It Could Be Worse

By Lyn

EMAIL: Lyn

SUMMARY: Epilogue for Siege. Following on from my story, I Can't Believe I'm Doing This, Blair wonders what he's got himself into.

Thanks as always to Annie for the beta. Not exclusive. Will be up on my website shortly. Feedback welcome on or offlist.

"This isn't like… an ordinary day for you, is it?" I can hear the quaver in my voice but if Jim's picked up on it, it doesn't show. Instead, he just shakes his head and grins, patting my cheeks with grimy hands before striding off to catch up with Captain Banks and the attractive lady who untied my hands. Carolyn Plummer, Jim's ex-wife, I discovered just recently. Now, she's got to have a few stories to tell about life with a sentinel. Not that she knows about the sentinel thing. Jim's already gone over and over the fact that the only person who can know about his senses is his captain. Still, I could probably think up a few unobtrusive questions to ask her if I get the chance.

For now though, I have this unreasoning want to stay near Jim. I glance over at the helicopter and wish I hadn't. Everything comes back with sparkling clarity and a panic attack ambushes me so fast, I have trouble staying on my feet. My heart is trying to pound its way out of my chest and my chest is so tight, I can't breathe.

Yes, you can, I tell myself firmly, you're breathing just fine.

I hurry to catch up with Jim at the door, forcing myself to calm, not wanting Jim or anyone else to witness my downward spiral into a gibbering mess. If that happens, my days as an observer with the Cascade PD will probably be just a memory. Jim holds the door for me to precede him into the stairwell and gives me a measuring look. I can tell he's picked up on my little breakdown but I give him a shaky smile and duck under his arm, hoping I've convinced him I'm just fine. If he notices how tightly I hold onto the stair rail on my way down, he says nothing.

The Major Crime bullpen is in an uproar. Women are sobbing, paramedics are working on the injured and - I avert my eyes - covering the dead. The big cop with the bullet wound in his leg - Joel Taggert - reaches out and grabs my arm as he's wheeled past us.

"Heck of a job, kid," he says. He looks at Jim. "Sandburg had Kincaid convinced he was your partner."

Jim glances at me, but instead of admiration, there's a tiny frown between his eyes. "Quite the consummate actor, aren't you?"

I shrug. "I had to do something." Once again, my thoughts turn on me. What if it hadn't worked? What if Jim hadn't got to the chopper in time? What if he'd fallen? What if we'd crashed?

The adrenaline that I think is the only thing that's been keeping me on my feet till now suddenly deserts me. Nausea surges at the same time as my legs threaten to give way. Oh shit.

I motion toward the men's room with one hand. "I've just gotta…"

I don't wait to see Jim's reaction before I hurry toward my goal. Pushing open the door, I just make it into one of the stalls before my stomach revolts. I'm not sure if I should be glad that all I've had to eat or drink all day is a bagel and that latte as my stomach attempts to turn itself inside out. By the time it's convinced that there really is nothing left, I'm sweating and shivering. I stand on shaky legs, flush then totter out to rinse my mouth.

The cold water is blissful and goes a long way to helping me regain some equilibrium. Only now do I register the stinging in my arm and I look down and finger the hole in the sleeve of my jacket, noticing the tiny stain of red.

I got shot?

It can't be that bad, I reason, I'm still standing, if a little shakily. My curiosity and nerves get the better of me and I shrug off my jacket and push up my sleeve. There's a narrow, shallow gash across my outer arm, which is still bleeding a little. While I can see it's nothing more than a scratch, it, more than anything else, slams home the fact of just how close I came to dying today.

Great, Sandburg. Let's see if you can get that panic attack really working.

I close my eyes and concentrate on breathing slowly, deeply, remembering hiding behind that vending machine, waiting for that creep to start firing. God! This isn't working! I have to get out of here for a while. Be somewhere that doesn't spring constant reminders on me of what happened today.

The door to the men's room opens and I groan softly. I so do not need an audience for my breakdown.

"Sandburg? You all right, Chief?"

Jim. I'm not sure if that's any more reassuring than a total stranger witnessing my wussy behavior.

"Fine," I say, opening my eyes and smiling brightly at him. I add a thumbs up for good measure but he's apparently not buying into the act.

Stepping closer, he reaches out and touches the cut on my arm. "What's this? When did this happen?" Before I can answer, he pulls a towel from the dispenser and wets it under the faucet then gently dabs at the wound.

I try not to wince. It might be nothing much but it still hurts like a mother. I try a nonchalant shrug, one-shouldered. "Kincaid's guys shot at me when I tried to get out using the window washers' platform. I thought they missed."

"You really got put through the wringer today, didn't you?"

Before I can respond to his obvious concern, he puts it in better perspective by tossing the paper towel into the trash and examining the gash more closely. "Just a scratch."

Thanks for that, Jim. I feel so much better.

Though strangely, I really do feel better. My stomach has settled and my heart isn't pounding. I draw in an experimental breath and find the tightness in my chest has gone.

Jim slings an arm about my shoulders and turns me toward the door. "Come on, hero, let's go get a bandaid for your war wound and hit Wonderburger on the way home. I'm starving."

I'm not sure a greasy burger is what my stomach needs after everything I've been through but food of any kind sounds pretty good.

"We'll head back to my place and grab a beer then you can tell me all about your little adventure today."

I think I should be offended by the slight sarcasm in the words but there's a warmth to Jim's grin that takes the sting from the words.

We detour to the bullpen so I can grab my backpack and Jim can clear things with Simon. He gives us permission to go but wants Jim back in a couple of hours so I guess the beer's out of the question. "You, too, Sandburg." Simon glowers at me and I get the feeling my little obfuscation about the thin blue line thesis is going to be brought up, but instead he says, "We'll need your statement. You handled yourself well, I hear."

I'm ridiculously pleased with his words and very glad he wasn't the one to walk into the men's room a moment ago. "Thanks, Captain," I say, feeling my face heat a little from the unexpected praise but Banks has already dismissed me, turning away to direct a couple of detectives through the room.

Jim reaches up and ruffles my hair. "Oh, and that question you asked me earlier?"

I frown, trying to sort through the chaos of the day. "What question?"

"Is this a normal day for me."

"Oh, right. Well, is it?"

"You'll be relieved to know that it isn't." Jim punches the button for the elevator and steps inside as soon as the doors open. As I take my place beside him, he grins, a little maniacally to my thinking. "Most are a lot worse."

END

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