Thanks to Xasphie and Lyn for the beta!
Summary: Kidnappers love Blair. Really.
It may sound cynical, but being kidnapped is not actually a new experience to me. I've learned to keep calm - like just now, waking up in a dark, moving room which has to be the back of a van. There's a vague memory of somebody grabbing me from behind on the way to my car.
And I swear, the cold sweat spreading over my skin is not from fear, but from the nausea; no doubt stemming from the chloroform or whatever crap it was the guy used on me. I do not want to puke all over the place, so I try to breathe deeply, and hope he's going to stop soon.
As if in answer to my wish, the car screeches to a halt, doors slam, and then somebody's holding a flashlight on me. Reflexively, I close my eyes, the sudden light hitting me like an impact, not helping the nausea any.
"Get out," he says, and when my eyes have adjusted, I can see that the guy has a gun as well. Figures. What do they always want from *me*?
It's starting to piss me off, really. I trust Jim infinitely; of course he will get me out of this newest predicament, too, but honestly, it's humiliating, this always having to be rescued. Before I can check the man and my chances to overpower him, he drags me out and presses the barrel of the gun against my back. I stumble like a drunk person. Oh right, great chances.
"This way," he directs, and that's when I recognize his voice. Damn. I'm really disappointed, but the good news is, this should be easy.
I haven't met Jackson Bennett in person before, but I know his brother, Aaron. He's on trial for big-time tax evasion this week, and Jim is supposed to be the main witness. Aaron has been going on about what a great support his brother is. I relax a little even if my stomach doesn't. Those guys aren't killers; they just took illegal measures to make big money, and got caught.
I'm disappointed. I had thought they were cleverer than that.
"It's Jackson, right?"
I can almost *feel* his surprise, and uncertainty. "Don't do anything stupid here; that won't help your brother at all. If you let me go now--"
"Sorry, can't do that," he says, not unfriendly. "Just keep going. And remember I do know how to use this thing."
The path seems to go on endlessly. I've decided it's for the best to play it safe for now, and make my move when I haven't got my back turned to him. I still refuse to believe he's going to shoot me, but you never know what people will do in desperation.
I am not scared, do you hear me?
After an eternity, we come to a trailer hidden by large bushes and branches. It even looks quite comfortable in comparison to the cold, damp warehouse Lash chose... Whoa. This bit of vertigo must be the residue from the drug. Not the memory. I'm over Lash.
The interior of the trailer isn't very spectacular, beds, a sink, a small door that probably leads to a bathroom. Whatever. I certainly don't plan staying long enough here to find out.
There's a chair against the back wall, and Bennett tells me to sit down.
"Now what? You know, you won't keep Jim from testifying against Aaron this way. Your brother is ready to confess, and that will be the best for him; the judge will--"
"Shut up and sit down."
"Now, Jackson, can't we talk about--"
I jump, covering my ears instinctively as a shot rings out, obscenely loud in the confined space.
"No talking. Just do as I say," Jackson commands, still not raising his voice. Have I misjudged him?
My ears are ringing as I sit down, wondering what he's up to next. Damn the smell of gun powder. At this rate, I'm still going to puke tonight. I send a silent message to Jim: Anytime now, my friend - would be good. Maybe we could still have dinner tonight. Back at home, I'm sure my appetite will come back.
Idle hopes, aren't they?
Since there's not much I can do at the moment, I try and retreat to a far corner of my mind; it's a skill I learned with Lash, or before maybe, I can't say at the moment - in any case, it's helpful.
But only until I feel the weight of cold metal around my wrists, making me flinch.
He can't do that! I'm distantly aware of my heart starting to race. "No!" I say. "I swear, I won't try to run away, but don't do this. I can't be tied up, please, no."
Jackson looks at me in surprise. "I won't hurt you."
I don't fucking care, all I know is that I just can't have those chains wrapped around me, or this time, I'll really lose it. I jump out of the chair, lunging at him. For a moment, the element of surprise is on my side, and we both tumble to the floor.
The drug is still strong in my system though, making my movements rather uncoordinated, and then, apologizing again, Bennett knocks me out. That's what his promise is worth.
The next time I come to, my head hurts even worse, and I might be still pissed off, but what's at the forefront of my mind is the alarming fact that I can't move at all. He's tied my legs together, and my hands in front of me, but that's not what has me panicking.
"It's okay," Lash says, repeating it over and over again, as he's standing over me, panting slightly. Probably from carrying me down those stairs; I don't dare think of any alternative. I shrink back from his touch, but there's no space really, and when I screw my eyes shut, I still see the gleam in his eyes. Somebody help me--
"Hey," he says, and the voice is all wrong, strangely concerned. "They're not too tight, are they?"
Oh, fuck, a considerate kidnapper. I open my eyes, back in the trailer with Bennett, distantly noticing that I'm shaking all over. Gasping for air although the small window is open, cold night air drifting inside.
"Get them off me!" Part of me is mortified about begging like this - but there's another part which seems to have never left the warehouse by the waterfront and the damned dentist's chair. I squirm on the chair, yanking at the chains uselessly.
"Please." I feel a warm wetness on my face, and Bennett turns away; even he seems to be embarrassed by my reaction.
"I can't do that," he says patiently, "I have to make a call now." He puts on a sweater with a hood he's pulling over his head and--
There's Lash, wearing that stupid wig, wanting to be me. 'You've got a wicked sense of humor,' he mocks me. 'All in all, quite a piece of work.'
I'll never forget the smell of the aftershave, the brand I used until that day, of course. Remembering how he stood close, much too close, fingering my hair while breathing deeply. "My favorite friend," he'd whispered. "I've been waiting so long to find you."
I must admit I had my own doubts at the beginning, but everything has turned out well. Blair has surely proven himself on various occasions, and even if I am worried, I'm mostly annoyed at the stupid attempt at blackmailing me.
Tracing Bennett's cell phone took a matter of minutes, and his brother is quick to tell us about the trailer Jackson owned. All in all, we've managed to find him in less than an hour; it's nothing like the frantic search with Lash, or the tense moments after Maya had called. No, this should be easy.
My hopes raise even further when we catch Bennett near his car, practically with his head in the trunk. He doesn't put up much of a fight. I'm a bit smug about it, shaking my head about the criminals today.
Then I step into the trailer, and immediately realize that not everything has gone down without complications. For a start, there's the trickle of blood down the side of Sandburg's face. Doesn't look too serious, but I'm suddenly kind of ashamed for maybe not having taken the situation seriously enough. I hadn't thought Bennett really would act violently. But there's a bullet lodged in the ceiling of the trailer as well. Have I underestimated the guy?
Blair gives me a tired smile. "Took you a while," he says.
"Yeah, well. I called Paolo in the meantime; he's reserved a table for us. If the paramedic says it's okay, that is."
I listen to his heartbeat for a moment, frowning. It's still way too fast.
"Could you get these off me, please?" His tone is still light, but I have no trouble detecting the underlying urgency. Oh damn. It's looks way too much like Lash's horror scenario. I do my best to hurry, his skin feeling cold under my fingers.
"What is it with these bastards and chains?" I wonder aloud, but finally they fall to the floor with a rattling sound, and I give his shoulder a reassuring squeeze. "Come on, Chief, let's get out of here."
He seems quite stable on his feet. The paramedic waiting outside takes a look at his head; and asks some questions, establishing that there are no hints of a concussion. Well, maybe our favorite Italian will indeed make an exception for us. I offer to pay for dinner, and Sandburg seems inclined.
Don't you just love happy endings?
It's halfway through the second course that I hear the hitch in his breath; he looks suddenly miserable.
"I'm sorry, but..."
"Are you going to be sick?"
He shakes his head and drops his fork on the table. "No. It's just... I just need a moment, okay?"
"No problem, Chief."
I follow him with my hearing to the stairs that lead down to the restrooms. Not to intrude, but just so I'll be in time if he needs me. More and more I get the feeling that tonight wasn't as easy as I, maybe both of us, would like to believe.
I know the layout of the room, we've been here before. So I know he's paused in front of the mirror. Turns on the faucet. The sound of water rushing is loud, and I dial down a little. Seems like Blair is okay for the moment, and just as I decide to draw back, he whispers, "No." Repeats it, over and over again.
Not stopping to think, I head for the stairs.
I find him leaning against the wall next to the sink, hand shaking as he turns off the water. No need to pretend - I've seen the tears. We really should go home, but before I can say anything, Blair speaks up.
"I appreciate what you've done for me, again, but when I said 'a moment for myself', that didn't include you. Now get out of here."
I hesitate, gauging the seriousness of his request.
"Damn it," he whispers. "Damn."
He's not the only one with intrusive memories regarding earlier cases, and especially that last one, Lash. I remember how I held him then, the two of us all alone in that warehouse before the cavalry arrived. Feeling relieved that he was alive, feeling helpless to do anything to help ease his fears.
"No," I say. "It was a stupid idea to come here. Let's go home."
"It would have been all right. But those chains, it was so much like... I never wanted to feel like that again."
"I know. But just for the record, it's okay not to be all right when you've been drugged, held hostage, and threatened with a weapon. We were just lucky the perp was as much an amateur as Bennett - you can never count on that."
He half-heartedly protests when I draw him close - "Jim, man, this is a public restroom! What if somebody--" - but I guess what worked before will do the trick again. No one interrupts this private moment, fortunately.
After a while, he finally relaxes in my embrace. It's a relief for me too.
"Why don't we go home before this gets really embarrassing?" he suggests.
"Nothing embarrassing about this," I say. "Going home sounds good, though."
Jim and I sat up for a long time after we got back, and now that I've managed to get myself together again, I can't help but notice some things.
It's not like there's such a thing at being experienced in -- this, whatever you want to call it. Repeating the experience doesn't make you stronger, it makes you more vulnerable, and for sure, I can do without being threatened or kidnapped for the next... let's say, for the rest of my life.
Not sure if my wish will be granted, and it's a good thing I learned something else as well:
The healing doesn't come from getting all jaded - it can only start when you're feeling safe again, outside and inside. While the latter is certainly my job, I'm glad to have someone by my side who doesn't hesitate to provide the former.
Blessed protector, I don't call him that for nothing.The End