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Shadow of a Doubt

by Kristine Williams

Part 9

"I think that's an excellent idea." Katie popped her head into the room, then opened the door wider so she could produce Jim's now clean and dried sweatshirt. "Here you go, nice and warm."

Jim reached out and took the sweatshirt, handing it to Blair. "We don't want to intrude, Katie."

"Nonsense. You're both staying here. Clive is speaking with the Coast Guard skipper right now, arranging a ride for you tomorrow. And I've invited your Captain to join us. The rest of them have gone."

Jim suddenly realized he hadn't been paying any attention to the goings on in the other room. He took a quick scan and heard only Simon and Clive speaking with someone down on the dock. The rest of the officers were gone, as was the second boat. He looked down at Blair, who was easing himself into Jim's sweatshirt. "What do you say, partner? You need to get some rest." Blair's head came through the shirt and he eased it down, nodding. He was still being too quiet, and Jim knew it was going to hit him soon. He'd rather they were there, in a calming atmosphere, when reality hit his friend, instead of on a long boat ride back to Cascade. "I'll talk to Simon. Let's get you into bed, Chief."

Blair didn't protest being helped up, and Katie moved aside to let them come out of the little room. She walked back out to the living room and picked up a broom, sweeping away the dirt and grime the officers had tracked in. Jim had one hand on Blair's arm as he guided him down the hallway to the bedroom at the far end. He could feel the trembling that still wracked his partner's body, and he was fully prepared for Blair's sudden lunge into the bathroom as they approached. Blair was sick as soon as he reached the toilet. Jim held him, supporting his body as well as keeping his hair out of his face, until it was over.

"It's okay, partner." Jim flushed the toilet, then reached around to the sink and turned on the tap water. Blair eased himself to his feet with Jim's help and leaned over the sink where he rinsed his mouth out and splashed cold water on his face. Jim kept a hand on his back, ready if Blair should need to be sick again. "It's okay."

Blair finished cleaning himself up, then shook his head, still bent over the sink. "I'm sorry, Jim."

He handed Blair a towel and rubbed the back of his shoulders. "Nothing to be sorry about, Chief. You're exhausted. Your body just reacted in a very normal way to a week's worth of stress, and more adrenaline than most men could handle." Blair raised himself up, glancing at Jim apologetically. "Better?"

He nodded. "Yeah, I guess."

"Good. Come on, you need some rest." Jim opened the door, then took Blair once again by the arm and walked him to the bedroom. His partner wasn't very steady on his feet, so he got Blair seated on the bed, then listened for Simon's voice coming back up the landing. "I gotta go talk to Simon, partner. Will you be okay for a minute?"

Blair nodded as he eased both legs onto the bed, cradling his sore stomach with both hands. "I'm fine, Jim. Thanks."

"I'll be right back. Just going down the hall for a second." Jim patted his shoulder, then left, shutting the door only halfway in case Blair needed to get to the bathroom again in a hurry, but enough so he'd feel some privacy if he needed it. He'd just go speak with Simon, then return to keep an eye on his partner. Blair needed time, but he didn't want to leave him alone for more than a second or two. It was only the beginning...but it was the beginning of the end.

"Oh, we couldn't impose on you any further." Simon was saying to Clive as Jim came out to the living area. "I know this hasn't been easy on you two."

"Nonsense." Katie said as she joined the men. "Blair's not going anywhere, not tonight." She glanced at Jim, then Simon. "I had no idea this was the reason he came out here. But after seeing what little I did, I can't blame him for being terrified of that man." She shuddered slightly and moved closer to her husband. "We've only had a scare, and a brief one at that. You're the ones who need a break."

"Captain, I think it would be a good idea if Blair and I stayed here tonight. He's been through hell, and this is a good place to recover in." Jim smiled knowingly at Katie. "This isn't easy for him."

"How is he?" Simon asked, nodding towards the bedroom at the end of the hall.

"He'll be okay, Simon. But he needs time to digest it all. So do I."

Simon nodded.

"Do join us, Captain. I'm sure we can arrange to get a boat or seaplane out here tomorrow to take you back."

Simon glanced at Jim, then Clive. "You're sure this is all right? 'Cause I could use a night away from it all."

"Of course. I've spoken with the captain of that cutter, he's a good friend." Clive had finally got his pipe lit. "Dear, how about an early dinner?"

"We've got fresh salmon, if that interests anyone."

"Salmon? Jim, why haven't you told me about this little island before?" Simon's eyes were brimming with delight.

Katie laughed. "Captain, we have a wealth of delicacies here."

"Just don't eat the urchin," Jim said, winking at Katie.

"Tell me, how do you prepare it?"

"Are you a chef, Captain?"

"Well, I do cook for myself, and I've been experimenting with seafood lately."

"How about you come on into the kitchen, and we can discuss it." Katie wrapped her arm through one of Simon's and began to lead him towards kitchen.

"My pleasure." Simon followed, glancing back once at Jim who was smiling and shaking his head slightly.

Jim returned to the bedroom to stay with Blair, and be there when he needed him. It was over now, for good this time. Blair had nothing more to fear from Lee Brackett, and neither did Jim. The nightmares he'd been having of shooting his partner had not come true. They could end now. And in a few years, maybe the memory of what had happened wouldn't hurt so much to recall. But, he doubted that.

"Hey, Chief. How you feeling?" Blair was on the bed, leaning against the wall with both arms still wrapped around his stomach. He looked up and Jim could see fear still in those expressive eyes.

"I'm okay," Blair replied shakily. He looked away, out the windows, and swallowed compulsively.

Jim moved to the other bed and sat down, facing his partner. "It's over, Blair. He's dead. He isn't coming back."

Blair nodded, still staring out the window. "Yeah, it's over."

There was a hollow quality to Blair's voice that Jim didn't like. "Sandburg...look at me." Jim waited, and it took nearly a minute for Blair to pull his eyes away from the window. He was in shock, or close to it. "Blair, it's over."

"Right, Jim," Blair agreed, nodding again. He swallowed, wincing a little, then closed his eyes. No sooner had he closed them, than they shot open again and Jim heard the sudden, sharp intake of breath.

"What? Chief, what is it?" Jim had been taken by surprise by Blair's sudden start.

"It's still there." Blair replied through clenched teeth.

"What's still there?" Was he having another flashback?

"Every time I close my eyes, it's still there." Blair had turned to look at Jim, and his eyes were filled with desperation and anger. "It won't go away."

"Sandburg, what won't go away?" Jim leaned forward, concerned now. Should he get ready for Blair to suddenly zone out like he had that night?

Blair was shaking. "That needle. It's still there!"

Jim hurried off his bed and sat down next to Blair, putting a hand on each shoulder. "Blair, listen to me. It's over." He gripped Blair's shoulders tightly for a second, looking into his eyes. "He'll never be back."

Blair was shaking his head, looking everywhere but into Jim's eyes, that now-famous negative expression on his face.

"Yes, it is," Jim insisted. Oh man, he was going into shock. And who could blame him? "Blair...Blair look at me." He had to wait again for his friend to look into his eyes. "I killed him. He's dead. Brackett's dead. There was no injection, not this time. Not any time again. You're all right." Blair was looking at him, and slowly that look of negativity began to change into desperate hope. "Now, I want you to close your eyes and tell me what you see." Blair shook his head. "Trust me, partner, I'm right here. Just close your eyes and tell me what you see." He had to get him to at least try. Make Blair's mind accept the truth and stop falling into that hole that would soon send his whole body into shock. Jim kept his hands on Blair's shoulders, reassuring him as best he could.

Blair took a deep, shaking breath and held it for a second, as long as he could against sore abdominal muscles. When he released the air, he closed his eyes.

"What do you see?"

Blair shook his head, then opened his eyes, looking at Jim. "Nothing." He sighed again and Jim released his grip on Blair's shoulders but kept one hand on his arm . "I'm okay. Thanks, Jim."

"No, Blair, you're not okay. But you're going to be." Jim waited for his words to sink in. "Listen, Chief, don't underestimate what has happened...but don't give it too much credit, either. You've been through hell, and no one's going to deny that. But it's over now. You can let it go, he can't hurt us anymore."

Blair nodded, glancing down at the floor for a moment. "I know. I was just...just.."


"Yeah." Blair looked back up, raising his eyebrows. "Yeah, I was."

Jim nodded. "So was I, partner. So was I." He sighed, noting then the odors wafting in from the kitchen. "Listen, we're staying here tonight. Simon's in there right now helping Katie mix up something to ruin the salmon with." Blair laughed just slightly, but it was a good sign. "Come on out and get something to eat."

"I'm not really hungry, Jim."

Jim reached down and took Blair gently by one arm. "I didn't ask if you were hungry." He pulled until Blair unfolded himself and swung his legs off the bed. "Come on, at least sit out there and be with people." He propelled Blair down the hallway in front of him, moving slowly to accommodate Blair's bruised condition. He would have stayed with him in the room, but he knew being around friends would help greatly in getting Blair's mind back on track. And Jim would stay close, just in case.

"The Skipper thought our visitors might like a change of clothes. Something to take the evening chill off." Clive indicated several sweatshirts and pants that were draped over the back of the couch. "It's getting chilly in here already. I think a fire is in order." Clive gripped his pipe between his teeth and walked to the fireplace.

Jim reached out to the pile of Coast Guard sweats and picked up a shirt for himself. He wanted Blair to keep his on, even though he looked pretty small inside the old Cascade P.D. sweatshirt Jim used after his workouts. "Simon, this is a side of you I've never seen." Jim said as he pulled the sweatshirt over his head.

"Oh? I wasn't aware you thought you knew everything there was, Jim," Simon replied good-naturedly from the kitchen. "Just wait till you taste this." He was stirring some kind of sauce, that Jim finally had to admit smelled rather good.

Blair moved around behind Jim and eased himself onto the couch.

"How about some coffee?" Katie had returned to the kitchen and was removing the old filter and grounds.

"Sounds good." Jim sat in a chair right beside the couch his partner was curled up on. He kept a watchful eye on Blair while Simon and Katie cooked, and Clive lit and re-lit his pipe, conversing about nearly every topic under the sun that had nothing at all to do with what had just happened. Jim marveled at, and appreciated Clive's ability to avoid a subject without ever giving the audience time to realize there was a subject being avoided. And, he was grateful that they all played along masterfully. The more they could convince Blair, either consciously or subconsciously that all was well, the better. He was sitting there on the couch, listening to Clive and drinking tea to settle his understandably sore stomach. After an hour of calming conversation and tantalizing odors from the kitchen, dinner was ready.

Jim gave Blair a hand off the couch and they walked to the table in the corner that they had enjoyed last night. He still insisted he couldn't eat, but Jim made him join the dinner group anyway, wanting to keep him in the conversation, and not willing to let him sit on that couch and think too much. With Katie's coaxing, Blair did manage to eat some salmon, and even answer a few casual questions Jim and Clive made a point of sending his way. Simon occasionally shot Jim a reassuring glance that he returned. When dinner was over, Blair was looking a little more human, but Jim and Katie refused to let him help with dishes. Jim sent his partner right back to the couch, then he assisted in the kitchen, while Clive took Simon upstairs to enjoy one of his 'special' coffees. Jim kept an ear open, and the occasional eye on Blair as he sat on the couch, idly thumbing through a journal while they washed and dried the dishes. By the time they finished cleaning up, it was dark outside, and the stress of the day had begun to catch up. Jim yawned mightily, noting that Blair was nearly asleep on the couch.

"Katie, again I can't thank you enough for all you've done." Jim hung the towel he had used on a peg and turned to her. "You're a pretty special person."

Katie smiled knowingly. "So are you, Jim Ellison. You go to great lengths to take care of a friend of ours. And for that, I'm grateful." She stretched up on her toes and kissed Jim on the cheek. "Keep up the good work, okay?"

Jim laughed lightly. "Okay." With that, he walked to the couch and put a hand on his half-asleep partner. "Come on, Chief. You're asleep, might as well lie down." The adrenaline, emotions, and physical stress had finally reached peak volume, then dropped, leaving a young man who could barely find the energy to walk down the hall. Jim snagged a pair of the loaned sweat pants along the way, and told Blair to put them on against the chill. He complied, moving slowly, but finally getting his jeans off and the sweat pants on. He kept Jim's sweatshirt on, and as soon as he was dressed, he fell into bed, working his feet under the blankets. Jim pulled the blankets up once Blair's feet were inside, then he crossed the room and began to get out of his own jeans. He had a better tolerance for cold, even before he had learned to dampen his tactile response, and preferred to sleep in just his shorts. Tonight, the chill was just enough to warrant keeping the sweatshirt on, and letting the blankets come halfway up. Jim reached up to turn out the lights, and was going to tell Blair once again that everything was all right, but his partner was sound asleep.

Blair was alone in the living room, looking down at the body of his tormentor. Jim had shot him, but then turned and left, leaving Blair alone in the room. He watched in horror as Brackett's eyes suddenly shot open, searching the room for him. Oh God---Oh God---Jim! He was frozen in place, unable to move or even turn his head. He was helpless. Helpless again to stop Lee Brackett from coming towards him, syringe glistening in the moonlight. He was laughing as Blair tried desperately to move, to cry out for Jim. He was dead! Jim said he was dead!

"It's not over yet, Chief."


Blair shot up in bed.

"Blair!" Jim was there, beside him, reaching out. He caught him by both arms and sat on the bed. "Blair, easy, it's okay."

Blair looked at him, terrified for one split second, then relieved as he realized the nightmare was over, and it was Jim, not Brackett, holding him now and sitting on the bed. Blair let out the breath he had drawn in so violently. He was shaking again, and there was sweat built up on his face. "I'm okay." He sniffed, then reached up to push some sweat-soaked hair from his face. "I'm okay." God, he was soaking wet, and the shaking of his hands startled even him.


Blair nodded.

"Him again?"

Blair was looking at the blankets and nodded again, slowly, with his lips pursed. He laughed lightly then and glanced up. "I'm sorry, man. Nightmares are for kids."

Jim shook his head. "No, Chief, kids don't hold the market on fear. I've been having them off and on for weeks. But they'll stop now. I promise."

Blair looked up. "Jim, how many have you had?" That was something Jim still hadn't talked to him about. Knowing his friend had the same problem, both upset and comforted him.

"Enough," Jim replied. He sighed. "The first one was two months ago, the one you woke me from."

Blair nodded. "Yeah, I remember that one." How could he ever forget? It was the first time he'd ever known Jim to have a nightmare, and one that Blair had to wake him from. He shivered a little and drew his arms in, hugging himself inside Jim's sweatshirt. The thing was too big, and knowing it had just recently been covered in Lee Brackett's blood should have made him not want to put it on, but he did. He was grateful Jim hadn't wanted to switch when he put on the Coast Guard sweatshirt. Blair needed all he could hold onto right now.

"Well, I never really told you about it, did I?" Blair looked at Jim questioningly and he continued. "That one wasn't the worst. In that one, I killed you."

"What? Jim, you never mentioned that."

"I know. I couldn't. It was just too real." Jim shook his head "I fired at Brackett, but killed you instead. And for weeks I kept seeing that, over and over in my head. Me, firing at Brackett, and killing you."

"But that never happened, Jim." He had shot Brackett, back at the warehouse, but never killed him. And never even come close to hurting Blair.

"I know. But that didn't make the feeling go away, or the nightmares end. And then the other night, it changed." Jim stopped.

Blair was watching him quietly. He wanted Jim to finish, to tell him about the others. But by the same token, he was terrified still by the one he had just had. A length of sweat-soaked hair fell into his face and he reached up with one hand to push it back, then returned the hand to his throbbing stomach.

Jim sighed and continued. "When the trial came up, the nightmare changed to a courtroom, only this time instead of killing you, or him, it was you who killed me."

Blair was stunned for a moment, then shook his head. "Jim..." Where could that have come from?

"No, Blair, it was just a nightmare. There's no analyzing these things, they just happen. But it's over now." He paused. "What about you, Chief? What do you keep seeing?"

Blair shook his head. "I can't...Jim.." He stopped and looked at Jim, pleading with his eyes for his partner not to make him relive them. He never wanted to see them again.

"Blair, it's just a dream. It can't hurt you. Let it go."

He swallowed hard, looking back at the blanket still covering his legs. It took him a few seconds while he struggled with the memory so fresh in his mind, but he finally came to a conclusion. "I just keep seeing that damn needle. And not being able to move." Blair was looking down, not at Jim, and one arm had unwrapped itself to allow the fingers of his left hand pluck at the blanket fuzz. He faltered, but Jim said nothing. "And then he's there, at the hospital, and you...and you just step aside and he comes back...back with another needle." Blair stopped, shaking his head. "I just keep seeing that damn needle." His voice was shaking.

Jim put a hand on Blair's shoulder. "And you'll never see it again. It'll take time, Chief, but it will go away."

Blair nodded, but only mouthed his affirmative, raising both eyebrows. God, he wanted to believe that more than anything.

"Do you want to stay awake, or can you get some sleep? You need the rest."

"Yeah, I'm fine, Jim." He'd rather not try again, but he was having trouble keeping his eyes open, try as he might. But since Jim was there, in the same room in case---No, he was dead. He was.

"You sure? You want anything?"

Blair glanced up for a moment, looking rather sheepish. "Well, there is...if you wouldn't mind...?" He knew he had no right to ask, Jim had done enough. Blair was feeling just a little guilty, taking advantage of his friend's concern, but he was appreciating it.

"What, Chief? Whaddaya need?" Jim's voice was still quietly reassuring.

"My shoulders are killing me. I've been so tensed up..."

Jim smiled, laughing slightly, and pushed Blair forward just enough for him to reach his partner's shoulders and begin to massage some of the stress away.

He had realized Jim was trying to help back there in the courthouse. He'd felt bad, not being coherent enough to appreciate what his friend had done, trying to comfort him after that ordeal on the witness stand. But he needed it now, more than before. Or at least, as much. Jim worked out the knots, and Blair began to relax, allowing himself to calm down. A few minutes later, and his trembling eased.

"You're really something, you know that, Jim?" Blair had his eyes closed, and was trying to concentrate on the relaxing feeling of the shoulder massage, willing that feeling of comfort to spread over his entire, shaking body and mind.

"What to you mean, Chief?"

"You're a rock, man. Nothing fazes you."

"That's not true, Sandburg. Everything fazes me."

Blair started to shake his head, there was no way that was true. Everything Blair had seen over the many months he had been with Jim, all the things they had been through, the man was granite. Not unfeeling, but completely unshakable. Jim's hands gripped his shoulders once, then massaged again.

"Yes, everything," Jim continued. "Maybe I process it differently, but that's all. Why do you think I was having nightmares, huh? What made me go out of my mind with worry from the moment you were affected by Golden until two days after you were home safe?"

Blair was slowly processing Jim's words as he fought the fatigue creeping over him. He began to realize that maybe what he had just said wasn't fair, but he'd never noticed any outward signs. Except maybe when Danny Choy was killed, Blair had never seen his friend so distraught. Jim just had a different way of presenting himself to the world around him. A quieter way. A steadier way.

"You know, there's a bright side to this you haven't considered."

"Oh?" Blair was really feeling drowsy again, despite his fear of falling asleep.

"You don't have to go back into that courtroom."

Blair laughed and he shook his head. Trust Jim to find something good out of all this. He turned then and Jim stopped massaging his shoulders. "Thanks, Jim." He was exhausted all over again, and feeling calmer now.

"No problem, Chief." Jim moved off the bed and back to his own as Blair lay back down.

He knew Jim was sitting there, watching him, and he wanted to tell him it was okay, that he could just go back to sleep, but he didn't. The last thing Blair expected to do, was fall asleep again. But his trembling had finally stopped, and he was very aware of his friend right there, in the room. It couldn't have been more than five minutes before he was fast asleep.

Simon and Clive spent the next morning reviewing tapes of the old wreck that Clive's students had captured on video using Igor. Jim joined them for some of the footage, pointing out the finer parts of the wreck that he had seen. By the time the Coast Guard boat returned, it was late morning.

Jim came back downstairs ahead of the rest of them to grab his bag. Blair was waiting in the kitchen, nursing a cup of coffee.

"Hangin' in there, Chief?" Jim asked before he went down the hallway. He'd been a lot more himself that morning, and Jim was willing to leave him alone while in the bathroom, and then again for a few minutes while he joined Simon and Clive upstairs, all the while listening to Blair and Katie having breakfast. There was still an edge of fear he was trying to hide, and he needed another week of sleep, but Jim was feeling better about his partner's recovery.

"Yeah. Thanks, Jim." Blair suddenly set the cup down and glanced around the room quickly. "Listen, Jim..."

He held up a hand. "Sandburg, don't say you're sorry or anything, all right? We've been down that road before. It doesn't lead anywhere." He lowered his hand and looked up the stairs to see Simon heading down. Jim glanced back at Blair, noting the purple swelling of his lip, the redness in both eyes and the bruise on his cheek. No, he'd be safe from Simon's wrath with that face. For a few more days, anyway. He put a hand on Blair's shoulder and rocked him back slightly. "Let's go home, huh?"

Blair just nodded, raising both eyebrows as he did so.

Jim retrieved his bag and they all said their goodbyes, once again apologizing for the visit and thanking them for the extension. As they walked down the pier to the waiting boat, Jim sighed deeply, glancing at Blair. "You know, Sandburg, I've been thinking."

Blair looked up but said nothing.

"I think it's time we invested in a larger hot water tank."

Simon chuckled as he stepped onboard.

"You know, Jim, that's something I've been meaning to ask you." Blair reached the side of the boat, then turned to Jim. "You and Carolyn, how did you manage with that little thing?"

Simon's chuckle turned into a laugh, and Jim's grin widened. "Sandburg, no one's ever accused you of being a romantic, have they?" Jim tossed his bag onto the deck and shook his head. "We were married, Chief."

Blair made a face. "Ah, yeah."

Jim nodded. "Yeah."

Simon looked at Jim and rolled his eyes. "Kid's got a hell of a lot to learn about romance."

They both enjoyed that the entire trip back.


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