This is a prequel to 'Letters From Hades', set in the timeline between Sentinel Too and the beginning of 'LFH' shortly after TSbBS. Betaed by Xasphie a while ago; I found it on my hard drive only recently (-;

Warning: Scene describing sexual harassment.

Then and Now

By Demeter

EMAIL: Demeter

He still felt queasy, his chest hurt and his emotions were too much on edge to discuss this subject the way it should have been discussed, but that didn't hinder Blair from struggling through the process of waking up. It had to be now. If he didn't ask Jim, maybe he wouldn't have the courage to, later.

//And what the hell does it mean anyway, I'm not ready to take that trip with you?//

His vision improved slowly to reveal a visitor, slumped into an uncomfortable-looking position in one of those typical hospital chairs, where Jim had spent a lot of time, too. Disappointment washed over him. Where was he anyway?

"Sandy! You're awake!" Megan's smile was genuine, though her weariness came through just as clearly, making her accent thicker than usual. And there was something else to the tone of her voice...

"Where's Jim?"

He tried to raise himself up in the bed, but only ended up with a coughing fit. "Hey, easy." She was fiddling with the bed controls for a moment, obviously glad to have something to do. "Megan?" Her reluctance to give him an answer translated into a dreadful notion, without warning, leaving him lightheaded. "Something's wrong, isn't it? Is it about Alex? Did something...happen to Jim?"

"Not yet," she said grimly, lowering herself onto the edge of the chair again. "So would you calm down now? If you promise not to start to hyperventilate again, I'll give you the whole story."

A little later, Blair learned that Jim and Simon had taken off to Sierra Verde to hunt down Alex; and that Megan was just as pissed off as he was, to be left behind. What the hell was Jim thinking? Alex was a dangerous threat to the control he'd gained over his senses, and Simon didn't know half of it. Even if Jim obviously didn't see it that way, he'd need Blair with him, whether he wanted it or not.

"I'll have to find him."

That sounded good in theory, but the moment he tried to stand up, the ground beneath his feet seemed to take on a disturbing unstable quality. Screw that. He didn't have time to spare.

"Right, you're in perfect shape to do that," Megan remarked sarcastically. "Now get your ass back into that bed or..."

"You'll make me?"

"You're not funny, Sandy. Not at all. Look - I don't appreciate them taking off like this, but I'm sure they can handle it. You just got a bad case of separation anxiety."

"Sep... Megan, get me the doctor. I'm going to sign myself out AMA, and if you could please order me a ticket? I promise I'll pay you back. Will you do that for me?"

Her only answer was a sigh of the long-suffering.

***

As a rule, whether lately or just the course of his life, things hadn't been going as planned. Predictably, Blair got into an argument with the doctor, and Megan had to excuse herself after Joel phoned her about some case. All in all, it was getting dark by the time he was finally allowed to leave Cascade General. He wanted to go to his motel room, pack some things and then head over to Megan's. She had promised to book a flight for early tomorrow and offered for him to crash at her apartment as it was much closer to the airport. To be honest, he was rather grateful, because that ratty room naturally confronted him with questions he didn't want to deal with yet. Jim hadn't asked him back, chances were, he wouldn't. He couldn't afford the motel for much longer, neither was camping out in his office a valid alternative.

However, there was no time for this now. He had to concentrate on getting to Sierra Verde and finding Jim. When Alex Barnes was behind bars, they could sort things out. He hoped.

Talk about things not going as planned...

The Volvo broke down halfway to Megan's.

***

As luck would have it, his cell was dead, but at least there was a bar where he could phone her and ask her to give him a ride. The bartender gave him directions to a payphone hanging on the wall two flights of stairs down, in the hallway that led to the restrooms. From here the sounds of the music and voices were somewhat muted; Blair was infinitely grateful for that. It was a miracle anyway that he had, in the end, convinced the doctor to let him go. The light headache he'd woken with today had upgraded to an unforgivable pounding that was getting worse by the minute, and the cigarette smoke seemed to suffocate him. Sure, it would have been wiser to stay in the hospital.

If that had been any option at all.

His hands were shaking as Blair picked up the receiver, making him angry. He'd be on a plane tomorrow morning; there was no time for this shit.

He only got Megan's answering machine, her cheerful voice asking the caller to leave a message.

"Damn!" He slammed the receiver back down on its cradle, taking a step backwards.

"Hey, you," said a voice behind him, its owner's breath smelling appallingly of alcohol. "Goin' anywhere?"

"If you want to use the phone, man, go ahead. I'm finished."

That got him a bout of crude laughter. "I don't think so... but I sure can help you out."

He pressed closer, his intention unmistakable. No, this won't work, Blair told himself firmly. He had come back from the dead only recently. That night, when Alex came to his office, saying that, sorry, but she still had to kill him... when he'd thought his friendship with Jim was irreparably damaged... those moments had raised him beyond fear, or so he'd thought.

My, aren't we a bit arrogant?

I'm scared. I want to go home.

Me, too, Blair agreed silently to the inner voice, or whatever it was anyway. Home. Wherever that was. "Don't be stupid. I'm with the police."

"Sure you are." The man's body vibrated with more laughter, as if he'd just heard a good joke, and Blair found himself pinned between the phone and a wall of solid flesh, reminding him painfully of his not yet healed ribs. Hands were fumbling with his belt, pulling his shirttails out of his pants. Fuck, no, he hadn't survived a crazed Sentinel just to end up like this...

Screaming wouldn't help since nobody would hear him down here, and it turned out just to be a pitiful croak anyway, but he had to try. "Get your hands off me!"

Maybe it would be best to just let it happen.

You stupid, good-for-nothing. You had it coming.

"Be good," the man whispered. "Then, maybe I'll make it good for you, too."

***

There had only been one chance. When the hands disappeared, the sound of a zipper being pulled down indicating where they went, Blair had used this one chance. He'd slammed his elbow backwards into the man's ribs, and turned around to bring the receiver down on his head. It had worked with Warren Chapel; it worked again. Last, he'd brought his knee up, connecting solidly with the attacker's groin. He was hurting himself with all the abrupt motion, but it was worth it to see the other man doubling over in pain - and then he'd fled, curses following him.

Once outside, he'd hailed a cab. The driver had given him suspicious looks but agreed to drive him to Megan's apartment. By the time the woman, who was about his age, started the car, he was shaking hard.

"You're not going to be sick in here, are you? Should I pull over..."

"No," he pressed out between clenched teeth. "Just keep going, please."

The drive seemed to last an eternity, but fortunately, he managed to keep the promise. Embarrassingly though, he didn't have enough cash to pay, so the driver accompanied him to Megan's door.

***

"Look, you have to eat something."

Blair had half-heartedly agreed to pizza for dinner, now the mere thought of it was enough to bring the nausea on again. Or maybe it was just that he couldn't stop thinking about what happened in the bar. He hadn't told her and didn't intend to. Just a little bit more of anybody's sympathy, friend or not, would be the last straw that would send him over the edge, he was quite sure of that.

She couldn't know. Jim couldn't know.

"I had something at the bar," he lied. "If I remember correctly, you booked me on the first plane tomorrow, so I should be sleeping right now."

"Us," she corrected softly, and for a moment he just stared at her.

"Excuse me?"

She shook her head, her expression somewhere in between sad, and pissed off. "I know you'll go on that trip, no matter what I say. So the best way to keep you from doing something more stupid than leaving the bloody hospital, was this. My supervisor at home okayed it. I'll be with you, so don't even try to talk me out of it. Barnes is *my* case, too."

"I didn't mean to... I... thanks, Megan." She opened her arms, and he let himself be embraced, hugged her back, even. "I'm glad." It was the truth, Blair felt relieved not to have to *take that trip, no pun intended,* all alone. Somewhere in the back of his mind lingered the question if it wasn't too dangerous, wouldn't she get too close and figure out that Jim was a Sentinel, but at the same time, he felt too tired to care.

Alex had to be kept from doing more damage. He and Jim had to start communicating again.

Everything else was of minor importance.

***

He'd slept on worse than Megan's living room couch; it was the many ghosts of imminent danger and past terrors that wouldn't let him sleep. Before he finally succumbed to exhaustion, Blair thought of the man at the bar, the repulsive touch that seemed to contaminate his skin even through the layers of clothing, and he pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes, hard.

In another time, he might have cried and been ashamed to do so, but he was supposed to be wiser than that. If you were given a second chance to live, you had to have learned something, act wiser somehow, so *get a fucking grip*!

Thoughts of what might have happened that night slipped under the fences of Blair's subconscious, mingling with the fragments already there, recycled in nightmares of gaping pits. And flames. Nothing really made sense, except that he still woke up from each of his dreams sweaty and shaking, with his hand over his mouth, stifling the screams that he couldn't afford to let out.

When he came back, Blair had brought something with him from the shadows of his very own underworld.

The next time, he dreamed of holding a bloody knife, and after that, he stayed awake until it was time to get up, dizzy with fear, hardly able to breathe for not entirely psychological reasons.

The trip to Sierra Verde would be fun.

***

The End