Spoilers for Cypher, obviously


Blair shivered, the back of his neck sweaty and sticky. The blurry room seemed to sway softly, and his head felt as light as a balloon  even though his heart pounded. He could feel the organ's frantic beating all the way to his toes. Soft candlelight flickered against the walls, casting menacing shadows.

He jumped when gunshots, several of them, broke the silence, and for  a moment, he stopped breathing. The room became silent once again, and he listened, wishing he had his friend's sensitive ears and hoping – praying – that Jim was the one doing the shooting. The adrenaline rush drove his lightheadedness away, and he struggled against the chains.

Footsteps pounded quickly from above. His eyes darted to the staircase, and seconds later, a large, dark figure appeared in the doorway at the top. Blair froze, blinking against the blurriness, trying desperately to make out the details of the man's face standing at the top of the stairs. A strange sound filled his ears, a low keening, and the rumbling in his throat made him realize the sound came from him.


Jim hesitated at the top of the stairs, his sharp eyes penetrating the darkness to find the broken step below, but as soon as he heard Blair's low, shaky cry, he bolted into action.

"Sandburg," Jim sailed over the crumbled step, grunting as his ribs protested the action, "it's all right. Take it easy, buddy." Sliding to a halt in front the chained young man, Jim leaned forward and gently cradled the side of Blair's face, not wanting to move him but hoping to force the kid's wandering, panicked eyes onto his face. "Look at me, Chief."

Blair yanked away, his eyes going impossibly wider, and Jim hoped that motion meant the kid didn't have a serious neck injury. Gently, he held Blair's face between his hands and leaned down, knowing he was getting into the young man's space and hoping it was the right thing to do.

"Easy, easy, Blair, it's me. It's Jim. Look at me. You're all right." He hoped.

Blair blinked rapidly at him, then squinted, and recognition seemed to dawn on his face. Tears sprang to his eyes, spilling onto his cheeks, and soon he was shaking all over. "Jim? Jim. Jim, Oh God, Jim….."

"Yeah, right here." He gave Blair's cheek a gentle tap, then withdrew his touch to inspect the chains binding the young man.

They didn't seem to be fastened directly to the reclined chair, but he wasn't moving Blair was a good idea just yet. The loft had been quite a mess, indicating a powerful struggle, and there was no telling what injuries the kid had sustained during the fight.

"How are you feeling, Chief?" Jim met Blair's frightened, relieved gaze. "What hurts?"

Blair shook his head. "I… I… Just get me out of here." He surged forward, almost toppling out of the chair, but Jim caught him.

"Okay, okay, easy." Jim guided his friend to the floor, propping him  into a sit with one arm. "Try not to move too much." He grabbed his radio and hit the manual button. "Simon, it's all clear. We need the medics." He looked at Blair, making sure he had the kid's attention. "Lash is dead."

Simon's garbled, barely discernable response cackled over the radio, and Jim turned down the volume, then put a gentle hand on Blair's chest. "Lay down, okay."

Blair shook his head again, flinging stray curls around his face, and grabbed onto Jim's arm. "I'm okay, really, just… " he swallowed hard, "a little dizzy and…." he leaned forward and heaved suddenly,  but the only thing that came out was yellowish liquid.

Jim gently rubbed Blair's shoulder, then guided him onto his back. "Just take it easy. All you gotta do now is relax and let us
handle things. Okay?"

Blair nodded slowly, his eyelids drifting low. "I don't think I swallowed very much," he muttered.

Jim nodded. "That's good." Jim didn't know whether the kid had received an earlier dose at the loft, and he didn't know how much of  the stuff would prove too much. Carolyn had said Lash gave his victims just enough to subdue them, so he hoped Blair wasn't in any danger of an overdose.

Several sets of footsteps pounded on the floor above, and Blair  jerked, surging upward again, but Jim put a restraining palm against his chest. "Just the cavalry, Chief. Don't worry." He gave a gentle push. "Lay back down."

Blair complied wordlessly, squeezing his eyelids closed and giving a  quick nod. Jim patted the kid's arm and turned toward the stairs just as Simon appeared at the top.

"Careful, sir, there's a bad step toward the bottom."

"Is that Sandburg?" Simon made his way slowly down the stairs.

"Yeah, he's a bit groggy and shaky, but I think he's okay. The loft was pretty trashed, so I don't want to move him until he's been checked out."

Simon nodded, coming to a stop a foot away from Jim. He stood there  and looked down at the kid for a few seconds, then let his gaze roam around the room. "Christ, Jim…"

"Trophies," Jim confirmed, briefly eyeing the macabre displays before dropping his gaze once again to Sandburg.

Blair opened his eyes and raised his chained arms, managing a shaky smile. "Hey, Simon."

The captain knelt next to the anthropologist. "How you doing, kid?"

Blair swallowed. "N-Never better." He sounded on the verge of a  breakdown, but seemed to be doing an otherwise admirable job of keeping himself together.

"Captain, see if you can find something for these chains."

With a nod, Simon moved to the table near the window. He frowned, then shook his head and grabbed a wrench. "Nothing but this."

Turning, the captain knelt once again next to Blair and handed the instrument to Jim. "Looks like we'll have to work the bolts off. Hell of a way to do it."

Grabbing the wrench, Jim eyed Blair. "Just hand in their, Chief, we'll have you free in no time."

It took him less than two minutes to keep true to his word, and he tossed the chains away just as the paramedics arrived. Simon barked out the same warning about the staircase as the two men made their way down. Jim moved back a couple of feet to give them room, and they promptly knelt beside Blair, firing off the customary questions and taking his vitals.

Blair seemed responsive and coherent, and one of the paramedics gave an approving nod. It wasn't until they lifted him onto the backboard  that a flicker of panic crossed Blair's face, and then they had him on the stretcher and began fastening the belts to keep him in place.

Jim stepped forward, Blair pounding heartbeat as loud as a drum to him, and grabbed the kid's hand, giving his leg a pat. "How you holding up, Chief?"

Blair smiled, but his eyes conveyed a far different message, and swallowed. "I'm alive, so I can't complain." He swallowed again,  closing his eyes briefly. His smile faded, and when he opened his eyes and looked up again, he seemed to give up all pretense at a brave façade, his emotions naked and raw. "Thank you, Jim. Thank you."

Jim swallowed hard, nodding. He took a deep breath, then forced his own smile. "I don't deserve all the credit here, Chief." He leaned forward, his voice low. "I heard how you handled yourself. You did  everything right." He gave Blair's leg another pat. "You were pretty amazing."

Fresh tears sprung in Blair's eyes, and he blinked quickly, turning his face away. "T-Thanks, man."

"We better go now," one of the paramedics said, just as the two men began wheeling Blair away.

"Come on, Detective." Simon clapped a hand on Jim's shoulder. "You can ride with me."


Jim stood silently in the corner of the cramped room while the doctor examined Blair, who sat propped on the edge of the bed, his shoulders slumped, looking about as subdued as Jim ever remembered seeing him.

"I'd like to keep you overnight for observation, which will give me time to review the test results when they come in, but I don't think it's absolutely necessary. Your vitals and responses are all within acceptable levels, but if you do choose to go home, I want you to come back if your dizziness gets worse are you start or having any other unusual symptoms."

Blair nodded. "I'd like to go home," he replied quietly.

"Okay, give me a minute. I'll be right back, and then you're free to go."

As soon as the doctor left, Jim moved to the end of the bed. "How are you feeling, now? That stuff wear off?"

Blair waved a hand in the air. "Yeah." His gaze roamed the small room, hovering first on the clock at the far wall, a small crease
forming in his brow, and then moving to the various machines crammed in the corner facing the door. He straightened suddenly, and his knee began to bounce. "You know, man, that was some rescue back there." He tapped his fingers on the thin sheet. "Just in the nick of time, too, but that was a nasty fall. Are you feeling okay?"

Jim nodded. "Just a few bruises."

"I mean, I can't believe you found me. How did you find me?"

"It's a long story."

"I got time, plenty of time." He gestured toward the clock. "Who knows when the doctor's going to be back, so come on? How DID you find me?" Blair spoke quickly, his words rushed.

Jim sighed. "I went back to Susan Frasier's place for another look. I found a small piece of down in the bathtub drain and brought it to Carolyn. She had found contamination in the water sample taken from the victim, and I asked her to break the seal. She did. I thought it smelled like duck waste, and we figured he was drowning his victims in a duck pond. Since that was all we had to go on, we reviewed duck ponds in the area and I followed a hunch and chose the right one."

Blair gazed wide-eyed at Jim. "You were able to tell duck waste? I mean, not just animal waste or bird waste, but actually narrow it down to duck? That's great, Jim! See, I told you you're getting better control of your senses. The tests are working. That's fantastic." He shook his head. "A duck pond?"

"Well, I wasn't totally sure it was duck waste, but considering what Lash's father told us, I took a guess."

"Some guess," Blair continued to drum his fingers on the bed. "You're a monster, Jim. A freaking' crime-solving machine.
You're unstoppable."

Jim frowned, not liking the slightly hysterical note to Blair's voice. "I wouldn't go that far." He had, after all, let Lash slip
through his fingers too many times. If he'd caught him earlier, Blair never would've been abducted.

"You know," Blair waved his hand in the air, making indistinct imaginary circles, "we should do some tests on your sense of smell.  See if you really *can* distinguish duck waste from, say, pigeon waste, chicken waste, etc. Hell, maybe you can ever narrow it down to the breed of each type of bird, though if their diets are the same, maybe not. I don't know, but it's worth studying further,  don't you think?" He glanced up, slightly out of breath, but didn't wait for a reply. "We could start tomorrow even. I have some real specific ideas. I think this will help you get more control over your—"

The door opened and the doctor walked back inside, and Blair immediately fell silent.

"Well, the X-rays look okay. We'll have to wait on the other tests, but I'm going to release you with a prescription for pain killers. However, I don't want you taking them for at least 24 hours, after the test results come back and this drug has worked its way through your system. If it is chloral hydrate, you should be fine to start the painkillers tomorrow. I'll call you if  the test results indicate there's any reason to be concerned, okay?" He held out the prescription.

Blair snatched the paper and stuffed it in his pocket. "Yeah, thanks, Doctor."

"You're likely going to be stiff and sore tomorrow. Rest for a few  days. Do you need me to write you off work?"

Blair shook his head.

Jim nodded. "He's a college student. I think he teaches some classes, so why don't you write him something? Just in case."

Blair shrugged and once again waved a hand in the air. "Sure, okay, whatever, but I won't need it, I feel fine, really, a little wired, I guess, because it's, like," he glanced up at the clock, "way too late – or early, depending on how you look at it – and I have to be at the university tomorrow morning, or rather this morning."


Jim eyed the doctor. "I just have a few things I need to wrap up with you, officially." He glanced at Blair. "Wait here, Chief, okay?"

Blair nodded a bit too forcefully. "Yeah, okay, sure."

Jim gestured to the door and walked into the hallway. The doctor followed, closing the door. "Yes, Detective?"

"I'm a little concerned about him. He's… well… different."

"How so?"

Jim frowned. "Even more hyper and chatty than usual. It's like he's on some kind of caffeine high."

The doctor tilted his head. "Well, the drug he received should act as a sedative, but if he didn't get much of the second dose, most of it has likely worn out by now. I'm sure this is just nerves. He's  had a lot of adrenaline pumped into his system over the past few hours with no real physical outlet for release. Normally, in the wild, there's that flight or fight response, which exhausts energy and uses that adrenaline."

"He did put up one hell of a fight at home."

"Yes, but that was a while ago, and since then, from what I understand, he was restrained but conscious and aware of what
awaited him." The doctor shook his head. "Have him consider seeing a   therapist that specializes in post traumatic stress disorder. I'll write him a referral."

Jim nodded. "Thank you, Doctor."


"So, what do you say about tomorrow afternoon?" Blair hopped out of the elevator and onto the third floor, heading toward their apartment. "The tests should only take—" He jerked to a stop when he spotted the door, its frame obviously splintered, yellow police tape criss-crossed over the entrance. A tiny crack between the frame and the door indicated the vulnerability of the loft, and Blair turned to Jim.

"I, uh…. You just left it this way, I mean, uh, you know, all the stuff, I know how you are about…."

"I had more important things on my mind, Chief," Jim said, dropping a hand on Blair's shoulder. He tilted his head. "You okay?"

Blair swallowed, looking back to the damaged frame. What waited inside? He tried to remember what he had… what had been damaged during….

The air seemed suddenly thicker, and he sucked in a hard, deep breath.

"Look, Chief, we might as well just go to a hotel."

"No." Blair shrugged and moved forward. "No point in that." He placed his hand on the doorknob and pushed. The door swung inward slowly, revealing the devastation inside.

The sofa cushions were all askew, some on the floor. He'd used them as a catapult on his way to the balcony after Lash has kicked open the front door. His only thought had been of the fire escape and screaming at the top of his lungs, hoping someone would hear. He'd never made it outside.

Arms wrapped around him, tackling him. He hit something hard. Books scattered. He kicked, screamed, managed to break free. The front door was open, and he ran for it, but caught his knee on the coffee table, and then Lash yanked him backward. He'd reached out for   something, anything, and grabbed only the television. It crashed forward.

"Look, neither of us needs to deal with this mess right now," Jim said. "I vote for a nice hotel with a good continental breakfast.
Maybe we can even get in some pool time.  Use that note the doctor gave you…"

Blair shook his head and tore off the tape, part of him wondering if maybe that was the wrong thing to do, but Jim hadn't objected, so he  surged forward into the loft. This was worse than when Larry had trashed the place. Jim had been pretty upset then, too. This was, after all, something akin to his sanctuary, and Blair was only supposed to stay a week.

"I'll get this all straightened out, Jim." He stopped and started picking up the books, glancing at the television, which was probably a lost cause. He set a pile on the coffee table, then reached for  one of the sofa cushions on the floor and…

A hand came down on his shoulder and he sprang to his feet, spinning around.

"Hey, easy, Chief." Jim stood with his hands up, palms out. "Look,   that can wait. Just… Why don't you hit the shower?"

Blair shook his head again, his hair whipping around his face. "No, no, I just want to get this mess cleaned up." He gestured toward the television. "Sorry about that. I'm not sure it's salvageable. I guess if the screen isn't broken, maybe…" He stooped to pick it up. "I know a guy. He repairs televisions and VCRs, and he owes me a favor."

A voice in the hallway caused Blair to jump, and he looked to the door to see Mrs. Cannelli from downstairs.

"Oh, wow. I heard the commotion, saw the police here earlier." Mrs. Cannelli glanced around the loft.

"It's okay now, thank you," Jim said. "Wait here a second, Chief."


Jim guided Mrs. Cannelli back into the hallway, keeping the door open and his ears tuned to Blair. "Thank you, but it's all okay now."

"What happened? You have a break-in?"

"An intruder, yes. You said you heard a commotion?" He'd have to mention her as witness to Simon…not that there was much need for witnesses anymore, but whenever a fatal shooting occurred, it was  always important to be thorough.

"Yes, I heard screaming and some banging and crashing. I dialed 911."

Jim nodded. "Did you give the dispatcher your name?"


"Good, thanks. An officer might follow up with you to get more information. Okay?"

"Sure, anything I can do to help."

He forced a smile. "Thank you." Gesturing toward the elevator, he  added. "It's late, I know. We'll try to be quiet."

She evidently took that as her cue and nodded, turning and heading back toward the elevator.

Jim trotted back into the loft to see Blair setting yet another pile on top of the coffee table.


"So, what did she want?" Blair moved to the couch and began fixing the displaced cushions. "Did we wake her? I know she works early. I'll apologize to her tomorrow, don't want to get the neighbors mad at you." He reached down and started collecting sheets of paper. "I'm sure half the building heard the commotion earlier, it's not like I was trying to be quiet, not that it did much good." His  arms full, he carefully set the pile on top of the books and then moved toward another scattering of debris near the balcony. "Man, what a mess…"

Jim hurried forward. "Come on, Sandburg."

"We really did a number on the loft," he knelt again.

"This can wait."

"It's gonna take me forever to get these notes back in order." Blair muttered, shuffling through the discarded papers.

Jim grabbed Blair's arm to pull him up. "Blair.."

"What!" Blair spun around, stumbling back. "What, Jim? What?" he shouted.

Jim stood still. Blair took two more steps back, then seemed to  realize he was shaking and raised his arms, staring at his trembling hands as if he wasn't quite sure they belonged to him.

"It's okay," Jim said gently. "This can wait. It's just stuff."

"It's not just stuff, man!" Blair shouted, flinging an arm out. "It's stuff YOU care about. It's MY notes. MY books! Look at
this! You get all pissy with me if I even put my shoes on the couch!  The T.V.'s toast. My books and papers are everywhere. Half this stuff is torn."

Jim stood quietly, not moving.

"This doesn't bother you at all?" Blair spun in a circle. "He busted down the front door. He came at me. I tried to get away, tried to fight, but none of it mattered, and no one heard, and I almost made it to the front door, but he grabbed me, and I fell. I must have hit my head, because I don't remember much until I woke up, and there were chains around my wrists and ankles and…"

Jim finally moved forward and put his hands on Blair's shoulders. "And you're alive. It's okay to feel this way, Sandburg.
Your body's been through a shock. If you have to—"

Blair yanked away and hurtled toward the bathroom. Seconds later, Jim heard gagging. He gave the kid a few moments to himself, then stepped quietly to the bathroom and leaned on the frame.

Blair sat hunched on his knees, his arm hanging on the toilet rim, supporting his forehead. His hair hung foreword, hiding his face.

Silently, Jim went to the kitchen, grabbed a glass, opened the refrigerator, and poured cold water into the cup. He walked back to the bathroom and stood over Blair, holding the glass near the kid's head.


Blair looked up. He blinked at the glass, then finally reached one shaking hand out took the offering. "T-Thanks." He took a mouthful, swished it around, then spit it into the toilet. The next mouthful he swallowed, and the next, until the glass was empty. He set it on the edge of the sink and dropped his head, staring into the bowl.

Jim sank to his butt, his back supported by the sink. "A hotel?"

Blair sighed and shook his head. "No." His voice was quiet, the single word almost slurred.

*Looks like the adrenaline wore off.* "Bed?"

Blair nodded.

Jim pushed himself to his feet, then grabbed Blair's arm and helped  the young man up. Once vertical, Blair swayed, and Jim wrapped an arm around his waist and steered him to the lower bedroom. "Don't worry about school tomorrow." He eased Blair onto the bed, then slipped off his sneakers. "I'll call in for you."

"Thanks." Blair's eyelids drifted closed. "Thanks, Jim." His fingers found the edge of Jim's police jacket and hooked the cuff.

Jim studied his sleeping friend, covering the younger man's hand with his own. He leaned forward and whispered. "Thank YOU. I know this isn't what you signed up for, Chief."

A soft snore answered him and, with a smile, he detangled Blair's fingers from his jacket and rose to his feet, moving quietly out of  the room.


The End
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