* * * * *
Blair shot up on the couch, fully awake. Jim had screamed. Or maybe he did in some dream Blair was having but couldn't remember. But he had heard the sound. And it was Jim's voice. The living room was only dimly lit, with the TV going in the background, and Blair was covered with the light blanket.
Trying to gather his wits, Blair got up and headed for the stairs to the loft bedroom. He froze on the second step when he heard another outcry. This time it was no dream. He fled up the remaining steps and was relieved to see that Jim wasn't being murdered in his bed. He was, however, in the throes of what appeared to be a horrendous nightmare.
"Jim! Jim! It's okay, you're okay!" Blair had to yell to be heard above Jim's own constant litany of moans, shouts and whimpers. "Come on, partner, it's okay. It's me." Blair braved the thrashing arms and climbed on the bed, straddling Jim's body. "Jim, come on, man, look at me! Open your eyes, Jim. Follow my voice." Nothing was getting through, and Jim flopped again--or tried to. He couldn't move much without dislodging Blair, and that seemed to agitate him more. "Jim, it's okay, buddy. You're safe. Come on, wake up," Blair coaxed, deciding on a whole new strategy. He stretched out along Jim's side and wrapped his arms around Jim's body to the best of his ability, resting his head on a restless shoulder. "Feel this, Jim? It's safe to wake up. I've got you. You can open your eyes for me. I won't let anything hurt you." Blair was relieved to feel some of the fight leave the writhing body beneath him.
"Blair...how...?" Jim muttered, confused, as if he didn't understand how Blair had appeared in whatever nightmare world still had a hold on him.
"Jim, shhhh. It's okay. You were having a nightmare. I was having a little trouble waking you up, so I thought if I got close to you, it might help." Blair started to move away, but was pulled back down with strong arms winding around him.
"Hell of a nightmare, Chief." The voice was soft and strained, saying without words: and it scared the hell out of me. Blair heard it as if it had been spoken. He settled into Jim's embrace and the arms around him loosened a little as they relaxed, but Jim still kept Blair hugged close to his body.
"Do you want to tell me what this one was about?" Blair asked, then covered his mouth to catch a bad bout of coughing. "Sorry."
"It's not down in your lungs yet, Chief, but you're going to need to take it easy and be on your good behavior for a couple more days just to be sure."
"Jim--the dream...?" Blair coaxed gently. "Was it the same one you had earlier?"
"Not exactly. It had to do with the case this morning, and then there were parts of it that were about Bud... the last thing I remember seeing in the dream is that the person hanging in that attic wasn't the woman I really found there--it was like I couldn't quite see her face, but it wasn't the same person. It's as if I should be able to see who she was. Earlier, it was as if her face was obscured somehow." Jim shook his head. "Man, it was so weird. Surreal."
"Probably your concern about the little boy's trauma sparked memories of your own, and now your subconscious is running them together."
"Yeah, I guess." Jim seemed to realize that he had clamped Blair's body against him tightly enough that the younger man couldn't have wriggled free if he'd wanted to. "You need your sleep." Jim reluctantly released his hold on Blair, who moved away to sit up on the empty side of the bed. Knowing Jim would eat ground glass before he'd ask for company, Blair turned it into a request.
"Would you mind a lot if I just slept here? I mean, it's late and I'm really wasted. Looks like you've got enough room."
"Sure, go ahead," Jim responded, trying to sound nonchalant, as if Blair's presence wasn't really all that important to him. Blair took the invitation to crawl under the blanket and tossed his robe to the foot of the bed. In just his socks and boxers, he snuggled under the comforter.
"You want to talk some more?"
"Nah, I'm okay." Long pause. "I'm glad you...uh...checked on me."
"Me too," Blair agreed. "Wake me if you need me, huh?"
"That's my line. You're the sick one, remember?"
"Oh, right. Okay, well, I'll wake you if I need you. Just give me all the tissue off your night stand and I'll be all set." Blair waited until Jim gave him the box with a little chuckle. Tucked in with a steady supply of tissues and his best friend, Blair dozed off to sleep.