," the detective's voice cut through the darkness, probably speaking with his teeth clenched. "I'm warning you, Chief."
Ten seconds of silence.
"Has anyone ever told you that you're a mmmmfff?" Blair asked, once again muffled.
Daryl laughed at the antics, only to be hushed by his father.
"Don't encourage them, son, or I'll never get to sleep. It's 12:30 in the morning, and I don't want to nod off at the hockey game tonight. Now, good night, everyone. Got that, Sandburg?"
"Yes, Captain. Sir," Blair said, trying not to laugh and not succeeding.
Silence again in the room.
For about a minute and a half.
Then Blair's voice piped up again. "Hey, Daryl -- Thanks for inviting us, man. This is way cool. Basketball game, hockey game, two nights at the Bayshore Inn."
"No problem, Blair. Glad you guys could come." Daryl went to say more, but his father poked his side and he shut up.
He lay on his back grinning and looking up through the darkness at the ceiling. Three weeks ago he had won the four tickets on a call-in radio show, but then was devastated to find out that he couldn't take his three high school buddies with him because he was underage. That meant his dad had to go with him, leaving him to try to decide which two of his three closest friends he could he take along with his father-the-cop on the sports-filled weekend. Having a police officer for a father could be a really downer sometimes.
Then Blair had been kidnapped and when he was released and the bad guy found, Daryl realized who else he wanted on the trip. Tentatively he had asked his dad about the possibility, but Simon had thought it was too soon for Blair to be traveling, to be away from home and a secure environment. Daryl had phoned Jim anyway, who had in turn asked Blair, and both had agreed it would be good to get out of the city for a weekend.
But then Jim had left suddenly to do some undercover stuff in a prison out of town, and the trip plans had been put on hold.. For five days, Daryl waited to find out what was going to happen, and his father had said not to count on anything. Yet on Wednesday afternoon, only a few hours after returning to Cascade, Jim had called Daryl to confirm the weekend, and Daryl had realized that they still intended to go.
His dad had been surprised, but they had all managed to leave by two in the afternoon, getting through the lengthy Friday lineups at the border and they made it to Vancouver on time to check into the hotel and have an early dinner before the basketball game.
And Saturday night's hockey schedule had the Vancouver Canucks playing the Calgary Flames and that promised to be a tension-filled game with lots of good fights, if NHL history proved itself. It was going to be his first NHL hockey game after years of pleading with his father to take him. Just another thing they had never gotten around to doing when he was younger.
This is way cool, he thought, echoing Blair's words earlier. I did the right thing inviting them. And Dad.
A satisfied smile on his face, Daryl rolled over and fell into the deep sleep that only the young truly enjoy.
Friends existed and were to be cherished, but they moved around so much he never had time to get to know them very well. Naomi had the ability to bond with people, instantly be a part of their lives as though she had never been absent from them, but he found it difficult to get beyond a comfortable, superficial, 'friendliness'. Smile a lot, listen a lot, and help when you can, and people seemed to accept you just fine.
Some are Silver, the others Gold...
Most were neither, just nice people he had encountered. 'Uncles' and 'aunts' who weren't related to him. They were his mother's friends, not his.
At the university, there were students who he hung out with. Co-ed dorms. Fellow classmates. Students he did projects with, studied with, drank with, partied with. His rooms in the dorm changed so much or were so noisy that he gave up and got off-campus housing as soon as he was old enough, but that was worse. Sharing accommodations with other students meant constant change of people, traffic through his life, as nomadic an existence as he had ever shared with Naomi. At least he always knew she loved him. The others with whom he shared a roof really didn't give a damn whether he came back at night or not. Just as long as he paid his share of the rent and didn't cause any problems.
Blair rolled over, trying to wedge his face more comfortably on the pillow. He opened his eyes just a crack, but the room was dark, almost pitch black. Their room looked out over the water, and no lights shone through the heavy drapes on the window. On the night table between the two beds, the clock's luminous numbers read 01:55, changing to 01:56 as he stared at it.
Go to sleep, he told himself, turning his back on the clock and closing his eyes.
He had almost succeeded when a foot brushed against his, sending an electrical shock through his body.
His eyes flashed open, terror choking him.
His hands were tied to the bed posts, both legs bound to the lower posts. Exposing him to the man laying beside him. Staring at him.
Crawford was in bed next to him.
The man's dark eyes swept across his body, his chest, his stomach, his groin.Blair sat up, his hands clenched in his hair, trying to stop the memory from going any further. Trying to control his breathing.
"I'm okay. Go back to sleep," he whispered, then immediately settled himself with his back to Jim, almost hanging off the edge of the bed.
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah, I'm fine."
Jim made a noncommittal noise and turned over the other way.
The room got quiet again. 02:14 became 02:15.
Blair closed his eyes, trying to count sheep. Or frogs. Or panthers.
Jim shifted and the blankets slid along Blair's shoulder, once again startling him awake. Crawford's face leered at him, then disappeared.
"I'm fine, Jim," he answered quickly.
"Nothing. I almost fell off the bed and it startled me."
"Oh. Go to sleep," Jim whispered, and turned over.
Right. If I could do that, Jim...
Simon was snoring softly, just a few feet away. Daryl was on the other side of him, probably just as soundly asleep. Beyond them, the drapes rustled with the air from the heating vent.
Sleep continued to elude him. He was mad at himself for hiding across the bed from his partner. Jim's foot had just barely touched him, and he was peeling himself off the ceiling. Jeez. When is this going to end?
Think about something else. Like how cool it was for Daryl to ask us along.
He concentrated on thinking about the day -- the trip up, the game, the walk back to the hotel -- it all blurred in his mind, tumbling over and over like a laundromat dryer. It was making him dizzy and he opened his eyes trying to avoid the too-vivid visual memories. But even in the darkness of the room, he could remember the noise of the stadium crowd, the loud cheering, the sounds echoing in his mind, reminding him too painfully of the rooting, jeering crowd at the prison when it was his friend on display in the life-and-death, staged event. He had only seen a few moments of the fight, glimpses through the crowd, but the thirst for blood he had witnessed had terrified him.
And if the basketball game tonight had spooked him -- what had it done to Jim? His partner had seemed to enjoy the game, following it carefully, laughing, raising his beer into the air when their team did well, slapping hands with Simon and Daryl and him when a shot went their way. He had whistled loudly, stomped his feet, devoured hot dogs, and enjoyed their box seats and attached party room, seeming at ease with the other eight people they shared it with, all contest winners up from Cascade.
It seemed Jim was having fun.
He checked the clock, hoping he had drifted off and was just waking up again. 02:37. No such luck.
Beside him, Jim adjusted his pillow, bunching it in two.
Just as sleep eluded Blair, he knew it was also escaping Jim, and he hoped it wasn't because his racing heartbeat had woken the sentinel. He had a good idea what it was, though. Blair turned over in the darkness of the room, facing his partner. "You awake?" he whispered, making sure his voice was scarcely loud enough to register on sentinel ears, not loud enough to bother the other occupants of their room.
At first he thought he had been wrong, that Jim was sleeping, but after a moment he heard Jim's head move on the pillow, and the low-voiced response. "You should be asleep, Chief. It's been a long day for you."
"You had the same day I did, and you're still awake. Why?" He rolled onto his left side and reached out to touch the detective's arm, finding it unerringly in the darkness. "You haven't slept much in the last few days, since you've been back from the prison. I thought-- I thought when you got out, you'd be okay again."
"That place eats at a person. Destroys them." The quiet words seem to hover above where they lay and Blair could feel the frost on them.
"You need to sleep, man. Let me help you."
"How?" Jim asked, and the hope was as audible as his question.
"Uh ... I want you to close your eyes and concentrate on my voice, okay? Don't think of anything else."
"Okay," Jim replied, then continued before Blair could find the words he wanted to say. "It's not that easy. I can't just let it go."
"Why? What happened there?"
"I can't explain Starkville to you, Chief. I don't want to tell you how I felt there. Who I was there."
Blair stayed silent, eyes wide in the darkness, not sure if Jim was looking at him or not. But he knew his face begged for more information, revealed his need to know what happened.
Jim cleared his throat. "At night..." He paused, then started again. "At night, I would lay in bed and listen to it all. To the sound of hundreds of men sleeping, snoring, tossing on their beds. Guards walking the hallways. Sitting at their posts. Doors opening and closing. The clank of bars. And I heard other things. The other things that happened in the prison at night."
"The games? Like the one you were in?" Blair asked, softly, moving fractionally closer.
"Yes," Jim whispered.
"What else?" Blair could hear Jim shaking his head, the action rustling the pillow. "What else could you hear?" he asked again, keying his voice to the right tone.
Jim was still resisting telling him, though. "You don't need to know this, Chief. We should get some sleep."
"Tell me. I'm not a child. I know what happens in prisons. What else could you hear?"
The words tumbled from Ellison's mouth before he could stop them. "I heard inmates being murdered. I heard two murders when I was there. Eight men badly beaten. Seventeen rapes. All in five days and nights."
"Seventeen--? God, Jim. I'm sorry." His hand tightened on his partner's arm. "I'm so sorry I wasn't there to help you."
Ellison said nothing, did nothing, except control his breathing, then he placed his free hand on top of Sandburg's. "No. I didn't want you there, Chief. That was what kept me going, knowing you were safe with Simon. No man should have to hear that. I didn't want you near any of it. I didn't want you to be within fifty miles of Starkville. I thought I had made that clear."
Sandburg flinched at the anger in Ellison's voice. "I had to take the teacher's position. I couldn't leave you alone in there."
"Simon told me that you slept in the rental car for those five nights instead of at the motel in town."
It was Blair's turn to shake his head. "I couldn't sleep at the motel. The car was as close to you as I could get."
"Because I knew what you'd be hearing. Not all of it -- not the details -- but I knew what it would do to you," Blair whispered. "I was scared -- hell, I was scared with my visitor's badge when I was in the classroom. That whole Correctional Institute thing scares the shit out of me, Jim. It's like they're only half alive in there. And not just the prisoners. The guards, too. I was afraid of you being in there."
"Because it would slowly kill me."
"I'm here now," Ellison murmured to them both. "I'm out. It's over."
"It's almost over. You still can't sleep at night. What are you listening for? We're in a huge hotel. There's a good lock on the door and it's bolted. I saw you check it. There are hundreds of rooms. Probably a few thousand people here. You've got Simon in the next bed. Daryl. You've got me. You can sleep now. We're all okay." He moved higher on the bed, until he could rest his left palm on the Sentinel's forehead, his right hand flat on the man's chest. "Go to sleep, Jim. I'm here. I'm alive. Can you feel my touch?"
Jim nodded and Blair could feel the tension still controlling the detective. The clenched jaw. The short exhalations of air through his nose. The pounding heartbeat beneath his right palm.
"You need to relax. We're safe. You're safe, man. There's no hatred here. Just us. The walls here are good walls. Comforting walls. Not trapping us, but protecting us. Do you follow me?"
"Yeah," Jim said after a moment. Another struggle for control over his breathing and nerves.
"Hey, Jim. Listen to my voice. Listen to me ... You are in control here. It's okay. You're in control. We're all safe. We had fun tonight at the game. Simon's here to ensure our safety as well. Okay? You're in control. Got that?" Blair felt the faint nod. "Good. Now keep listening. I need you to let go of your control -- No, listen ... just for a little while. Let it go. Let us take the responsibility for your safety. You trust us, don't you? Well, then, drop your guard and let yourself go. Let your mind drift, knowing it's safe within the good walls. Breathe in with me ... Out with me ... In with me ... Out with me ... That's it. Keep breathing. Breathe out the anger and hatred. Breathe in the safety and love. Out with the anger and hatred. In with safety and love." Blair kept up the refrain for a few minutes until he felt Jim relax beneath his hands, pulled into a hypnotic sleep. The breathing slowly changed, altering from the tense, almost panting pattern, to something more relaxed and easy.
Crawford's slight wheeze as he slept beside him.Blair shivered abruptly and held his breath -- willing his stomach to cease and desist -- and waited until he was sure that Jim was sound asleep before letting himself pull away, his feet touching the floor and taking him into the bathroom. He shut the door and turned on the lights, leaning on the counter over the sink, his body shaking. His knees gave out suddenly, but he had been prepared for that and slowly eased himself to the floor, still holding onto the ledge, his forehead now resting against the edge of the counter. He stayed that way for several minutes, breathing shallowly, feeling his heart pounding way too fast, trying to suppress his whirling thoughts, to push them back to the earlier memories of the basketball game and away from these new images that wouldn't let him go.
He was not going to have a panic attack. No way. Not here. Not now.
For with the images that Jim's words had painted in his mind of Starkville had emerged other pictures -- his memories.
Of Daniel Crawford, the man who had kidnapped him. And what Daniel Crawford had done.
He reached out and turned the tap on, hoping the sound of water running would mask his almost-silent sobs that echoed in the white-tiled bathroom. Jim mustn't hear. He had to sleep. He had finally got Jim to go to sleep and he was determined to deal with this himself. Gasping for air, he collapsed to the floor, curled into a ball, his fists pressed into his eyes, rocking frantically.
Starkville prison had been hell for all of them. It had been more than difficult -- almost impossible -- to stand and watch his detective, a man who was his close, personal friend, walk away from the fenced fighting area and out into the night. Shoulders down, muscles trembling. Eyes haunted. Ellison had almost broken under the strain, and Simon didn't want to think of what the man had seen and heard -- and experienced -- to push him that close to the edge.
Especially after what had happened with Daniel Crawford such a short time before. Crawford had kidnapped and killed several small children, and then had captured Sandburg. For four days, Ellison had sat at his desk, hardly sleeping, hardly eating, until they had found his partner again. There had only been a few days of grace between Crawford's capture and Ellison entering Starkville, and it was a testimony to the level of value Ellison placed on his friends that he was able to leave his partner behind during that time. Simon knew it was something Jim and Blair had sat down and discussed carefully between them, and the decision had been mutual. A friend had been murdered, and the Sentinel needed to act. Not that it had been much of a surprise when they had stood in his office and requested permission for Jim to go undercover. Hell, they both came to Peru to look for Daryl and me. What's that about 'no greater love'...?
After all the crap they had been through, Simon had been surprised -- shocked, almost -- that the two still wanted to go to Vancouver with Daryl and him.
He had wondered about Sandburg, wondered how he would fare in the hotel room and in a foreign environment after his recent ordeal, and up until five minutes ago, Simon had been amazed at how well Sandburg was holding up. Then he had heard the terrified gasp and had opened his eyes when Blair had tumbled from his bed and disappeared into the bathroom. Even now he could hear the sound of water running and what might be the kid softly crying.
Well, maybe not crying, he couldn't tell. Maybe Blair just had an upst stomach. Daryl and Blair had managed to put away a great deal of junk food in a few hours, and the kid wasn't one for junk food usually. His kid, on the other hand, was a pro.
Strange how he lumped the two together. His kid and the kid. Both with the ability to turn on the puppy dog charm and con him. No one would ever replace his love for his son, but Sandburg had found a place for himself in Simon's heart, and the police captain realized he didn't know exactly when it had happened. Maybe during that whole thing with Lash, seeing Jim carrying Blair from the warehouse, seeing him cling to the detective, drugged, traumatized, terrified. Seeing the trust between them and how much Jim cared about him.
And if someone had broken through that steel wall and into James Ellison's life, they were worthy of Simon's attention. He had known the feelings ran both ways when Jim had been kidnapped the year before and Simon had been left to deal with a frantic Blair, desperate to find his partner and friend. Threaten one, and the other was in your face.
Jim and Blair were as much family as he was with his own son. Maybe not flesh and blood, but something that ran just as deep -- deeper maybe, because there were no familial obligations to hold them together. Something held them though. Something was pulling them closer together, often kicking and screaming, and he knew it had something to do with that Sentinel business. There was no way in hell that the Jim Ellison he had known for years would ever have let someone like Blair Sandburg move into his home and into his life. No... these two belonged together. They loved each other, cared for each other, and worked so well together it was frightening sometimes.
And right now, that's what they needed most, to be together. To let time heal the wounds and heal their spirits where they had been ripped apart by events, some of their own choosing, some not. The last two and a half weeks -- had it really only been that long? -- had been as stressful as any time he could imagine. When Blair was kidnapped by Daniel Crawford, it kept them apart for four days, and then Jim undercover to see why his old high school friend had been killed separated them for five more days. That added up to nine days in that short period of time.
And there wasn't much he could do to help them. Simon had tried to keep an eye on the kid while Jim was inside Starkville, but trying to keep track of Sandburg was like trying to stop sand from running through your fingers. It was almost impossible to keep him in one spot. Blair followed his own drummer, no matter what the regulations said. And what was uncanny, was that Simon could sometimes hear the drums now.
He glanced at the clock on the night table beside the bed. 03:28
No further sounds from the bathroom. He'd give Blair another few minutes to get himself together.
Simon had spoken to Jim about the wisdom of the trip, whether it was too early for either of them to be away from home. Daryl would have understood if they had needed to cancel. But both partners had insisted they wanted to go for the weekend, spouting some such nonsense about change being good, about it being a chance to do something again with Daryl. Box seats were not something to sneeze at, especially at GM Place in Vancouver, a huge new facility housing the Vancouver Grizzlies and Canucks. The private suite at the stadium was luxurious and they had been treated and fed well. The hotel room was comfortably sized, with a breathtaking view of the mountains, inlet, and Stanley Park, and two queen-sized beds and a huge jacuzzi tub that would probably never be used, if they stayed to their event-packed weekend schedule.
Simon sat up in the bed and waited. 03:34. It had been over ten minutes since Sandburg had rushed into the bathroom. And now there was just silence, and silence from that particular young man always unnerved him.
Another few minutes passed and Simon got up, careful not to wake his son, then moved around the bed where Jim lay snoring, to the bathroom door. He listened for a moment, then softly knocked. "Sandburg?" he whispered, hearing a gasp beyond the door. "Blair?"
Faint sounds within, then the door opened a crack. "Uh... Sorry, Simon. I didn't know you needed the bathroom. I'll be right out."
He couldn't see the kid, just the thin ribbon of light from the room. "No, I'm fine. I was just concerned about you. Are you okay?"
"Me? Yeah." Sandburg's voice wavered on the last word.
It wasn't very convincing. "Do you want to talk?"
"I don't want to wake Jim up," came the whispered answer, followed by a quick gasp of air that sounded like someone trying very hard to keep himself together.
So there was something wrong.
Of course there was. "Can I come in?"
"I want to talk to you for a minute and I don't want to wake Jim or Daryl up." That did the trick. The door opened just long enough for him to get in and close it after him.
Sandburg was back sitting on the edge of the bathtub, wiping his face with a damp washcloth. "I'm okay. Just having trouble sleeping," he mumbled into the cloth.
"At least you got Jim to sleep." Simon leaned back against the sink counter. "Has he had trouble sleeping at home?"
Blair shrugged. "I don't know," he whispered, his eyes still averted, hair tumbling about his shoulders in disarray. "It's only been two nights. I slept pretty soundly both nights, just relieved to be home again, back in my own bed. Jim said he had slept well, but it's been hard to tell, since he still looks tired. I thought maybe he just had a lot of catching up to do, like me." The kid glanced up at him then, squinting in the light. "How has he been at the station? He went in yesterday, didn't he?"
"Thursday and then again this morning. He wanted to do the paperwork on Starkville as soon as he could." Simon flipped down the toilet seat lid and sat opposite the young man, leaning forward resting on his elbows. As gently as he could, he asked, "Sandburg... is there something else bothering you besides Jim?"
Again Blair looked up at him, then away. "Nothing really... maybe the trial on Monday," he said softly, as though afraid his voice would carry to his sleeping partner.
"The trial isn't on Monday. It's just the hearing before the grand jury, Blair."
"What's going to happen? Why is it federal? It all happened here in Cascade."
Simon glanced around the bathroom, shaking his head slightly at the unusual place to give a briefing. But these were unusual circumstances. And Blair deserved answers. "I can explain it in more detail tomorrow, Sandburg, but it's been moved to federal court because of the multiple murders and kidnapping of the children and you, and because of your association with the police department. And because the young children involved will need their identity protected and will require protection from the press. And I suspect because of the possible CIA tie-ins. The grand jury will return the indictment, and then an indictment hearing will be conducted to initiate the prosecution of the accused." Simon sighed, not knowing how to put such a complicated procedure into a few short sentences. "Is that what you wanted to know?"
Blair shivered, hunching over briefly as though his stomach was cramping, then straightening, hands clenched into fists on his lap. "I guess what I want to know is will I see Crawford there?" he asked, his voice tight.
"No. Not on Monday. The defendant isn't at the hearing. That comes later."
"So this is going to take a long time, right?"
Simon rested one hand on Blair's knee, waiting until the young man made eye contact with him before asking, "Hasn't Jim or our lawyers talked this over with you?"
"No. Not really." Blair looked away. "We were going to talk about it, but then Matt died and Jim went undercover at Starkville. And since then... just this morning, the lawyer called and confirmed the time of the hearing with me for Monday. They came to my office at the university and brought me a subpoena. They said I wasn't supposed to talk to anyone about it." He buried his face in the washcloth again.
"I'm sorry, kid. This whole Crawford case was taken out of our hands and I guess we've just swept it under the proverbial rug, glad it's over and you're back with us. But it's not over yet, is it?"
"No." A sigh seemed to shake Sandburg to his core. "So will I have to talk in front of everyone and tell them what he did?"
"That's up to the deputy DA. You're the only adult involved, so there's a strong possibility that you'll be questioned at the hearing. All they're looking for, Blair, is whether the evidence presented warrants a strong enough suspicion of guilt to hand over an indictment. They won't expect you to give a complete accounting of everything that happened. Just the basic facts."
"So when is the trial?" he whispered.
"That won't be for a while. Months from now. This is to set the charges." Simon squeezed the shaking knee his hand rested on. "You've been through this with Jim on other cases. You've witnessed before at a hearing and trial."
"I just did what I had to. Jim always told me a day or so in advance where I had to be and he coached me on what I had to say. I know all the procedures and everything, I've been to court before, but I can't seem to... My mind can't seem to grasp this case. Just thinking about it scares the shit out of me, Simon."
Blair looked so lost sitting there, that Simon's heart went out to him. "Jim's been busy the last few--"
"I know, Simon. I didn't want to bother him. He's got so much else on his mind with his friend dying and the prison and everything that happened there."
"You need to tell him about the subpoena. About the hearing on Monday."
"Can he be with me?"
"I'm sure that won't be a problem."
Sandburg sat hunched over, his face buried in his hands. "I hate this. I'll have to tell them everything, because otherwise they'll ask the little boys what he did to them. I don't want them to remember. I don't want to remember myself, but I don't want them to remember. Or talk about it."
"The courts will be sensitive with the children. There are procedures..."
"I know," Blair whispered, gasping for air, trying to keep his body from shaking. "I just don't want to remember. And I can't think of any way to get out of this."
The captain looked up at the ceiling, shaking his head, wondering what he could possibly say to take the burden from the young man's shoulders.
The door opened and Jim Ellison stepped in. "Thank you, Simon. I'll handle this." He stepped aside for Simon to exit the bathroom.
A quick wave of the detective's hand stopped Banks from saying anything more and he clasped the man on the forearm as he walked out of the room. The door was firmly closed behind him, then he heard only the low murmur of Ellison's voice.
"No." Blair shook his head, face still buried in his hands. "You weren't supposed to wake up. You need to sleep, Jim."
"I need you to be sleeping, as well." He bent his head low, until his lips were close to Blair's left ear, almost touching. "When did you start to remember?" he asked, gently, softly.
Blair moved fractionally closer, raising his head enough to place his chin on the other's shoulder. It was a trusting gesture, and it made Ellison relax. Blair would talk, when he could. "While you were in the prison," the young man answered after a moment's silence. "The second night when I was in the car and fell asleep. Just an image, though."
"Crawford. And Marty." Blair's eyes were shut tightly, as though trying to block the image of what he was describing. "I was in the chair... I woke up... I saw him undressing that little boy... God, Jim." One arm went around Jim's shoulder, clutching his T-shirt in the back. "I saw him... I saw..." He couldn't go on, shaking his head, tears escaping as he pressed the side of his face into Jim's neck.
"Have you remembered other things since then?" Jim waited until Blair nodded again. "When? Tonight?"
"I'm sorry," Blair mumbled. "I know in my head that it's you there, but my memories keep changing everything around and I can't relax. As soon as I fall asleep, I wake up, ready to scream because you move slightly, or my leg brushes against yours. I know you're not him. I know it, but my body keeps freakin' and I--"
"Shhh." Jim hushed him.
"I don't know what else I'm going to remember."
"I know it's frightening." He felt Blair shudder beneath his hands. "Anything you want to tell me about?"
"Just stuff I saw him do to Marty. The videos he had the little boy watching with him. Bastard." Blair swore, his fist clenching in Jim's shirt. "He took his clothes off and made him dance around in front of him. I had forgotten that."
"Anything else? What about what he did to you? Anything more?"
"Just him lying beside me when I was tied down. Nothing more than I remembered before, except I think he did touch me a little. He had sweaty hands." Blair's shivering got worse, then slowly calmed as Jim kept up his gentle massage on Blair's back.
"What we talked about before, then?"
"Yeah. More of the same. The new memories are of one time I was tied to the chair in the living room and he was watching a video on the television with Marty. Taking his clothes off. Marty was crying..." Blair's voice trailed off. "Oh, I'm going to have lots to say at this trial."
"Which reminds me, when were you going to tell me about the subpoena?" Jim asked, slowly pulling back and taking a good look at Blair.
"Tomorrow... I just didn't want to worry you about it today. You had so much else--"
"You're more important to me than whatever else I occupy my time with. Got that?"
Blair nodded, yawning.
"Let's go back to bed. It's after four. How are you feeling?"
"Better. Just nerves, I guess." He pushed back away from his partner, looking up at him. "Thanks."
Jim shrugged as he stood up. "You ready?"
"Give me a minute and I'll be right out."
"Okay." Jim smiled down at him. "Don't be long. The night is disappearing."
"Sure." Blair closed the door after him.
"Is he okay?" Simon asked, staring blindly across the room toward Jim.
"He'll be fine. Thanks for talking to him." Jim moved to the other side of the bed, so Blair could get in on the closer side.
"I was surprised you hadn't filled him in on what's going to happen with the case."
"I didn't think it would come up this quickly. The trial crossed my mind yesterday, but I figured I'd have time after the weekend to sit down with him and the prosecutor to discuss it all. I didn't want him to have to think about it this whole weekend."
"Still--" Simon's voice cut out when the door opened.
Jim had fixed the blankets, then turned them back. "Just walk straight ahead, Chief," he said softly, making sure his partner made it to the bed safely and was settled and covered.
"Thanks." Blair hardly moved once he lay down. "Good night," he whispered, then said louder, "Good night, Simon. Thanks."
"No problem. Sleep well, Blair. Good night, Jim." Simon turned over, away from them.
"Night," Jim responded, but didn't close his eyes, looking across the darkness to the young man beside him.
Blair's eyes were also open, staring at nothing, seeing nothing, just blinking back the fear and embarrassment and profound sadness. "Jim?" he breathed after awhile.
"What is it, Chief?"
"Can I-- I mean--"
"What would you like?" he asked, resting his hand on his partner's shoulder. Blair mumbled something into his pillow, and at first Jim didn't think he'd heard right. "What was that?"
"Can I have fifteen minutes?" Blair asked in a rush. "Well, one or two will be enough, I'm sure, but--"
Jim reached over and pulled Blair closer, feeling the shivering increase for a few moments, and then gradually taper off as the feeling of security registered and Blair knew to the depths of his soul that it was Jim he was with, not Crawford. It was Jim who held him, who brushed the hair back from his face. The detective wrapped his arms around his partner, finally smiling when he felt the corded muscles relax and Blair shift closer. Long fingers loosely gripped Jim's T-shirt, asking for and receiving the comfort that he needed. A few tears soaked through his shirt.
They said nothing to each other, just lay listening to the sounds of the room, the soft snore indicating Simon was asleep again, Daryl's muttering as he dreamed. When Blair gave a little sigh and fell asleep, his head pillowed on Jim's shoulder, then Jim closed his eyes, feeling his own leftover tension from the prison seep away from still-aching muscles.
Breathe out the anger and hatred. Breathe in the security and love.
Blair's heartbeat resounded through Jim's body and grounded him. Tears formed in his eyes at the precious gift of life and he said a prayer for the friend he held in his arms and for the friend of long ago who had died so needlessly. It took Jim almost an hour to fall asleep himself, but he knew the time spent relaxing, arms encasing what mattered in his life, was healing his own soul. The middle-of-the-night traffic on the streets around them, the waves lapping in the harbor, raccoons scurrying in the bushes between the hotel parking lot and the waterfront. It reminded him of a similar time, almost a year before, when he had been in another motel room on a surveillance mission, and had listened to the night music with the heart and soul of a Sentinel, with his Guide safely sleeping up against him.
Hope took hold. They'd do this. They'd make it through the Crawfords and Starkvilles and whatever else was thrown their way. They'd stumble maybe. Fall. Trip over their own feet. But whatever it was that bound him to this young man -- his Guide -- would reach out and pull them back together, put their feet back on the right path, nudge them in the direction they needed to go.
His eyes opened suddenly at the new sound. A rumbling purr from somewhere near the window.
Jim smiled and turned onto his side, his arm draped over the warm body sleeping beside him, curled within his protection and care, and surrendered to sleep.
He glanced over his father's shoulder to the clock. 07:45
What? Already? With a leap, he jumped from the bed and over to the window, pushing back the drapes and grinning at the early morning sunshine lighting up the mountains before him, the sunrise coloring the snow-capped peaks pink and orange. "Cool."
Turning, he frowned at his father sprawled over two-thirds of their bed and the two bodies lumped together on the other bed. "Hey! Wake up. All-you-can-eat pancakes, remember? That place across the street from here? Are you guys going to sleep the whole day?"
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