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DISCLAIMER: Jim and Blair belong to Petfly. This fic was written for my own and others' enjoyment. No money has been paid and no copyright infringement is intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Just a little h/c for you all. Feedback is always welcome.
His head felt heavy; weighted and thick and every movement brought agony. Even lying motionless, there was a constant pounding that kept time with his heart, and he wondered, if he could just concentrate on that, on the even rhythm, he could drift away from the pain. He couldn't focus though, the steady battering inside his head, radiating outward to his eyes and cheeks stole his ability to think of anything but the pain. His jaws ached with tension as he clenched them in defense of the sensory assault.
His eyes were squeezed shut and he fought consciously to relax the lids but knew if he did, the light would seep in to torture sensitive eyeballs and burn his retinas. He could feel the sting of tears held back by his swollen lids, clumping his lashes together.
The deliberate, muted noises from the kitchen battered at his eardrums, frittering away his patience and his hands stole up of their own volition to cover his ears and muffle the harsh resounding clatter. The well-meaning attempt at quiet activity in the other room only served to irritate his already brittle nerves and he had to bite off the angry admonishment that stole unbidden to his lips.
A tendril of odor had his nose twitching with unconscious interest then he groaned as his stomach churned ominously at the stimulus. He had already ejected whatever it was he'd eaten for lunch but just the smell of the soup had him retching painfully. Something cold slipped under his mouth, causing him to flinch and he moaned as pain spiked through his skull at the sudden movement.
"Don't fight it. Just go with it."
He obeyed the soft instructions and relaxed his cramping stomach muscles, emptying what little remained in his stomach into the bowl. Warm dampness replaced the chill of the emesis bowl and his face was bathed gently, then firm fingers moved to his still spasming abdomen, massaging gently, stroking soothing circles of comfort until he lay limp and exhausted.
A facecloth swiped across his sweaty chest and back, leaving delicious coolness in its wake, then the covers were drawn up over his shoulders and he sank into the warmth of his bed. Gentle fingertips stroked across his brow, the calluses on the tips scraping across his skin like sandpaper, causing him to twist away from the healing touch.
"Shh," the voice whispered again. "Just go with it. Let me help you."
Slowly, the touch became velvet, the rhythmic stroke hypnotic, edging him toward sleep. A breath, deep and cleansing puffed from his lips as he flirted with oblivion. He felt as though he was floating gently, wrapped in cotton wool, all his senses in stasis, feeling nothing yet everything. He drifted away.
Jim smiled as the deep pain-filled frown smoothed from Blair's brow beneath his healing touch. Straightening, he arched his back and stretched upward to ease his knotted muscles. Gathering bowls and cloths, he crept from the room, leaving the door slightly ajar, just in case
Epilogue to "Prisoner X."
Blair peered into the gathering darkness outside the car for some sign of Jim. The anxious observer had been ordered by Simon to stay in the car when they had raided the prison fight and had done so reluctantly only after the captain had threatened him with an immediate cancellation of his observer's pass should he disobey.
Greatly relieved, he saw Jim exit the building looking bruised and weary but as Blair stepped out of the car to meet him, Jim had waved him away and headed up the road with his arms wrapped tightly about his torso and his head bowed. Deeply concerned but unsure what to do, Blair climbed back into the vehicle and waited.
The passenger door opened and he looked over, hoping to see Jim but it was Simon's dark face that peered in at him. "Why don't you go home, kid? Jim said he needed to walk off some of the tension from the past couple of days. I'll get a cruiser to stand by and give him a ride home when he's ready."
Blair shook his head, unaware that his hands had tightened reflexively on the steering wheel as he spoke. "Thanks, Simon but I'll wait for him. I deserted him once already inside that place. I'm not doing it again."
"It wasn't your fault, Sandburg," Simon said patiently. "You weren't to know the note had been switched."
Blair stared at the captain in disbelief. "He's undercover inside a prison, and don't forget, I saw what it was like in there, and I believe he's gonna bitch about the food? How could I not have known? He's my partner, my best friend. If we'd been too late "
He lowered his head and leaned it against the steering wheel. A moment later, he felt a comforting pat on his shoulder then the car door snicked shut and he was alone once more.
Wiping his sleeve over the condensation that covered the windscreen, Blair squinted into the blackness again, searching once more for Jim. Everyone else had gone and the area was deserted. He wondered if he should go looking for his errant partner.
Just as he leaned forward to turn the key in the ignition, the passenger side door was wrenched open and he jumped, then relaxed as Jim slid into the seat beside him. The detective looked exhausted, his face was pale and the bruises along his cheek stood out darkly in stark contrast.
Jim nodded and lay his head back on the headrest and closed his eyes. Blair took the hint and started the car. He drove silently but kept a close eye on his partner as the other man dozed in the seat beside him. Jim's knuckles were bruised and bloody and his hands twitched occasionally in his restless sleep.
Pulling into a parking space in front of the apartment building, Blair reached out and tapped Jim's shoulder. He shot back against the driver's side door as Jim's fist flashed out and caught him hard in the upper chest. He bit down a grunt of pain and rubbed instead at the stinging flesh as Jim bolted upright in his seat and stared around him in some confusion.
"It's all right, man. We're home."
"Oh, okay." Jim scrubbed a hand over his face and back through his hair then climbed out. They entered the building and rode up to the third floor in silence. Blair unlocked the door and stood aside to allow Jim to enter first then followed, hanging his jacket up on the hook.
"You want some coffee?" he asked, making his way into the kitchen.
"Beer. I've been hanging out for a beer."
"Sure. Sounds good." Blair pulled two beers from the refrigerator and popped the tops, before handing one to Jim. He sipped at the cold brew then sat down on the couch and watched his partner prowl the loft silently before moving to stand at the balcony doors, gazing out at the dark night.
"I bet it feels good to be out of there, huh?" Blair began. "I can't imagine what it must have been like in there. Locked up every night, being told when to eat, when to go to bed, when "
"I was there, Chief. You're not telling me anything here."
"Yeah, right. Sorry."
Jim spoke without turning around but Blair could see his reflection, his face as hard as granite in the glass of the door. "Look, it's late. Why don't you go to bed?"
"You want me to clean up some of those cuts first? I bet you've got some spectacular bruising under your shirt there. I've got this liniment "
"I'm fine. Go to bed, Sandburg."
"Okay. If you need me "
Blair went to his room but did not sleep as the adrenaline from the evening still coursed through his veins keeping him jumpy and wide-awake. He sat for a while and worked on his dissertation but couldn't concentrate, his thoughts firmly fixed on the man in the other room and not for the first time, he wished for Jim's heightened senses in order to keep a closer watch on his partner. His restlessness was exaggerated by the guilt that niggled at the back of his mind and the urge now to keep close.
He slumped down onto his bed and tossed his pen aside. Outside his door, he could hear Jim turning on the shower and then twenty minutes later, trudging up the stairs. Blair lay down on his bed and stared sightlessly at the ceiling trying to think of an excuse to check on his partner.
He must have drifted off to sleep before Jim's voice woke him. It was just a soft muttering at first and Blair crept out of his room then stood at the foot of the stairs, debating whether to go up. A sudden shouted 'No' convinced him and he raced up, almost stumbling on the top riser and tumbling back down.
He made his way quickly to Jim's side and switched on the bedside lamp, angling it so that it shone slightly away from the bed. He watched for a moment as his partner tossed in his sleep, his face slick with sweat and his hands balled tightly into the sheets. "No!" Jim shouted again. "Leave him alone!"
"Jim?" Blair reached out a careful hand, wary after the incident in the car and shook the agitated man's shoulder. "Jim? Come on, man. It's just a bad dream."
Jim stiffened and then rolled to his side, staring up at Blair through half-lidded, red-rimmed eyes. "Blair? What's wrong?"
Blair lowered himself to sit on the edge of the bed. "Nothing, man. I think you had a nightmare, that's all."
Jim rolled to his back. "Sorry. I woke you up."
Blair shrugged. "I wasn't asleep." His gaze fell on Jim's broad chest, darkening bruises exposed by the fallen sheet. He reached out a finger and gently touched one that ran the length of the other man's ribs. "This looks painful. I'm awake anyway, why don't you let me get some of that liniment for you?"
Jim puffed out a breath then nodded. "Sure, okay. It can't hurt."
Blair was down and up again in a flash. He took the cap off the tube and squeezed some of the cool ointment onto Jim's fingers. "Just rub it in gently. Don't massage it in too hard."
Jim smeared the soothing gel over the worst of the bruises along his torso. He reached around to his back then looked at Blair. "I've got a couple of good ones on my lower back. Would you mind?"
Blair shook his head and squeezed a generous amount of liniment onto his own fingers. "Lay down on your stomach."
Once Jim was settled, Blair straddled the other man's legs and smoothed the gel over the bruises that discolored Jim's hips. He reached down and tugged Jim's boxers lower, stopping when Jim flinched beneath his touch.
"It's okay," he whispered. "Don't want your clothes getting covered in this stuff."
Jim nodded and settled back down on the mattress, his arms reaching to curl around his pillow. Blair tried to be gentle but felt Jim squirm as he smeared the liniment on. "These look nasty," he whispered, ghosting a hand over the worst of the marks. "Do you think you should get them checked out? Your kidneys "
" Are fine," Jim finished for him. "They're just bruises. Asshole kicked me."
Blair reached up and spread more liniment over the broad expanse of Jim's upper back. Though there was no bruising there he could feel tight knots of tension. Using his thumbs, he worked the corded muscles firmly then stroked along the strong spine to the swell of buttocks below. He kept his touch firm but gentle, sweeping back up then out to massage along Jim's ribs.
He rubbed into the nape of Jim's neck, pleased to feel the flesh loosening beneath his touch, then trailed his fingers around to massage at Jim's temples, soothing the headache he knew was there.
His fingers touched wetness and he pulled them back momentarily, afraid he may have opened one of the cuts on Jim's face but then an almost silent sob racked the still body beneath him and Blair knew.
"Oh, Jim." He reached down and let his fingertips trail through the tears on Jim's cheeks, whispering words of comfort as the man beneath him cried silently. Blair leaned forward so that his upper body blanketed Jim's and rubbed his hands along the other man's shaking shoulders. He pressed a soft kiss to the nape of his partner's neck. "It's okay. I'm here now. Let it out. I'm here."
The two men lay spooned together until dawn lit the loft, the guide giving his sentinel the comfort and reassurance he needed.
Jim woke first, slowly becoming aware of a heavy weight upon his back. He shifted slightly, wincing as the movement awoke stiff muscles and bruised flesh. Lifting his head, he turned it to the side and encountered an arm hanging limply over his shoulder. He smiled.
Moving carefully with one hand keeping Blair firmly in place, the detective slipped to his side and then guided the sleeping body to lay beside him. Blair grumbled softly in his slumber but Jim soothed him back to sleep with soft words.
Cupping one large hand around the back of Blair's skull, Jim pulled his partner closer, settling the curly head on his chest. Then he wrapped an arm around the smaller man's waist and lifted his leg, resting it over Blair's hip, using his heel to push Blair fully against his body so that he was sheltered completely in the cradle of his sentinel's protective embrace.
- 10th August, 2002.
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