Disclaimer: No, they don't belong to me. They belong to Pet Fly, UP and Paramount. No copyright infringement is intended and absolutely no money has changed hands.

Summary: A missing scene from "Cypher" Jim and Blair don't always see the world through the same eyes.

Rating: General

Author's notes: This story was written for my SA dues. My thanks to StarWatcher for her expert beta and wolfpup for housing my stories.

Feedback: Feedback is always appreciated - jessriley80@yahoo.com.au


Jess Riley

"Man, I am so sorry about all of this." Blair bent down, closing his eyes briefly, finding it difficult to keep his equilibrium. "I thought I saw a shadow on the roof, near the skylight, then bam, the next minute the door busts in and..." His fingers, lethargic and weighted down by the drugs still running through his system, clumsily traced over a photograph now in his hands. Shards of glass from the broken frame dug into the pads of his fingertips as he tried to salvage at least one good memory from the devastation around them. "...and then, well, I guess this mess tells the rest of the story."

"Chief, don't even begin to go there." Hooking Blair by the elbow, Jim drew Sandburg to his feet. "None of this is your fault, okay? It is what it is -- a part of the job." Jim took the picture from Blair's hand and gently pushed him down onto the sofa. "A part that I should never have let you get mixed up in."

"Where you goeth, I goeth, man; that's what partners are for." Blair flashed a half-hearted smile. "And Jim, now is not a good time to remind me that I'm not a cop."

Jim took a seat on the sofa cushion, leaving barely an inch between them. He studied Blair closely. Sandburg appeared to be coping pretty well for a guy that had very nearly become another score on Lash's hit list, but then Blair also had one of the best poker faces around. "Chief, you doing okay?" he finally asked.

Blair nestled back into the cushion. "I'll live," he said, before meeting Jim's eyes briefly. "And besides, no point dwelling on what could have been."

Jim patted Blair's knee. "It is what it is, Chief."

Blair sat silently for a few moments before turning sideways. He drew his leg up, bridging the gap between them as his kneecap pressed lightly against the side of Jim's thigh. "It is what it is," he agreed, "and if you think about what it is, it pretty much makes sense."

"Sense?" Jim repeated. "Sense only if you're talking a warped sense of reasoning."

"I am, in a way, I guess," Blair answered. "I mean, think about it, Jim. You don't survive a childhood like Lash had without some pretty serious repercussions. Hell, he practically gave us a rundown on who he was at the station; if that wasn't a cry for help, then I don't know what would be."

Jim didn't say a word. Sandburg's poker face was starting to show cracks and Blair was compensating the only way he knew how -- to justify a reason.

"Can you even begin to imagine what his life must have been like, Jim? Being belittled, demeaned to such a point that the only way to survive is to take on the persona of another person. Where the only possible way you can become 'you' is to erase all traces of yourself."

Jim's hand was back on Blair's knee. "Chief, it's been a rough day. Why don't you head off to bed and get some rest."

Blair took in the expression on Jim's face. "You think it's irrelevant don't you? You think that Lash's abusive childhood had no bearing on what he became."

"Truth, Chief, yeah I do. Sure he had a crappy childhood, but a crappy childhood didn't turn him into a killer."

"Then what did?"

"Maybe nothing did. Maybe that's just who he was."

"Jim if I didn't know you better, I say you're straying pretty close to the notion of good versus evil."

Jim shrugged. "And if I am?"

"So you really think life's that black and white? No colours, no shades of grey?"

"I have to," Jim answered quietly. "I've lost too many friends for it not to be."

Blair sat up straighter, his focus completely trained on Jim as he attempted to decipher the meaning behind the statement. "Jim?" he finally questioned.

"Your colours, Blair, your shades of grey, they don't come alone. They always come carting a truckload of baggage behind them."

Blair covered the hand that was resting on his knee with his own. "You're losing me here, man."

"Empathy, Chief. Compassion, sympathy, pity, they all mean one thing -- deliberation. But deliberation is just another word for baggage -- baggage that can turn a split-second reaction into a twelve-week trial by jury.

"Still lost," Blair said, suddenly feeling very young and very načve.

"Considering or weighing the colours uses up time, precious time -- and time that could very well have cost you your life today." Jim turned his head and met Blair's intense gaze. "You don't need time to consider black and white. Chief. It is what it is."

Blair let his head fall back onto the cushion. "Maybe," he shrugged, now getting the gist of where Jim was coming from. "I mean I understand what you're saying and don't get me wrong, man, because I thank god for your black and white, but I just don't know. I don't think I'll ever be able to see the world without those shades of grey -- without even trying to justify the why."

Jim gave Blair's knee a final squeeze. "And I hope you never have to, Chief." He removed his hand, dropping into his own lap. "Come on," he said, with weariness so bone deep, it felt like a lifelong companion. "You're beat and it's time to hit the sack."

Blair sank back even further into the cushion. "You know what? I think I might just sit for a while." His eyes tracked a path to the front door -- which was now held in place by the aid of a single kitchen chair. "Try and put today into some kind of perspective... some kind of sense."

Jim simply nodded as he reached down and grabbed the throw rug off the floor. As he tucked it around Blair's shoulders he made no attempt to move or give Sandburg more room. And finally, when Blair's eyes began to droop, when the pull of sleep became greater than the events of the day, Jim shifted Blair's legs to drape over his own. His hand settled on Blair's thigh and his eyes on the front door. "It is what it is, Chief," he whispered. "Nothing more than a lunatic's nightmare."

The End

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