Masks: Part 6

He hung by his wrists in the attic while Ponytail raped him, wearing Jim's face, speaking with Jim's voice, and Jim looked on, doing nothing. Ponytail's cock rammed into his ass, fingers digging into his thighs.

"You've never really--'had' him--have you--Ellison? Living with him--all these months--and you never--once--fucked his--tight--little--ass. I'm--disappointed in you--Ellison. That's what a Guide's--for. I expected you--to figure that out--but I--had to--show you."

Ponytail came, and he thought the torment would end, but it didn't stop. Jim's watching face shifted, his features melting into Ponytail's. Jim's voice whispered in his ear, big hands grasping his buttocks, yanking them farther apart while Jim's cock drove deep inside him.

"You've got a great ass, you know that, Chief? I can't believe I waited this long. We've got a lot of lost time to make up for."

"Don't!" he gasped. "Please, Jim."

Jim chuckled. "Now, I know you don't mean that, Chief. You want this as much as I do. You're just too scared to admit it."

"No! I don't want it! Please, Jim! Please, don't do this! Please!"

Jim just laughed. One hand moved to his shoulder, gripping hard, shaking him. He twisted away, and slammed into something hard. Lightning shot behind his eyes, and he grabbed his head, moaning, unable to move.

"Blair? Sandburg, answer me!"

Jim? Oh God, he-- No. No, dammit! He wasn't in the attic. He'd had another nightmare. It wasn't real. Blair forced his eyes open, focused first on his tangled bedclothes, then on Jim's face, the normally impassive features lined with concern. He looked away, back at the blanket, studying the pattern woven into it.

"I'm okay," he muttered.

"Look at me," Jim ordered.

He couldn't. Jim picked up the lamp beside the bed and angled the light into Blair's face. Blair lifted a hand to shield his eyes. "Come on, man, cut it out."

"You hit your head pretty hard, Sandburg. Let me check your pupils."

"It wasn't that hard."

Jim's voice rumbled in his throat. "Sandburg--"

"Okay, okay. Don't go grizzly on me, man." Blair raised his head and looked into the light, trying not to squint. "Happy now?"

Jim nodded and put the lamp down. "You're okay."

"Told you."

"Don't get smart with me, kid. I'm not in the mood."

Blair pushed his hair back. "What time is it?"

"About three."

"Oh, man!" Blair's face went hot. "I'm sorry."

"It's not your fault. Do you want to talk about it?"

Oh, sure. Tell Jim all the nasty little details. He'd be thrilled to find out Blair was having nightmares about him as well as Ponytail. Yeah, that would go over real big. "No. But thanks for asking. And for waking me up."

"You sure, Partner?"

"Yeah. Go back to bed, man."

Jim didn't move. "Blair, do you want me to wake you up? I mean, I'm not sure I'm doing you a favor, here."

"Yes, you are. Trust me, man, I'd rather be awake."

Jim stood a moment longer. "Well, try to get some sleep, Partner. We've got that mask finally coming in from Boston this morning."

"I will."

"You want me to get the light?"

"No, I'll get it." Blair picked up a notebook and pen from his nightstand. "I've gotta do my homework first."


"From Dr. Hawthorne. I'm supposed to keep a journal. Dreams, flashbacks, that kind of stuff."

Jim nodded. "Good night."


Jim left, closing the door behind him. Blair opened the notebook and began to write. He was still writing when he heard Jim get up, four hours later.

Jim walked into Simon's office carrying the overnight package. It was about damn time the Boston PD had sent Wainwright's mask. Bad enough it had taken them three weeks to get hold of Wainwright in the first place--he'd been out of the country on business and unreachable--but Boston PD had put up so many bureaucratic road blocks that Simon had ended up going to the Commissioner just to get some cooperation.

The Captain and Blair were already there, Simon seated behind his desk, Blair standing at the windows, staring out at the city, the morning's fifth cup of coffee clutched in his hand. If Jim hadn't already known, the caffeine overdosing would have made it clear that Blair hadn't slept after his nightmare last night. He'd almost called the younger man on it back at the loft, but he wasn't sure it would do any good. He knew Blair would be embarrassed if he brought it up, and there was enough between them now without adding more.

Maybe it was better to wait Blair out, let him talk when he was ready. Dr. Hawthorne was supposed to be helping him with this stuff. Maybe Blair was talking to her about the nightmares and didn't want to discuss them with anyone else. Maybe she'd told him not to, for some reason. She did have him keeping that journal. Maybe Blair was supposed to write this stuff down instead of talking to anyone else about it. He could ask her--no, he couldn't. Blair's therapy was confidential. If his partner didn't want to tell him anything, that was that. Besides, Blair was pretty tense right now. They'd stopped off at the hospital on the way to work so Blair could have blood taken to test for STD's. Jim had offered to go in with him, but Blair had refused. He knew the kid was trying to downplay this, so he wouldn't worry. Hell, if Blair hadn't promised Dr. Hawthorne he'd go today, Jim was sure the kid wouldn't even have told him about it. Jim didn't like that, but he wouldn't push. Just like he wouldn't push about the dreams. But, God, it was killing him, having to keep waking Blair from these nightmares. Nightmares that had the kid screaming his name--his name, not Ponytail's--and pleading with him to stop whatever horror was going on in Blair's sleeping mind. The nightmares had to stop. If it was this bad for him, what must it be like for Blair?

Jim dropped the box onto the table. Blair winced, turning from the window. "Careful, man, that mask could be hundreds of years old."

"And it could have been made last week, with crazy glue and poster paints," Jim countered with Blair's own words. "You're the expert, Partner: you do the honors."

Setting his mug down, Blair took his Swiss Army knife from his pocket and used one of the blades to slit open the package. He drew the flaps back, parted the bubble wrap, brushed a clump of shredded cardboard aside, and carefully lifted out the mask Toni LeClaire had sold to Thomas Wainwright. It was as long as Blair's arm, about two feet wide at the center, carved from some dark wood that had been painted with dull reds and yellows and fringed with dried grass. Stones were set around the eyes and mouth, and in a line bisecting the forehead and nose. The stones were polished smooth, jammed into holes not made exactly to size. They were all different colors, some glittering, others with a pale chatoyance. Blair gingerly laid the mask on the table.

"What do you think, Sandburg?" Simon asked.

"I think I just took it out of the box!" Blair snapped.

Simon's eyes widened, then narrowed to hard points. Jim jumped in before the Captain could speak. "Don't mind him, sir. He's overtired."

Simon's expression didn't change. "Maybe you should put him down for his nap."

"You know," Blair said, addressing the table. "I really hate it when people talk about me like I'm not there."

Simon stood up, glaring at Jim. "I'm going for coffee. I'll be back in five minutes."

Banks left the office, closing the door to give them privacy. Jim watched him out, and turned to Blair, whose sullen gaze was still fixed on the table.

"Sandburg, are you trying to get your ass thrown out of here?"

Blair looked up. "What are you talking about?"

"I'm talking about your attitude with Simon just now."

"What attitude?"

"Dammit, Blair, cut the crap. You know what I mean."

"Well, what the hell does he want from me?" Blair demanded. "I can't tell if the mask's real in five seconds."

"Then you explain that to him, and you do it politely. He's the Captain, and he deserves some respect. You got that?"

"When do I get some respect?"

"When you've earned it, Junior."

"That's bullshit!" Blair shot to his feet. "I've been working with you for months, man! I've helped you use your Sentinel abilities, I've gone undercover, I've been shot at, I defused a bomb. And what do I get for it? 'Maybe you should put him down for his nap.' You keep telling me I'm your partner, but I still get treated like I'm some kid off the street who's got no business being here. What am I doing this for, Jim? Nobody wants me here. Why did I come back?"

Blair lurched away from the table, back to the windows. Jim went after him. He reached out to put a hand on one narrow shoulder, but Blair sensed his closeness and stiffened.

"Don't touch me, man," he whispered. "Don't."

Jim's hand fell to his side, closing into a fist. "Blair, listen to me. I want you here. If you hadn't helped me with this Sentinel thing, I'd have gone crazy. I'd be off the force now and probably in a nuthouse somewhere. I still need your help with this, and with other stuff, like these masks. You've got a way of seeing things that no cop has, and I can't tell you how much that's been worth to me. You're right, you do deserve respect. Sometimes, Simon and I forget that because you're just so damned young. But don't ever think you're not needed, or wanted. As for why you came back, I--" Shit. He had to get the words out. Blair needed to hear them. "I kind of thought you did it for me."

Blair slowly turned to face him. His eyes were red, but he had control of himself. "Do you really mean all that?"

"Every word, Partner."

Blair shook his head, his voice soft. "Maybe I did." He pushed his hair back with both hands. "God, I'm such an asshole! How do you put up with me?"

Jim kept his face straight. "Sometimes, I wonder."

Blair met Jim's eyes, a wry smile curving his lips. "You'd better let Simon back in. I'll--um--apologize, okay?"

"Okay, Partner."

Blair opened his eyes and lifted his head, staring around groggily. It was dark, but the lights of Cascade shone through the windows behind him, illuminating the desk, casting a pale, skewed rectangle on the floor. Simon's office? What was he--? His fingers brushed dried grass, and he turned back to the table. The mask lay to his left; tools and books were scattered around it. The last thing he remembered was Jim and Simon going out to get a late lunch. God, he'd fallen asleep. And Jim had just left him here? Great. Just great.

Curls tumbled into his eyes. Blair shoved them back and stood, shuffling toward the door. His neck was stiff. He shook his head and stretched, trying to work the kinks out. He opened the door, squinted at a "Do Not Disturb" sign taped to the opaque glass. The squadroom was deserted, every light shut off except for the lamp on Jim's desk. Jim sat there, his feet up on the desk, a report open in his lap. He looked Blair's way, and smiled.

"Have a nice nap, Partner?"

Blair felt himself blushing. Wonderful. First, he complained about being patronized, then he fell asleep while he was supposed to be working. Way to prove your maturity, Sandburg. The hair fell into his eyes again, and he raked it back. "What--" he croaked, cleared his throat, and tried again. "What time is it?"

"About eight. You've been asleep since two."

Six hours! "Oh, man, why didn't you wake me? Is Simon mad?"

"I didn't wake you because you need the rest. I told Simon you'd work on the mask tomorrow."

"Oh." He frowned. "Tomorrow's Saturday."

"You have plans?"

"Um, no."

"Good." Jim closed the file and put it back on his desk, switched his computer off, and stood up. "Let's pack it up and go home."

Blair nodded. "I'm sorry, man. I feel so stupid."

"Don't worry about it. Nobody knows you were asleep except for Simon, Rhonda, and me. Simon says if you figure this mask thing out, he won't tell anybody."

"What if I don't?"

Jim grinned. "You're dead meat."

They packed up the mask and all of Blair's paraphernalia, then took the elevator down to the garage. Blair held the mask across his lap as they drove. If his initial appraisal was correct, the mask was too valuable to be rattling around in the back of the truck. He hadn't said anything to Jim or Simon yet; he didn't want to blurt out his first impression, then turn out later to be wrong. Jim trusted him. He was not going to screw this up.

"Hey, Partner," Jim said. "What do you think about spending the night in a hotel?"

"A hotel? Why?"

Jim shrugged. "I just thought it might be good to get away from the loft for a night."

"Jim, I've been away. I just got back a month ago."

"I know. And you've had nightmares every night."

"Not every night."

"No. Only the nights when you actually slept."

Blair looked away. "How'd you know?"

"I didn't. I guessed. And I guessed right," Jim said, cutting off Blair's indignant exclamation. "Did you have any nightmares while you were sleeping in Simon's office?"

"Not that I remember." Realizing what Jim was getting at, Blair shook his head. "It's not the loft, man. I had nightmares at St. Sebastian's, too. Dr. Hawthorne says it's normal."

"Okay, it's not the loft," Jim conceded. "Maybe it's me."

"No, man."

"Why not? Ponytail looked exactly like me when he attacked you. It's got to be tough, looking at me and seeing the face of the man who hurt you."

"No, Jim." Blair couldn't stop shaking his head. "I know it wasn't you. I know you're not Ponytail. The nightmares are normal, they're not your fault. They'll go away."

"And until they do, you plan to go without sleep?"

"I'm not--"

"You're sure as hell trying, Sandburg. Look, why don't we give the hotel a try, just for one night? We'll get adjoining rooms, so you'll have privacy, but I'll be able to hear you if you need me."

"I can't afford a hotel."

"I'll pay."

"No, Jim. I can't let you do that."

"Blair, it's not a problem."

"It is for me. I don't want to do this, Jim. Let's just go home. Please? I promise I'll sleep tonight."

Jim shook his head, but gave up arguing, to Blair's intense relief. He didn't want to try Jim's experiment. He had to get used to being back at the loft, to sleeping in his own bed, knowing Jim was just up the stairs. And that Jim was not going to turn into Ponytail. That irrational fear was what had driven him to St. Sebastian's in the first place. He wouldn't let it happen again. He wouldn't hurt Jim like that, again. It wasn't Jim giving him the nightmares, it was the trauma of the attacks. That was all. Jim was wrong. He had to be. Because if Jim was right, then Ponytail had done exactly what he'd set out to do: driven Blair away from Jim, separated the Sentinel from his Guide, maybe forever. If Jim was right, then Ponytail had won. And Blair couldn't live with that.


End Part 6

Part 7