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Patch

by ljc

4/05



Summary: Multiple traumas have Blair coping badly.



Major spoilers: Siege, The Debt, Cypher.



Note: I don't know where I read about the patch on Blair's coat. I'd never noticed it, but thanks. This story was the result.



Disclaimer: All characters, places, and objects from The Sentinel belong to Pet Fly Productions, UPN, and Paramount. All stories are written with the love of the show in mind. No money is being made. All stories are property of the author.



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After “Siege”



Blair was stumbling in his fatigue. The hours at the PD cleaning up the mess Kincaid had made of the station had more than worn away any adrenaline rush he'd had during the siege and while he was a hostage. Since most of the building was a crime scene, Jim had needed his help with gathering anything that could conceivably be used against the Sunrise Patriots. This was one case they didn't want to take any chances on, so he had needed to be with Jim nearly the whole time.



When Jim's headache had nearly reached migraine proportions, he'd tried stress reduction techniques with him. Jim had been grateful. Now if he could just find the time to use them himself. He'd found it surprisingly stressful to recount his own part in the situation.



He shuddered as he remembered when the SWAT team had tried to drag him off the roof thinking he was with Kincaid's men. What were they thinking? Kincaid had had no trouble thinking he was a narc. And he'd been mistakenly assumed to be a druggie or a street person before ... but a Sunrise Patriot? Talk about mistaken first impressions.



But his statement had been almost as anxiety producing as the real events. Jim had come to stand by the door and had listened. That was uncomfortable. Was Jim trying to just be there for him or did he want to hear the whole embarrassing thing from the horse's mouth?



He had been so relieved when Jim finally told him that they could leave. He needed a few hours of sleep before he had to teach tomorrow ... uh, today.



Blair went to grab his backpack and coat from the conference room that had been commandeered for the duration of evidence gathering and preliminary report writing. He started to shrug on his coat but stopped to finger the hole where the bullet had torn through it. He shuddered as he thought about how close it had come. About how he'd nearly been killed by that shot. Damn, it shook him up just thinking about being that high off the ground on the scaffolding. He wondered how long it would be before he could wear this coat without remembering ....



<>-<>-<>-<>



Several weeks later, after “The Debt”



Jim could remember the moment he changed his mind about asking Blair to leave when his week was up. It was over breakfast, which Blair had cooked to make amends for Larry trashing the loft. He could remember his faltering reply word for word, “No, no, no, no. If Larry can survive out there without a roof over his head, I'm, I'm sure that I can too.”* He had felt like six kinds of heel. He'd seen the warehouse. He'd noticed Blair's fingerless gloves. Oh yeah, and he'd heard that army of rats living in the shadows. He had all kinds of clues to his financial situation. Losing a home to fire put a lot of people on the streets. He couldn't put the kid in that position.



But there were still rules to live by here in the loft, or anywhere else. The latest infraction almost made Jim yell to Sandburg. He thought grumpily, the kid wouldn't know 'neat and tidy' if it bit him on the butt. He just shook his head and hung up his own coat and picked Blair's up off the floor. Maybe it just fell off the hook by itself ... right. He stopped when he saw a neatly sewn patch on the sleeve. He didn't remember that. He hadn't seen Sandburg wear it lately, not since the first times they got together. He sniffed it. It smelled like gunpowder! Damn. Kincaid. Blair came this close to being killed. Jim turned and sat heavily at the table with the coat in his hands.



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Several weeks after “Cypher”



Simon toyed with his cigar as he spoke to the uniform in charge of the evidence lockup. When he hung up the phone, he called Jim into his office. “Jim, you can tell Sandburg they're going to release his personal effects stolen by David Lash. I should think he'd be glad to get those things back.”



Jim caught his breath and then released it in a great sigh, “I think Blair would rather forget the whole thing.” At Simon's raised eyebrow, Jim continued, “The whole loft is a reminder. Sometimes he'll just stop and stare at the something, the door, the windows, whatever, and his vitals spike ... Don't look so shocked. I hear pretty good, remember. And yeah, I notice when Blair's upset, Simon! Anyway, I know there are times when he has flashbacks. When I think back on just the last few weeks, he's encountered the Switchman, a hitman, Kincaid. Then he lost his home. Then that psycho Lash, a serial killer, was minutes away from adding him to his short list of 'friends'. He's entitled to a few bad moments.”



Simon was well aware of the 'kids' moments. He had observed a few of those himself. “Jim, has he made an appointment with the department psychologist yet? If not, I want you to tell me what you really think about this, should I make it a condition of his ride-along pass? If he could use some help ... Well, he certainly deserves our help, if only for the help he gave you with the Switchman case.”



Jim was relieved that Simon was concerned and not angry. “I'll see how things go Simon, but he's encountered a lot in his life. We say 'you're not a cop, Sandburg' and we know he hasn't been trained for this, but the things he has seen in his travels ... well, it's left me speechless a few times. I'm not sure if he's 'obfuscating' or not sometimes, but I know there's a lot more to the stories than what he so glibly tells us.”



“Just don't assume he's okay with all this. People can repress all kinds of things that pop up later, usually at the worst possible time,” Simon cautioned.



<>-<>



Jim went down to the evidence lockup to retrieve Sandburg's belongings. He took the box down to his truck on his way home. He put the box on the coffee table, knowing that most of these things were taken from the shelves in the living room. When Blair got home he could just put them up in their rightful places.



<>-<>



It was a late night but Blair bounced into the Loft with his usual exuberance. “Hey Jim. What's on the tube man? How much of the game did I miss?”



“Most. Don't worry though, there weren't any plays that would make it into a 'greatest moments' video. Supper's in the refrigerator. Sorry it's takeout. I just got home an hour ago.”



“Hey thanks, man. I'm so hungry I could eat a bogong moth cake,”** said Blair as he tossed his coat and backpack toward the coat rack.



Jim thought, <I'm not going to ask. I won't.> “Ah, bring me a beer would you?”



Blair grabbed a plateful of food, shoved it in the microwave, then grabbed a couple of beers. He handed one to Jim and opened the other for himself. When the microwave dinged, he grabbed his food and settled on the couch. “You don't mind if I join you do you Jim? I want to catch the last few minutes of the game.”



Jim eyed the food on his coffee table but didn't say anything about it. “There's a box of stuff for you from the PD. You can look at it later.”



Blair eyed the box for a moment, then tucked into his food like the starving man he claimed to be. When the game ended and the credits began to roll, he pushed his plate aside, trying to hide a grin when Jim rolled his eyes at the flaunting of his house rules. Blair pulled the box toward him and opened it. The first things he pulled out were some photographs that had been carefully wrapped in bubble wrap.



Jim thought he'd have to thank whoever took such good care of Sandburg's things.



Blair's vitals rose and his face paled but he continued with the unearthing of the 'trophies' Lash had acquired when he kidnapped Blair from the loft. Last out of the box was his old coat. He swallowed hard and gripped the coat with both hands. He'd seen Lash wearing the coat that night, when he'd had the Blair-wig on. His breaths came shorter and shorter when he turned the coat and saw the patch he had so carefully sewn in place to cover the damage from the bullet hole received in the siege by Kincaid's men.



Jim was leaning toward his friend now, concerned with his friend's vitals. They were going off the charts. He tried to gently take the coat out of Blair's hands, but Blair recoiled at his touch. He wouldn't release it, and he started panting as his eyes turned glassy.



Jim was starting to worry in earnest. His friend was in panic mode. A panic attack was scary to the observer. Scarier still for the victim. Jim started talking calmly and steadily to get and hold Blair's attention. He tried touching his arm gently and when Blair settled after a startle reaction, he began a steady stroking until he knew Blair was paying attention. “Blair, let go of the coat. Let me have it. That's it. Let go,” Jim continued softly.



When Jim had the coat away from him, he threw it over the back of the sofa where Blair couldn't see it. Then he started to coach Blair on the deep, diaphragmatic breathing he'd been teaching Jim for relaxation. He needed to stop the panic breathing. “Blair, breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth. Come on Buddy, I don't want to leave and try to find a paper bag. Help me here, Chief. You know this stuff. Been doing it since you were old enough to know what yoga was. Breathe with me, slow and steady.” Blair clutched at his chest in fright. “I can hear your heart Blair. It's fine, just fast. This is a panic attack. It's not dangerous, just really scary. I KNOW you're alright.”



Blair gulped hard and tried to relax, but it was hard. The adrenaline surge had caused his muscles to tense, and he was sweating and feeling nauseous. “I-I know Jim, but my body's telling me I-I'm dying, but you wouldn't lie to me. Would you? Just kidding. I-I just need to calm down.”



Jim did his best to distract Blair from the fear and anchor him to the here and now with the stroking and the calmly spoken instructions, encouragement and reassurance. When Blair had calmed sufficiently, he tugged him closer into a reassuring hug, keeping up the stroking but on his back now. They stayed there for over an hour, as Blair's emotions ebbed and flowed. He rode the adrenaline surges as the panic attacks came and went, finally winding down sufficiently for the calm to be an accepted state of mind for both of them.



Jim slowly eased them back into the couch and allowed touch to anchor Blair. Letting him know that Jim was there. That he wouldn't have to go through it alone if it started again.



Blair tried to look for the coat, but Jim kept him from turning around. Blair shuddered through a last small surge of anxiety. Jim put his arm around his shoulders and gave him a little squeeze. Blair turned a tired grin toward his friend. “Thanks, Jim.” He hung his head and went on, “I know you didn't sign on for calming down a wimp, but I don't know how I'd ... ”



“Blair, you're my friend. You've been through a lot in the past couple of months. Most of it because of me.” At Blair's head shake, “Uh, uh, Buddy. You and I both know it's true. I think it's time you admitted that, just maybe, you could use a little help coping. Simon spoke to me about the possibility ... ”



“But Jim! It was just a stupid coat. It has some bad memories attached to it. I'll just get rid of it. No problem, man,” said Blair.



Blair was stubborn but Jim had years of experience dealing with people a lot more 'difficult' than his roommate. He wasn't going to let Blair get away with it, not this time. “Simon saw some of your 'little flashbacks'. He's not a stranger to PTSD and it's consequences and neither am I. We don't want that for you. We're both concerned. After tonight, I'm asking you to do this, for both of us. For the partnership. You and I both know you could use a new coat and I'll take care of that tomorrow. But getting rid of the coat doesn't get rid of the underlying problem, now does it?”



“Simon noticed?” Blair bit his lip, then asked worriedly, “Uh, Jim. About my little breakdown tonight ... Well, I don't know if I can promise that it won't happen again. If you want me out of here, I'll understand. I mean it. This is your home. You have enough stress of your own without 'borrowing' mine. It's been way more than a week. I should have a new place already ... ”



“Blair, I don't want you to leave. I just want you to get the help you need to deal with the stresses of the job. Remember, you're a police observer now, and a sentinel's partner. That's all I'm asking ... 'except' of course that you 'try' to follow my house rules. And they're not written in stone. After all I let you eat on the coffee table tonight, didn't I?” asked Jim with a grin, and a little cuff to the back of Blair's head.



Blair knew a straight answer when he got it.



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finis



*excerpt from “The Debt”, from Becky's Transcripts. Check them out. Thanks Becky.


**Australian Recipes - what people eat Down Under

Kavenga Publishing. Townsville Australia.

www.kavenga.com.au/rec/rec%20burger.htm