NOTES: The fifth instalment of the Life is a Bridge series. All fics told mostly from Blair's PoV. Missing scene/epilogue for Cypher.
Gunshots explode against my eardrums, sparking my panic to new heights. Frantic, I slam my upper body against the chains that bind me, only half-aware of how futile my struggle is.
My energy depletes quickly, and I wonder if perhaps I swallowed some of the chloral after all. I gag dryly as I remember Lash's hand forcing my mouth open, his bony fingers massaging my throat so hard I thought he'd crush my larynx. I sag, panting, my heartbeat thundering in my chest. There is a moment of absolute silence, then I hear footsteps crunching across the refuse-littered floor.
Jim! Jim had his gun, right? Lash was unarmed. But, what if I can't finish the thought. I freeze, my body tensing as hands grip my shoulders and shake gently.
"Sandburg? Blair? You all right, Chief?"
My relief is so overwhelming, I almost pass out there and then. A hand pats my cheek, and I realize I've closed my eyes. I open them, blinking rapidly a few times to dispel my fuzzy vision. Jim's grimy face swims into view. He looks exhausted, but he smiles.
"Thank god," he whispers. "Lash is dead, Chief."
I nod. My mouth is so dry, I can't dredge up enough saliva to speak.
"Let's get you out of that chair. Did you swallow any of the chloral?" Jim asks as he searches the table behind me.
"N - no," I manage to croak out, but as my sight wavers in and out and my stomach revolts, I'm suddenly unsure. I can still taste the bitter residue of the chemical on my tongue. "Don't know."
"We'll get you checked out at the hospital anyway."
Finally the chains fall way and I lurch forward into Jim's waiting arms. His hand pats my back comfortingly a few times, then he pushes me away and studies me intently. I know he's checking me out with his senses and the thought warms me. He nods, seeming satisfied, but up this close, I can see a tiny frown between his eyes. "Think you can stand up?"
Anything to get out of this place. I nod vigorously, then wish I hadn't as my head threatens to riot, a vicious pounding taking up residence behind my eyes. Jim pulls me upward, and I see him wince. "You okay?" I ask, worried.
"Yeah." He smiles but it looks strained. "Fell through a floor. My ankle's a little sore too. Twisted it on that step."
"That one's for party crashers," I vaguely remember hearing Lash say and I shiver. Jim leads me toward the stairs, and I realize I'm still clutching his jacket sleeve with both hands, but I can't seem to let go.
"Simon's on his way," Jim says as we walk out into the chill night air, but his voice suddenly seems to be coming from a long way away.
"Jim " I whisper, and that's all the warning I can give before the world does a slow roll. I have the briefest glimpse of Jim's startled face before everything goes black.
" waking up shortly headache nausea rest "
I'm pretty certain I'm awake, if the migraine strength headache and sickening roiling of my stomach are anything to go by. A hand touches my shoulder and I flinch away.
"Yeah, how are you feeling?"
He has to ask? I force my eyes open, squinting at the assault from the overhead light, sighing when it's switched off. "Lousy. You?"
"I'm fine. Doc says you can leave as soon as you feel up to it." He squeezes my shoulder once more as though reassuring himself that I'm there, and again, I see a glimmer of something more than concern in his eyes. Fear? I dismiss that thought instantly. I haven't known Jim that long but I've never seen him scared of anything.
I stretch out a hand. "Help me up."
In no time flat, Jim has me dressed, finally batting my not so helpful hands away, and giving me a stern 'let me handle this' look, then I'm signed out and bundled into the warmth of the truck.
I doze mostly on the drive back to the loft. I still can't quite bring myself to call it home, despite the fact that the promised one-week deadline has come and gone without a mention of it by Jim. I wonder about that for a moment, but worrying just makes my head hurt more, so I leave it alone and settle into the comfort of sleep. It seems I've only slept for seconds before a touch once more startles me awake. I guess it'll take a while for the nerves to settle.
It hits me as soon as we step through the doorway. The memory of trying to escape Lash's clutches, his maniacal cackle echoing through the loft as he played his twisted game of cat and mouse. I look around at the mess and suddenly feel ashamed. "Sorry," I whisper.
"What for?" Jim asks, looking genuinely confused.
I shrug. "I should have been able to get away from him. Should have fought back. Instead, I just ran."
Jim reaches out and gently lifts my sweater and shirt. "Looks to me like you fought hard, Chief. You did everything right."
I trace a finger along the narrow black bruise on my ribs and remember my mad dash for the fire escape in my room. Remember Lash's heavy weight crashing into me as he tackled me to the ground. Remember the sharp pain as I slammed into the coffee table and it collapsed beneath our weight. Remember
I look up into Jim's worried gaze. "I'm okay," I assure him.
He nods. "Get some rest, all right? We have to go in and do our reports in the morning."
I shuffle over to my bedroom and stand in the doorway, hesitant. I know nightmares will keep me awake tonight, despite my exhaustion. Turning back, I walk over to the sofa and sit down. The seat dips as Jim sits beside me. There's a soft click and the room goes dim. We sit in silence for a long time; both of us, I know, reliving the horror and relief of the night.
A thought creeps out from the recesses of my weary mind, and once it's lodged itself, I can't let it go. I think back to that look on Jim's face tonight. That haunted expression in his eyes. "Jim? You're not feeling guilty about not getting here in time, are you?" I ask.
There's a long pause before Jim answers. "I should have figured it out," he says softly. "Should have gotten here faster."
I shake my head, and place one hand over his, squeezing gently, returning the comfort he's given me this night. "If it wasn't for you and for your senses " I can't say the rest but the answering press of Jim's hand on mine tells me it's not necessary.