"Hey, Chief, all set?" Jim stepped out of the office, followed by Beverly who was now carrying a briefcase. "Let's see if we can get some work done before you need to be at the University."
"I'll see you two in the morning." Beverly hurried down the hall in front of them, heading for the stairs that would lead up two flights to the court rooms.
"I'll call you tonight," Jim called after her.
Blair stepped up to the elevator and pressed the button. "So, the trial has already started?" he asked as they got into the elevator.
"There's a lot to these trials, Chief. More than just you and me telling the jury what happened. Lots of legal posturing to go through." Jim pressed the button for the lobby and looked at Blair. "I didn't hear about it until yesterday, myself. Simon and I both thought it was scheduled for next month."
The elevator stopped and they got out, walking through the morning crowd and out to the street, then crossed to the Station. Once inside, they passed and were greeted by several officers on the way to the elevator. Lately, Blair had been feeling sensitive to what the other officers were thinking, despite Jim's constant assurance that he was accepted and liked by those who mattered. His little episode in the garage, with Jim's gun, still weighed heavily on his mind. Although, aside from the occasional comment from a uniformed officer that he wasn't even supposed to hear, Blair had never been given reason to believe he wasn't accepted there as Jim's partner. It was just this damn trial, weighing him down. He was going to have to start taking his own advice and calm down.
"Sandburg, you coming?"
Blair looked up, realizing they were on the 7th floor and Jim was standing outside the elevator, looking in at him. He grimaced, then smiled his embarrassment and rushed out of the car, following Jim to his desk.
"What's on the agenda this morning?" Blair asked, shrugging out of his jacket.
"Just have to go over this case with Mike, and hit the paper trail." Jim reached out for Blair's coat and hung it on the hanger behind the desk, then started to take his own off. "Listen, Chief, if you need to..."
"Ellison, I need you and that file in here." Captain Banks had stepped out of his office when Jim entered the room.
"Right away, Captain." Jim finished removing his coat and tossed it to the rack. "Grab that file for me." He motioned with his head towards his desk and walked to Simon's office.
Blair stepped around the chair and found a file in the middle of the desk, picked it up, and followed Jim into the office. On the way there, he noticed Mike Jenkins inside, as well as Simon and now Jim. Blair entered the office and handed Jim the file, nodding at Mike who greeted him with a smile, then moved around the group to stand against the wall where he could listen to the conversation already in progress.
"There's not much to go on yet, Captain. I just got the case yesterday," Jim was saying. He handed the file to Mike Jenkins and turned back to Simon.
"Mike will take over. He can always check with you, right, Mike?"
"No problem," Mike replied, glancing at Jim.
"Listen, Simon, I could handle this case. I mean, Mike's got enough of his own."
"No. No way, Jim." Simon shook his head, glancing at Jim, then Mike before either could reply. "I want you focused on this trial, and nothing else." He spared a quick look at Blair, who was listening to them all. "It's only for a few days. I want this guy put away, and this whole mess over and done with. If that means lightening your load for a week, I'll do it."
Jim nodded, and they all three seemed to glance at Blair at the same time. A sudden rush of guilt forced Blair's gaze to the floor, then around to the desk, where he consciously made his eyes follow a leg of the table back up, until he could once again glance about the room at the same level as the rest of them. It didn't matter what Jim or Simon kept telling him...Blair was going to feel responsible for this entire incident until it was over. He just couldn't shake it.
"Jim, have you interviewed any of these witnesses yet?"
"No, Mike, not yet." Jim turned back to Mike, and Blair focused on what they were saying, willing his own thoughts away for as long as he could. "Forensics still has the scarf we found on the scene, and I don't have a report back from them yet on the fibers in the car."
Blair listened to the two Detectives discuss a case he had missed completely while at the University, but he soon realized he wasn't paying much attention. It was over before he even knew what had happened, and Jim was ushering him towards the door.
"...drop you off at the University," Jim was saying.
"Yeah." Blair nodded and started out the door, glancing up at the wall clock. His first class was in an hour.
"Hey, kid, hang in there." Mike patted Blair on the shoulder as he walked past. "Jim, you too. Still having those nightmares?"
Blair looked up suddenly, wondering for a split second if Mike was talking to him, or Jim. He noticed Jim making a quick gesture with his head, then glance at Blair.
"Well, take it easy," Mike said, making a big show of folding up the file in his hand.
Blair turned around to face Jim, but before he could say anything, Jim moved to the desk and reached around for their coats. "Come on, Chief. I'll give you a ride."
"Let's go, Sandburg. I've got a lunch date after I drop you off." Jim tossed Blair his coat and started to walk away, leading the way back to the elevators.
Blair caught the coat, and had to hurry to catch up, getting to the elevator as Jim was stepping inside and turning around. They were alone on the way down, so Blair finished pulling on his coat and turned to his partner. "Jim, you didn't tell me you were having nightmares."
Jim shrugged, glancing down at him for an instant, then back up to the numbers above the door. "No big deal, Chief, just a couple of bad dreams." The doors opened and Jim stepped out into the garage, leading the way to the truck.
Blair once again had to hurry to catch up. "Jim, it is to a big deal. Why didn't you tell me?" Jim was opening the driver's side door and he turned to look at Blair. "Now I have to tell you about every little bad dream I have? Come on, Chief, it was no big deal. Get in." Jim got in the truck and started the engine, waiting for Blair to get in as well.
Reluctantly, Blair walked around the hood of the truck and got in, buckling up then looking at Jim as they drove out of the garage. "Jim, the last time I knew about a nightmare you had, it really affected you. Scared the crap out of me, too." Blair instantly recalled having been awakened by the sounds of Jim, in the room above his own, shouting in his sleep. Waking him had frightened Blair even more, as his partner was able to come instantly awake and ready for trouble, grabbing his gun before even opening his eyes. He knew Jim was too good to ever shoot without a clear knowledge of what was going on, but having a gun drawn and cocked in a instant, and aiming at you, was not something Blair was used to. "You told me about that one."
"I didn't have to tell you about that one, you already knew." Jim glanced down the alley before pulling out. "Listen, Blair, the only reason I haven't mentioned the last couple, was because they just happened. I thought you had enough to worry about this week."
Blair shook his head. "No, man, this isn't about me. It's about you, Jim. You're having nightmares for a reason, and if you'll talk to me about it, maybe we can work them out."
"There's nothing to work out, Blair. Just forget about it. In a week, this whole mess will be over and neither one of us will have any more worries." Jim was making a left turn, so he glanced at Blair as he did so. "Okay?"
Blair sighed, glancing out the window for a second. "No, Jim, it's not okay." He looked back at his partner. "You told Mike, though."
Jim shook his head, laughing a little as he shot Blair a quick glance. "Now what's that all about?"
"Look, Jim, I'm a big boy, honest. I can handle this without cracking." I think. "I just don't like the idea that this is getting to you, to the point of you having nightmares, and not telling me about it."
"Oh, like you telling me about yours?" Jim asked.
Blair sighed and looked back out the window. He never needed to tell Jim, his Sentinel room mate could hear any change in Blair's breathing pattern from upstairs without even trying. And he certainly couldn't explain the visions he occasionally saw in those nightmares, not without reliving each and every moment. Lately, his nightmares hadn't been about Lee Brackett, they had been about...about...Blair shook his head, forcing the memory and the visions away. Each time they came, the terror, and embarrassment of the incident returned with them.
"Sandburg, I said what time should I pick you up?"
Blair looked up suddenly, realizing they were parked outside his building. Damn. "Um, I'll be in the office anytime after 5:00. Whenever you're ready, Jim." Blair opened the door and climbed out.
"I'll drop by around 5:30." Jim said as Blair moved to shut the door.
Jim." Blair shut the door, then turned and walked to the building that housed
his office. Great way to convince him of your maturity, idiot. If Blair
kept drifting off into these little self-indulgent panic quests, he'd never convince
Jim, or himself, that he could handle this. Why he had flashed on the incident
in the police garage...and--them...he didn't know. It happened nearly a month
ago, and no one at the Station had given him reason to feel embarrassed. But the
flashbacks, as infrequent as they had been so far, still brought the whole episode
back fresh in his mind, and nerves. Focusing on that, as a way to keep his mind
off of the trial, would definitely be a mistake. And he shouldn't be focused on
anything else anyway. If he couldn't handle a simple trial, where he had nothing
to do but sit up there and answer a few questions, then what good was he doing
Jim? No, these little mental drift-offs had to stop, now.
Jim watched Blair walk towards the building, then pulled out and drove back to the Station. He could sympathize with his partner's emotional state, but to think having Jim explain his own nightmares would help Blair cope in any way was a mistake. The kid was falling apart every five minutes. Slowly, and quietly, but falling apart none-the-less. Jim was used to this kind of stress, as used to it as a person could get. But Blair, he still had such a fresh outlook on life, and the legal system, as to put too much faith where it didn't belong. Then, once realized, that fact could haunt a person suddenly thrust into the situation himself, as Blair was being haunted with the memory of Lee Brackett, and no doubt of Tommy Juno. That case had been Blair's first taste of how horribly wrong a sure-fire trial could go. Danny's killer would have been put away, if it hadn't been for Jim's Sentinel sight coming into question. And, if it hadn't been for these senses, Lee Brackett never would have targeted either of them.
Jim pulled into the Station garage and checked his watch. He told Beverly they'd meet as soon as the Judge broke for lunch, which should be any minute now. He wasn't needed upstairs for anything other than a mountain of paperwork waiting for him, so he crossed the street to the courthouse, and quickly checked her office. Court hadn't quite recessed, so he took the stairs to the ninth floor and found the courtroom. Jim paused just outside the door, listening to the proceedings. Beverly was still questioning a witness, so he opened the door and stepped quietly inside, finding a place on a far bench to sit. From where he sat, behind the defense bench, Jim could see Brackett, and not be seen by him. Jim felt the coldness inside come back. The coldness he had felt all those hours sitting beside Blair in the hospital, watching his partner go through agony. An agony that had lasted for days, and was due entirely to the actions of the man he was watching now.
"Thank you. I have no further questions, your Honor." Beverly turned and walked back to her seat.
Jim looked up as the witness was being excused, and recognized the officer in charge of the evidence lockup. Had he been responsible for the destruction of the tape?
"Court will now recess for lunch. We will reconvene in two hours." The judge banged his gavel, dismissing the court for lunch.
Jim waited while the room cleared out, forcing himself to remain exteriorly calm as Lee Brackett stood and turned, seeing Jim sitting there. Their eyes met, and Lee smiled before he was led out the side door and back to his holding cell. Jim returned a look of ice, mirroring the sensation in his gut. Brackett disappeared behind the door, and a hand touched his arm.
Jim turned and saw Beverly standing beside him. "Yeah, let's go." They left the courtroom and started down the hall for the elevator. "You got someplace in mind?"
"How about Rotellies? I could use some pasta." Beverly hit the elevator button and looked up at Jim. "If that's alright with you?"
"Sure, sounds good." Jim stepped inside the elevator after her, then moved aside to make room for several other people. They waited quietly until the elevator reached the lobby, then stepped out and followed the small crowd as they all headed for the main doors, then dissipated once reaching the sidewalk. It was no longer raining, and the restaurant Beverly preferred was only a block away, so they walked the short distance, keeping their conversation light until they were seated in the small eatery.
"How's the trial going?" Jim asked, trying to remain conversational.
Beverly sighed, nodding. "Slow, but that's to be expected. It takes some time to lay the ground work for these things, but we've gotten past that now. We're beginning to get to the heart of the matter."
"And, he's still holding to his story." Beverly sipped her water and shook her head. "It's going to be an uphill battle, but with Sandburg's testimony, and Kostov's, we should be alright. Although, having that tape would have really sealed it for us."
"What about the other charges? The Ebola case, and that whole stunt he pulled on the mountain with Blair and I?"
"You know we can't use those, Jim. The CIA's taken over both cases, and the judge ruled all reference to them inadmissable." Beverly paused as the waiter set down their plates. "Thank you." She sipped her water again while he set down Jim's plate, then resumed their conversation. "I just don't want to lose him to the CIA. I want him put away for what he did to Delaney and Blair."
"How's Kostov? Is he still sticking to his plea bargain?"
"So far. He's still been promised deportation after the testimony, but no charges will be filed against him here in the states."
Jim nodded and took a bite of spaghetti.
"Is Blair going to be all right with this? It might get rough."
"I know. We'll have a talk tonight, he'll be fine." Jim sincerely hoped. "Anything I should know about?"
Beverly sighed, glancing around their table for a moment. "I can't be sure, but if I were in the defense shoes, I'd go for an attack on Blair's character. Show him as an unreliable witness. I'm sure that's what they'll try." She paused and Jim could feel his jaw clenching slightly. "He's never done anything to warrant a question of character, has he Jim?"
"No, not since I've known him." Jim set his fork down. "Before that, who knows. But I can say this, the Blair Sandburg I've gotten to know, is beyond reproach." Sure, he could be a little irritating at times, but...
"Good. So, no history of drug abuse, or arrest record?"
"No. He was officially arrested just the once, and proven innocent within days."
"Yes, I remember that one. My colleague may not have handled it well, but he was indeed innocent, and that's what counts."
"Right," Jim agreed.
"How are you doing? Still having nightmares?"
Jim sighed, raising his eyebrows slightly. "Last night, as a matter of fact."
Jim nodded, then took a drink of his coffee. "Yeah. They get worse every time."
"I keep seeing my bullet hitting Blair, instead of Brackett." Jim shook his head, looking around the room for a moment. "I know these are just nightmares, and when this is all over, they'll stop. But I just can't get that vision out of my head."
"Jim, you need to talk to someone about these." Beverly reached out a hand and touched his arm. "Sure, they're stress related, but they're tearing you apart. I can see it."
"What, you mean talk to a shrink? Beverly, they're just nightmares."
"No, Jim, I mean talk to Blair," she said. "If these dreams are involving him, and in such a violent way, then maybe talking to him about it will help. There's obviously something, I dunno...subconscious going on here. Maybe talking will clear it up?"
Jim shook his head. "No. It's just stress, nothing more. He's having a bad enough time with it, I don't need to add any more."
Beverly sighed and shook her head, releasing her hand from his arm. "Okay, Jim, it's your life. You can always talk to me, but I don't think that's what you need to do."
They finished eating and passed the lunch hour with more casual conversation. Jim and Beverly had at one time tried a more intimate relationship, but circumstances had made that difficult, and they had decided to become friends. Over the months, their friendship had held true, leading Jim to feel comfortable in confiding in her at times. And, when the nightmares had become more frequent, and the trial closer, he had mentioned them to her, thinking that discussing the trial would help bring an end to the continued visions of his gun firing a bullet that tore through Blair's chest, ending both of their lives. This new nightmare, with Blair as the one who pulled the trigger, had disturbed Jim even more. So much so, that he didn't want to discuss it with anyone. Let alone Blair.
"Well, I had better get back to the office before court reconvenes."
"I'll walk you." Jim paid for lunch, as it was his turn, then walked Beverly back to the courthouse, choosing this time not to go back up with her. Instead, he returned to the Station, and began the long process of clearing up all the reports, files, evidence, and other miscellaneous paper work he usually tried to avoid as long as possible. That, or have Blair do it. The day crawled along, with thoughts of Brackett's face, and the upcoming testimony of one scared to death partner, constantly interfering with his tasks. By 5:30, he had reached his limit.
Once again, Jim pulled up in the parking lot in front of Blair's building and parked. This time, the campus was crawling with students, and Jim counted himself lucky to have parked as close as he had. It was just after 6pm, so he was sure he'd find Blair waiting...and he did, once again behind a pile of papers and notebooks, with glasses on, pen in hand, and some of the more obnoxious music he enjoyed blaring from the radio at the opposite end of the room.
"Sandburg, do you mind?" Jim was forced to turn his extra-sensitive hearing down as far as he could when he entered the office. Blair looked up, a little startled, and grimaced.
"Oh, sorry." He hurried to the radio and shut it off. "It helps me get through these papers."
"Going deaf helps you?" Jim sat on a corner of a table beside Blair's cluttered desk, watching the younger man as he returned to the pile and began to straighten it up.
"Don't worry, Jim. We're not all as sensitive as you."
"Maybe you should be." Jim opened his senses again and began to receive a normal level of input from the immediate area. "You ready to hit the road, Chief?" Blair was still shuffling papers around, but he did seem to be back to his old self again.
"Yeah, ready when you are," he replied, glancing up at Jim, but still moving notebooks around.
"Come on, I'm tired." Jim slapped Blair's arm and pushed off of the table, walking towards the office door. He didn't need to glance back to know Blair was following, but he did anyway. He had snagged his coat from the peg on the wall and was pulling it on as he reached around to shut the door.
"No homework tonight?" Jim had expected Blair to bring his pack, that he had stuffed with papers and notebooks.
"Nah, man, I'm exhausted. It can wait for tomorrow. Gives me something to do while they take the tests."
They climbed the stairs and had to weave through a hallway full of students coming and going, visiting Professor's, hurrying to class, and just plain milling around. Jim had to stop twice to wait for Blair as he was asked questions from students on their way to the truck. By the time they got there, his partner looked ready to be going home, finally.
Blair climbed into the truck and sighed, pulling the door closed. "So, Jim, how'd it go today?"
Jim started the truck and glanced at his partner. He was sure he meant the day in general, and not his lunch with Beverly, but with Blair, one never knew what he had found out or how. "Pretty dull, Chief," he replied, putting the truck in gear. "Research stuff, you would have loved it."
Blair laughed a little and shook his head, but made no reply. Jim pulled into traffic and they headed home. Tomorrow morning would be his partner's first testimony. His first time on the stand, facing two attorney's, only one of which would be on his side. If Jim's own reaction to seeing Brackett again was any indication, he knew Blair would have it rough. His younger friend lived with his emotions out in the open, and Jim hated to see reality creep in so roughly. While it was true what Jim had said once, that you never get used to much of what you see on the job, at least he had grown more immune to the effects. Blair still had the luxury of seeing things from a fresh perspective, and it was that perspective that gave Jim his new-found approach to a lot of issues. If Lee Brackett killed that, then he would have won, after all.
Blair was quiet most of the drive home, and only seemed willing to answer questions Jim asked about his day or the classes. When they got back to the loft, Blair set about making dinner, and Jim left him alone for awhile, turning on the news. It would get harder before it was over, but it would be over...for good this time. During dinner, Blair seemed to perk up again, and asked Jim about the cases he was researching. He obliged, even knowing his partner wasn't actually paying attention. Jim had considered Beverly's suggestion of telling Blair about the nightmares, just to get them out in the open, and maybe end them. But, seeing his friend struggle just to get through dinner, with thoughts of what the morning held, was enough. Blair insisted on doing the dishes, so Jim busied himself with building a fire to shake the evening chill that so often came off the large windows.
He got the fire going then walked back to the kitchen as Blair was finishing up. "Hey, Chief, you want a beer?"
"Um, no thanks, Jim." He pushed the hair from his face with one hand and paused, mid-push for a long moment. "I think I'm gonna turn in."
Jim looked up from the refrigerator. "It's only 8:00."
"Yeah, well, it's been a busy day."
Jim sighed. "Listen, Blair, you know as well as I do, you're not going to get much sleep tonight. You barely made it through dinner without spacing off on me."
"No, I think this is getting to be too much, and we need to talk about
it." Jim watched him as they stood there. Blair was shaking his head, but
making no move to go to his room.
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