spoilers for Blind Man's Bluff and The Girl Next Door
Not beta read. Rated PG     Just an angsty bit :-)

 

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The Camera
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"Mr. Sandburg, the heroin was taped to your body? Right?"

Blair shifted in his seat, glancing from the attorney to Iris seated at the defense table, then to Jim in the front row of the audience, and finally, back to the lawyer. "Yes, that's right."

"And, at this time, you had the gun, right?"

"Yes, I had --"

"Thank you. Then the heroin was found in the trunk of your car?"

"Yes, but --"

"But it wasn't yours?'

"That's correct. Iris and --"

"Did you intend to use the heroin yourself?'

"No, of course not."

"Have you ever used heroin?"

"No, I haven't."

"Ever used illegal drugs before?"

Blair opened his mouth to say, 'no,' then hesitated. He had actually used Peyote before, but outside of the United States when he was visiting a remote tribe -- and it wasn't illegal there. "No, I haven't."

The attorney smiled and turned to the judge. "At this time I would like to offer into evidence Defense Exhibit Three, a tape from one of the Cascade Police Department's security cameras."

Blair tensed, glancing quickly at Jim. The detective sat rigidly, his jaw tight and his eyes reflecting something close to fear. Blair looked back at the attorney, watching the man walk over to the TV-VCR situated on a wheeled cart near the corner. He'd been wondering when that was going to come into play.

His mouth went dry as he watched the lawyer pop in the tape, turn on the T.V., and hit the PLAY button. The screen flared to life with a wide-angle shot of the garage. Blair's stomach churned, and he saw himself standing on the hood of a car, a gun clenched in his hands. Cops crouched around him, their guns drawn. There was no sound, but he could see peoples' lips moving. On the screen, he watched himself raise the gun and fire at a police car, shattering the window. Simon and Jim ducked behind the cruiser, glass cascading around them.

The scene drew him in, and his brow furrowed as glimpses from his own memory played in his head. When he saw Jim stumble into the open, he stopped breathing. He remembered Jim being there and talking to him, but everything was so jumbled in his head. He remembered the fire most of all -- the strange, eerie, demon-like creatures coming out of the walls and the floor. All he had were flashes of memory tainted with the hallucinations from the Golden, but his memory was incomplete, with sections missing, like a record that kept skipping.

Then he watched, riveted, as he turned the gun on Jim, his own hand gripping the weapon tighter... getting ready to fire...

And the screen went dark.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jim couldn't believe it. How on earth had the defense attorney gotten hold of that security tape without anyone from Major Crime finding out? He looked at Blair. Sandburg's wide eyes were fixed on the screen, his face white, a thin sheen of perspiration on his forehead.

Blair had never seen the tape, and his memory of that night still remained fuzzy. Jim had told  Sandburg the gist of what had happened, leaving out some of the details -- like how many swat guys had been there, and how close they had come to taking him out with a bullet... and how Jim had ended up on the wrong end of the gun Blair held. Jim had been blind at the time, but his ears had told him the garage had been crowded with officers, and when he'd taken the gun from Blair, he'd realized just how close he'd come to getting shot.

Then, after his vision returned, he'd watched the tape himself. It was something he'd hoped Blair never saw. The kid had had a rough time as it was dealing with the fact that he'd taken a gun and shot up the garage, nearly killing any one of the half dozen swat personnel on the scene.

But Blair's recovery had been made easier due to his lack of memory. Facing the guys from the station had been hard for him, but as soon as the doc had cleared him, he'd squared his shoulders and gone right back to work with Jim. It had been a somewhat easier for him because he'd been blessed with not remembering all the things he'd done, and the things he did remember he'd described as jumbled images from a nightmare.

Now, however, thanks to one over-zealous, asshole attorney, Blair was seeing it all for the first time, totally unprepared for the revelation.

No doubt, that's just the effect the lawyer was hoping for. If he could blindside Blair and knock him off his game, and damage his credibility with the drug issue, Iris Johnson's case would skyrocket.

Shit.

"This is bad, Jim."

Jim looked over at his captain. "I know." He kept his voice at a whisper, his chest tight with anger. "How the hell did that bastard get a hold of that?"

"Normal discovery, I guess. I'll find out, though -- and I'll make sure I find out why the hell we weren't notified. Sandburg should have at least gotten a heads up. Doing it like this... " He cleared his throat. "Well, it's a low blow, even for a lawyer."

Jim was about to say something else when the defense attorney pressed the STOP button. The screen went dark, and Jim's eyes immediately darted to Blair. Sandburg just sat there, his eyes still fixed on the screen.

The attorney turned to face Blair. "You said you'd never done illegal drugs before, but you were high on drugs in the scene we just watched, weren't you?"

Blair didn't answer. Jim tuned into the young man's heartbeat. It was pounding so fast that Jim almost shot to his feet, concerned suddenly for Blair's physical welfare. Simon must have sensed his intentions, however, because he placed a restraining hand on Jim's shoulder.

"Easy, Jim. Not now."

The defense attorney repeated his question. "Mr. Sandburg? Weren't you high on drugs?"

Jim glanced at the captain and leaned a bit closer to the older man. "His heart, sir. It's going a mile a minute. We need to stop this." He jerked his chin toward the prosecutor. "Tell that idiot over there to object, or something. Get us a recess. Anything."

Before Simon could reply, Blair's low voice turned his attention back to the front of the courtroom.

Sandburg took a deep, shaky breath. "I... uh... It was a case we were on. Some dealers sent a tainted pizza to the precinct. I took a bite. I didn't know..."

"Really? You sure you didn't know about the drugs on the pizza?"

"Yeah... No... I didn't know."

"The same dealers who gave you and your partner a sample bag of Golden, right?'

"Yes." Blair rubbed a hand over his face. He looked on the verge of passing out.

"That bag somehow got lost, didn't it?"

This time Jim did shoot out of his seat. "Objection! Sandburg had nothing to do with that --"

Surprise flickered over the judge's face as she turned her gaze to him. "Who are you, sir?"

"Detective James Ellison."

"Sit down, Detective. Spectators aren't allowed to object."

Jim opened his mouth again, but Blair's voice stopped him. "Your Honor, I..." Sandburg rose slowly from his seat, and the judge's eyes narrowed. The bailiff standing in the corner tensed. Blair raised one hand to his head, his eyes darting quickly around the courtroom. "I... don't feel so good. Can I have... Go? I need..." His eyes looked glazed, and the words came out barely coherent.

The judge picked up her gavel, obviously concerned. "Fifteen-minute recess." She slammed the gavel down. "Adjourned."

Blair bolted from the stand, walking briskly through the well of the courtroom and past Jim and Simon, then disappearing through the courtroom doors. Jim followed, ducking into the hall and spotting Sandburg turning a corner up ahead. He broke into a light run after his friend.

Rounding the corner, he saw the men's room ahead, and his ears picked up the frantic patter of Blair's heartbeat and his quick, shallow breathing. Pushing his way into the bathroom, he nearly bumped into a man in a suit who seemed eager to make his way out. Jim let the man pass, then ducked into the restroom.

Blair was leaning with his back against the wall and his head tilted upward. With a shaking hand, he tugged roughly at his tie, loosening the noose around his neck. The kid rarely wore ties, but he'd wanted to look as respectable as possible when he took the witness stand against Iris Johnson.

"Hey, Chief."

Jim stopped a few feet from Blair, an uncertain smile playing at his lips. It faded quickly, though, as he continued to listen to the too-fast rhythm of Blair's heart. He took a couple of steps forward and placed a hand on the young man's shoulder. Blair jerked away sharply, slamming his shoulder into the edge of the last stall and releasing an angry gasp.

Jim staggered one step back, letting his arms drop to his sides.

"Damnit!" Blair rubbed his shoulder a bit too roughly and turned angry eyes up at Jim. "Why didn't you tell me I almost killed you?!"

"What does it matter? You didn't shoot me. Everything turned out okay."

Blair barked something that sounded like a cross between a laugh and a sob. "What does it matter?" He gasped the words, on the verge of hyperventilating. "It matters, man. I... I don't know, it just does. Everyone saw the damn tape in there. I hadn't even seen it until now, and I'd have been perfectly happy if I'd never seen it. Some things I'd just rather not know. Now what am I supposed to do?" He dropped his gaze, his shoulders falling forward, and scrubbed his hands over his face. "It was a hell of a lot easier facing people when I didn't know what they were thinking when they looked at me. Now I know. I almost killed you and Simon and everyone else in that garage!"

"But you didn't..."

"But I almost did. And you know what the doctor said about flashbacks--"

"Is that what this is about?" Jim took a hesitant step closer to Blair. "That was almost a year ago, Chief. You haven't had a flashback in all this time. What makes you think--?'

"I just did!"

Jim was stunned to silence, his chest suddenly tight.

Blair sagged against the edge of the stall, his gaze to the floor. "Back there, when I was watching the video, I kept getting these flashes of memory. I remembered some of the parts I saw, but my memory is different than what the tape shows. They seemed so real. There was fire and ash all around. But that's all I remember. Glimpses. And how I felt. Afraid. Alone. Terrified, actually. That's the thing I remember clearest of all. The fear. And then in the courtroom, I couldn't wrap my mind around it. I was watching myself do those things, but I didn't remember all that. I remember having the gun, but I was shooting at them. At these creatures coming out of the walls and the floors, all around me. Then you. You were there all of a sudden. I remember being so relieved, but scared even more, too, because I didn't want them to get you."

Blair took a deep, shaky breath and glanced quickly up at Jim, his face laced with shame. He dropped his voice lower. "Then I thought I saw... Near the jury box. I thought I saw them. Out of the corner of my eye. Fire. I looked, but nothing was there. Then again at the other corner. It just kept playing at the very edges of my vision, and I wasn't sure if I was just imagining it or having a flashback... or about to freak out all over again right there in the middle of the courtroom." He chuckled hollowly. "That would've done wonders for my credibility, which is shot, anyway, now."

Jim's shoulders relaxed with relief. "Is that all?"

Blair's head snapped up. "What do you mean, 'Is that all?'"

Jim raised his eyebrows, a slight smile on his lips. "If anything was going to trigger a flashback, I'd imagine that would. You've been through a lot of stress over this past year. Hell, the whole thing with Iris -- how many times did you think you were going to die? Facing down a gun? And, during all that, not one flashback, right?"

Blair nodded. "Yeah, okay."

"And the doc said stress is one major trigger of flashbacks. But after all that, you came through clear. Not even a hint of a flashback. And in the courtroom just now, seeing that video, it brought it all back. And the only thing that happened is you thought you saw something at the edges of your vision. You didn't freak out. You didn't start screaming about fire people. You kept it together and answered the rest of the lawyer's questions." His smile grew wider. "Sandburg, I may not be a doctor, but it seems to me that if you haven't had a flashback after all this, you're not likely to have one ever."

A spark of hope broke in Blair's eyes. "You think?"

"Yeah, I do." Jim took another step closer to his friend and slowly reached out to place a hand on Blair's shoulder. "And when the prosecutor calls me and Simon to the stand, we're going to tell them exactly what happened. By the time we're done, the jury will know who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. I guarantee they'll be so pissed at the defense for pulling that stunt that Iris won't stand a chance."

Blair sighed, his breathing steadier. "Yeah, maybe, but still..." He swallowed hard. "Do you have any idea how embarrassing it is to have your worst moment played before a courtroom full of people?" He rubbed at his eyes with one hand. "And I have to go back in there and take the stand again until the defense attorney decides he's humiliated me enough." Sadness flickered over his face. "All this because I have lousy taste in women. I didn't ask for any of this, you know. Not the Golden, not Iris, and certainly not *this.*" He gestured in the direction of the courtroom. "I guess I'm just stupid enough to keep walking into it."

"Hey." Jim gave his partner's shoulder a squeeze and a shake. "If you were stupid, Sandburg, I'd be the first to let you know." A smile tugged at one edge of his mouth. "Believe me."

Blair smiled at last -- a soft, genuine smile that touched his eyes. He looked up at Jim somewhat bashfully. "Thanks."

A creak alerted them to the door swinging inward, and both men looked up to see Simon peek his head inside.

"Ah, here you are. I, uh, just wanted to let you know that we're ready to start again, but the defense attorney said he's done with questions for you, and the prosecutor has agreed not to redirect." The captain looked distinctly uncomfortable. "So, uh, Sandburg, you can hang out in the hall if you want. Jim, you're up next."

"Thanks." Blair's face flushed.

Jim nodded. "I'll be out in a second."

"Okay." Simon withdrew, letting the door swing closed.

Jim turned back to Blair. "You going to be okay?"

"Yeah." He shrugged one shoulder. "At least I don't have to go back in there. I'll find a bench in the hall and wait for you to finish."

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Court had adjourned at 4:30, and Jim, Simon, and Blair headed back to the loft for dinner. Jim placed the last washed dish in the strainer and dried his hands, then grabbed a beer from the fridge and went to join Simon on the sofa in front of the T.V. Blair had skipped dinner and headed straight for his room, claiming he needed a nap.

Jim sank on the opposite end of the couch from Simon, holding the beer bottle on his knee. The captain lowered the volume a notch and looked at him. "How's the kid? Really."

With a sigh, Jim shrugged and leaned his head back tiredly. "A bit shaken up, but he'll be okay."

"I feel bad."

"Huh?" Jim raised his head to look at the captain. "About what?"

"How we handled things after Iris. I didn't realize at the time just how much he'd been through. Hearing him talk about it on the stand -- well, before that damn lawyer started with the Golden questions --- it got to me, I guess. I never really thought about what it must have been like for the kid... staring down a gun that many times, thinking he was going to die. Men don't face almost-certain death that many times and keep coming back without some kind of repercussions. He seemed okay, though, when we found him. You know, smiling about Iris in the trunk, looking pleased with himself. It never occurred to me that he was traumatized. But hearing him talk about it on the stand, well... It came through loud and clear. The kid can put up a good front when he wants to. That's still no excuse, though. Instead of arresting him, I should have had him checked out by a doctor and gotten someone from victim services to talk to him."

"Yeah." Jim took a sip of his beer. "I guess we both screwed that one up."

"Still, Sandburg bounced back despite us."

"Yes, he did. I guess he learned that young."

"What do you mean?"

Jim shrugged. "Just the way Naomi raised him. I got the impression he learned early on how to land on his feet. I think he calls it 'processing.'" A smile nudged his lips.

"Well, whatever it is, he's better at it than you or I combined. Of course, you're not going to tell him I said that."

"Nope."

"Good." Simon smiled and rose from the couch. "I guess it's time for me to head home. Thanks for the meal."

Jim got to his feet and walked his captain to the door. "Don't mention it."

Simon glanced to the closed French doors of Blair's room. "Oh, and make sure Sandburg knows he did a damn fine job on that stand today."

Jim smiled and nodded. "I will, sir." He opened the door and let Simon out. "You can count on it."

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END

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