He was afraid to sleep that night. He paced Daryl's room until he got too tired,
then lay on the bed for a while, but his eyes kept closing, his body wanting
rest it couldn't have. Blair got up again and went to the living room. He tried
to read, but he couldn't concentrate, then tried watching television, but it
was all violence, or sex, and he couldn't watch either without remembering.
He went back to pacing. Nothing kept the memories away. His head and ribs ached,
but he wouldn't take the painkillers, they'd put him to sleep, and he couldn't
sleep, he couldn't. When you slept, the ogres got you.
Simon stood in the doorway, wearing striped pajamas, squinting until he got his glasses
on. "This is a small place. Quit moving around."
Simon approached him. "When's the last time you slept?"
"Uh--a couple hours yesterday, I think."
"You think?" Simon grabbed his arm. "Come on--"
Blair tore free of Simon's grip and flung himself halfway across the room. "Don't
Simon held up his hands. "Sorry. I'm sorry, I wasn't thinking. It's okay, Blair.
I'm not the guy who hurt you."
Blair's face burned. "Sorry."
"My fault. My fault, Sandburg, not yours. Come on, now, get to bed."
"I can't, Simon."
"Sure you can. You're safe here, Blair. Nothing's going to happen to you. I'm up
now, I won't sleep again. I'll be right out here if you need anything. Go on. And make
sure you take those painkillers."
"How do you--"
"Take 'em. Simon Says."
Blair grimaced. He hadn't thought Simon'd heard that one. "Yes, sir."
The ogres had captured him. They stripped him of his wizard's robes as they had
stripped him of his spells, and brought him naked before their King, a giant, misshapen
creature sprawled on a throne carved with fanged monsters and ugly, leering faces. Ogres
gathered near the throne to watch. A shadow caught his eye. The dark, sleek shape of a
panther wove through the crowd, but the ogres did not seem to see it.
The King-Ogre left his throne, coming toward him. He struggled, but the ogres held
him easily, their strength many times his own. He was a wizard without power, and the
Ogre-King knew it, and laughed. The others echoed him, but their laughter could not be as
cruel as their King's. As he walked, the Ogre-King changed, his form shifting to one
straight and tall, well-muscled, with the harshly handsome features and cold, steel-blue
eyes of a man he had known as knight and friend.
The Ogre-King laughed again, and within the open mouth he saw a tongue coiled and
patterned like a snake. The Ogre-King took his face between huge, rough hands, and kissed
him. The snake-tongue filled his mouth, slithered down his throat. Venom spurted from its
length, spreading poison through his body.
The Ogre-King drew away, tongue slowly retracting. The poison worked within him. He
could not move, could scarcely draw breath. A pit opened at his feet, the bottom lined
with sharpened stakes, already stained with blood. The Ogre-King seized him and lifted him
into the air. He knew he would die then, and tried desperately to think of a spell to save
himself, but there was no magic left to him, there was only poison and death.
The panther paced on the other side of the pit. No one else saw. Golden cat's eyes
met his. The Ogre-King swung him over the pit, and let go. He screamed, and the panther
Blair bolted up, and grabbed his ribs, his shout changing to one of pain. He fell back
onto the bed, breathing through clenched teeth while he waited for the pain to subside.
Simon burst through the door, gun drawn.
"You okay, Sandburg?"
"Yeah," he gasped. "It was just--a nightmare."
"You don't look okay."
"Well--it's not a good idea--to sit up fast--when you've got cracked ribs. Shit,
"Try to relax. Concentrate on breathing."
"That's--what I'm trying to do. Ow!" Blair closed his eyes, trying to take
shallow breaths, but his heart was still pounding from the dream and his lungs wanted deep
breathing, no matter what his ribs said. "As long as--you've got that gun out--you
want to do me a favor--and just shoot me?"
"Can't oblige, Sandburg. There's too much paperwork involved."
"Damn. Ow, ow, ow!"
Simon holstered his gun. "Does the word 'stoicism' mean anything to you,
"Fine. I'll--suffer in silence. Will that make you happy?"
The pain gradually ebbed to something bearable, and Blair was able to sit up
again--slowly. It hadn't hurt this much yesterday. Or maybe he just hadn't noticed. He'd
been pretty much out of it. He started to rub his eyes, realized that would be a mistake,
but wasn't going to complain about his bruises, so turned the motion into pushing
the hair back from his face. He was surprised to see Simon wince. It couldn't look worse
than yesterday. Could it?
"What time is it?"
"Noon?" Guilt flooded him. Simon was supposed to be on duty hours ago.
"Jeez, I'm sorry, Simon."
"Don't worry about it. You going to be okay if I go to work now?"
Blair went cold, remembering Jim's hands on his body, and Jim's voice saying, "We'll
have to finish this later."
"Yeah. I'm a big boy." "Be a good little boy." He closed
his eyes, forcing the image away. "You don't have to babysit anymore."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah. Sure. Go."
"I'll be home for dinner. Eat something before then."
Blair smiled a little. "Okay, Mom."
Simon shook his head. "Anybody ever tell you you're a wiseass, Sandburg?"
"Oh, yeah." His smile widened. "All the time."
Simon moved off down the hall. Blair watched him go, his stomach doing flips. He pushed
himself off the bed and followed the older man. He had to know.
"Simon? Is--uh--is Jim working today?"
"Yeah. You want to talk to him?"
"No!" He saw Simon's reaction, and toned it down. "No. I
just--um--wanted to know."
"You two have got to talk. You've got to work this thing out."
Blair shook his head. "It's not going to happen, Simon. I'll see you later."
"You'll be here. Right?"
"I'll be here."
Simon left him alone. Blair locked the door behind him, then went around the apartment
locking all the windows. There was a fire escape outside Simon's bedroom; that must be how
Jim had gotten in and out yesterday. Blair made doubly sure that window was locked, but
all the locks in the world couldn't make him feel safe.
He tried to eat. Simon had left coffee, and there was orange juice, and plenty of
bread. He made toast, figuring that would sit easy on his stomach, but after a couple of
bites, he put it down and couldn't pick it up again. He kept seeing Jim, laughing at him,
staring at him with that cold light in his eyes. Jim's tongue was in his mouth, thrusting
into his throat; the snake-tongue slithered, spewing poison. He felt Jim's hands on him,
caressing the bruises on his face, crushing his nipple, holding him over the pit, digging
hard fingers into his ass. "You've got a great ass, you know that, Chief?"
Blair flung himself out of the chair. His ribs protested, and he clutched his side but
didn't stop moving, hoping the pain would drive the other sensations away. But the pain
became Jim's fingers pressing on his ribs, Jim's body crushing him to the floor while his
cock rammed into him and he fought just to breathe, just to stay alive until it was over.
The pit yawned beneath him, the sharpened stakes glistening red, and the panther--
No! That was a dream! It wasn't real, he knew it wasn't, but it felt real, it
felt as real as his memories of what Jim had done to him. But that couldn't be. It shouldn't
be, a dream shouldn't be confused with reality. My God. Was any of it real? Had he
hallucinated Jim's attacks on him, the hours at the hospital?
Blair made his way to the bathroom, flipped on the light, and stared at himself in the
mirror. The bruises were there, covering half his face. He touched one, and winced. It was
real. The pain in his ribs was real. It had happened. Jim had attacked him--raped him. The
ogres had taken the castle, and--
No, dammit! What was the matter with him? Why couldn't he separate the dream from what
was real? Maybe it was the painkillers, maybe they were altering his perceptions. No, they
should've worn off by now. What was it, then? Why couldn't he think straight? What the
hell was happening to him?
"Dammit, Jim, why'd you do this to me?"
Blair's fist smashed into the mirror. The glass shattered, splintering his image.
Pieces of glass fell into the sink, onto the floor. His knuckles began to bleed. Oh God,
oh God, he had to get control.
Blair turned the cold water on and held his fist beneath the tap. Was it his fault? Had
he done something to invite it? "You want it as much as I do, you're just too
scared to admit it." No! He didn't want it, he had never wanted--that. All he'd
ever wanted from Jim was friendship. Just--a friend, that was all. He'd never had any
really close friends.
Maybe he'd done something wrong, sent out signals that Jim had misinterpreted. Maybe he should have realized. Jim was always touching him. No one had ever done that before, not even his father. Especially not his father. "Men don't touch, Blair." He remembered his father saying that, when he was thirteen. "Men who touch each other are unnatural." He'd thought his father was wrong, that Jim was his proof. Jim was straight, and Jim touched him, and there was nothing sexual about it. He'd thought. It had made him uncomfortable at first, but after a while, he'd liked it when Jim touched him, it had made him feel--secure. Had he been wrong? Had Jim been testing him, seeing if he'd welcome more? Had he just gotten sick of waiting, gotten mad because Blair wasn't responding fast enough?
No. Gay guys had hit on him before--he knew he wasn't exactly Mr. Macho--but they'd
left him alone when he said no. And Jim wasn't gay. He was sure of that. Rape wasn't about
sex, it was about power. Maybe the touching was a part of that. And suddenly, it hadn't
been enough. Suddenly, Jim had needed to prove that he was the dominant male, that he
could make Blair submit--to anything. But why now? What had set Jim off? What had he done
to make Jim need to hurt him so badly? To keep hurting him? No, dammit, he hadn't done
anything, he hadn't! But a small voice inside him--his father's voice--insisted that there
must be an explanation, there must be a reason why Jim was doing this. And that he must be
a part of that reason.
His knuckles had stopped stinging. Blair shut the water off, and started gingerly
picking pieces of glass out of the sink, dropping them into the wastebasket. He
concentrated on his task, trying to shut out all other thought, to banish memory and dream
alike. Think of the glass, only the glass. Simon was going to kill him for this. Probably
kick him out, tell him to find some other place to wreck. Where could he go? There was no
point in going back to the University, they'd be kicking him out of there as soon as they
found out he couldn't complete his dissertation. Maybe he should just pick a direction and
drive. It didn't matter where he ended up. Nothing could be worse than here. He just had
to get out of Cascade. If he didn't--Blair stared at the piece of glass in his hand. The
Ogre-King dropped him into the pit. The panther leaped--If he didn't, Jim would kill him.
The knowledge twisted within him. It was true, he knew it was. The dream was a warning.
He didn't know how, or who, or why someone would warn him, but he believed it. As surely
as he believed in Jim's Sentinel abilities. Whatever it was, it was doing its best to save
him, and if he didn't listen, he was a fool. No matter what anyone thought--and there were
plenty who thought it, including his father--Blair Sandburg was not a fool.
As calmly as he could, Blair finished cleaning up the glass. He'd send Simon the money
for a replacement later. Right now, he needed all the cash he had. It wasn't much. But he
couldn't worry about that. He went into Daryl's bedroom and changed back into his own
clothes. Simon had washed them for him--nice of him. Pocketing the painkillers, he grabbed
his jacket and headed for the door. He stopped with his hand halfway to the deadbolt.
What if Jim was out there? What if Ellison was waiting for him, just waiting for him to
be stupid enough to walk out the door? Blair raked his hair back. What was he going to do?
He had to get out of here. But he had to know where Jim was, and he didn't have any way
Maybe he did. Maybe, if he was lucky. He was due for some luck, wasn't he? Blair picked
up the phone and dialed Jim's number at the station. It rang twice before someone picked
Blair hung up. Yes, Jim was there! And even if Jim left the station right now, it would
take him at least twenty minutes to get here. Twenty minutes that Blair could use to get
down to his car and get away.
On his way to the door, Blair passed by a window, automatically glancing out. It took a
second for what he had seen to register, but when it did he back-pedaled and gripped the
window frame, staring down into the street.
Jim Ellison stood in front of the house, staring up at Simon's apartment.
Blair threw himself down and huddled against the wall with his knees drawn up to his
chin. It wasn't possible. Jim couldn't be here, he was at the station. Blair had heard him
answer the phone. It hadn't been a recording, or someone else picking up the line, it was
Jim. Jim couldn't be here.
Blair went to his knees, facing the window. He had to know. Slowly, he moved his head
past the window-frame, careful to show as little of himself as possible. He darted a quick
glance out, ducked back again, and repeated the process. This time, he didn't draw back.
No one was out there. The sidewalk was empty, and the street in either direction.
Using the windowsill for support, Blair climbed to his feet. He hadn't heard the
outside door open, but that didn't mean anything. Jim could move silently when he chose.
He could be outside Simon's door right now, listening to the pounding of Blair's heart.
Arms wrapped around his ribs, Blair stared at the door in terror, half-expecting Jim to
kick it down at any moment. Jim couldn't be here. He thought of the fire escape, and
almost ran to Simon's room, but he couldn't get his legs to move. There was nothing he
could do to stop Jim from getting in, nothing he could do to defend himself from a man so
much bigger, a man who'd been taught so many ways to kill. Even on his best day, he
couldn't outrun him, and he was far from his best right now. If Jim wanted in, he'd get
in. If Jim wanted him dead, Blair would die. But Jim couldn't be here. It was not
Slowly, so slowly that it felt like his brain wasn't connected to his body, Blair
forced himself to move away from the door, never taking his eyes from it. He backed
through the living room, into the hall, and stopped outside Simon's bedroom. From there,
he could see both the door and the fire escape. No matter which way Jim came in, it would
give him a few seconds to try to get out the other. He was pretty sure he wouldn't make
it, but it was the only chance he had. Jim couldn't be here. But he had to be. Because if
it hadn't been Jim down on that sidewalk, if he hadn't been there at all, then Blair was
losing his mind. And he'd rather be dead.