HEALING

           By: Lyn           

        FEEDBACK TO: townsend297@ozemail.com.au

AUTHOR’S NOTES: This is Part Three of the series that began with Presumed Guilty, and continued with Vendetta. To fully understand this story, I recommend you read those first

DISCLAIMER: Jim, Blair, Simon and the rest of Major Crimes belong to Petfly etc. The other minor characters in this piece of fiction are mine to do with as I wish.

RATING: M (L)

Story begins one week after the events of "Vendetta"

Jim pushed the door to the hospital room open awkwardly with one hand, the other preoccupied with attempting to steer an errant wheelchair whose four wheels wanted to go in different directions at once. Taking the duffel bag from the seat of the chair, he turned and grinned at his partner. "So Chief, are you ready to blow this joint?"

Blair sat at one side of the bed in a small armchair, watching the nurse strip the bed of its bedding, seemingly mesmerized by her actions.

"Hey, Earth to Sandburg," Jim said a little more loudly. He frowned at the nurse, who merely shrugged and went back to her chore.

"I heard you Jim," Blair said quietly, his voice flat. "I’m still a little tired, that’s all." He finally looked up and smiled. "I had trouble sleeping last night, guess I’m wound up about finally going home."

Jim nodded, noting the lines of fatigue and pain around Blair’s eyes. Pulling open the duffel bag, he began to pull the folded clothing from within and hand it to his friend. "Are you sure about being discharged Chief? If your knee is still giving you trouble, maybe you need to stay a little longer."

Blair shook his head as he carefully levered himself upright and limped heavily toward the bathroom. "The doctor said the quicker I’m up and moving around, the better. I can do the strengthening exercises at home and I just need to come back in a couple of weeks for a checkup."

"Okay, Sandburg, look while you’re getting your act together in there, I’ll go pick up your prescriptions. From the look of this list, you’re going to be taking half the pharmacy home with you. You are going to be rattling when you walk," Jim called.

Blair poked his head back around the bathroom door, his mouth opened to comment, but a raised hand from Jim silenced him.

"Don’t even think about it, Blair. You *will* take the pills."

Blair groaned and went back to undressing. If Jim was calling him by his first name, it usually meant he was either in a great deal of trouble or Jim was in mother hen mode. Oftentimes he preferred the former.

He heard the outer door to the room close and bent to rest his head against the cool porcelain of the hand basin. He moaned softly and his heartrate began to spike, each beat feeling as though it would burst from his chest. His lungs began to tighten and he struggled to pull in ample air. "Oh no, not again," Blair groaned.

He turned to the shower, turning the taps on hard. He stepped under the pounding water and turned the hot water up more as though the burning needles could wash away the terror he felt building inside him.

By the time he heard Jim reenter the room, Blair had managed to control his breathing and the shaking in his extremities had decreased to fine tremors. Taking a deep breath, he exited the bathroom, fixing a shaky smile on his face as he sat down carefully in the wheelchair. ‘I can do this,’ he thought to himself. ‘I’m cool.’

Jim bent to release the brake on the wheel and peered closely at his friend’s sweat sheened face. "You okay, Chief?"

Then again. Blair forced himself to grin at his partner. "I’m fine, Jim, quit hovering already and get me the hell out of here. No offense," he said over his shoulder to the nurse who was following behind with an assortment of flowers, plants and the other accoutrements accumulated during Blair’s last hospital stay. "Oh, do you think you could give the flowers and plants to someone else? I don’t think Jim’s had time to kill the ones I got last visit. There must be someone here who’d appreciate them," Blair asked the nurse, swiftly ducking the expected whack to the back of his head.

"Funny, Chief, very funny," Jim chuckled. "Looks like you’re back to normal already, well, what passes for normal for you anyway."

Having said their good-byes to the medical staff, Blair promising fervently not to return in the near future, the two men made their way to Jim’s truck, parked just outside the exit, still exchanging lighthearted banter. Jim opened the passenger door for Blair, then put his hand out to assist his friend up into the cab. Blair began to push his partner’s hand away, then realizing the foolishness of his gesture, used Jim’s shoulder to lever himself up. Jim smiled and walked to the driver’s side.

Fifteen minutes later, the two men stood, arms full of overnight bags stuffed with books and clothes and several more interesting plants looking up the dark stairwell that snaked its way to the loft. Three floors up and the elevator was out again.

"Damn," Jim cursed. "Look Sandburg, you wait here, I’ll take this stuff up and then come back for you." He held a finger up as Blair opened his mouth to argue. "No, Chief, this time, it’s an order. I am not carrying you back into the hospital with a broken neck."

Blair’s mouth snapped shut and he glared at Jim. "Yeah man, whatever," he replied grumpily and hobbled back to lean against the wall.

Jim shook his head wearily and trotted up the stairs. "I don’t know why you find it so hard to let people help you, Chief. You certainly don’t have a problem going out of your way for others."

Quickly, the detective unlocked the apartment door and carried the bags in, depositing them next to the couch. He hurried out the door and headed back down the stairs, stopping suddenly as he rounded the second landing to come feet to backside with his partner.

"Sandburg! Of all the stubborn, pigheaded…" Jim fumed and reached down to haul his partner to his feet. Blair yelped as his knee protested the sudden movement.

"Oh shit, Blair, I’m sorry." Jim gently lowered the smaller man back down, his sensitive Sentinel fingers skimming the injury, shuddering slightly as he felt the long scar traversing the center of Blair’s knee, the plastic kneecap somehow harder than he thought it would be.

"Hey man, it’s okay," Blair said, trying desperately not to clench his teeth in a grimace of pain and succeeding in stifling another moan. "Stupid of me. Just thought I’d try to save you the second trip."

He hoped that Jim would assume his racing heart and gasping were due to the strenuous climb and pain from his knee.

"You all right to get up again?" Jim asked, placing his hand under his partner’s arm.

"Yeah, Jim, I’m good,man," Blair said, smiling at his friend. He allowed Jim to pull him up and together they managed a reasonably dignified shuffle-hop the rest of the way to the loft.

The two men spent the rest of the day in easy companionship, Blair lying for the most part on the couch ensconced in his beloved journals.

Jim cleaned the loft, something that he hadn’t had much time to do, spending the majority of his days divided between the hospital and the precinct, finalizing the criminal case against Samantha Merrick. He’d tried not to say too much about the case to Blair. The mere mention of Samantha Merrick’s name or David North’s had caused the young man to suffer almost intractable panic attacks. Blair hadn’t suffered an attack or a nightmare for several days as far as Jim could tell and he wanted it to stay that way. Jim had carefully mentioned the matter of trauma counseling, only to have Blair bristle with anger.

"Counseling, man?" Blair had fumed. "Do you think I really want to dredge up all of this crap again? It was hard enough living through it, and dreaming about it. The last thing I want to do is talk about it to some stranger who hasn't the slightest idea of how it felt, how I felt."

The tirade had left Blair breathless and shaking and Jim wasn’t sure he felt much better. He resolved to let the subject lie until Blair had been home for a few more days. Simon had insisted on the counseling as part of departmental process and threatened to pull Blair’s observer pass until such time as he received a favorable report from the psychologist.

Jim finished wiping down the benches and turned to face Blair. His partner was asleep in his book, his mouth slightly open, a small patch of drool creating a wet spot on the paper.

Jim moved over and gently shook Blair’s shoulder. He would have liked to let his friend sleep but the physiotherapist had insisted that Blair’s knee strengthening exercises be done several times a day.

"Sandburg? Come on buddy, time to wake up," Jim patted Blair’s cheek, hoping he wouldn’t startle the sleeping man as he awoke. Too late! Blair pushed Jim’s hands away with surprising strength and tumbled from the couch, falling to the ground almost immediately as his injured leg took the brunt of his landing and crumpled beneath him.

"Ouch. Ouch. Shit," Blair muttered, twisting to sit and stretch both legs out in front of him, his right hand reaching down to massage the cramping muscles in his leg. "God, I hate this. I hate this."

Jim bent down at his partner’s side and helped him back to the couch. "Jeez, Blair, I’m so sorry. I tried to be as gentle as I could."

"That’s what he did," Blair said quietly, stretching out again lengthwise on the seat. "I remember waking up to him stroking my cheek, telling me to wake…wake up. I thought…I thought it was you."

Jim clenched his jaw as Blair stumbled over the words. Blair claimed he had no recollection of most of his ordeal until he woke in the ER, screaming for Jim. Small fragments of memory had returned over the past week, mostly in the form of nightmares. Though Jim had hoped his partner could continue to forget the whole ordeal, that obviously wasn’t going to happen.

"Time for your exercises, Chief," Jim said softly.

Blair shook his head immediately. "I’ll do them later Jim. I’m tired."

"Sorry Chief, you’ve gotta do them now. You’ve got to get that leg back up to strength. I need you back at the station with me," Jim said. "I’ll do you a deal. Do the exercises and I’ll hand over control of the remote for the rest of the night."

Blair smiled tiredly. "Rest of the week?"

"You drive a hard bargain, Sandburg," Jim laughed. "Okay, it’s a deal."

The exercises were varied and were designed to increase the strength both in the muscles surrounding the knee, which had been torn during the attack when North had shattered Blair’s kneecap with a police nightstick and in his thigh muscles.

Blair started the session apathetically, Jim resorting to mild bullying to get him to put sufficient effort into the workout to make it worthwhile. A half hour later, the session had degenerated into fits of raucous laughter, on Blair’s part at least, after Jim offered to provide counter pressure for his partner and was ricocheted off the end of the couch to land flat on his butt.

"Come on Sandburg, it wasn’t that funny," Jim grumbled, rubbing the bruised part of his anatomy.

"Oh man it wasn’t the action," Blair laughed, wiping his eyes. "You should have seen your face." He yawned suddenly and struggled to stand, nodding his thanks as Jim offered a helping hand. "I’m really wiped man, I’m going to bed."

Jim helped his partner into his bedroom and bent to remove Blair’s shoes. He was pleased the night had ended on a happy note, maybe that would mean no nightmares tonight.

~o0o~

Jim watched as Blair stumbled from the bedroom, alert to lending a hand should his partner need it. Blair limped heavily, the stiffness in his joints always worse first thing in the morning.

"Good morning, Chief. Breakfast will be ready in a few minutes," Jim said cheerily.

Blair glared darkly at his partner, mumbling Sentinel soft epithets under his breath. Jim shrugged and turned his attention back to the stove. Sandburg had never been a morning person.

The two men ate in companionable silence for a few moments, and then Blair put his fork down and spoke.

"I’m sorry about last night, Jim. I thought the nightmares were going," he said softly.

"They are going, Chief." Jim answered. "You haven’t had nearly as many in the last few nights."

"I should be able to deal with them on my own. I’m an adult, for God’s sake, not a four year old. I’m sorry I woke you up. If it happens again, I’ll try not to call out okay?" Blair picked up the fork and played with it restlessly.

"Sandburg, you survived a vicious attack. The nightmares are to be expected, and I don’t mind getting up. Who’s going to wake you up from them if I don’t?" Jim asked.

"You need your sleep," Blair replied stubbornly. "I have to learn to deal with this…. this stuff on my own."

"Sandburg!" Jim spoke sharply and Blair looked up finally. "I could no more lay up there listening to you crying out in your sleep," Blair reddened at the words, but Jim continued, "any more than you can stay in the truck."

Blair smiled at that finally and Jim stood and began to gather up the dishes and then cursed himself as the next words came unbidden, knowing as he said them that now was not the time. "I think we should arrange for you to see the psychologist soon, though."

"No!" The word was quiet but vehement and Jim swore again as he turned to face his partner.

"You don’t have a choice about this Chief, not if you want to keep riding with me. Simon can’t have you back until the psych says so."

"I can’t talk about it, Jim. If I say the words, it’ll all come back and I don’t want to remember. I don’t want to remember the bits I do now," Blair said. He stood slowly and waited a moment until his balance was steady before limping toward the bathroom.

"Blair?" Jim was suddenly behind Blair, a large hand on his shoulder, turning him to face Jim. "Did something else happen out there? Did they? Did he?" Jim gestured ineffectually, not able to say the words.

"What, this wasn’t bad enough Jim?" Blair smacked angrily at Jim’s hand. "You think it’s not as bad as long as they didn’t rape me?"

"Come on Blair, you know that’s not what I meant. It just seems that there might be stuff you remember and you just don’t want to talk about it," Jim replied.

Blair took a deep breath and then shook his head. "I’m sorry, I don’t what the hell is wrong with me. I keep you up half the night and then I argue with you all morning. They didn’t do anything else to me. I just don’t want to think about any of it. I’ll go see the shrink, just give me a few days to process it all, okay?"

Jim nodded and smiled. "Look Chief, I’ve got to go into the precinct today. Why don’t I come back at lunchtime and pick you up? We’ll go grab a bite to eat and then you can come in and see everyone at the station. I can finish up early," Jim suggested.

"I’d really rather not, Jim. Maybe tomorrow, okay? I’m really tired, I think I’m just going to have a shower and then crash on the couch for the rest of the day," Blair said.

"Fine, we’ll do it tomorrow," Jim grinned. "Don’t forget the exercises though"

"Are you kidding me?" Blair answered. "We have a deal. Discovery Channel, here we come."

Jim groaned theatrically as Blair disappeared into the bathroom. It was going to be alright, Blair would get through it, Jim only wished he could have the time over to take David North apart with his bare hands. He owed it to Blair to make sure that Samantha Merrick was put behind bars for a very long time.

~o0o~

Jim finished another report and threw it into his out basket, then leant back in his chair. He still felt guilty about the conversation he’d had earlier with Blair. The thought that perhaps Blair had been sexually assaulted while he was in the hands of the murderous pair had bothered him for some time. The fact that Blair had thought Jim would consider the severity of the attack lessened without rape shocked him. Jim had barely left Blair’s side during the week he’d been in the hospital, going home only to shower and change when Simon ordered him to.

He’d watched Blair fight his way back to consciousness after the surgery and finally waken to pain and fear. Jim had insisted on sleeping in Blair’s room each night.It seemed that only Jim’s soothing voice and constant reassurances that North was dead could break through the terrifying nightmares that held Blair in their relentless grip. Jim had been relieved to see the frightening dreams slowly begin to abate but Blair’s reticence to speak to anyone about the attack had spurred Jim’s fear.

The detective was also aware that Samantha Merrick’s conviction relied almost solely on Blair’s testimony although forensic evidence had tied her into the beating. He decided to allow Blair a few days to adjust to the necessity of seeing Jack Thomas, the department psychologist but right now he had to make sure that Blair understood Jim’s fears this morning. That thought in mind, he poked his head into Simon’s office and informed him he was heading out to lunch. The police captain looked up somberly at the detective.

"Come in for a minute Jim, and shut the door."

"Can’t it wait, sir?" Jim asked. " I thought I’d go pick Sandburg up, take him somewhere for lunch. He’s been cooped up in hospital rooms and the loft for too long."

"Sit down Jim," Simon sighed and then deciding there was no easy way to say what he had to, simply said it. "Samantha Merrick was granted bail."

"What!" Jim exploded. "Come on Simon, you’re kidding me. Murder, kidnapping, attempted murder, assault, God knows what else. She got bail?"

Simon shrugged. "According to the DA, there’s nothing tying her in to her father’s murder apart from motive. We have Sandburg’s statement and some forensic evidence to tie her into Blair’s assault, and I’ve been assured that we’ll get her on that. Her lawyer convinced the judge that she’s not a flight risk…"

"We caught her with her bags packed, for Christ sake," Jim yelled.

"The grieving daughter going home to mourn her dead father," Simon snorted. "Look Jim, you’re going to have to accept this. It’s out of my hands, but if you want to go home, keep an eye on Sandburg, go."

Jim nodded briefly and left, running for the elevator. This was one conversation he wasn’t looking forward to having.

As he entered the apartment, he saw Blair asleep on the couch, a textbook lying open on his chest. Both Blair’s hands were curled around his body as though protecting himself and as Jim watched, his partner shifted and muttered softly in his sleep.

"Blair?" Jim spoke softly, but kept his hands at his sides, not wanting to startle the slumbering man. "You with me here, buddy?"

Blair mumbled a little more, then dazed blues eyes slowly opened. "Jim? Oh man, I must have really bombed out. What time is it?"

"It’s fine, Chief" Jim answered, "It’s only 12.30." Jim’s Sentinel sight had not missed the dried trail of tears on his Guide’s face and he felt even more apprehensive of the news he had to break. He helped Blair lever himself into a sitting position and sat on the corner of the coffee table, waiting for the young man to awaken a little more and gather his senses.

Blair looked up suddenly, his eyes alert and worried. "What’s going on, Jim? What’s wrong?"

"It’s nothing for you to worry about, Chief," Jim answered evasively; glad that his partner did not possess the hyperacute senses that would give away his pounding heart.

"Bullshit, Jim, I’m not blind, what’s going on?" Blair hunched forward on the couch, his posture immediately attacking and defensive at once.

‘Shit,’ Jim thought. ‘I think Sandburg’s been living here too long.’

"Samantha Merrick got bail." Even as he held up a restraining hand, Blair was up, limping and pacing, one hand scrubbing endlessly through the already tangled curls.

"Oh man, I don’t believe this." He spun suddenly to face Jim, his face flushed with anger and fear. "What the fuck do I have to do to get a break here, Jim. What fucking deity did I piss off to deserve this, man."

Jim stood quickly and placed his hands firmly on Blair’s shoulders, holding him still. "Blair! Settle down before you fall down."

Blair made to shrug off the larger man’s hands but Jim held him firmly. "We will get her. She’s not going to get away with this. We have forensic evidence to tie her to you in the caves, there’s your statement, and North’s partner’s statement, plus the previous case reports from the welfare authorities. I’ll make sure someone keeps tabs on her, she’s not going to get anywhere near you again. Okay?"

Blair said nothing, his gaze fixed on the floor, his breath coming in rapid painful gasps.

Jim tried again. "Okay?"

Blair finally looked up at him, but the flat expression and the lack of effect in his voice frightened Jim more than the outpouring of rage he had just witnessed. "Okay, Jim."

"Let’s get out of here for a little while, Chief." As Blair began to shake his head, Jim continued insistently. "Come on. You haven’t been out of this apartment since you came out of hospital and I haven’t seen much more of the outdoors than you have. Let’s go grab some lunch, sit in the park, catch some rays, half an hour. What do you say?"

"Sure, okay, whatever," Blair muttered. "I’ll just go wash up."

Jim nodded, relieved and grabbed both jackets off the hook inside the front door.

~o0o~

If Blair had to be honest, it felt good to be outside. The sun streamed through the windshield of the truck, warming his face and making the fears of a few minutes ago seem far away and insignificant. He hoped that his panic attacks would not surface now while they were out in public and felt a tiny shiver of apprehension at the thought. He glanced quickly at Jim, who still looked straight ahead and showed no sign that he had seen the reaction.

~o0o~

Jim kept the conversation light and non-threatening, wanting to give Blair control of at least this one situation. The detective hadn’t missed the small shiver that passed through his friend’s body and hoped it was just a small reaction to the traumatic events of earlier. There was plenty of time to discuss the case and the implications of Samantha Merrick’s release later, if Blair chose to talk about it at all.

Jim parked the truck in a small parking area adjacent to the park. Crossing quickly to the passenger side, he put his hand out to assist Blair from the truck. Blair however pushed his hand away. "I’m fine, Jim," he said, smiling a little to take the sting from the words.

He slowly slid from the cab, wincing slightly as his feet impacted the ground a little too quickly, but regained his composure almost instantly. Jim handed him his jacket. Though the sun shone brightly, there was a chill in the puffs of breeze that skittered across their faces.

"So, hotdogs?" Jim asked, slinging a casual arm around his partner’s shoulders.

"Yeah, sure, that’s fine," Blair answered distractedly.

After ordering and receiving their hot dogs, Jim led the way to a small table and bench that sat skirting the edge of a small ornamental lake. He noticed that Blair actually was walking much better than even the day before. The small but gradual improvements in his partner’s physical condition cheered him immensely. ‘At least something’s going right,’ Jim thought.

Jim took a bite of his hotdog, surreptitiously watching Blair for some indication of his mood. He still felt the need to discuss their conversation of the morning, but didn’t want to send his friend headlong into another session of anger. Blair’s pale and exhausted face showed he’d suffered more than enough already.

Jim put his hand up to still Blair’s as the young man pulled yet another piece from the hot dog roll and threw it to the ducks paddling hopefully in front of them. "That’s supposed to be your lunch, Chief," Jim said, grinning.

Blair shrugged "Guess I’m not hungry." He stood up and walked away a few steps, then turned and looked back at his partner. "Can we go now? I’m kind of tired."

"How can you possibly still be tired, Sandburg?" Jim said jokingly. "You slept most of the morning away."

"I just am, okay?" Blair replied. He wrapped his arms around his body as though to keep out the cold and resumed the unusual pacing, two or three steps away then back toward Jim. "Can we go now?"

Jim dialed up his senses and heard Blair’s heartbeat begin to pound, as his breathing hitched slightly. ‘Shit, panic attack,’ Jim thought.

Tossing the remaining portion of his hotdog into the bin, Jim moved toward his partner. "Sure, Chief, let’s go."

Blair nodded and took off at a breakneck hobble back toward the truck, as though the devil was after him. Jim followed as closely as he could though Blair’s speed made it difficult to keep apace, despite his injured leg.

Jim began to fish in his pocket for his keys as he neared the truck, keeping a close eye on Blair as he did so. Blair paced back and forth by the passenger door, his arms still clutched about him and looked imploringly at Jim. "Come on, will you hurry up, man?"

"Easy does it, Chief," Jim said. He moved closer to Blair and placed his hand on the young man’s arm, feeling the tremors coursing through his body. "Blair, just try and relax, buddy. Take slow breaths, not too deep."

He cursed as he fumbled the keys but finally had them in the door, finding himself unceremoniously shoved aside as Blair clambered into the cab.

Jim ran to the driver’s side and climbed in, his fear increasing as he watched Blair hunch in on himself, rocking now and audibly gasping for breath. Suddenly, Blair’s hand snaked out and grabbed at Jim with an iron like grip. "Oh man," Blair wailed. "I can’t breathe."

Jim pulled his partner closer to him, stroking his back gently. "Sure you can, buddy. You’re breathing just fine."

Jim fought to keep his voice steady, trying not to get pulled into the maelstrom of Blair’s panic.

Blair pulled himself free of the embrace and resumed his rocking and moaning. "No, I can’t. I can’t breathe. Jim. Make it stop please, I hate this," he begged.

"Put your seatbelt on, Chief. I think I’d better get you over to the hospital," Jim said.

Blair nodded and tried to comply, but his shaking hands could not fit the two ends of the belt together. Jim leant over and clicked the belt in place, then gave Blair’s shoulder a reassuring squeeze, as much for himself as Blair.

"You’re gonna be fine, Blair. Just breathe slow and easy."

Blair nodded and leaned back, his eyes closing as Jim started the truck and headed out of the car park. Jim tried to calm his churning thoughts as he watched his partner struggling to control his gasping breaths.

The detective was lost in his worry when sudden movement from beside him forced him to slam on the brakes. Blair had his seatbelt off and had opened the door to the truck, not seeming to notice that the vehicle was still in motion.

"It’s not working, Jim," he muttered as he struggled with the door handle. "I can’t breathe, I’ve got to get out."

"Shit, Sandburg!" Jim shouted, as heart in his mouth, he reached across to pull the passenger door closed again. Taking his foot off the brake but leaving one arm protectively across Blair, Jim looked around and realized that they were only a few blocks from home. Decision made, he spared a glance at his partner’s ashen face and headed for the loft.

He managed with some difficulty to get Blair upstairs and reached for the phone as soon as they were inside. Blair shrugged off Jim’s arms and raced for the bathroom. Jim realized with fear before he could react that the young man had locked the door behind him.

Jim swiftly dialed 911, then thought better of it and hit the speed dial for Simon’s phone as he kept his ears attuned to the bathroom. He grimaced as he heard violent retching begin even as Blair’s heart and breathing continued to race.

"Simon? It’s Ellison, I need you to get Jack Thomas here as fast as you can. Blair’s having some sort of attack."

He listened for a moment to the concerned questions from his captain. "No, Simon, it’s a panic attack, a bad one. I can’t get him to the hospital, he keeps trying to climb out of the truck. I don’t want to call an ambulance because that’s just going to embarrass him, he’s been through enough already."

"Jim." The voice was soft, exhausted and Jim looked toward the bathroom.

"Simon, I’ve got to go, he’s throwing up. Just get Jack here as fast as you can."

Jim hung up the phone and ran for the bathroom. He tried the handle but the door was still locked. "Blair? Unlock the door for me, so I can help you," he called.

"It won’t stop, Jim. I can’t breathe." Blair’s voice was gaining in fear again as Jim heard him fighting once more for breath. "Oh God, it hurts."

"What hurts? Blair?" Jim kept trying the handle of the door.

"My chest hurts, hurts bad and I can’t breathe."

"For Christ sake, Sandburg, open the fucking door!" Jim finally lost his temper as he spiraled into his own fear.

"I’m sorry Jim, I’m so stupid, don’t know what’s wrong with me," Blair said softly.

Jim heard Blair slowly standing up and breathed a sigh of relief that turned to trepidation almost instantly.

He could hear Blair muttering, "I hate this, make it stop."

Jim stood back, expecting the door to open then started as he heard glass breaking. Without a thought, Jim broke the door down. "Oh shit."

Blair held himself up on the sink, swaying on his feet. Dazed eyes turned to look at Jim then at the blood dripping from his hand, sliced as he’d smashed at the bathroom mirror.

Jim gathered Blair against his chest, then ushered him out to the living room, uncaring of the spatters of blood marring the floor. Blair’s panic attack was still in full swing and Jim feared that his partner might actually have a heart attack if they didn’t get it stopped soon. Just as Jim pulled his shirt off and wrapped it around the gashed hand, he heard noise at the front door. "Come on in, Simon, it’s not locked."

The police captain entered, ushering a tall, wiry middle aged man ahead of him. "Jim?" the captain boomed. "What the hell is going on?"

Jim shook his head then motioned for them to come closer. "Glad you’re here, Jack. Can you take a look at him?"

The psychiatrist nodded and took over Jim’s position in front of Blair. "Hello, Blair, do you remember me? I’m Jack Thomas."

From deep within the attack that held him captive, Blair nodded, his eyes haunted. "Can’t breathe," he whispered.

Jack nodded and began to rub the observer’s uninjured arm with firm, slow strokes. "I know it feels like you can’t get enough air, but you’re breathing just fine. You’ve had these attacks before, haven’t you?"

Blair eyes shifted quickly to Jim then slid back to Jack as he nodded. "Hospital."

Jack nodded as well, keeping up the gentle stroking of Blair’s arm. "Then you know they can’t hurt you."

Blair shook his head at that. "Won’t stop."

He began to moan again, his heart rate skyrocketing as the fear began once more to overwhelm him.

"That’s okay," Jack said. "I think you need a little extra help with this one. I’m going to give you an injection, okay. It will just relax you so you can get your breathing under control and then you can have a sleep."

Blair stiffened "I don’t want to sleep, too many dreams."

"If you start to dream, Jim will wake you up. How does that sound?" Jack suggested.

Blair nodded again and Jack turned to open his case and fill a syringe with sedative. Within five minutes of Jack administering the intravenous injection, Jim could see Blair finally beginning to relax, his breathing slowing down and his heart rate falling.

Occasionally his mind would appear to rebel against the drug and he would stiffen momentarily but a whispered reassurance from Jim would relax him once more. Blair’s eyes closed and his breathing evened out to the slow deep breaths of sleep. Jack lifted the anthropologist’s legs up onto the sofa and covered him with the blanket that Jim handed him.

"Simon, would you mind making some coffee?" Jim asked. Simon nodded, looking rather shaken and turned toward the kitchen.

"I’d like to bandage his hand while he’s asleep," Jim turned to the psychologist. "I know it’s not your field but could you take a look at it first. See if you think he needs stitches?"

Jim turned his attention to Blair and gently unwrapped his bloody t-shirt from the injured hand. Jack turned the hand palm up and peered intently at the two cuts running across Blair’s palm.

"Medicine isn’t my specialty, Jim, but these look okay. Cuts on the hand tend to bleed heavily, so clean them well, make sure there’s no glass embedded in them and wrap them up firmly." Jack said. "If you’re concerned, get them checked out tomorrow by Blair’s own doctor, when he’s feeling better."

Jim nodded his thanks and Jack stood up, gratefully accepting a steaming mug of coffee from Simon. Blair slept deeply through the first aid on his hand, and once Jim was sure he was settled, he moved to the dining table and sat down heavily.

"How do we handle this, Jack?" Jim turned weary eyes to the psychologist.

"Blair’s been through a couple of very traumatic months," Jack answered. "I’m impressed that he’s been able to function as well as he has for so long. Any idea if anything specific triggered this?"

"We just heard that the woman who was arrested for trying to kill him was granted bail," Jim replied.

"That would do it for me," Jack said. "Okay, let him rest tonight. I’ll give him a top up of the sedative before I go, that should keep him sleeping through the rest of today and tonight. He looks like he hasn’t had a full night’s sleep in quite some time. Stay nearby, Jim, if he starts to have a nightmare, you need to be able to wake him fairly quickly. The mind seems to retain a short-term memory of these things for a while and he could easily slip back into a panic attack. If you need any help at all, call me." Jack pulled a business card from his wallet and handed it to Jim. "Anytime. And I want to see him tomorrow in my office, say 8.30am. The sooner I can get him working on controlling this, the better."

~o0o~

Jim put the magazine back on the waiting room table and stood to stretch. He wandered over and stood at the large window, letting his senses extend beyond the office block housing Jack Thomas’ office. He’d promised himself that he wouldn’t eavesdrop on Blair session with the psychiatristist, but as the time stretched into an hour, he found it increasingly hard not to do so.

Blair had talked occasionally in his drugged sleep the previous night, but Jim hadn’t thought he seemed distressed enough to warrant waking. The anthropologist had been quiet that morning, complaining of feeling hung over, but he’d allowed Jim to check his injured hand.

After a half-hour of polite and aimless conversation, Blair had finally blurted out his feeling of embarrassment over the panic attack the day before. He remembered little of it but enough to feel foolish at his loss of control.

For his part, Jim had been able to voice his concern over the attack by North and Merrick and both men became aware that they were suffering from acute feelings of guilt. Blair, because Jim had been injured during the abduction while his partner naturally felt guilty that Blair had suffered so much before he was able to get to him.

Blair had seemed eager to speak to Jack Thomas this morning and Jim shook his head in bemusement at the change in his partner’s attitude. Blair had decided to approach the whole thing from a scientific point of view, he’d told Jim on the way over. There were things he could learn here that might help with his studies of Jim’s abilities, the frailties and strengths of the mind or some such thing. Jim had switched off the minute science was mentioned.

Jim turned as he heard Blair opening the door to the office. Blair smiled as he walked up to his partner.

"So," Jim said. "We all done here?"

Blair nodded. "For today, Jack wants to see me once or twice a week for a little while."

"Are you okay with that?" Jim asked.

"I think so," Blair answered as they headed out to the carpark. "I know there’s stuff there that I don’t remember. Jack says some of it may never come back to me. In some ways, I’m relieved, but then again it feels a little strange to have parts of your life missing. Your mind keeps searching for it, sometimes it’s so hard to just switch off and think about something else, anything else."

"Well, I can put your mind at rest over one thing, Chief. Samantha Merrick was caught at the airport trying to catch a plane early this morning. Her bail, of course has been revoked." Jim grinned at his partner. "How about lunch to celebrate?" Before Blair could protest, Jim spoke again. "At home, but my treat, we’ll pick up Chinese on the way."

Blair grinned "That I can do."

FIN

Back to story archive