"Jim?" Blair's voice answered from opposite a wall of book-laden shelves. "Am I late?"
"No, Chief, I'm early." Jim walked around the shelves and found Blair at his desk, surrounded by paper, as usual. "Just thought I might as well come here as anywhere." He pulled up a chair and sat down, glancing at the papers strewn about the desk. "Go ahead and finish up, I'll wait."
Blair shrugged and took off his glasses, setting them down on a pile of folders. "Not much left to do. I've got the tests ready, just have to give them all week, and grade them next week. How did your meeting with Simon go?"
Jim nodded, and glanced around the office, making sure they were alone. His meeting with Simon was the reason he had come to pick Blair up early, and was also the reason he'd had to turn a couple of his cases over to Mike Jenkins, so he'd have more free time. "Fine," he replied, having changed his mind about how best to bring up the subject. "How about dinner? My treat."
Blair laughed for a second, then looked suspiciously at Jim. "What's up?"
Jim shook his head. "What makes you think something's up? Come on," Jim stood and slapped Blair lightly on the arm. "I'll take you to that Greek place you like."
Blair grabbed his jacket quickly and followed Jim out the door, apparently choosing not to question his good fortune any further. They drove the four blocks down to Hadi's, a Greek campus hot spot that Jim had grown to like since meeting the younger man. He kept the conversation light, asking his partner about his day, and explaining what little happened at the Precinct that he had missed. He found these days, when Blair had too much work at the University to come into work with him, to be somehow disjointed. It was finals week, so after Blair administered some tests, and they got past the trial, things would get back to normal for awhile. After their dinners arrived, Jim knew it was time to get serious.
"So, Jim, what is the real reason we're here?" Blair inquired, looking Jim in the eyes.
Should have known. "You and I have a meeting tomorrow morning with Assistant DA Sanchez," Jim said, stabbing his fork into a piece of lamb. "Brackett's trial has been moved up, Chief. You're going to have to testify this week." Jim held Blair's eyes as long as he could, noting the fear that flashed across them. "I know this is sudden, but the judge moved his calendar up." The words were slowly sinking in, making an impact on Blair's expressive face.
"I guess it's about time, huh?" Blair attempted levity, shrugging and playing with his fork in the salad.
"Listen, I know this isn't anyone's idea of a good time, but there's nothing to worry about," Jim said, watching Blair. "It's no different from any of the other cases you've watched go to court. We just get up there, give some testimony, and it's over."
Blair nodded, but he was watching his salad instead of Jim. "Yeah, only this time I have to go up there." He glanced up, then looked around for a second.
"And I'll be with you," Jim replied. He knew this wouldn't be easy. "Sandburg, there's nothing to be afraid of. We'll talk to Beverly tomorrow. She's going to fill us in, and tell you what to expect. Then, you go on the stand once, maybe twice, tell them exactly what happened, and it's over." Jim paused, trying to get Blair to look him in the eye. When he finally did, Jim continued. "I'll be right there, and they'll call me up, too. This is just the final step, Chief. Then Brackett's out of everyone's hair for good. Okay? Lee Brackett's going to jail for the rest of his life, partner. I assure you."
Blair nodded, then took a deep breath and seemed to perk up a little. "Yeah, you're right. Just gotta get through this week, and it'll all be over, right?"
"Right." Jim watched as Blair ate his first bite of salad. He'd known this would happen, and he had done his best to keep his own attitude light and casual. But, after what Brackett had done, Jim knew any time his name was mentioned, Blair would retreat just a little. He was going to have to keep a close watch on his partner, make sure he didn't fall into an emotional backdraft he couldn't climb out of.
"One thing I don't understand." Blair set the tip of his fork back into the salad bowl and twirled it idly, looking up at Jim. "What's he using for a defense? I mean, why is there even a trial?"
Jim finished chewing his lamb and shrugged a little, glancing around. "I'm not sure, exactly. But you know the rules, Chief, everyone gets their chance in court."
Blair raised his eyebrows as he nodded, staring at something a million miles away. A minute passed, and he seemed to bring himself back to the conversation. "What do you mean, not sure exactly?"
"I mean, I'm not sure exactly," Jim replied. Maybe he should have waited until they were home? Blair wasn't eating much, exhibiting the same reaction to stress that Jim tended to display. But he had to make his partner understand, this was just another part of the process. "We know he knows about my Sentinel abilities, and he knows no one else does. He may use that to damage my credibility as a witness." He saw another flash of fear race across Blair's face, and hurried to defuse it. "But, that's only a guess. Besides, we can put him away based on what he did to you, and the murder of Delaney and his dealer. There was nothing unusual about that case, Chief."
"But no one saw him do that."
"We still have Kostov," Jim replied. "He's been in FBI custody this whole time, waiting for the trial before he's deported. Testifying against Brackett was one of the contingencies he agreed to." Blair raised his eyebrows again and nodded slowly, as if trying to force himself to believe it. "Just hang in there, buddy. It will all be over soon."
"Yeah, thanks, Jim." Blair nodded and tried to pull himself back from wherever it was he had drifted. "So, when do we do all of this?"
"Tomorrow morning we'll talk to Sanchez. She'll let us know the details. Don't worry, our testimony will work around your schedule at the University. Simon gave my caseload to Jenkins for the next few days, so we can concentrate on this and get it over with."
"Yeah? That's great."
Jim nodded and went back to eating, watching Blair as he did the same, but with less appetite. They'd get through this. Tomorrow, they'd meet with the DA, find out what was happening and when, and take it all one step at a time. Blair could handle it. He had never been on the stand before, but Jim would make sure he knew he wasn't alone. Blair was the victim here. They both were.
They finished dinner while making small talk about the upcoming tests Blair was giving during the week. Jim never had a problem keeping an interest in any conversation, and with Blair's storytelling ability, he had no trouble paying attention, and keeping his partner from drifting back to the trial. By the time they left the restaurant, Blair's spirits seemed genuinely lifted. Jim knew that would be temporary, but every little bit helped. They drove home in silence, listening to the Santana tape Jim preferred. When they reached the loft, and were both sitting on the couch, Blair's mood changed again.
"Jim, I don't understand. Brackett stole a canister of the Ebola virus. He tried to highjack a plane. Then, he escaped from prison. What do they need my testimony for? Isn't that enough to get him back into jail?"
Jim shook his head and set down the cup of tea Blair had made. "I don't know exactly, that's what the DA will explain tomorrow. All I know is, the CIA had their hands in that case, and it very well might not be relevant in this one."
"Meaning, the lawyers won't be allowed to bring it up." Jim held out his hands in an effort to explain. "Each case has to stand alone, they're separate things. That doesn't matter, though. We've got him on what he did to you, and the murder of Delaney. Plus, another attempted kidnaping, and a hundred other charges when he pulled that stunt at the warehouse."
"Yeah, but I've seen plenty of these sure-fire cases go bad, Jim."
"I know, Chief, I know. But you're going to have to trust me on this one. It's going to be okay." Jim knew, better than anyone, how easily a sure-fire case could go horribly wrong in court. But he also knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Brackett was never going to get his hands on Blair again. "What about your tests, when do you have to give them?" Maybe focusing on something he could control would give Blair something to hold onto.
"Um...In the afternoon, except Friday," Blair replied. He was sitting in a corner of the couch, rubbing his forehead tiredly. "I think I'll turn in." He set down his cup but made no move to get up.
"You going to be okay with this?"
Blair shook his head, sighing as he slowly got up. "No."
"No, Jim, it's okay." Blair waved a hand at him as he stood in front of the couch. "I'll be okay, as long as..."
"I'll be there, too. So will Simon," Jim replied.
Blair nodded and turned towards his room. "Thanks Jim."
"Goodnight." Jim stayed on the couch,
listening to his partner in the bathroom, then in his own room. He stayed there
until he heard the rhythmic breathing and steady heartbeat of a sleeper, then
turned in himself. Blair hadn't had a nightmare in weeks, maybe it was even a
month or so now, but Jim expected one tonight. From upstairs, directly above his
housemate's room, Jim could tune into his breathing pattern without effort and
set his own mental sensitivity to be alerted at the slightest change.
The jury had fallen silent, as if they left the room, one by one, and there was no one left but Brackett. Lee Brackett, standing before the Judge, smiling. Blair was in the Judge's chair, and Jim in the witness stand. There was a gun in Brackett's hand, and he was bringing it up slowly, smiling all the while.
"Which one shall it be?" he asked, pointing the gun first at Blair, then at Jim. "Who wants to go first?"
Blair lunged over the desk at Brackett, crashing into him and sending them both to the floor. Jim scrambled to get out of the witness box, but he couldn't get free of the seat. By the time he was up, Brackett and Blair were standing in front of him. There was a gun pressed into Blair's chest, and a second gun in Blair's hand, pointed at Jim.
"Sandburg, what are you doing?"
"He trusted you, Ellison." Brackett smiled, cocking the gun and pressing it harder into Blair's chest.
Blair cocked his gun as well, aiming at Jim's chest while looking into his eyes. Jim watched as his partner began to squeeze the trigger of the gun. In his eyes was a mixture of fear and hate, but which emotion was directed at Jim, he didn't know. He just knew it was going to end. Him, Blair, Brackett...it was all going to end, here and now. But if Blair shot him, then Brackett would kill Blair...He had to do something.
It was too late, Jim heard the explosion as he lunged forward. "Blair!" Jim rushed forward, and found himself sitting up in bed, his heart racing as the sheets slid down his chest. He glanced around quickly, taking note of the barest sign of sunrise coming through the glass. Tuning in to his partner below him, Jim heard the still-sleeping pattern of easy breathing. Had he shouted out loud? If he had, at least Blair hadn't heard. Jim looked at the clock as he rubbed his face, pushing the last of the vision from his mind. 6:30. If he got up now, he could take a hot shower, and there might be time for the tank to reload before Blair got up. He really was going to have to think about getting a larger hot water tank one of these days.
Jim got out of bed and quietly padded down the stairs in bare feet. The bathroom was right across the hall from Blair's room, but with both doors shut, Jim knew his housemate would sleep through any noise he made. Still, he kept the shower quick, hoping to save some hot water. The dream had taken him totally by surprise, and left him with an uneasy feeling. Last time he had a dream like that, it ended with him shooting Blair in the chest, after having aimed for Brackett. But this time...what had it meant? Did Blair not trust Jim to take care of matters when it came to Lee Brackett? Or did Jim have his own doubts? No...no, it wasn't a good idea to over-analyze these things. A nightmare was just that, a nightmare. Nothing more. When he got out and started to towel himself off, Jim made another auditory check on Blair. This time, instead of a sleep pattern from the bedroom, Jim found him in the kitchen, his breathing and heartbeat coupled with the sound and smell of coffee brewing. Jim picked up his watch from the counter and checked it as he put it on. 6:55. They'd have time for breakfast before heading in to see Beverly.
"Hey, Chief." Jim greeted Blair as he passed the kitchen. His partner looked tired. A look that was perpetuated by the hair that kept falling in front of his face.
"Morning." Blair yawned at the end of the word. "Hot water?"
"Should be. Did you sleep okay?" Blair had pushed the hair from his face, but it didn't dissipate the look Jim had seen.
"Yeah, I guess," Blair nodded. "I'm gonna hit the shower, then I'll start breakfast." He passed Jim and started down the short hallway.
"I can manage breakfast this morning, Chief."
Blair turned in front of the bathroom door and shook his head. "No, Jim, it's okay. I'll do it."
"What, you don't like my eggs?" Jim asked, smiling to off-set the mock indignation in his voice.
Blair returned the smile and shook his head. "No, man, I just need to keep things normal, okay?"
Jim nodded, "Okay." He understood. Blair nodded again
and stepped into the bathroom as Jim turned to go up to his own room and get dressed.
If Blair thought it would be easier to pretend it was just another morning, then
Jim could play along. For as long as it lasted.
Blair shut the water off and stood there for a moment, happy to have ended a shower after Jim with warm water. He often felt guilty using the hot water all the time, but he just normally got up first. Except when something was up, and Jim was getting up before him on purpose for one reason or another. Usually in order to help Blair through the latest crisis. God, he had to stop doing this. He had to stop relying on Jim to pull him up when things got rough. He had never leaned on anyone before, why was he doing it now? Sure, before meeting Jim, Blair had never been targeted by a serial killer, shot by an international terrorist, or even hit on the head. But that couldn't...what could that have to do with it? Okay, so they shared a little more than most male-bonding fishing trips gave the average two friends, but...that didn't give Blair the right to depend on Jim to help him through each and every emotional crisis he might have. What must Jim think of him? And did he think...Would Blair be there for him?
The smell of coffee coming from the kitchen roused Blair from his thoughts, forcing him to step out of the shower and into a chilly bathroom. He hurried to towel off, then wrapped the towel around his waist and walked into the bedroom quickly to get some clothes on. Jim was still upstairs, getting dressed, so Blair checked the time. They had nearly an hour before their meeting with the DA. Blair was determined not to let Jim down. He'd go in there, follow his partner's lead, and just do exactly what he was told, answer every question, and it would all be okay. After all, he wasn't the one on trial, Brackett was. And Jim was right, he hadn't really relied on his Sentinel abilities to catch him, it was pure, good old-fashioned detective work that netted Lee Brackett at the warehouse that day. Not like when Jim witnessed Tommy Juno kill his dear friend and undercover cop Danny Choy. That had been Blair's first, real experience with death...with murder. And Jim...Jim had reacted so...Danny's death had hit him so hard, Blair had never seen that before. He often wondered if Jim would feel the same way about him if anything like that happened. His grief had run so deep then, even his Sentinel abilities had been affected. Sometimes, remembering Jim's reaction, Blair felt almost...jealous.
"Hey Sandburg, you making breakfast or what?" Jim called from the kitchen.
Blair stirred. "Yeah, I'm coming." Jeez, how long had he been sitting there with just one sock on? "Sorry Jim." He shoved the other sock on and came out to the kitchen, accepting the cup of coffee Jim handed him, then pulled out some pans and eggs. They had an unwritten rule, to go along with many of Jim's written ones, that had Blair on permanent breakfast duty. It was a task he enjoyed. Making eggs and toast was an easy way to ease his way into the morning, and concentrate on something other than whatever might be bothering him, like this morning. Blair realized, as he was dishing up the eggs, just how careful Jim had been the night before when he broke the news about the trial. He also knew that he could be selfish sometimes, emotionally, and Jim didn't deserve that. Just what was it that made him so anxiety ridden, and Jim so...stable? Blair was constantly studying the older man, and could anticipate his reactions often, but he still couldn't apply them to his own reactive personality.
"Hey, Jim, listen," Blair set the pan down and took a seat, looking at his eggs for a moment, then up to his partner. "About last night, I'm sorry if I was a little panicky."
Jim shook his head, setting down the coffee cup he had just taken a drink from. "Don't worry about it, Chief, you'll be fine."
Blair waved a hand in the air, nodding and shaking his head almost at the same time. "No, I know I will, Jim. I mean last night, I wasn't so okay. I just want you to know, I'm not going to disappoint you here or anything."
"Blair, I know you're not going to disappoint me. You never have. We'll get through this, and we'll move on." He checked his watch. "What time is your class?"
"1:00 is the first one. I've got two, today." Blair picked up a fork, but didn't feel like eating, so he played around with the eggs for a minute. "What are you going to be doing, if you gave your caseload to Mike?"
"Catchup, Chief. There's always paperwork to be done. Suspects to interview, research to be done. The city never sleeps, you know." Jim finished his eggs and looked at Blair. "I'll drive you to class when we're finished with Beverly. I for one will be glad when these classes of yours are over for a bit, I'm getting tired of having just Simon to talk to."
Blair laughed, nodding his head. He often found it difficult to keep up a conversation with the Captain, even though Blair typically had no problem keeping up a conversation with just about anyone. Jim and Captain Banks were good friends, but even Jim occasionally found himself having more in common with Blair's point of view than the other man's. Although there were times when Jim would definitely side with Simon, usually when it had to do with Blair wanting to do something he really shouldn't. Blair realized Jim was still watching him, sitting there drinking his coffee, so he forced himself to eat some breakfast, then cleared the plates. Jim started putting on shoes and told Blair to go ahead and leave the dishes for later, so he did. He hurried to put on his own shoes, then caught the coat Jim handed him and followed him out the door.
"Don't forget your keys," Jim reminded him as Blair was shutting the door.
He quickly felt his pocket. "Got em." Too many times, Blair had forgotten to take his keys out of his pants pocket, and put them in the tray by the door, then gone running out the door without them.
As they drove to the station, Blair could feel the fear that he was trying to ignore creeping back up. He pushed the hair from his face with one hand, trying to determine its steadiness. Beverly was on their side, he knew that. She and Jim had even dated once. But that was back when Danny was killed. Back when Jim had been so affected, he lost control of his Sentinel abilities. Back when a sure-fire, eyewitness case of Jim's had gone horribly wrong in court.
"Sandburg, you ready?"
Blair looked up, realizing they were parked in the Precinct garage already, and Jim was looking at him. "Yeah, I'm ready." He reached for the door handle and Jim held out a hand, touching his arm.
"Listen, Beverly is on our side. If you have any questions or concerns, I want you to ask."
Blair nodded. "Right, Jim."
"I mean it, Chief." Jim hadn't let go of his arm yet so Blair listened. "I don't want you crawling into some hole somewhere going quietly nuts. You're not alone in this, got that?"
Blair nodded again, glancing at the floor of the truck for a moment, somewhat embarrassed. "Yeah, Jim, I got it. Thanks." He looked up and smiled, then motioned with his head towards the door. "Shouldn't we...?"
"Yeah, let's go." Jim let go of his arm then and opened the door, climbing out of the truck. Blair followed suit, but instead of walking to the elevators as they normally would, they walked over to the door that led to the street behind the building, and crossed it, to the courthouse.
Going quietly nuts. Blair had never thought of it that way before. But his little anxiety attacks had never taken on such intensity before Brackett came along. He had nearly gone nuts last time. He had even gone so far as to...almost...Blair shook his head, trying to ban those thoughts. It was exactly what Brackett would have wanted, to have his influence come between Blair and Jim. He couldn't let that happen. He couldn't let him win.
They stepped off the elevator and into the hallway, then walked to the far end and found the door marked Beverly Sanchez, Assistant DA. Jim paused before knocking, glancing back at Blair.
Blair nodded in reply before Jim could ask the question. He was not going to fall apart, not here, not now. Jim knocked, then opened the door when he heard Beverly call out. Blair followed, glancing around the inside of the office quickly before turning to shut the door. He knew Brackett wouldn't be there, not in the office, but he couldn't help it.
"Jim, how are you?" Beverly approached, hand outstretched, and shook Jim's hand, then turned to smile at Blair. "Blair, I'm sorry about the suddenness of this. It couldn't be helped."
Blair shook her hand and tried to return her warm smile. "It's okay." He released her hand and glanced at Jim. "Just gets it over with sooner."
"That's right, Chief," Jim said.
"Please, have a seat." Beverly motioned towards two chairs that were positioned facing her desk, then she moved around to sit behind it, facing them as they sat. "Now, I'm not sure what Jim might have told you, Blair, but I want you to know your testimony will be worked around your schedule at the University."
Blair nodded and raised his eyebrows slightly. He didn't really want to say anything, and thought it might be best to say as little as possible. If he kept quiet, and forced himself to pay close attention, instead of drifting off into his little worries, he might get through this with some level of maturity. He was not going to let his partner down.
"At this point, I have your statement from the arrest report, and so does the defense attorney. What's going to happen, is we're going to call you to the stand, ask you some questions about what happened, and then they'll get the opportunity to cross examine. You've seen this before."
"Yeah." Blair nodded again. He'd seen it, he'd just never done it.
"What's he using as a defense?" Jim asked.
Beverly sighed. "Innocent. Pure and simple. Claims he didn't do it."
"What?" Blair asked, incredulously. He looked at Jim, then back to Beverly. "How can he? There were cops all over that warehouse. He shot two of them."
She was nodding, but there was nothing agreeing about her composure. "He's claiming he didn't kill Delaney, or the dealer. Says he was framed by Kostov to come to the warehouse, and thought everyone was there to kill him and he had to act in self defense to get away." She glanced at Jim, then back to Blair. "He's also claiming he had nothing to do with what happened to you."
Blair swallowed, trying to focus on the corner of the desk in front of him while he mentally put the pieces together. It was supposed to be simple. It was supposed to be cut and dried. But then, so was the case against Tommy Juno.
"What about the tape?" Jim asked, glancing from her to Blair. "Simon and I both saw it, and we took it in as evidence."
Beverly looked down for a moment, then up at Jim. Blair could see a look in her eyes that he didn't want to see. "The tape was destroyed in evidence lockup."
"What?!" Jim asked incredulously. "What happened?"
Blair sat still as a stone, fear creeping up from his gut to his face. This simple case was turning on him already, and they weren't even in the courtroom yet.
"It was destroyed, Jim. That's all I know. Seems to have been expose to acid or something. I've had it sent to the FBI's crime lab, but I think it's hopeless." She turned back to Blair and he had to force his eyes to meet hers. "Your job is to answer the questions, and keep your answers short and to the point. I'll make sure the questions get our point across. We don't need the tape, we have two eyewitnesses to the recording, and your testimony. Now, we know he's lying. It's my job to make the jury see through his lies, and convict him. All you have to do is tell the truth."
"Yeah? Well, I can handle that." Blair smiled slightly, trying not to glance at Jim. His embellishments and obfuscations may be a private joke between the two of them, but when the truth was needed, Blair had no problem. His only problem right now was dealing with the fact that this entire case might rest on his testimony. Not Jim's, but his.
"What about Kostov?" Jim asked.
Beverly nodded, glancing at some papers on her desk. "The Feds are bringing him to court for his testimony, which should take place right after your own." She flipped open a notebook and turned a few pages. "We did opening arguments last Friday, and got quite a lot of groundwork laid down." She looked back up at Blair, then at Jim. "I've got you two down for tomorrow morning, first thing. Is that going to be all right?"
Jim nodded, glancing at Blair for a moment before returning his gaze to Beverly. "We'll be there," he replied.
She looked at Blair and he nodded. "Okay, good," she smiled. "The Defense may not have any questions for you right away, so you're looking at a possible call back on Thursday or Friday." She glanced at her watch. "Any questions?"
Blair looked at Jim and shook his head. He had a million of them, but he knew the answers wouldn't be what he wanted. He could feel his heart rate begin to increase with the realization that the whole mess was marching right along, and he prayed Jim wouldn't listen.
"Fine. I'll see you both in the morning." Beverly stood, so Blair and Jim followed suit. "Jim, can I see you for just a minute?"
Blair looked at his partner and pointed towards the door. "I'll just wait out there."
"Right." Jim patted Blair's arm as he
passed between the two chairs and walked to the door.
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