In Matters of Life And Love by Lyn

In Matters of Life And Love - Lyn

Lash is dead. The sick fuck lies amidst the detritus of his lair, his eyes staring at nothing, as cold as they were in life. Except I didn’t see it then. The bastard had us all fooled, even Blair. The memory of Sandburg’s shy smile at Lash’s empty praise, none of us aware that he was stalking Blair all the while, makes me wish I had more ammo so I could shoot him again.

Not giving him another glance, I turn and head wearily back up the stairs. Despite Blair yelling at Lash, keeping him off balance, allowing me time to get to them, I could see the fear mixed with relief on his face when I appeared.

He kept it together pretty well. Simon and I keep telling him he’s not a cop, but damned if he doesn’t do a pretty good impression of one and he’s being doing it from the moment I met him.

My left knee gives out a little as I make the final riser and I pause for a moment to try to rub the ache from it. A muffled muttering from Blair makes me forget my pain and I limp quickly over to him.

He’s chained to a dentist’s chair, his hands and ankles fettered by leather straps. My enhanced senses catch the pounding of his heart, the sour stench of sweat and fear. I lean closer and check his eyes. They are heavy-lidded, his gaze somewhat bleary, and it’s obvious Lash managed to get some of the drug down his throat before I got there. I reach out carefully and touch his shoulder and he flinches away from me. “Blair, it’s Jim.”

“Jim?” His voice sounds hoarse, no doubt from the screaming and yelling. He did everything he could to make sure somebody heard him.

“Yeah. Give me a minute to get you of this chair.” I scan the area and find a set of keys on the table across the room. Striding across, I grab them and then get back to Sandburg as fast as I can, knowing he’s probably in shock and terrified to boot. I make short work of the chains and he surges up from the chair. His arms wrap around my waist tightly, his head pressed against my chest and I allow him the moment while we’re alone, knowing he needs the sense of safety right now. Knowing too that if anyone were else were here, he’d be shrugging it off, waiting to have a private breakdown later in the privacy of home.

“Where is he?” he asks, his voice muffled.

“Dead. He wasn’t going to give up, Sandburg. Once he knew he was cornered, he’d already made the decision.”

I feel him nodding against my chest. “It was for the best,” he says. “Thank you.” Then he gives a soft sigh and I feel him go limp, his body sliding downward as the drug takes hold and his adrenaline depletes.

I go with him, holding him close, easing him to the dirty floor and position him on his side, smoothing his sweat-damp hair back from his face, reassuring myself that he’s really okay. He’s bruised and battered but alive. I made it in time.

~o0o~

Doctor Vicki Freeman gives me a confident smile and pats Blair’s hand in a motherly gesture. “You’ll be fine, Blair. You’ve got some nasty bruises and a good-sized lump on your head but considering what that animal did to his other victims….” She trails off with a sigh and bends to re-examine the vivid bruise on Blair’s chest, over his ribcage.

Blair squirms as she palpates it but holds up a hand when I take a step forward. “It’s just a bruise, Jim. Doesn’t even hurt that much, except when someone presses on it.” He gives the good doctor a mock glare but she just tut-tuts and continues poking.

“Blair’s right,” she says finally. “No fractured ribs. You are going to be as sore as hell for a few days—“

“What about the drug?” I ask. “I know Sandburg swallowed some but I don’t know how much. He was a little out of it when I first got to him and he passed out for a few minutes.”

“He’s fairly lucid now,” Freeman says, “well, as lucid as he ever is,” she adds, giving Blair a grin.

“Thanks,” he mutters with a roll of his eyes.

“Welcome!” she quips back then her doctor persona slips back into place. “We’ve taken some blood for analysis but I don’t think he swallowed that much, Jim. He might feel a little drowsy tonight and tomorrow but that will probably be as much a combination of shock and the bang on the head as the drug.” She turns back to Blair. “Take it easy for a few days, Blair. See your own doctor if anything untoward happens.”

“You don’t want to see me again?” Blair asks with a pout as he sits up and reaches for his clothes. I shake my head in amazement. He’s just escaped the clutches of a serial killer and he still can’t help flirting.

“I have sick people to care for, Blair,” the doctor replies, and with a final pat to his hand, she leaves.

“So, let’s get you back home,” I say as I take his sweater from his fumbling hands and pull it over his head, guiding his arms into the sleeves. He glares a little at me but doesn’t resist my help. He slides off the bed and wobbles a little so I slide my arm around his waist to steady him. “Okay?”

He nods and leans against me a little more. “Just a little dizzy.”

“Truck’s right outside in the parking lot. You want a wheelchair?”

“No, this is fine,” he assures me.

I silently agree with him. This is more than fine. I guess it took almost losing him to Lash for me to admit just how much he’s come to mean to me. He’s gotten so far under my skin and into my life that it’s like we’re a part of each other. It doesn’t matter that I can’t tell him. I thought it did. Thought I’d go nuts from keeping my little secret. Now, I realize, as long as he’s here with me, no one else, not even Blair, needs to know.

~o0o~

We’ve only been home ten minutes when I hear the creak of the elevator doors and smell the aroma of cigars. “Simon’s here, Chief. You up to giving him your statement? It can wait till tomorrow—“

“Sure, might as well get it over with.”

I glance over my shoulder as I head over to open the door. Sandburg’s got his game face on and it’s likely only I can see the strain on his face, the small frown between his eyebrows as he straightens up on the couch and clasps his hands together on his lap.

“Sir, come in.” I usher my superior into the apartment, close the door then stand, feeling suddenly uneasy and antsy. I’m not concerned for myself. I know IA will be champing at the bit to have me in their sights but it was a righteous shoot. Overkill, maybe, my first or second shot would have undoubtedly stopped him in his tracks, and so I’m prepared to admit I let my emotions get the better of me, but I think IA knows as well as I do that the press would have a field day with the headline news that the cop who stopped the serial killer had been suspended for overdoing his duty.

It’s Blair who worries me, despite his small welcoming smile to Simon. I can see it in the tense set of his shoulders, the way his hands are twisting on his lap, the pallor still evident in his face, that the last thing he wants to do is rehash Lash’s attack.

“What a mess!” Simon shakes his head as he takes in the trashed apartment.”

“I managed to get the door fixed but the rest can wait,” I say with a smile at Blair. He’s already apologized several times for the damage caused by his attempt to escape Lash. “Nothing major.”

Simon nods and looks at Blair. “Looks like you put up a hell of a fight, Sandburg.”

Blair shrugs. “Not enough of one, apparently.”

“You got to him in the end, Chief. Managed to hold him off until I could get there.” If anyone should be apologizing here, it’s me, for not picking up the clues fast enough. I push the guilty thoughts away. It’s over and done, that’s all that matters now. That, and hoping Sandburg is going to be able to deal with the memories. I know from personal experience what it’s like to have nightmares ambushing your sleep for months on end. I wonder if this is when Blair will finally decide that his life is more important than living and working with his Holy Grail.

“I hope the coffee’s fresh,” Simon says, pulling me from my worrying thoughts. “I have a feeling we’re all going to need it.”

“I’ll have some juice,” Blair says, starting to stand up.

I motion for him to sit back down and head to the kitchen. “Be right back.”

Simon is seated opposite Blair when I return. He’s leaning forward, talking quietly and I force myself not to eavesdrop on their private conversation then relax as Blair chuckles a little and leans back on the couch. Simon grins too and I realize he’s attempting to put Blair at ease, knowing how tough this is going to be for him.

I set the coffees down and hand Blair his juice but remain standing. “If you want, Chief, I can wait upstairs till you’re done.”

“Why?” Blair gives me a puzzled look.

“Jim will be questioned by IA, Sandburg,” Simon says. “It’s best if his statement isn’t colored by anything you say.”

“But he was only there at the end,” Blair protests. “He wasn’t here when Lash….” His words trail off and he looks up at me apologetically.

“It’s okay, Chief,” I put in, hoping I can telegraph my regret at my failure to him.

A familiar stubborn expression settles on Blair’s face and he looks at Simon, his jaw squared, his gaze uncompromising. I recognize it well. I’ve been on the receiving end of it far too often. “I want Jim to stay. I can tell you what happened and then Jim can tell IA why he had to shoot Lash. There’s nothing to hide here, Simon, the man was a monster.”

“I know that, Blair,” Simon says kindly, “but it’s procedure. I’m sorry.”

Sandburg looks like he’s going to argue the point then he sighs and nods. “Can we get it over with now? I’m ready to crash.”

Simon pulls his pen and notepad from his pocket while I grab the current novel I’m reading and head for my bedroom. “I’ll have my headphones on,” I say, “someone can come up and let me know when you’re done… or if you need me.” I give Blair’s shoulder a comforting squeeze as I walk past.

~o0o~

“Jim.” A hand touches my shoulder and I jump then look up. Blair smiles at me. It’s a little shaky and he’s still too pale but it’s a good sign. I take off my headphones and stare down at my book, realizing I haven’t read a single word, too caught up in an endless cycle of what-ifs. “Your turn to face the inquisition,” he says.

I shake my head and stand. “I need to give my statement to IA down at the station. I just hope Hendricks hasn’t got this shift. The guy’s an asshole.”

“Perfectly suited to the job then,” Blair quips. He catches my arm as I head toward the stairs and pulls me around to face him. “This,” he waves his free hand in the air, encompassing the loft, “wasn’t your fault. You know that, right?”

I open my mouth to disagree then realize this isn’t the time to be feeling sorry for myself. Blair’s going to need my support and reassurance. “Thanks,” I say instead.

He follows me down the stairs and gathers up the coffee mugs and his juice glass.

“I want to hear from you what went down,” Simon says, motioning me to a seat.

“IA—“

“IA can wait,” Simon insists, shaking his head. “I want to make sure we have all our ducks in a row, so to speak, before they get in on the act. How are you going to explain you could smell duck waste in the water sample?”

“He’s got a point,” Sandburg chips in. “After the Juno case, we agreed we had to be more careful.” I sigh but concede the point and sit down on the couch. “I’ll be out on the balcony if you need me,” Blair adds.

I’m about to tell him it’s too cold out there then realize I’ll sound like a mother hen, and after the way Sandburg handled Lash, that’s something he doesn’t need. He can look after himself just fine. “Take your jacket,” I can’t resist saying anyway but he just rolls his eyes and grabs it from the hook. I wait until he closes the door before I start to speak.

~o0o~

I can see Blair through the balcony door, leaning on the wall, gazing out into the darkness. Simon seems to sense my need to check on my partner and gathers up his files and picks up his jacket. “I’ll stall IA till the morning,” he says. “Look after Sandburg. I have a feeling he’s not handling this nearly as well as he’s pretending.”

“He’ll be fine,” I say and know I’m right because it’s not something he’ll have to deal with alone. I’ll be with him every step of the way. I walk Simon to the door and see him out then head out to the balcony.

Blair doesn’t acknowledge my presence but I know he’s aware of me. “It’s late,” I say, “you need to get some sleep.”

He shrugs and pulls his jacket closer around him. “Don’t think there’ll be much sleeping for me tonight, man.”

“He’s gone, Sandburg. He can’t hurt anyone ever again.”

“Still… I already know what he did to those people. What he was going to do to me….”

I reach out and rest my hand on his shoulder, squeezing gently. I just want to hug him. I know it’s the wrong time, the wrong place, but I don’t care. I’m hoping he needs the comfort now as much as I do. “He didn’t succeed,” I say. “You did everything right.”

He looks at me then and gives me a small smile. “Thanks.”

“You have every right to be stressed out by what happened. I know I was,” I add.

“It’s good to know I’m not acting like some Victorian drama queen, getting the vapors and all, though god knows, I’m thinking it wouldn’t be so bad.”

“Well, you did pass out for a little while there.” I hurry on when a small frown appears on his brow. “But the doc guaranteed me that was probably the concussion and drug.”

“Thanks, I think.” He takes a deep breath. “I thought for sure I was going to die.”

I shake my head. “Not on my watch.”

He lifts his hand and wraps his fingers around mine, squeezing lightly. “I am a little tired,” he says.

“Me too.” I turn to walk inside but he grabs my arm and pulls me around to face him.

“Jim…”

“What?”

“Nothing. I….” He shrugs then just looks at me for a moment before he seems to come to a decision and takes a step forward, wrapping his arms around my waist, hugging me tightly, just like he did in Lash’s warehouse, only now he’s lifting one hand to stroke down my cheek and when he lifts his head to look at me, I can scarcely breathe. “I love you, Jim,” he says, “and I know it’s not what you want to hear because I don’t mean a brotherly love, and I’m certain my therapist would say that it’s just a reaction to nearly being killed and because you were the one who rescued me, and he could possibly be right, except I loved you before this, only I just didn’t recognize it for what it was and—“

I do the only thing I can think of to shut him up. Bending my head, I kiss him and his words die away with a small sigh and I suddenly realize that having him here and not being able to tell him how I really feel was never going to be enough. I never want either of us to go through what we’ve been through tonight again and as I take his hand and lead him inside, I say a small prayer of thanks that he’s here to tell me what I’ve been too afraid to say.

END

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Acknowledgments: Betaed by Annie. Thanks, sis! Prompt by: Patt.

Prompt: I just want to hug him. I know it’s the wrong time, the wrong place, but I don’t care.