Author's Notes:  This is probably the only strictly H/C story I'll ever write. It was inspired by a throwaway line in the brilliant Ismaro's Novation episode, Detecting Sandburg. A lightbulb went off in my head when I read it, and I thought, "Why hasn't anyone  done this?  So of course, I had to do it.  Suisan was an enthusiastic cheerleader, bouncing wall and beta reader.

Rating: PG for a few swear words.

Summary: An epilogue to Siege, in which the unlikeliest of people gives Blair a helping hand.

 

In Siege's Wake

By CarolROI

Carolyn Plummer raced up the stairs toward the roof of the Cascade Police Department. She burst onto the top of the building in time to see her ex-husband hanging from the runner of a helicopter hovering just above the helipad. Her heart in her throat, she watched him release his grip and drop to the roof, landing cat-like on his feet. Vaguely she registered Garrett Kincaid being hauled past her by two uniformed officers, spouting profanities as he went. Then she was striding across the roof and throwing her arms around Jim Ellison's neck.

The words coming out of her mouth belied the worry that had eaten her alive ever since she'd watched Jim and Simon Banks disappear into the open manhole hours before. "I though I told you to be careful, you bum."

Giving her a quick squeeze, Jim said, "I was careful. Wasn't I, Simon?"

Captain Banks nodded. "Extremely careful."

Now Carolyn *knew* she didn't want to hear the details of their ordeal. Both men's definition of careful left much to be desired. Before she could comment, however, a disheveled man in a ratty looking jacket, his hands bound with what appeared to be tape, was dragged through their little group by a pair of SWAT team members.

Digging in his heels, he was protesting at the top of his lungs. "I'm not with these guys! I'm Detective Ellison's partner--" he shot a quick glance at Jim, then amended, "--colleague."

Holding up his hand, Simon said, "It's okay, guys. He's on our team."

The young man, who had opened his mouth clearly to protest, seemed stunned. After a moment's hesitation, he asked, "Did you say I was on your team?"

"Strictly as an observer," Banks growled.

A broad grin crossed his face. "Right, right. As an observer. Strictly. Of course."

Gesturing at Jim to follow him, Simon walked a few paces away.

Carolyn was left alone with the wild-haired, enthusiastic young man. He held out his taped wrists to her. "Hi. Would you mind?"

Shaking her head in amusement, hiding her smile, she found the end of the duct tape and began to work it loose. "So, you're Jim's new partner?"

"Um, yeah, sort of, I think. Blair Sandburg, anthropologist." He shook her hand awkwardly, his wrists still stuck together, even though she'd unwound several layers of tape.

"Hold still, or this is going to take forever," she replied with a laugh. "I'm Carolyn Plummer, by the way. Technical support and forensics. Also Jim's ex-wife." She looked up as she carefully peeled away the last of the tape, trying not to take any skin with it.

"Ow!" Blair exclaimed softly, pulling his hands back, and rubbing his wrists. "Thanks, I really appreciate your help."

"You're welcome," she answered, but he was already gone, bounding across the roof toward Jim. Chuckling to herself, she headed back inside, wondering how long it would be before her ex killed Blair Sandburg.


The next time Carolyn saw the eager anthropologist, it was several hours later. She was just getting ready to leave for the night, having spent most of the afternoon and early evening making sure none of the equipment, files and evidence in forensics had been compromised by Kincaid's men.

As she locked the door to her office, Blair rounded the corner from the elevators, still wearing the rumpled corduroy coat from earlier, his gait uncertain. "Blair, you still here? I thought you would have gone home long before this."

He looked at her, blinking a couple times as if to clear his vision. "Oh, hey, Lt. Plummer. I rode in with Jim this morning, but he told me he was going to be tied up here most of the night, interrogating those Patriot guys. I was gonna go catch the bus back to my place, but I got off on the wrong floor somehow, and I've been wandering the halls ever since. I think I'm lost…." He began to list slightly to the side, and put a hand on the wall to steady himself. "I feel really weird…."

Carolyn stepped in and grasped him by the elbow, taking a closer look at him. His skin was pale and damp with sweat, and she could feel him shaking under her hand. Shock. But he didn't appear to be injured…. "When was the last time you had anything to eat?"

Blair's brow furrowed with the effort to dredge up that memory. "This morning…16 ounce café latte."

That was more than twelve hours ago. "Come with me," she commanded, leading him down the hallway and into the forensics break room. Parking him in a chair at the table, she opened the refrigerator and began pawing through the contents. Finding a bottle of orange juice, she shook it up, then popped the cap. Holding it out to him, she said, "Drink that."

Blair reached for the bottle, then stopped, staring at his trembling hand. "Oh god, what's wrong with me?"

"Hypoglycemia. You spent all day running on nothing but fumes and adrenaline. Now you're crashing. It's a normal reaction to what you went through; you'll be fine as soon as we get some food into you," she reassured him. Pressing the bottle into his hand, she wrapped her fingers around his, steadying his arm as he brought the container to his lips. Blair took a long, slow drink, the confusion in his eyes clearing as the sugar hit his system.

When it was empty, Carolyn went back to the fridge, returning with a paper bag and another container of juice. "My lunch," she announced, dumping the bag's contents, a sandwich in a plastic Tupperware container and a banana, onto the table. Opening the Tupperware, she set the sandwich in front of him, then took a seat.

Picking up the sandwich, Blair took a huge bite, then chewed slowly, his eyes closed in rapturous bliss. "Oh god, this is so good," he enthused around a mouthful. "How did you know crunchy peanut butter is my favorite?"

"Lucky guess," she quipped, and Blair laughed, almost choking on the drink he'd just taken. "Sorry, sorry!" She got up and fetched some paper towels for him to wipe his face with.

He cleaned himself up, smiled at her, then went back to the sandwich.

She watched him, fascinated. Where in the hell had Jim Ellison picked up an anthropologist? And what a wonderful first day in the world of the Cascade PD. Talk about being tossed in and having to sink or swim.

Sandwich inhaled, Blair picked up the banana, wincing as he tried to peel it. "Ow!"

"What is it? The banana stab you?"

He snorted at her lame attempt at humor. "No, it's my left arm." He raised and lowered it a couple times, making a face. "It hurts," he complained.

"Well, let me take a look at it," Carolyn said, getting up and going to his side. "Come on, let's get this jacket off." She reached for the sleeve, stopping when she noticed a neat round hole in the upper arm of it. "Have you had your coat off at all since everything ended?"

Blair shook his head. "No. It's cold upstairs with all the broken windows. Why?"

She bit her bottom lip, hesitating. Best not to worry him needlessly. "Let's just get your coat off and have a look." He shrugged it off his shoulders, and Carolyn carefully slid it down his injured arm. "Shit," she swore under her breath. The upper sleeve of his olive green sweater was stained a rusty red.

"What?" Blair twisted the arm of the sweater toward him so he, too, could see the blood. "Oh…oh…shit…" The color drained out of his face.

Her hand going to the back of his neck, Carolyn bent him forward. "Blair, come on, don't pass out on me. It can't be that bad, or you'd have noticed it long before now."

He nodded, inhaling loudly. "I'm okay." Straightening up, Blair started to pull the bottom of the sweater up, winced, then swore. "Stupid, stupid, Sandburg." He looked up at Carolyn, a sheepish expression on his face. "I seem to be needing your help quite a bit today."

Together they managed to get his arms out of the sweater, and his white Henley. Carolyn then pulled both over his head slowly so as not to catch his earrings. The sleeve of his T-shirt and the skin of his upper arm were caked with dried blood.

"Oh, god…" The muscles in his throat tightened, and he swallowed loudly. "I got shot, didn't I?"

"Looks that way." Carolyn moved to the cabinets, getting out paper towels, soap, and a bowl she filled with warm water. She carried all those over to the table, then walked over to the first aid box that hung prominently on the wall. Selecting the items she thought she'd need, Carolyn returned to Blair's side. Using the soap and water and paper towels, she began to gently clean the blood from Blair's arm.

He watched her work for a few minutes, his complexion slowly paling and taking on a greenish tinge. "I don't feel so good…" he finally murmured.

"Put your head down on the table, honey, and don't watch, just breathe, okay?" Honey? Where in the hell did that come from? He wasn't all that much younger than she was, and Carolyn was sure if he'd been feeling better he'd be taking offense at the idea she thought of him as a kid.

Folding his right arm on the table, Blair leaned his forehead on it and closed his eyes. His breathing seemed abnormally loud in the small room, and Carolyn quickly swabbed alcohol over the angry red graze on his arm. He hissed in pain as the alcohol hit the wound, but didn't look up. Coating the injury with antibiotic ointment, she placed a sterile pad over it, then wrapped several turns of gauze around his arm to hold it in place. "All done," she announced.

Blair sat up slowly, rubbing his good hand over his face, then taking a look at her handiwork. "Thanks," he said softly.

"You're welcome." She gave him a smile, then picked up the forgotten banana and peeled it for him. "Eat."

He took it from her, grinning. "Yes, ma'am."

"None of that ma'am stuff," she told him as she picked up the detritus from her first aid. "Call me Carolyn."

"Okay, Carolyn."

When she looked at him over her shoulder, Blair grinned at her around a mouthful of banana. Shaking her head in disbelief, she finished dumping wrappers and paper towels in the trash, then tossed Blair's bloody sweater and shirt into a garbage bag.

"Hey! I'm a poor grad student! I can't afford to replace those!"

"Relax. I figured as much. The bag's to carry them home in. Unless you want to wear them?"

Blair appeared to consider that for a moment, then shook his head. "Um, no, I don't think I want to put them back on." He frowned. "What time is it?" A glance at the clock and his expression became even glummer. "I missed the last bus from downtown to my neighborhood."

"I'll drop you at your place after I run you by the hospital to get you checked out."

"Hospital? I thought you said it wasn't bad." He glanced anxiously at his arm, trying to see if the injury was bleeding again, hampered by the fact that the bullet had struck the back of his triceps.

Picking up his coat from a chair, Carolyn helped him into it. "It isn't life-threatening, but it does look like it's working on an infection. And when's the last time you had a tetanus shot? You don't know where that bullet has been, you know."

Blair made a face, and Carolyn could tell that a trip to the emergency room was not on his list of favorite things. "How about I promise to go to the Rainier health clinic tomorrow and you give me a ride home?" He turned his soulful blue eyes on her shamelessly.

But Carolyn was used to dealing with the male animal's fear of physicians. "How about we compromise? I take you by the clinic tonight, get your arm looked at, get you some drugs, and then I take you home. And by the way, those few little snowflakes we had this afternoon are now about four inches on the ground, so don't give me any of that macho 'I'll walk' crap."

Holding up his hands in surrender, Blair said, "No, no crap from me. I give."

Carolyn headed out of the break room, pausing at the doorway while Blair gathered up the bag with his clothes. "Come on then, I'll just leave Jim a voice mail telling him I took you home, and we'll be on our way."


Blair tossed his small gym bag into the back seat of Carolyn's car, then climbed into the front and shut the door. As he fastened his seatbelt, he made another attempt to talk her out of her plans for him. "I appreciated you taking me to the clinic, but you don't have to put me up on your sofa tonight. I have a perfectly good place to sleep." He waved his hand behind them toward the warehouse he was currently calling home.

One look at it as they'd driven up had been enough to convince her it was completely unsanitary and no place for an injured man to spend the night. She'd made her opinion quite plain then and repeated her arguments now. "It's below freezing outside, and I don't care how many blankets or space heaters you have in that place, you'd freeze tonight. I can't in good conscience leave you here, especially since the doctor said you're not to drive on the meds he gave you." Putting the car in gear, she took off quickly, as if to keep him from leaping out and making his escape.

Ignoring the tires sliding in the wet snow, she continued, "If you're uncomfortable staying with me, I can drop you at Jim's place. I'm sure he's back from the station by now."

Blair shook his head quickly. "No, no, your place is fine." Lord knows he didn't want to have to explain the gunshot wound to Jim, or his little run-in with hypoglycemia. The detective might call a halt to his ride-along before it started. "It's just…you don't know me….Why are you being so nice to me?" He could feel the prickle of tears starting and wondered what in the hell was wrong with him.

She looked over at him, her expression perplexed. "After the shit you went through today, you deserve better than spending all night shivering in a drafty, rat-infested warehouse."

She was right about the cold and the rats. He'd been able to see his breath when he'd run inside for a change of clothes and toiletries, and he'd startled a couple of his furry roommates off the couch. He didn't know quite how to respond to her belief that he deserved something special just for surviving, though. So he simply sniffled and mumbled an embarrassed, "Thanks."

"You're welcome," she told him, reaching over to give his forearm a gentle squeeze. "Tissues are in the glovebox." With that, she turned her attention back to the snow-covered road.

Getting out a Kleenex, Blair blew his nose, then leaned back in the seat and closed his eyes, hoping the pain pills the doctor had given him would kick in soon. Every bone in his body hurt, and the bullet wound was a constant dull throb. He really hoped today hadn't been a typical day for Jim. He wouldn't live long enough to complete his dissertation.

It seemed it was only a few minutes later that Carolyn was gently shaking him awake. "We're here. "

"Huh? What? Oh, yeah." The inside of his mouth was dry and tasted horrible. Oh, crap, had he been snoring? He climbed out of the car, aching from just the short ride. Hitching his bag over his good shoulder, Blair followed Carolyn into a high-rise apartment building.

The security guard sitting behind the desk looked up and said, "Ms. Plummer! I was wondering if you got caught in that mess today down at the police station. Glad to see you're all right."

That mess? That *mess*? Kincaid blew up a building, killed a dozen cops, I nearly died and all you can say is "that mess"? Carolyn caught him under the arm just as the world began to tilt.

"Yeah, we're fine, Sam, just fine," she responded over her shoulder, hustling Blair toward the waiting elevator. As the doors closed behind them, Carolyn punched the button for the seventh floor, then turned her worried gaze on Blair.

"You okay?" she asked.

He supported himself against the wall, feeling like he was on the deck of a ship in rough waters. He was very aware of her hand still gripping his arm. "Yeah, yeah, I'm fine," he lied, "why?"

She quirked an eyebrow at him. "Oh, I don't know, maybe it was you shouting 'I nearly died and all you can say is "that mess?"' then almost taking a nose-dive into the carpet."

"Shit. I said that out loud?"

The elevator dinged and the doors opened. "You think you can make it down the hall?"

He gave her a lop-sided grin. "I'm gonna have to, right? I mean, you can't carry me."

She gave him that look again, with the one eyebrow raised. "You might be surprised."

Someone set a hundred butterflies loose in his stomach.

Letting out a clearly exasperated sigh, Carolyn took a tighter hold on his arm, and walked him down the hallway to her apartment. Once inside, she took his bag and his coat, then guided him into the kitchen and sat him down in a chair. Opening up the refrigerator, she took out a bottle and set it on the table in front of him. "It's apple juice. Drink it."

A smart ass remark sprang to his lips, but he wisely held his tongue and opened the juice. Carolyn was back in the fridge. "I don't have much at the moment. Eggs okay with you?"

"Hmm? Yeah, eggs are fine," he replied, setting the juice down after drinking half the bottle. Damn if he wasn't starting to feel more alert. The sandwich and fruit he'd had two hours earlier must not have been enough to completely erase his sugar deficiency. Blair watched her move around the kitchen with an easy grace, cracking eggs into a bowl and dumping in a handful of grated cheese. Pouring the mixture into the skillet heating on the stove, Carolyn added mushrooms and chopped peppers to the eggs, and proceeded to scramble.

Ten minutes later, she set a plate in front of him, piled high with steaming eggs and a couple slices of toast. They ate in a warm, companionable silence that comes with good food and exhaustion. As Carolyn gathered up the dirty dishes when they were through, she asked, "You want a shower?"

The image that sprang to mind was most likely *not* what she meant. Her question was probably a polite way of telling him "you stink and I don't want you on my couch before you've bathed." When her back was to him, Blair took a discreet sniff of himself. Urg. "Yeah, sure, shower sounds great," he answered.

"Bathroom's down the hall and through the bedroom on the left. I'll be there in a minute and get clean towels for you."

Getting to his feet, Blair walked through the living room, stopping to grab a change of clothes from his bag before finding the bathroom and closing the door behind him. Unzipping his pants, he used the toilet, realizing mid-task that he'd never produced a sample for Vera….

… back pressed against one side of the stall, feet planted on the other, thighs burning with the effort to hold himself off the floor. *Please God, don't let him look through the crack of the door…please don't let him open the door*…biting his tongue, holding back hysterical laughter at the thought a sentinel would know right where he was, would hear the thunder of his heartbeat…legs shaking with strain now, unable to hold on, slipping, sliding down the wall…*no…no*…he hit the toilet handle on the way, the flush an explosion in the enclosed space. Bathroom door banging open, the crackle of voices over a radio. *ohgodohgodohgod move move*…stall door opening…legs slamming into the metal, meeting resistance then it was gone…*out out out* the mantra ringing in his head. Scrambling over the fallen soldier…rushing blindly into the hallway….

He came back to himself in Carolyn's bathroom, struggling for air, his pants around his ankles, his cheeks wet. Breathe, Blair, breathe. He pulled his jeans up and flushed, then scrubbed his hands at the sink, using the normalcy of the task to ground himself, to stay in the now. He washed his face as well, then turned his attention to the challenge of getting undressed with an arm he couldn't raise above shoulder level.

After some maneuvering, Blair managed to get his T-shirt off one-handed and he inspected the damage in the mirror. There were some left over blood stains on his chest, and he seemed to be becoming a walking bruise but other than that--

Carolyn picked that moment to knock on the door. "Are you decent?" she asked.

"Yeah, come on in."

She entered, her arms piled high with several towels, a new bar of soap and--a roll of plastic wrap?

"Okay, I know what the towels and soap are for, but Saran wrap?"

Setting the load down, Carolyn picked up the plastic and undid the end. "For your arm--to keep the bandage from getting wet."

He held his left arm out to her with a grin. "That's brilliant. I never would have thought of that."

She gave him a smile as she wrapped the plastic a couple times around his upper arm, making sure the bandage was completely covered. "There, that should do it. Anything else you need?"

Blair shook his head. "No, I don't think so. Thanks." After she left, he turned on the shower and finished getting undressed. Climbing into the tub, he stood under the hot spray for a long time, wincing as the water struck the bruises on his back from landing on the window-washing rig. It hit him that for the first time since Kincaid's men had captured him, he was finally alone. No one taking his statement, or poking and prodding at him, no one telling him what to do, not that he didn't realize that without Carolyn's gentle yet firm guidance he'd still be hungry, stinky, and probably freezing his ass off.

The water temperature began to drop, and Blair quickly washed his hair and got out of the shower. Dried off and dressed for bed in a pair of sweatpants and a clean t-shirt, Blair dumped two pills out of the packet of antibiotics they'd given him at the clinic and washed them down with a glass of water. Gathering up his things, he made his way to the living room to find Carolyn making up a bed on the sofa for him.

"Feel any better?" she asked, looking up from tucking a sheet in.

"Much. I can't thank you enough for this," he gestured at the make-shift bed and the apartment in general, "I really appreciate it."

"You're welcome. Any particular time you need to be up in the morning? I have to go into the station at some point, but since it's Saturday, I'm pretty flexible."

"I just need to hook up with Jim sometime tomorrow," he told her.

She nodded as she headed toward her bedroom. "All right, you call him in the morning. If you need anything, let me know. Night."

"Night," he called after her. Turning out the light, he laid down on the sofa and pulled the blankets over his head. He'd been afraid that he'd still be too wired to sleep, that his mind would keep replaying the day over and over, but within moments, he was sound asleep.


Blair came awake with a groan. A wave of nausea rolled through his gut, and he curled in on himself instinctively, silently cursing. He wasn't going to be sick, he wasn't going to be sick--and he was up and off the couch, heading as quickly as he could through the unfamiliar apartment toward the bathroom.

He reached it barely in time, bile burning the back of his throat as he crossed the threshold. Then he was bending over the toilet, glad of the night light, because it would just be a hundred times worse if he was sick in someone else's home *and* missed the commode in the dark.

Ten seconds of actual vomiting was followed by several minutes of dry heaving. When the episode seemed to be finally over, Blair flushed the toilet, and sat down on the floor, leaning against the side of the tub. He ran a shaking hand over his face, then rested his forehead on his knees. Wonderful time for his body to decide there was another antibiotic it disliked. This was *so* not what he needed.

"Here," a voice said close to his ear. "Rinse your mouth out with this."

Lifting his head, Blair found Carolyn kneeling next to him, a glass in her hand. Taking it from her, he swished the water around in his mouth, then spit into the john. Flushing it, she relieved him of the glass and pressed her hand against his forehead. "You're a little warm, but I doubt you're running a fever."

He blushed, embarrassed by his weakness, and by extension what he'd put her through, dragging him all over town through the snow. "I'm sorry I've been such a pain in the ass," he apologized.

She got to her feet, moving to the sink and running the tap. "Don't be an idiot. You needed help and I was there to give it." Returning to his side, she squatted next to him, shrugging. "And I'm still here."

Blair closed his eyes then, forcing back the tears that had been threatening to fall all evening. He wasn't going to break down in front of her, he wasn't… The cool comfort of a damp washcloth was swiped gently over his face and down his neck, wiping away the sweaty stickiness. Looking up at her, Blair was startled by the compassion in her eyes, and the words escaped before he could stop them. "You'd make a great mom…"

Carolyn's eyes widened slightly, and then she laughed. "Just what every single woman wants to hear from a man. Come on, back to bed with you." Grasping his hand, she helped him up from the floor.

Starting back towards the living room, Blair swayed, suddenly dizzy. "Whoa…" he said, reaching out for anything to keep from crashing to the floor. He found Carolyn's hand. Ducking quickly under his arm, she supported him the few feet to the bed. He sat down hard on the mattress, groaning, "God, I don't know what's wrong with me tonight. I'm so sorry."

Turning on the bedside lamp, Carolyn grasped him gently under the chin, holding him still while she peered into his eyes. "Don't worry about it. Your pupils are the same size, so I don't think you have a concussion. You didn't get knocked unconscious at all did you?"

He shook his head. "No, conscious the whole time, unfortunately."

Her fingertips found the pulse point at his throat. "Strong, slightly elevated, but not unusually so." Her brow creased in puzzlement as she withdrew her hand and sat down next to him. "What do you think made you sick to your stomach?"

"The antibiotics," Blair answered promptly. "I have a sensitivity to them. Sometimes I get sick, sometimes I break out in a rash…and one I've taken with no problems can suddenly make me ill, like the stuff the clinic gave me." He grimaced as his stomach roiled in protest.

"Still feel like you might be sick again?"

"Um, yeah, sorry." He winced. "I keep saying that a lot, don't I?"

Carolyn got to her feet. "Lie down."

"What?"

"Lie down, Blair, you know, on the bed, so you can go to sleep."

Things were getting much too confusing to follow, and his head was starting to hurt from the effort. "Carolyn, really, I should go back in the--"

"Blair, the bed is closer to the bathroom, and if you fall, I'll hear you. You pass out in the other room and you'll likely be there all night." He obediently put his feet up and his head on the pillow. Pulling the blankets up over him, Carolyn turned out the light, then crawled in on the opposite side. "Try and get some sleep, okay?" With that, she turned her back to him and was quiet.

Blair tried to figure out the meaning behind what had just happened, but analyzing the depths of the female mind was beyond him in his exhausted state. He gave up after a few minutes, and succumbed to sleep.


Stumbling, staggering, pleading… "No! You don't understand. I'm not really a cop! I was lying!"

Dragging, yelling…"Shut up!"

Begging…"I'm an anthropologist!"

Screaming over the roar of the blades. "I was lying!"

"Get him in there!" Doors closing behind him, slipping, sliding on the vinyl seat as the craft rose.

A sudden jolt, the chopper, rocking, dropping…. *No, no, any way to die other than this!* Holding his breath, waiting for the falling sensation that never came.

"What was that?…Something's wrong…Looks like we've got ourselves a stowaway, boys…How many lives does that guy have anyway?"

*Jim! It has to be Jim! Any guy who'd jump from a bridge onto a moving bus wouldn't hesitate to leap on the runner of a helicopter….*

Door opening in mid-air, gunshots….*He's shooting at Jim! Do something!* He had to do something! Lunging, ducking his shoulder, hitting Kincaid in the middle of his back, knocking him out of the copter.

Watching as Kincaid falls---no wait, it isn't Kincaid's face staring up at Blair, mouth open in horror, it's his!

Falling! Wind tearing the scream from his lips. Earth rushing towards him…. Buildings…. Cars… trees … Jim, looking up at him and pointing…the ground…he was going to hit the ground…oh god…oh god….

Blair jerked violently and was awake, his eyes slamming open as he gasped for breath, tears trickling across his temples and into his hair. What the hell! A dream, it was just a dream….oh no…the scream that woke him…had it been part of the dream? Or had he actually screamed?

"Blair? You okay?" Carolyn's voice.

He'd actually screamed, then. Blair sat up, mortified. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. Bad dream…didn't mean to wake you…didn't mean to do anything…" He was babbling but he couldn't seem to stop. Get up. Get up…leave the room before you completely embarrass yourself, Sandburg. He set his feet on the floor but couldn't seem to move any further.

Her hand touched his shoulder, and he flinched away, unable to control the shudders rolling through his body. What's happening to me?

"Blair…" Carolyn, calling him back to himself. "Blair, it's okay. You're safe now."

Safe? "Then…then why do I…?" He couldn't find the words, simply holding up his shaking hands.

"You're having a normal reaction to what you went through," she told him, her voice low and soothing. "You kept all those emotions, everything you were feeling when you were fighting for your life today, locked up, tamped down, because to feel them then would have gotten you killed. But it's okay to let go of them now. Scream, cry, beat the hell out of the pillow, throw something--well, preferably something unbreakable--it's okay. Nothing that happens here will ever leave this room."

She reached out to him, her hand stopping just inches from his cheek, as if uncertain he would accept her touch. In her eyes, Blair saw nothing but concern for him, concern and compassion. He tilted his head so that her hand cupped his cheek, closing his eyes at its warmth. The tears started then, seeping out from beneath his lashes. He leaned into her, a shattered cry bursting from his lungs.

Once started, there was no stopping the torrent of emotions spilling forth. Fear, horror, pain all became great violent sobs that shook him as he cried. Blair doubled over, feeling Carolyn's arm go around him. Her other hand came to rest on the back of his neck, underneath his hair, her fingers massaging gently as she murmured reassurances to him.

When Blair finally sat up again, his nose was running and his chest hurt from sobbing. He swiped at his damp eyes with the heels of his hands, and was going for his nose with the back of his wrist when Carolyn handed him a tissue. He looked up at her, the smile on her face reassuring him that he was safe with her. He blew his nose, wiped his eyes again, then said, "Thanks," somewhat sheepishly.

"You're welcome, honey," she replied softly, and the tenderness in her words was like a warm blanket being wrapped around him. Carolyn eased away from him to her side of the bed, giving him his space back.

Blair sensed she was perfectly willing to pretend his little breakdown had never happened, if that was what he wanted. Blowing his nose one more time, he laid down, pulling the blankets up and staring at the ceiling, his mind a jumble of then and now and everything in between.

He felt her shift on the mattress, then her words came at him out of the darkness. "You want to talk about it?"

"No, not really," he answered.

"Okay. It's an open-ended offer. Anytime you want to talk, about anything, you can come to me." He felt her roll over, tugging the blankets in her direction.

He laid there for several minutes in silence, just staring into the darkness, until finally he couldn't hold it in any longer. "I'm…I was terrified out of my fucking mind."

The mattress moved and Blair knew she was looking at him now, but he continued to stare at the ceiling, finding it easier to talk about it if he couldn't see her face. "I spent most of the time hiding, first in the bathroom, then in the break room, but they kept finding me. Finally I wound up in someone's office. I was…I was so desperate to get out, I broke the window, even though it was seven stories up, and dropped two stories onto a window-washing rig." He paused, inhaling slowly. That was the easy part. He'd been over it several times already, first to Jim, then giving his statement.

"All those people…when I was running from the Patriots, I…I opened a door…I don't know where…I just…blood….there was so much blood…." He swallowed the sob threatening to break free. "I didn't…I didn't even stop…even try to help them…I just went on…dodging…hiding. Trying to get out…all I wanted was out…All those people, those cops…they needed help…and all I could think of was myself…about getting out…getting away…." He squeezed his eyes shut against the memory, his hand tightening into a fist where it lay on his chest, his fingernails cutting into his palm.

Fingers wrapped around his clenched hand, and he opened it enough to grasp them, breathing hard. "I'm so sorry…I'm so sorry…I didn't…I couldn't…I was so scared…."

"It's okay, Blair--"

"No! No, it's not okay! I didn't do *anything*!"

Carolyn grasped him by the chin, turning his head toward her. "Blair, look at me." He bit his lip, exhaling noisily, but opened his eyes. "It's okay that you wanted out; everyone else in that building wanted the same thing, was working toward the same thing, however they could. You had a perfectly natural reaction to the situation. Your life was in danger, and your fight or flight responses kicked in."

"But--"

"No," she said firmly. "You did the right thing. Your safety was your first priority, as it should be."

"But I should have helped those people. I should have picked up a gun, or--or--"

"What were you going to do once you got out, Blair?"

Swallowing, he hesitated, then answered, "Find Jim--or another cop, any cop, get help somehow."

"So it wasn't like you were going to run home and desert everyone there were you?"

"I--no, no I wasn't. I just--"

Her fingers tightened around his hand. "You did the right thing, Blair. You did what your instincts told you to do, what every cop in that building wanted to do. Police are just the same as everyone else; when we're in a dangerous situation, our first instinct is to get out of it as quickly as possible. It's only years of training and conditioning that allows us to run toward danger instead of away from it. You have nothing to feel guilty about."

Sighing, Blair turned his gaze back toward the ceiling, feeling her thumb stroking over his knuckles. Intellectually, he knew she was right, but in his heart, in his gut, he still felt guilty. "I killed someone," he blurted out.

"What?"

"Garrett Kincaid. I killed him," Blair said flatly.

Confusion was evident in Carolyn's words. "What do you mean you 'killed him'? I saw him being dragged off the roof, spouting his rhetoric as he went."

Disentangling his hand from hers, Blair ran both of his over his face. "I shoved him out of the helicopter. I knew we were hundreds of feet above the ground. That makes me a murderer."

"Blair--"

He turned back toward her, feeling his eyes fill up with tears again. "God, I never thought…I've never been so angry at anyone that I've ever thought about hurting them, let alone killing them. Hell, I wasn't even angry at Kincaid, I just reacted. What does that say about me that I could do that so casually?"

Carolyn found his hand and linked her fingers with his again. "What was Kincaid doing that made you push him?"

"He was shooting at Jim. But that doesn't excuse what I did. I should have--"

"You went with your gut, Blair. Your hands were bound, you couldn't wrestle the gun away from him, and he was shooting at an innocent person. You did the first thing you thought of to save Jim."

Blair was silent for a moment, then asked, "But was it the right thing to do?"

"Jim would be dead if you hadn't, so I think so, but that's a question you'll have to answer for yourself."

Blair nodded. "I hear that," he said softly. "Thanks, Carolyn, for putting up with me tonight."

Giving his hand a squeeze, she said, "I'm glad I was here for you."

A huge yawn split Blair's face. "I'll try not to wake you up again."

Even in the darkness, he could make out her smile. "It's all right if you do."

Blair rolled over onto his side and, as he closed his eyes, he realized the tension that had been tying his guts in knots all day had finally eased. Somehow, he knew he wasn't going to be awakened by any more nightmares, at least not tonight.


Yawning, Carolyn rolled her shoulders as she boarded the elevator and pushed the button for the sixth floor. Even though both she and Blair had slept in that morning, she'd still managed to make it in to the station by ten a.m., and had spent most of the day processing evidence from yesterday's siege. Now it was nearly four, and she was starving.

Since Jim and she had never gotten to their lunch date the day before, she figured she'd head upstairs and see if he was available. And, she had to admit, she wanted to make sure Blair was okay being back at the station, after everything he'd gone through.

The Major Crime bullpen was fairly quiet, most of the detectives off because of the weekend. Rhonda sat at her desk talking on the phone, and Carolyn could make out the silhouette of Simon Banks through the glass of his office. Jim was nowhere in sight, though Blair sat in a chair behind the detective's desk, his nose buried in what appeared to be a textbook. She was starting in his direction when a gesture from Rhonda indicated she wanted a word with her.

The secretary was hanging up the phone as Carolyn approached her desk. "Hey, Carolyn, I guess they couldn't find you downstairs earlier. They sent these up here." From behind her desk, Rhonda produced a large sleeve of green florist's paper. "These came for you."

Carolyn took the bundle from the other woman, peeling back the paper to expose a bouquet of daisies. "Oh, how pretty!" she exclaimed, "But who would be sending me flowers?" Jim? Hardly. They weren't *that* good of friends.

"There is a card," Rhonda said wryly.

Digging deeper into the bouquet, Carolyn found the small envelope. Carolyn Plummer was written on the outside in small, neat script. Opening the flap, she pulled out the card.

 Thanks for being there when I needed a friend. Blair

She looked up to find his blue eyes on her, an uncertain expression on his face. She gave him a smile, and instantly his features relaxed into a grin. Then he was motioning with his hands, like he was turning something over. Turn over? Oh! The card! She flipped it over. The back side read:

I have two tickets to the Jags game this Friday. Interested?

Glancing in Blair's direction once again, she found him in conversation with Jim, his hands waving to illustrate whatever point he was making. Carolyn went to join them, the thought crossing her mind that yes, she was most definitely interested.

Finis


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