Trying Times

by alyjude


Everything is quiet now. Simon is upstairs, watching over Jim who is finally sleeping. The loft is a mess but I'll clean it up later...when this is really over. And it will be over...It has to end. Doesn't it?


I was raised to value abhor violence. I'm a dyed in the wool pacifist...and I've never wanted to take a life...not even in self-defense. But if I see her? Can get close enough? I will kill her...with my bare hands. For what she has done to Jim -because she was trying to get to me.


Do I blame her? Should I blame her? She's unbalanced, no doubt. Needs help. Don't we all. She definitely belongs in a padded cell...and if I survive this? I'll join her.


Cassie Wells. Director of Forensics, Cascade Police Department. Only she isn't. Cassie Wells, I mean. She was, no is, Barbara Logan. Cassandra Louise Wells does exist, or she did, before one, Barbara Logan, frustrated academy drop-out, diagnosed schizoid and Jim Ellison groupie, killed her and took her place.


I would love to say that I knew something was wrong all along...but I can't, because I didn't. Should have. But didn't. Jim would be quick to blame hormones, pheromones, whatever...tell me I was too busy looking at her legs...or at something else. But he'd be wrong. For months I've only had eyes for one person...and I don't think I've ever noticed his legs. His smile? Yes. His eyes? Definitely. His chest? Oh, yeah. But I've never really gone as low as his legs...of course, I'm not really used to even looking at

guys that way, so I probably wasn't concentrating on the normal areas...but then, are any of Jim's areas normal? Yeah, you got's no, I wasn't really attracted to Cassie.


But you know, I did identify with her...she was determined to fit in while at the same time maintaining her own self image...sound familiar? And Jim treated her like...well, like the guys treated me in the beginning...hell, like some of them still treat me. Okay, so I guess I empathized with her...I was a fool. And Jim? Obviously on some sentinel level, he recognized her as the threat she was.


But who could know to what degree that threat would manifest itself? I mean, shit. No one could have predicted that she would try to poison me...with some exotic CIA manufactured drug...or that Jim would get it instead.


Simon keeps telling me that I'm lucky. If I had taken it, I'd be dead now. Jim's alive. Thanks to his senses...but he doesn't remember anything now. Well, that's not accurate...he doesn't remember the last four days...gone, pfffft...just like that. Oh, and he doesn't remember me either. He knows who and what he is...remembers his whole fucking life...just not the last four days or Blair Sandburg.




Four days ago - Bullpen


"Hey, Chief, looks like you've got an admirer."

Blair Sandburg followed the gaze of his partner to the large, colorful basket sitting on the detective's desk.

"Could be for you."

"Card says, *Blair, just because*..."

"The Blair part would indicate me."

Blair dropped his bookbag and while one hand plucked the card, the other was busy tearing through the blue cellophane that kept him away from all the goodies.

"No signature and I don't recognize the writing, you?"

"Nope. But whoever sent it has great taste."

Both men began to pull items out of the gift basket. Two bags of gourmet flavored coffee, flavored coffee stirrers, two boxes of special blended teas, one package of almond biscotti and one package of hazelnut biscotti, a hand painted coffee mug, a box of imported chocolates that Blair had to rescue from busy sentinel fingers, a tin of fois gras and a box of Carr Crackers.

Blair was impressed. The fois gras alone cost about fifty bucks. But he was also puzzled. Who knew about his passion for flavored coffee stirrers? He didn't use them anywhere but at home...

"I think you're being wooed, Sandburg. Got any ideas?"

"Haven't even had a date in weeks."

"Maybe a student?"

"I'd think so, except finals are over and a student wouldn't send the basket here..."

"Good point. Okay, I say we just sit back and enjoy."

"Uh, we?"

"Partners in everything, Chief."

"Oh, yeah?" Sandburg's hand slapped the detective's, which was surreptitiously making its way back to the chocolates.

"Come on, Chief, share."

"Share? The only thing you want are the chocolates."


"I don't believe it. You don't seriously think that batting your eyes at me is going to get you this box of imported chocolates?"

The box of chocolates ended up in Ellison's hand.

"I'm only giving you these because you look really pathetic batting like that...can't have the great detective James Ellison being ridiculed."

"Gee, thanks, Chief. I'm all tingly here with emotion."

"You eat all those chocolates and tingly will be the best you'll feel."

"Moderation in all things, Chief."




I had to fix some of that gourmet coffee. I was cold and tired and still not really awake and I was really looking forward to trying the flavored stirrers. I fixed my coffee and got Jim a cup at the same time. I took the mugs back to the desk just as Jim was getting up, saying that a report was ready in Forensics. I told him to sit, enjoy, I'd go get it. I'd be dead now if I'd let Jim go...if I'd let well enough alone...Damn, why didn't I?

I hadn't put enough creamer in Jim's coffee, a simple error...he keeps extra packets in his desk so he just whipped one out and since he just didn't want to get up and get one of those stupid little plastic stirrers? Yep, you guessed it, he simply reached for one of mine. They were sitting right there...vanilla, cinnamon and mint...he just grabbed one, plopped it into his mug and then...drank his coffee. Just like that.

The stirrers had the poison. See? Someone knew. Knew that only one person would use those stirrers, only one person liked those damn stirrers...but Jim just didn't want to get up and get...damn. Should have been me. Give anything if it had been...Anything.

I'd love to say the effects were immediate, that we knew right away that something was wrong. But again, I can't. Because we didn't. No, I didn't. Because...fuck, I let it go on for two days...two days it remained in his system, two days and two nights...oh, don't misunderstand, I knew there was something wrong...something very wrong, but I just thought it was a "Sentinel" thing, or a Blair Sandburg for two days and two nights I let it go on...lived with it...we can thank god that Simon is so observant and...tenacious.



Four days ago - Bullpen

"Here's the report, Jim"

Without looking up from the computer, Jim tried to grab the report from Sandburg's hand, but they missed the connection and the folder ended up on the floor.

"Damn, Sandburg, watch what you're doing."

His voice was low, no anger, but cold.

Blair bent immediately to retrieve the folder but so did Jim. The collision was inevitable, but not Jim's reaction when their heads bumped.



"What's your problem, Sandburg?"

Ellison's chair shot back as he threw himself up to face his bewildered partner.

"Nothing, hey, I'm sorry...we just..."

"Can the excuses and the get the hell out of my way."

One strong arm moved, hand flat against Blair's chest and pushed. It wasn't as hard as it could have been, but it was enough to put the younger man off balance, causing him to fall against the wall. By the time Blair collected himself, Jim was gone. And Blair wasn't even certain about what had just happened. Jim hadn't raised his voice, hadn't yelled. Again, there'd been no inflection of anger...just that cold tone.

Blair quickly scanned the bullpen and relief rushed over him. It had happened so quickly and quietly that no one had even noticed.

So where was Jim? And what the hell had just happened? A sensory spike?

Absently rubbing his chest, Blair tried to decide what to do. He was debating the idea of sending out a one man search party when Jim re-entered. With nary a glance at his partner, he settled himself back at his desk and began to peruse the report that had started the whole fiasco in the first place.

"Sandburg, get this shit off my desk." One hand waved abstractly at the basket.

"Jim, what's wrong, man? What's going on here?"

"There is nothing wrong, just get that crap off my desk."

Blair was dumbfounded. And apparently didn't move fast enough to suit the detective because he rose, smiling, and with one deft move, swept the basket and it's contents into the waste basket next to the desk. He glanced at his watch, "Court. See you at home tonight." And with those words, he was gone again.



Should I have made the connection then? Would anyone? Sure, in hindsight...I've got plenty of hindsight now. But, damn, it happened so fast and thinking seemed so surreal, had a "Did this really just happen" quality to it...of course that night?

Surreal became my best bud...surreal just waltzed in, sat down and decided living in the loft was the perfect place to be...and things got a lot worse. Way worse.



Four days ago - The loft

It was Jim's night for dinner but Blair had the feeling his partner would neither cook nor remember to bring anything in and since they needed to talk, Blair had stopped and picked up chicken, tortillas and salsa.

He had just changed into sweats when he heard Jim's key in the lock.

Blair was expecting many things when Jim walked in...but whistling? Not even in the top 10, or 20 or even the top 50.

"Feeling okay, Jim?"

Ellison dropped his keys on the table, pulled off his jacket and threw it over a chair and proceeded into the kitchen where he got down a bottle of Jim Beam's, a glass and poured himself a shot.

"Uh, Jim? Everything okay?"

Blair took a few tentative steps toward the kitchen.

"I'm fine, Sandburg. Is this chicken supposed to be dinner?"

"Yeah, I figured you'd be tied up at court and wouldn't have time to pick anything up so I stopped at Seranina's."

Jim poured another shot and tossed it down.

"Better than nothing, I guess."

He pulled out a plate, slapped down some marinated chicken, grabbed a couple of tortillas and the container of salsa and walked into the Living room, clicked on the TV, set the food down and walked back into the kitchen for the Jim Beam.

All Blair could do was stare, open-mouthed and completely baffled.

"What are you staring at?"

What could Blair answer? Jim eating in the living room? Drinking Jim Beam? Or maybe the jacket, carelessly thrown over a chair?


"Jim, I think there might be something wrong with your senses. Have you noticed any unusual spikes? Headaches?"

"Yeah," he swallowed another shot, "You. You're giving me a headache, Sandburg."

"Jim, there is something seriously wrong, man and we've got to..."

He didn't finish. Jim stood and slowly, almost languidly, walked over to Blair. When he was face to face, he backhanded him.

The blow was so slow, so deliberate, that Sandburg wasn't even remotely prepared. There'd been no threat, nothing.

But the blow was strong enough to send Blair flying back several feet and to land hard.

Blair's whole world tipped and darkness fought with the light...he shook his head, trying to clear it...his hand coming up to feel his face.

A shadow falling over him brought his head up sharply...Jim. The bigger man was standing over him and the expression, no, lack of expression was more frightening than anything that Blair had ever experienced.

"Jim...please, we need..."

But again, he wasn't given the opportunity to complete his sentence. Large hands reached down, grabbed his sweatshirt and pulled him up.



"Sandburg, I think you're tired, need to go to bed."

Blair was "hanging" by his sweatshirt, his body having been pulled close to the bigger man. The words were whispered and the cold tone sent the chills racing up and down his spine running for cover.

Jim Ellison lowered his partner and as Blair's feet touched the ground, Ellison released the sweatshirt. Blair almost fell again, but somehow managed to stay upright and without thinking he reached out to grasp the only thing available - Jim's arm. His fingers dug in and he steadied himself.

At that point, Blair still believed in the world that said everything would be alright once they talked. But that world was about to collapse.

Sandburg noticed the stillness first. He was righting himself when he felt it. Jim, the loft, everything...still - quiet. His eyes were drawn up to Jim's face and his breath left him in a hiss.

Jim's eyes were locked onto his, the pupils dilated to the point of almost totally obscuring the blue. His mouth was open, his tongue sliding slowly across his bottom lip. Jim's hand came gently down onto the hand still digging into his arm, then tightened...and tightened again.

The pain shot up Blair's arm, forcing out a deep groan.


The grip tightened yet again and just as the pain was about to force him to his knees - Jim let go.

But before Blair could back away an arm came around his waist, pulling him closer. Blair was too stunned by this apparent "about face", to move and when Jim's hand began to move sensuously down his back, roaming over the curve of his ass and coming to rest on one cheek... "Jim...", he managed to groan out, "need to talk, something wrong...", but a hard mouth clamped down on his, a tongue forcing its way in...a brutal parody of a kiss. Blair began to struggle then, but arms just tightened and he felt legs trapping him...<not this way...please, not this way>

Blair felt sudden pain as Jim bit down on his lower lip, drawing blood. But the metallic taste galvanized the younger man and he pushed with his own considerable strength, yanking his mouth away and bringing up his only weapon - his knee...hard. Hands fell away and Jim doubled over.



You think that as soon as Jim bent over I hightailed it out of there? Wrong. Jim beat me to it...he must have dialed down the pain enough to stand. When he straightened he didn't even look at me, he just limped over to the door, took his keys and...walked out.

As soon as that door closed - the pain hit. My hand. My face. My lip. Everything.

Have you ever had the dream fantasy of a lifetime turn into the nightmare that even Wes Craven would shrink from?

Do I have any excuse for what happened? For letting it happen? No. None. For one minute I wanted it. With every breath in me...I wanted what I believed Jim was trying to give me. I ignored everything that came before, ignored the evidence, the pain...his eyes.

May God forgive me. I can't.

I was pretty certain that my hand was broken...but going to Cascade General was not my idea of getting medical treatment...Been there too many times, knew too many people. That left the free clinic.

A few stitches, several x-rays, a cast and one lecture on "getting out of an abusive relationship" later I was standing outside our home, it was after 11pm and I was looking up at the loft trying to decide if I should go in. Yeah, that's right...trying to decide if I should go in. No, I can't explain that. But I didn't. Go in, that is. But I didn't get help either. I could have gone to Simon's, solicited his help. But again, I didn't. Why? Why didn't I get help?

I was ashamed. On so many levels I can't even begin to comprehend them all. And - something else...I had this overwhelming need to protect my sentinel. I can't explain it any better than that. I - couldn't/wouldn't - let - anyone - see - him - like - this. So that left me. I'd have to figure this one out myself, on my own. No news there...years of practice...But I should have remembered what I'd learned in my years with Jim - Strength in numbers. Always have a back-up. Isn't that what I'm always telling Jim?

With the aid of pain pills, courtesy of your friendly neighborhood free clinic, I managed to sleep - in my car. Parked a couple of blocks from our home. Our home. Sounds nice. But unrealistic now. Not my home, not now.

The next morning I made sure Jim had left before going up, taking the best shower I could under the circumstances, changing and heading to the station. I had a plan. Jim would be in court and I'd have the chance to ask some questions, get some answers. It's nice to have a believe I had time.

Three days ago - Bullpen

Blair had parked the Volvo in the alley behind the PD building and walked in through the garage to make sure Jim was gone. After confirming the absence of the truck he took the elevator up to seven.

The first person he encountered was Taggert who after taking one look at him, marshaled him into the break-room.

"Just one question, Sandburg. How does the truck that hit you look?"

"Bad, Joel, bad."

Joel pulled out a chair for Sandburg and both men relaxed into them. Blair was ready for the questions, ready with his obfuscations and ready with a few questions of his own.

"So? What really happened?"

"Well, Joel, it was like this...a few too many damp towels left on the bathroom floor and my roomie finally beat the shit out of me."

As expected, Joel scoffed and repeated his question.

"Come on, Blair, spill."

"Don't go for the roomie story, uh? Well, you're right, the real story is way better. I stepped between a squabbling couple and she beat the shit out of me."

"Now that I believe, Sandburg. Guess you learned the hard way about trying to control a family dispute."

"Yeah. The real hard way. Joel, did you happen to see Jim this morning before he went over to the courthouse?"

"Yes, but come to think of it...he didn't even mention your little entanglement."

"He doesn't know yet...I wasn't exactly at home when this happened, if you know what I mean?"

"Well, he's gonna be fit to be tied when he sees that face of yours."

"I'm not worried, she's like, way bigger than him, he'll back off."

That brought out Joel's booming laugh. "Kid, you're alright. Coffee?"

Blair fingered his stitched lip and shook his head.

"Don't think so, Joel. I'll be drinking cold liquids from a straw for awhile. Uh, Joel?"


"How did...Jim seem this morning? He's been a little under the weather and I'm worried."

Joel had just sat down again, coffee in hand and now chuckled at the question.

"I swear, I don't know which of you is worse as the mother hen...but to answer your question, Jim seemed fine. No, that's not exactly right...he mentioned a headache and it must have been a whopper because he kept pinching the bridge of his nose? Like he was trying to push it away."

"Did you happen to notice anything like that yesterday?"

"Yeah, yeah, I did. The same pinching motion after he returned from court. And he must have downed 5 or 6 aspirins too. What's going on?"

"You know Jim...suffer in silence. But I was afraid of this, might be that new flu going around."

"Well you'd better hog tie him and get him to slow down."

"One can only try, Joel. Do me a favor?"


"If I miss him today, keep an eye on him?"

"Goes without saying."

"Thanks, Joel. I'd better check in with Simon then head over to the University."

Blair pushed his chair back and headed back to the squadroom only to be brought up short as he approached Jim's desk.

Yellow tape declaring the desk a crime scene was wrapped around the desk and a five foot area surrounding it.

"Hairboy, what happened to you?"

Blair turned and looked up into the smiling face of Henri Brown.

"I ran over a truck, what's with the tape?"

"Isn't if obvious? A crime scene. There was a murder."

Blair felt his knees weaken, his vision narrowing, sounds diminishing.

From a great distance a voice brought him back.

"Sandburg? Come on, kid, can you hear me?"

Everything came back into focus and he found himself sitting in Simon's office, head between his knees, Simon kneeling next to him and massaging his neck.

"Brown, what the hell happened out there?"

"I don't know, we were joking about the tape around Ellison's desk and hairboy went pale and nearly dropped."

Blair lifted his head and looked into Simon's worried brown eyes.

"Sandburg? You okay?"

"Yeah, Simon, sorry about that...I took a couple of pain pills and I guess..."

Simon's expression said he wasn't buying.

"Well, you took two years off my life, years I can ill afford to lose."

"Sorry, H. Uh, what was all that about Jim's desk?"

"Rhonda found two dead rats by the desk and I kinda...put up the know, thought he'd get a kick out of it."

"Brown, don't you have some cases to solve?"

"Right, Captain. Sorry." Brown beat a hasty retreat and Banks turned his attention back to the pale man before him.

"Give Sandburg."


Stitches, cast, look like shit, you nearly deep six out in the bullpen when Brown gives you his little line and no, I'm not buying pain meds."

"I look like shit because I feel like shit and I did a stupid thing last night when I got between an angry husband and wife and this is the result and I think it...just all caught up with me...", Blair finished by taking a deep breath and looking Captain Simon Banks straight in the eye. Simon stared thoughtfully back.

"I'll accept that for now. For - now, Sandburg."

Simon stood and went to his coffee pot, poured some, offered to Blair, who shook his head, then taking his cup he made himself comfortable and sat back in his chair.

"Has Jim seen you?"

"No. Got home this morning, after he'd left."

"Pressing charges?"

The question was asked so innocently, so nonchalantly, that Blair fell right in.

"Charges! Why? I would never...", he stammered out then realized what he'd almost given away and promptly shut his mouth.


"It was just a misunderstanding, no big deal. They even paid the doctor bill. No, of course I'm not going to press charges."

Simon gave him an appraising look. He didn't need Jim's sentinel abilities to tell him Blair was lying. He only needed three years of close association. And Blair was lying, not obsfucating, lying. And the fear that had begun to tie knots in his stomach told him this was serious. But he also knew he had to bide his time, maybe talk with Jim.

"Well, it's your decision of course, I wasn't there and you were, but experience tells me...".

"I know, Simon, but really, no good would come of my pressing charges, trust me."

The bigger man had the distinct impression that he and Sandburg were talking about two different things entirely.

"I'll let it go for now, then."

"Thanks. Look, I've got to head over to the University...Jim will be in court all day, so I'll take this chance to do some catch up, if you've nothing for me?"

"Better you should go home and get some rest, you really do look like shit."


"Well, then, take care of yourself and Sandburg? No more playing the hero, okay?"

Blair smiled ruefully and nodded, got himself up and somehow managed not to sway. At the door, just as he was about to make good his escape...

"If you need anything, Blair? You know you just have to ask, you do know that, don't you?"

Blair's hand froze on the knob. He didn't dare look at Simon, all he could do was choke out an answer, "If I didn't before, I do now."



It took everything I had "not" to tell Simon. Now? I wish I hadn't had so much.

I'm 29 years old. I cried when Maya told me she hated me. I don't think crying is a "gender" thing, I think it's an "upbringing" thing. And I was brought up to believe I could cry if I felt it...that it wasn't unmanly or was just another method of expressing, women, children, even animals do it...I think God cries...when God is in his male mode and when she's in her female mode.

Me? I wanted desperately to cry, right then...But I choked it back...By that time I was experiencing something else; guilt. A major guilt attack. Shame, fear and now guilt? Hey, I'm normally not into guilt...I make a mistake, I say so and I try to move on, learn and move on, so what was so different this time?

"This" guilt was like a pair of cement shoes, weighing me down, sucking me under, warping my judgements, screwing with my mind. Somewhere, somehow, I'd got it into my head that I was at fault. *I'd* done something wrong. Rational? Not hardly. But there it It would cost me dearly, I may pay for the rest of my life for all of it...the shame, the guilt...I may lose Jim.



Three days ago - Bullpen

Somehow Blair made it out of Simon's office. As he passed Jim's desk, saw the tape again, something niggled at him...his eyes strayed down - the waste basket. What had Brown said? Rats. Two dead rats. At Jim's desk. But before Blair could process his thoughts, before he could dissect it and put it back together again...Jim walked in.

It was 11:45am and the squad room was relatively empty. The two men stood a few feet apart, eyes locked, one waiting, breath held, for some sign that everything was alright again, the other finding his breath suddenly being forced from his lungs. <, mate...enemy>

"Sandburg, we need to talk, now."

Jim turned and moved out the doors, heading for the stairs. Blair, feeling hope for the first time in many hours, followed.

Blair got to the door, pushed it open and stepped into the stairwell.

"Jim, thank God...", his voice trailed off...the stairwell was in partial darkness and Jim was nowhere to be seen. He took a few steps closer to the rail, and peered down but couldn't spot him. The door closing behind him and locking told him where the older man was now.

Jim stood, arms hanging loosely at his sides, a cold smile marring his handsome features.


The man in question took two, slow, easy steps toward his partner, Blair took two quick steps back and put out one arm in a placating gesture. Like lightening, Jim's hand flashed out and grabbed the offered arm. With a strong pull, Ellison yanked him in, flipped him around and twisted his arm up behind his back, then turned them both to the right and pushed Blair hard into the wall.

Jim pulled the one arm down and held it against Blair's side and using his own larger body, pressed Sandburg even harder into the wall, trapping him there, chest to back, leg to leg. Blair was as effectively pinned as an entomologists favorite subject. He could move nothing, breathing was difficult and his mind was swimming with the suddenness of the move and the pain.

Just when he thought it couldn't get any worse, it did. Jim's hands grasped each of Blair's and swung them over his head, one hand then imprisoning them, cast and all. Blair wouldn't have thought it possible, but somehow this gave Jim the means of pushing his body even "deeper" and "harder" against Blair's.

"Jim...", it came out as a hoarse whisper.

Jim lowered his head to bring his mouth next to Blair's ear, his tongue flicked out, teasing, while at the same time his hips drove his body into the younger man's. There was nothing erotic, sensual or loving about the move and the only thing that kept Blair sane at that moment was the thought that Jim wouldn't do anything, couldn't do anything here, not in the stairwell, not in the building that housed Cascade's finest. He'd hurt him, certainly, but nothing more? That was when Blair realized Jim was hard and he could feel that hardness pressing into him...


"You listen to me," his voice was low, cold, "We're going down these stairs, to the garage and to the truck, you don't fight, you don't speak, am I understood?"

The voice of his best friend - the man he loved, held the kind of menace that gave Blair a glimpse into the man who'd been in Covert Operations...the man who could kill.

"Blair? Say "yes"."

An important piece of Blair Sandburg was lost in that moment. The moment he gave his answer.


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