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Deprivation: The Abduction

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They came out of nowhere. The headlights had been behind him for a while but Blair hadn't paid all that much attention to them until they were only a few feet away. Then he'd glanced in the mirror, and yelled in surprise when he'd realised the lights were much too close - and weren't slowing down.

They'd rammed him seconds later, the crash throwing him forward in his seat as he fought with the steering, the Volvo lurching to one side before leaving the road. The front two wheels dropped into a shallow ditch and the car came to a sudden stop, slamming Blair into the steering wheel.

The sounds of screeching metal faded as a stunned Blair struggled to pull his thoughts back together, to work out what the hell was going on, but they'd surrounded the car before he'd even managed to lift his head from where it was slumped over the dashboard.

It wasn't as if he'd been careless - it was dark, and with his track record Blair wasn't stupid. The car had been locked, windows up, but that didn't seem to slow them down, and Blair had a vague impression of black clad figures to his left before the driver's window shattered.

"Hey!" he cried out in shocked surprise, bringing one arm up to deflect the glass that rained down on him as he hit the release catch for his seatbelt, but an arm simply reached in through the broken window, hit the door handle and yanked it open.

"What the hell...?" But Blair didn't get a chance to finish his outburst, because even as one man was pulling open the door, another was reaching in for him, and before he could do anything to defend himself hands were hauling him out of the car. "Get off me, man!"

Blair had barely managed to get both feet on the tarmac when a fist to his jaw sent him sprawling into the arms of one of his attackers, and the world spun crazily as gloved hands grabbed at him.

He struggled, twisting and kicking out at them but it made little difference as sheer weight of numbers bore him to the ground.

The road was cold and damp, moisture quickly beginning to seep into his clothes and from his restricted view Blair felt rather than saw one of the men drop to his knees beside him, before something heavy knelt on his legs, pinning him to the ground. He cursed and bucked wildly, trying to throw the man off but a ring of ice cold steel was planted suddenly at the back of his neck and Blair froze, instantly recognising the threat for what it was.

They twisted his arms behind him as coarse rope was wrapped around his wrists and ankles, and a wave of cold dread swept through his body.

"You don't want to do this," he tried, wincing internally as he realised he sounded like someone out of a bad action movie, but Jesus, what were you supposed to say at a time like this?

His only answer was a smart wrap across the back of his head with the gun, hard enough to stun him and all the tension flowed out of his body as Blair dimly felt himself slump against the ground.

Dazed, he was vaguely aware of being rolled over, and got a quick glimpse of a row of ski masks looking down at him before darkness covered his eyes, and something soft was forced between his teeth. There was a sharp tug at his hair, and then hands all over him, fingers digging into his body as he was lifted. As if from a great distance, Blair felt his head drop forward, and somehow he couldn't find the strength to lift it as his head began to ache where the gun had hit.

There was a strange, dizzying awareness of movement before he was bundled into what had to be another car. He was pushed down into the footwell, the carpeted floor rough against his cheek, and Blair could feel the edge of the seat digging into his shoulder. The car dropped as his kidnappers climbed in, and the foot that settled on his back was an obvious warning as the thuds of car doors slamming echoed painfully through his head.

It was only as the engine fired up and the car began to move that Blair realised none of the men had uttered a single word.

 

~*~*~

 

When they'd dragged him from the second car, feet scuffing along the ground as they carried him in here, Blair had heard little but his own heartbeat, unfeasibly drowning out the sounds of movement in the room as panic threatened to completely overwhelm him.

They'd pushed him roughly to the ground and he'd choked back a groan, staying as still as he could and trying not to attract any more unwanted attention but they'd seemed happy enough to leave him where he was, and the half-expected boot to the ribs never came.

So he'd simply listened as footsteps moved around him, the men who'd snatched him as silent now as they had been during his abduction. His hearing picked up on every step, on the whisper of clothes rustling as his captors moved around the room, and Blair could feel his own heartbeat spiking, breath catching in his lungs each time the sounds drew closer. Somebody moved to within a few feet of him, and Blair caught a slight whirring sound from somewhere close before something clicked, and the brief flash of light that he could make out even behind the blindfold told him that they'd taken a photograph of him that he had a feeling would make an unpleasant addition to a ransom demand. Not exactly one for the family album.

Then the footsteps went away, and Blair was left alone in the silence.

At first all he could hear was his own panicked breathing as he listened frantically for any sign of their return, his head pounding in time with his heart until he thought he was going to choke, the gag in his mouth forcing him to fight for every precious breath. But panic didn't last forever, and slowly, as time passed and no-one came back for him, Blair's heartbeat began to slow and he was able to relax his breathing, calling on every relaxation technique he'd ever learned until he was relatively calm once more.

His capacity for rational thought returned, and Blair immediately began to struggle with the ropes around his wrists, refusing to stay compliant and play the expected role of helpless victim. The ropes bit into his skin, the sharp sting of friction making him hiss in pain and instinctively bite down on the cloth in his mouth. He tried everything he could think of, twisting and pulling against the restraints, even trying to feel along the ropes to the knots themselves in the hope he could work the strands loose, but nothing helped.

Finally, when the sting had changed from uncomfortable to painful, and he could feel something begin to trickle down his arms that felt altogether too much like blood for his liking, Blair finally admitted defeat and stilled, gingerly resting his aching head against the floor beneath him.

The knots were tight and perfectly positioned to stop him from reaching them, and Blair had never claimed to be Houdini. The restraints, and the efficient way they'd snatched him told Blair that these people had done this before, and he wasn't sure whether that should reassure him or not. On the one hand, amateurs were more likely to lash out in anger, doing damage that Blair would rather avoid if at all possible, but professional kidnappers were much less likely to make mistakes, and he had a feeling he'd need help to get out of this in one piece.

Jim-shaped help would be nice, right about now.

More than anything else, Blair hated the fact that he'd been through this often enough to know the difference, that he'd apparently turned into the hostage of choice for anyone who wanted to get back at Jim or the Cascade PD, which seemed to be half of Washington State these days.

Hell, he was practically an expert, and his knowledge was the kind that came from painful, terrifying experience, not years spent in dusty libraries, reading everything you could get your hands on and imagining what the real thing would be like. Academic experience was what he'd had in the years before he met Jim, reading everything he could find about Sentinels and wondering what it would be like to actually meet one, to see one in action.

Blair wouldn't trade the last two years of practical experience for anything, wouldn't trade the unlikely friendship with Jim for a million dollars, but there were times like this, when he was in the hands of people who could quite conceivably kill him without breaking a sweat, that he wondered what the hell he thought he was doing.

One thing he was certain of - these guys weren't interested in him as such, didn't want anything from him, otherwise the questioning would have started already. No-one with as much skill as they obviously had kidnapped someone for information and then waited to get on with the interrogation until there had been time for someone to realise he was missing.

Besides, he made it a general rule not to directly piss off the kind of people who would have gangs of trained kidnappers they could send after him, and that only left someone he'd encountered working with Jim, but between the people they'd sent to prison over the last three years, people they were investigating now and people currently waiting to stand trial, that still left more possibilities than he wanted to think about.

God, he hoped Jim had noticed his absence, or that someone had found the abandoned Volvo and called it in. Although if he was right, Jim or someone else at Major Crimes would be getting a phone call fairly soon. Blair just hoped that these people hadn't learned their trade by watching the kinds of movies where the ransom demand was accompanied by a body part or two as proof.

 

~*~*~

 

It was the blindfold that bothered him most, he decided suddenly. There was something about the loss of your sight, about being unable to see and evaluate the world around you that made him feel helpless, even if the ropes around his wrists and ankles meant he was exactly that, at least for the time being.

They say that whenever you lose one sense the others grew stronger, became more acute to compensate for the loss, but Blair had never truly appreciated the truth in that statement until now. Lost in the darkness, his hearing the only sense he still had any kind of control over, he gradually noticed that he could hear everything. Every creaking floorboard, the single footfalls of his kidnappers as they moved around in another room, even the quiet creaks and groans of the building itself as it moved, settled, adjusted itself in time with the wind and rain that he could hear lashing down against a glass window somewhere behind him.

They were sounds he would barely have registered at any other time, something that his own thoughts, or the quiet hum of his laptop, hell, even his own breathing would probably have drowned out, with any noise loud enough to reach his ears over the din of normal background noise instantly dismissed as nothing more than what it was, the sounds of the world, of life carrying on around him, but certainly nothing he needed to think about.

But here - now - unable to move, or see, or speak, the sounds became everything, echoing round inside his head as he listened to each and every one, trying to identify it in case it was the sound of his captors coming back to him.

He wondered, absently, whether this was what it was like for Jim when he extended his own hearing, whether this terrifying experience was, in an absurd way, giving him some kind of insight into what it was like to have heightened senses, because there was no way in hell he should normally be able to hear this myriad of noises as loudly as he could.

His own heartbeat, even, was still beating loudly behind his ears - slower than it had been when he'd been dumped here, but even so he could clearly hear it, feel it, and Blair was damn certain that he wasn't usually consciously aware of his heartbeat.

Jim, on the other hand, could hear other people's heartbeats, a fact that had just about blown his mind when the man had sheepishly admitted it to him after one too many chases where Jim had known, instinctively, how many people they were going up against, and almost exactly where they were at any given time.

That knowledge helped calm him further, because whatever the reason he'd been taken, he knew something that his captors didn't. When Jim came to rescue him, and he would, Blair had no doubts whatsoever about that, it didn't matter how quiet they were, how sneaky they thought they were being, or what special covert ops training they may have had, all they had to do was breathe, and their own heartbeats would give them away.

Then he shook his head. No, this wasn't like having Jim's senses. This was like being forced into a zone, when Jim was so focused on one sense that he blocked out all the others. In taking away three of his five senses, they'd reduced his sensory awareness until all he could do was focus on his hearing, making it much more sensitive than it should be. If he was Jim, Blair knew that he'd already have zoned, getting lost in trying to decipher the cacophony of noise. Perhaps this was a way of helping Jim to deal with the zone-out factor, cutting off some of his senses and helping him learn to focus without becoming lost in the sensation.

Blair made a mental note to himself to discuss the idea with Jim when all this was over, even as his mind recognised that he was trying to stave off his continuing panic as the footsteps suddenly sounded louder than before. Keeping his mind distracted from what was happening around him was his only weapon, concentrating on normal things.

He laughed bitterly at that, a choked noise that sounded more like a sob as it was muffled by the gag. Since when had any of this become normal? And yet, strangely it was. He'd been learning about sentinels since he was eight years old, from the day he'd stumbled across a 'tell me, show me' history book about Richard Burton, the explorer, and the mythical tale of the sentinels, of men capable of seeing like an eagle and with hearing as acute as an owl had captured the imagination of a child who had always loved comic book heroes.

Actually meeting a sentinel of his own had surpassed his wildest dreams, and Blair was self aware enough to know that there'd been a substantial amount of hero worship in his dealings with Jim at the beginning, something that hadn't diminished when Jim had appeared just in the nick of time to rescue him from David Lash, a psychopath so completely insane it was like he'd come from one of Blair's old comic books.

The chilling reminder of Lash, and the remembered sensations of choking on bitter liquid and the yellow scarf around his neck that was eerily echoed in whatever it was they'd gagged him with this time was enough to jar him back into the present.

He needed to concentrate on himself, on the role he had to play in this ridiculous charade. He still had no idea why he'd been abducted, but the reasons didn't really matter. He'd been through this enough times in the past to know how the game was played.

You played for time, did everything you could to stay alive until either you escaped, or help arrived. And most important of all, you listened. Knowledge was power, and the more you learned, the more chance you had of turning the situation to your advantage.

And so he listened. Kept his breathing shallow, steady, until the rhythm was something he could ignore, could filter out like all the sounds he'd ever told Jim to identify and then discard, and find out whatever he could about the bastards who'd dumped him here. It was slow and difficult, tiring, and Blair sighed in frustration, making a mental note not to push Jim so hard at these exercises when he got out of here.

The only trouble was, there was nothing to listen to.

Oh, he could still hear the rain, and the creaks of the building itself, but none of that told him where he was, unless there was a freak rainstorm over one single street in Cascade tonight, and even then that couldn't help him, since they weren't likely to give him access to a weather report anytime soon.

If he listened really hard, he thought he could hear voices, brief flashes of murmuring coming from the men in the masks, though he was assuming that they'd have taken the masks off, now that he was in no position to see any of their faces.

Not that any of that really helped either, since the voices weren't loud enough to make out the words, no matter how hard he tried. He couldn't even make out an accent, though the sounds were deep enough that he thought they were male. Though he'd assumed that they were male anyway. Blair might not be Jim, might not have years of military training, but nor was he a seven stone weakling, and had enough faith in his own survival skills that he knew he'd have been able to defend himself better if his abductors had been women.

His treks round the jungles and indigenous populations of the world hadn't all been five-star hotels, champagne and caviar no matter what anyone else thought, and that desperate fight on the tour bus with Veronica Sarris hadn't been the first time Blair Sandburg had thrown a punch, not by a long shot.

Maybe when he got out of this, he'd get Jim to show him some of his moves, get some kind of formal self-defence training, because he was really getting sick of being the easy target for anyone with a grudge.

How long had he been here, anyway? Another thing he hated about the whole situation - not that any of it was particularly enjoyable, was the way time seemed to distort, until he had no idea whether he'd been there for minutes or days. If one of the men came into the room now and told him it was already morning, Blair would be half inclined to believe it. And yet at the same time, Blair somehow had the feeling that it had only been an hour or two since they'd forced him off the road, and that thought filled him with dread.

Jim would find him, but in spite of what Blair might have thought when they'd first met he wasn't a superhero. Jim couldn't simply click his fingers and magic himself to Blair's side no matter how much Blair might wish he could, and even with sentinel abilities it would take time for Jim to track him down. Time that Blair was really wishing he was spending somewhere else.

 

~*~*~

 

Blair suddenly realised he was shivering, finally registering the drop in temperature that told him night had fallen and he was nowhere near a radiator. Biting back a curse, he started to fight the restraints again, a sudden burst of anger enough to stave off the pain from his wrists. But he was no more successful this time than last, and the wave of frustration that flooded him when he was again forced to admit defeat threatened to bring angry tears to his eyes.

Damn it, this wasn't fair. Exactly what kind of bad karma had he collected in a former life that this kept happening to him? Maybe he should get one of Naomi's friends to take him through a cleansing ritual, there had to be something that could offset whatever it was he'd done.

Suddenly there were footsteps nearby once more and he froze, the sounds unnaturally loud after so long in comparative silence. He listened intently, trying to work out if someone was actually coming for him or just walking past, but the sounds echoed round his head until he couldn't work out what direction they were originally coming from. God, how did Jim *do* this?

Hope flared that maybe this *was* Jim, that maybe they'd found him and he could go home now, but as no-one spoke to him and it certainly didn't sound as if the person coming near him was trying to be particularly stealthy, he was forced to dismiss the possibility almost as soon as it had occurred to him. Which left him with the other, much less appealing option, since Blair didn't really want his captors to pay any kind of attention to him. Nothing good could come of it.

He sensed someone kneeling down next to him and felt the hairs on the back of his neck start to rise in alarm. A hand lightly brushed his face and he flinched away, instinct making him shift backwards, trying to escape the unwanted touch as his heart began to race again.

So now what? Had Jim demanded proof that he was still alive? Was this like being stuck in that damn elevator - they'd passed some kind of deadline and now it was time to raise the stakes? Neither option was particularly appealing.

Or perhaps they wanted information from him after all. If this was some kind of plot to trap Jim, hell, if they somehow knew about the Sentinel thing and were expecting him to help them, then they would be out of luck.

Blair knew how to get away with not telling them anything, the civilian version of name, rank and serial number quite simple to define in one word.

Sarcasm.

It kept them off balance, and gave him some measure of control, showed them that he wasn't scared. Of course, that wasn't quite true, since he was definitely scared. He'd been blindfolded, gagged, and tied up by people who had come out of nowhere and attacked him for no reason - of *course* he was afraid.

But fear didn't make him weak, and the sarcasm helped him remember that. He might not have years of military training, might not know two dozen ways to kill a man using just his thumbs, but that did *not* make him any less weak. Even Jim had admitted that he'd done a good job of goading David Lash, keeping him off balance long enough for Jim to find him. It wasn't just Lash, either. Persuading Kincaid that he was a cop, convincing Iris not to kill him god knows how many times - Blair knew what his strengths were.

Of course, it was a little difficult using words as a defensive weapon when you had a gag stuffed into your mouth to keep you quiet, but he'd managed to work round that before.

Blair was lying on his side, and the hand that had touched his face suddenly moved to his shoulder, pushing him over until he was face down, cheek pressed into the wooden floor beneath him. He held his breath, afraid of what was going to happen next and when the same hand brushed lightly through his hair before running quickly down his arm. He couldn't suppress the shudder than ran through him, and he tried to turn back over, to somehow stop the intrusion.

"Stop it!" he demanded angrily, but the words were lost behind folded fabric and the hand simply morphed into two, one firmly holding him in place while the other reached his wrists. He hissed in pain, but was almost relieved when the hand stopped at the ropes, checking the knots as he finally realised what his captor was doing.

Not that it really mattered, since he was all too aware that whatever they decided to do, there wasn't a damn thing he could do about it.

That knowledge brought the anger back again and he surged away, twisting awkwardly to try and get some distance between himself and his captors, however much of an illusion it was, and he thought he heard a small sigh before the hand disappeared, and there was a quiet rustle of clothing before footsteps indicated that he was alone again.

The victory was cursory at best but Blair took what small comfort he could from it, an instinctive, almost primal need to make himself invisible causing him to curl awkwardly in on himself, inching back across the rough wooden floor until his back hit something solid. The detached part of his mind that was still operating as an anthropologist instead of a scared shitless hostage noted the action, drawing parallels between it and the instinct that, on bad days, made Jim always sit in restaurants with his back to the wall, just so that he could keep an eye on his surroundings without the fear of someone sneaking up on him.

The threat implicit in that instinct wasn't particularly encouraging.

Then the dreaded footsteps returned, but this time there was definitely more than one person coming and a sharp intake of breath was all he had time for before quiet thuds and the slight vibration of the floor beneath him told him that people were kneeling down around him.

He twisted awkwardly, feeling absurdly like a fish out of water, knowing there was nowhere he could go but unable to simply lie still as drops of sweat trickled down his face. After having been left alone for what must have been hours if it was cold enough to be the early hours of the morning, this much sudden attention was not cool.

The hands descended again and he started furiously, giving into the impulse to yell even though he knew they wouldn't be able to hear the words and probably wouldn't care anyway, but he twisted away, desperate to get rid of the feel of them touching him. Their grip simply grew firmer, pinning him to the ground again until he couldn't move, couldn't get away from them and he was forced to submit, immobile but unable to stop tears of frustration, anger and fear from leaking into the blindfold covering his eyes.

His own harsh breathing was the only sound he could hear, and it still amazed him that at no point during his ordeal had anyone even said a word to him, and then someone pushed up his sleeve, turning him over roughly until they could get to his arm. Blair groaned as he realised what they were about to do, letting his head drop back to the floor in defeat and praying that this was just some kind of sedative, something to keep him quiet for a few hours and nothing lethal. The thought that it might be something like heroin or even golden crossed his mind, but Blair couldn't see any reason for them to try and string him out, and as he felt the sharp prick of a needle in his arm he turned his head to the wall, eyes squeezed shut against the sight of something that he couldn't see anyway.

He wasn't sure whether it was his own imagination that caused him to feel the cold rush of whatever it was inside his arm as it spread through his bloodstream, but he held his breath all the same, trembling slightly as he waited for it to take effect.

They held him down for a few more moments, an eerie silence falling in the room as no-one moved. Slowly the room began to move, swaying gently to and fro as if he were on a boat, and a rush of nausea in the pit of his stomach was just starting to make itself felt as Blair relaxed, muscles seeming to melt into the floor. Blair's last conscious thought as he drifted away was simply to pray that he was going to wake up again, and that when he did, Jim would be by his side.

 

~*~*~

 

Awareness returned slowly, gradually. It was the breathing that he could hear first - rhythmic, quiet breathing that he usually associated with the sound of someone sleeping heavily, but by the time he had picked through the fractured sensations in his mind and managed to pull himself together enough to think, the breathing had begun to speed up. He was still rocking gently, a lazy sway from side to side that he knew was only in his mind, but still felt all too real.

He was slumped almost bonelessly against the floor, and even though he was now awake everything still felt heavy, uncoordinated, and even the minor task of lifting his head off the ground was too difficult.

Sweat trickled down his neck to pool beneath his shoulders, and he had a feeling that the trembling he could feel in his arms and legs wasn't caused by the cold.

But he was awake, alone, he still knew his own name and his opinion of the current president, and for that, Blair was almost pathetically grateful.

He felt exhausted, the gentle swaying of the room around him enough to make him feel sick, and he gritted his teeth, knowing that however much he wanted this to be over, throwing up would bring it to a halt much too suddenly.

He was awake enough to know that he wasn't completely conscious yet, that the drug still had a hold on him, so he gave up trying to regain the movement in his limbs and simply allowed himself to lie on the floor, concentrating blearily on deep, regular breathing until the nausea receded.

A quiet curse and two fingers touching his neck startled him violently out of his half-conscious state and he jumped, twisting away into the wall in blind panic that he hadn't heard anyone coming, hadn't been able to prepare himself for whatever the hell was going to happen next.

But he wasn't co-ordinated enough to do anything but flop uselessly onto his side and he groaned, pressing his head into the floor and pleading with them to leave him alone, not to sedate him again, but he was confused, scared, and the words didn't even sound clear in his own head.

The touch disappeared instantly, and Blair vaguely heard the sharp intake of breath by his side before a warm hand touched his arm and someone leant over to speak softly into his ear in a voice that, even drugged, Blair would know in an instant.

"Easy, Chief. It's me, it's Jim."

Blair stilled, wondering if he was hallucinating and hoping that he wasn't, but afraid to let himself believe that this might all finally be over. The hand on his arm squeezed gently, reassuringly, and somehow he knew, even though he couldn't see, couldn't reach out to find out if it was all a mirage, a delayed reaction to the drugs still in his system.

Jim was here.

"Keep your eyes closed," the voice continued gently, and Blair managed to pull himself together enough to manage a shaky nod. A quiet rustling and again Blair felt fingers in his hair, unable to suppress a shudder at the far too recent memory of being so completely helpless. Blair could feel Jim gently parting the knotted fabric, ever so careful not to pull on the caught strands of his hair, and it was that gentleness, that small gesture of comfort in the face of such fear that finally proved Blair's undoing. He choked back a sob as the blindfold was removed, squeezing his eyes shut tightly against the harsh light that streamed in even as his vision blurred and tears threatened to fall.

"Hey, it's alright Blair." Another quick squeeze of reassurance and Blair opened his eyes, squinting against the light but needing to see, needing to know. He turned slightly, gazing blearily up as the blurred figure in front of him slowly blurred back into focus, becoming the familiar features and ice blue eyes of his friend, his sentinel.

The gag was removed with the same amount of caution and Blair coughed weakly as he could finally take a breath without the damp, musty fabric getting in the way.

"Jim..." Blair began, shocked at how hoarse his voice sounded.

"Shh," Jim cautioned quickly, his voice a low whisper. "We're not quite out of the woods yet."

Blinking fuzzily, trying to stop the world from spinning long enough to properly focus on his surroundings, Blair slowly took in the storeroom he was lying in. Jim was kneeling by his side, gun in his hand as he kept glancing back towards the door.

"What...?" he muttered, the word barely a whisper of sound but he knew that Jim would hear it.

"Are you alright? Are you hurt?" Jim reached out and gently touched the bruise that Blair knew had formed on his jaw.

"...okay..." he managed, trying to say more but the words wouldn't come, and Blair let his head fall back against the floor in frustration.

He vaguely made out the concern crowd across Jim's face as he reached for something out of Blair's line of sight, gun hand resting gently on Blair's chest.

"Simon?" he hissed, and as Blair's focus started to improve slightly he thought he could make out the dark earpiece that Jim was wearing. "I've found him...back of the house...EMT's standing by...move in." There was a pause as Jim listened to something that Blair couldn't hear. "I'm not sure. He's not really with me." Then he saw Jim's eyes go cold, and realised that Jim had seen the sleeve that was still bunched up around his arm. "Damn. There's a puncture mark in his arm - they've drugged him. Hold on."

"Blair, do you know what they gave you?"

"Nnngh," Blair tried to say no, to shake his head, but all that came out was a muffled groan as his head lolled to one side and he began to drift away again, Jim's whispered voice fading into the background.

"Move...without...not leaving him...okay." There was silence for a while, and Blair was just beginning to wonder if he really had imagined it all but unable to open his eyes to check, when the world exploded around him, and he jerked violently awake to the sound of gunfire and people shouting.

"Relax, chief," Jim was still by his side, no longer bothering to keep his voice down and Blair took great comfort in the gun in his hand, staying quiet as he blearily watched Jim, senses obviously wide open, as he stood guard over his friend.

Jim stiffened suddenly and Blair found himself responding in kind as a sudden heavy thud of footsteps drifted into the room and the wooden door swung open wildly, crashing back on its hinges with a bang that echoed through Blair's already aching head.

A figure in black appeared in the doorway and instinctively he went to shout a warning, but needn't have bothered as Jim instantly shot the approaching man in the chest, face an angry mask as the body crashed backwards to the floor.

There was more shouting, more gunfire but no-one else came in to disturb them, and after a while things fell silent again. Blair watched silently as Jim finally relaxed, giving an all clear into his earpiece to echo the others that Blair could hear from around the building as he tucked his gun away and turned back to his friend, leaning in closer and looking intently into his eyes.

"Sandburg? You with me?"

Blair managed a nod, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath before looking up at his friend in unabashed relief. "Hey," he greeted Jim, but unable to stop a sudden wince as Jim began to work on the ropes around his wrists.

 

"How are your ribs?" Jim asked. "Anything broken?"

 

"No," Blair muttered, bringing his arms painfully round in front of him and struggling to sit up and ease muscles that had been in one position for way too long.

"Nice and slow," Jim insisted, helping Blair sit up and lean gingerly back against the wall before turning to his ankles. "Okay?"

"Yeah," he said, frowning as he took a proper look at the mess the ropes had made of his wrists. Trickles of dried blood ran along his forearm and he sighed, knowing a trip to the hospital was just around the corner.

Impulsively he reached out and touched Jim's arm, stiff muscles taking two attempts before he managed it, but the touch made Jim look up, a smile of relief on his face as he took Blair's hand and rested it back down by his side.

"Thanks, man," Blair whispered, trying to ignore the fact that the floor beneath him still hadn't stopped swaying.

A commotion by the door made him stiffen, pulling away until Simon appeared, Joel Taggart hot on his heels.

"Sandburg!"

"Hey, Simon," Blair spoke softly, throat sore and he coughed again. "You guys have any water?"

"Let's get you checked out first, chief," Jim admonished gently, and Blair nodded, resigned, before trying to get his legs under him, suddenly needing to get out of the room and into daylight. Assuming it was morning already.

"I think you should wait, Blair, let us get the EMT's up here," Jim continued, trying to get Blair to stay put, but Blair batted his hand away, placing one hand flat on the floor as he tried to push himself to his feet.

"I need to get out of here, Jim," he muttered quietly, and didn't miss the worried glance that his friend threw at Simon before nodding and putting an arm out to Blair.

"Alright," Jim nodded, and Blair leant heavily on his friend as he slowly made his way to his feet, trying not to double over as the nausea increased.

He only made it a step before the world tilted and he stumbled. He would have fallen but Jim quickly tightened his grip and Blair felt Simon move up on his other side, pulling Blair's arm over his shoulder to steady him.

"Woah," he muttered, before turning to Jim, alarmed to realise that his vision was blurring again. "They...gave me something," he announced, his words running into one another. "It's made the room spin," he whispered, more to himself than any of his friends. Then he twisted up to try and see Jim's face. "Is it morning yet?"

He stopped moving as Jim stopped, easing him down carefully until he was half-lying on the floor again, feeling what little strength he'd found slowly slipping away.

"Get the EMT's in here," Jim said quietly to Simon, who nodded and moved away, talking urgently into his earpiece as Jim moved behind Blair and pulled the man in close, supporting him gently as Blair's unfocused gaze looked somewhere past him.

"Jim?"

"Yeah, chief?"

"You be here when I wake up?"

"Sure, I'm not going anywhere."

Blair nodded and let his eyes drift close, resting back against Jim, grateful for the warmth when he was still shivering in the cold room.

"It's good to be home, man."

~*~*~