Not Needed

by alyjude


Sandburg pushed open the door to 307, stepped in, went straight into his room and promptly collapsed, face down on his bed. His nerveless fingers let the dangling keys drop to the floor while he absently kicked off his shoes.

For several minutes there was only the sound of breathing. In - out, in - out. Then the body shifted and rolled over.


The blue eyes opened and seriously contemplated the ceiling overhead.


Well, yeah, that made sense. Masters in Anthropology might be considered somewhat overqualified for a clerk in a bookstore.

Not that anyone had actually come right out and said, "Sorry Mr. Sandburg, but you're overqualified." No, that had never been said. But he was very adept at reading between lines, at correctly reading body language....

"Mr. Sandburg, is this what you *really* want?"

Meaning, "He'll be gone in two weeks."

"Mr. Sandburg, it says here on your application that you have a Master's Degree in Anthropology. Interesting." Followed by the raised eyebrow.

Meaning, "I wonder just how many medications he's taking?"

Sandburg jerked up as he remembered the answering machine......messages,

a job offer?

He scrambled out of bed and into the living room to stop in front of the phone. Yes, red, blinking light....messages, maybe a job. He punched "replay".

<Jimbo? It's me. Neil. Just got into town, be here a couple of days, thought we could hook up? I'm at the Connaught, call?>

<Blair? It's Suzie. Call>

<Sandburg, I'll be on stakeout tonight. Late. No, I don't need you>

"I don't need you."

Sandburg stared at the evil invention, resisting the urge to throw it across the room.

"I don't need you."


"Abiding Tolerance."

"I'm not ready to take that trip with you."



"It's about friendship."

"I - don't - need - you."

Maybe he should stop resisting urges.

He shook his head, trying to dislodge all the negative thoughts. No, urges just got you into trouble. Or dead.

He shuffled back into his room, flopped onto the bed and once again contemplated the great mysteries of his ceiling.

"I don't need you."

He put his hands behind his head.

"I don't need you."

So? Who did?

Who needed what? A human needed food, water, shelter. Did he need more? Or *want* more?

Did Blair Sandburg *need* Jim Ellison's respect? Or *want* it? Did he need the older man's friendship? Or want it? Did he need Jim's love? Or want it?

What Blair Sandburg *needed* was a job. Now. Because he'd been suspended. Again.

And the suspension would end in his quitting his contract.

One more unauthorized absence. The straw. One more unauthorized absence *and* no dissertation. Clear violation of his probation with the Dean. Candidacy for his Doctorate? Gone. With the wind. Reputation? Equally gone.

"I don't need you."

It was funny, really. How his mind worked. Not unlike conversations with Jim. Talking about everything *but* what they should.

He was thinking about everything but.....

"I don't need you."

It was a chorus in Blair's life. Said over and over words, in action, in body language.

Blair swung his legs over the edge of the bed, dragged himself over to his desk, ruffled through his books, papers and journals until he found what he was looking for.....his checkbook.

He opened it. No, it hadn't changed. No mysterious deposits. Man, he really needed a job.

The ringing phone didn't immediately penetrate, but his mother's voice did.

He made it to the phone in time to hear, <Blair, call me at 818-635-9087, please come....I need you> and the

click telling him it was too late to pick up. She'd hung up.


Sandburg was just exiting his room, baggage in hand, when Jim Ellison walked in.

Both men stopped and stared. And spoke at the same time.

"What's with the luggage?"

"What happened to the stakeout?"

They laughed uncomfortably and tried again.


"Emergency, Naomi."

Jim's face creased in concern, as he dropped his key into the basket.

"What is it, Chief? Is she alright?"

"It's not's, her.....boyfriend. He's dying."

Sandburg set his bag down next to the door, reached for his jacket and slipped it on.

"Shit, I'm sorry. Is there anything I can do?"

Blair shrugged, "Hell, I didn't even know she had a new boyfriend."

<Typical Naomi>, Jim thought.

"Uh, how long....I mean...."

"A week, maybe a bit more. The number where I'll be staying is by the phone, if you....need m....anything."

"Let me give you a lift to the airport, save you the parking fee."

"No need, called Airport Express, probably downstairs now."

Blair hefted his bag onto his shoulder and opened the door.

"Chief? Tell Naomi, well....."

"I know, Jim. Take care."

And Blair was gone.

And Jim was alone.


The loft was dark and quiet.

<This is what it will be like when he leaves for good>

Jim stretched out on the couch and stared up at the ceiling. He was almost daring himself to zone. Zone on the silence, meaning the absence of Sandburg. Zone on the darkness, again, meaning the absence of Sandburg.

But he didn't. Instead he wondered how and when his life had gotten so far out of his control.

He thought of the plane that was taking Sandburg to Naomi. According to the note by the phone, to Taos, New Mexico.

Weeks ago, months ago, he'd have been on that plane with Blair. No doubt. No questions. It would have been a given. No one would have had to ask, or offer. But Blair hadn't asked and he hadn't offered. Oh, he'd wanted to....wanted to accompany Blair......but there was this little matter of control, of his total lack thereof.

The fear, that had been dominating his life in the last few months, swam up through his subconscious, stuck around just long enough to blacken his thoughts, to challenge him.....

"Name me......"

But he didn't dare. He pushed it back to the very darkest depths of his soul, and let his life continue it's downward spiral, out of control, out of his hands.


Blair's reflection stared back at him from the plane window. He didn't like the view. Hadn't liked that particular view for quite some time. He gazed down at the book in his lap, closed it with more force than intended and thought about his checkbook again.

A checkbook with a balance now considerably less than a few hours ago. Which was why he'd cancelled the airport shuttle minutes after booking the service. Shuttle simply was not in the budget.....buses yes, shuttle no. And the idea of accepting a ride with Jim? Impossible.Just the thought of the trip to the airport, of the *not* talking, he'd lied. Big deal. Blair Sandburg, king of the obfuscations.

He looked out the window again, past the reflection.

"I don't need you."

Why did that phrase have to keep coming back? Shit. So, Jim didn't need him. Hell, he was doing his best to get out.....but unless he wanted to live in his car, well, he needed a god damn job.

"I don't need you."

<But, Jim, *I* need you>

Man, that would surprise Naomi. Blair, *her* son, needing anybody. But it didn't surprise him. Underneath the lone hippie routine was a surprisingly needy guy. A fact he kept well buried. Can't afford the chink. Can't afford to let others see too much. Because when they did, he inevitably found out how little of him others wanted.

His body - yes. Hell, sometimes even his mind. But rarely did anyone want *him*. No one had ever bothered to get past his looks. No one. A good fuck. Nice to look at. Take the information and run. But he'd had his career. His life's work. And through that he forced people to look at something other than his face.

So what exactly did that make him now?

Without his career, without Jim, what was he?

The pilot announced their landing and Blair pushed away the dark thoughts and concentrated on what he could his mother.

Naomi needed him.



An hour later he stood outside the terminal looking for his ride. He hadn't expected Naomi, she'd be with Roger. But she'd told him someone would pick him up. Apparently not.

He checked his wallet. Ten bucks. Okay, a taxi was out. Looked like his old standby, the bus, was his ride.

It took another fifteen minutes to find the bus schedules before he was finally on his way.

And forty minutes, two transfers and a two mile hike from the highway later, he was walking up a dirt road to the "McMillan Homestead".

And what a homestead. Just the average, sprawling, umpteen bedroom, equal number of bathrooms, New Mexico ranch house.

Blair couldn't suppress the low whistle as he gazed, open mouthed, at the place Naomi now called home. Not exactly the usual abode for his free-spirited mother.

He walked up to the front door, took a deep breath and rang the bell.

A pretty woman of about his age, small, slender, blonde and green-eyed, opened the door and at her first glimpse of him, her lovely smile hardened into a tight line.

"You must be *her* son."

Cold water thrown directly into his face wouldn't have been as cruel.

"Blair Sandburg." He held out a hand but wasn't surprised when she ignored it, stepped back and grudgingly allowed him entrance.

"Manny, this is Naomi's son. Show him his room and let her know he's here."

Without another glance, she was gone.

"Manny" turned out to be the McMillan's version of a butler. He'd been standing just out of Blair's range but now stepped forward, a big smile on his face. He was in his late forties, about Jim's height, wearing jeans, denim shirt, leather vest and the required cowboy boots.

He pulled Blair's bag off his shoulder and headed down a hall to their left. Blair could only follow.

Outside, the temperature was in the nineties, but inside it was light and cool. The floors were deep red, pave tiles, the walls a beautiful combination of whitewashed wood and stone. The furniture, what he could see of it, looked big and comfortable, colors in white and shades of beige, with accents in turquoise and jade.

The works of several famous southwestern artists graced the walls as well as several beautiful Navajo artifacts.

The overall effect was a cool, elegant simplicity. Blair was dutifully impressed.

Manny finally stopped in front of a massive, ornately carved, whitewashed door, opened it and stepped aside, allowing Blair to enter.

The room was in keeping with the rest of the house, cool, elegant, southwestern.

A kingsize bed, draped with a beautifully crafted indian quilt took center stage. There were two

whitewashed pine nightstands, one matching chest and armoire and a television cabinet.

The far wall was made up of windows with a slider to the left. The huge picture windows overlooked the grounds and pool. On either side of the windows were two, huge wingchairs.

"I hope you'll be comfortable here, Mr......"

"Sandburg, Blair."

"Sorry, wasn't sure if the name....I mean...."

"I understand."

"Well, I'll let her know you're here, things are pretty informal around here, even at the best of times, but right now....just help yourself to anything you need or give me a holler."

"Thank you.....Manny. Uh, who, um, met me..."

"At the door? That was Delia. Your stepsister. Don't mind her behavior, she's under a lot of stress right now. She's a sweetheart, really."

"Of course. I understand." <Yeah, who needs common courtesy?>

Manny smiled his gratitude and left Blair alone.


What the fuck *hadn't* Naomi told him?

He spent the next several minutes unpacking and was contemplating the real need for a drink when there was a knock and his mother floated in, arms outstretched.


They hugged and Naomi finally held him away and looked at her son.

"Blair, you look wonderful. How was the flight?"

"How's Roger?"

She frowned and let her son lead her to the bed where he sat them both down.

"He probably won't last the week, honey. He doesn't.....know any of us.....he drifts in and out."

Blair looked carefully at his mother, noting her face as she spoke. She looked beautiful, of course, her hair was longer than usual, and she was wearing makeup. She was dressed simply and comfortably in jeans and a

t-shirt. And he didn't miss the large diamond ring on the finger of her left hand. The ring finger.

He reached down, picked up her left hand and ran a finger lightly over the gem.


"Roger gave it to me."

"Would that have been on your wedding day?"

"Now, honey, don't sound like that....."

Blair dropped the hand, got up, walked over to the picture window, and tried to rein in his emotions, slip the mask back into place, his *Naomi* mask.

"Sorry. So, are you okay?"

"I'm holding on. I should fill you in on the household. You already met Manny, he's wonderful, Roger's best friend really, and he kind of runs things around the house. Then there's Delia......"

"We've met." His back was still to Naomi.

"Roger's daughter. She's your age, actually older, and there's Matt, her brother, he's thirty five and well, a jerk."

"Unlike Delia." No, the mask was still a little loose, but fortunately, Naomi hadn't noticed.

"And there's Kate, Matt's wife. She just drinks."

He bit back the "oh, joy" remark.

"And finally, Joe Reynolds, Roger's lawyer and friend. He's okay, but he's certain I'm here for Roger's fortune."

"Unlike Delia, Matt and Kate?"

"Well, dear, it's only natural. But they have nothing to worry about. When I leave, I'll be taking this ring, my clothes and one portrait."

She got up then and walked over to the door.

"Honey, it's late, take a shower, get a bite to eat and I'll see you in the morning. I've got to get back to Roger."

Before he could offer to go with her, she'd slipped away and he was alone. Again. Naturally. He'd better take that shower, before he actually started humming that damn song.


Jim Ellison sat on the back of the bench, in Freeman Park. Okay, Blair had been gone two days. No phone calls. This was turning out to be a good practise run. For when the man left for good.

Ellison was busy. Getting work done. Being polite, friendly, helpful.....and he was full of shit.

He was miserable. But he shouldn't be. Blair was just a guy now.....a friend. Not his whole world. Not anymore.

{so why do you have to *prepare* for the day when he leaves?}

"How the Hell should I know?"

{Well, pardon me, but if you don't, who would?}

"Blair. Blair would know."

{Well, fuck, Ellison, there's your answer, why don't you ask him when he gets back?}

"Riiight. Now why didn't I think of that? I'll just ask Sandburg. Yeah."

"Hey, Chief, how was the trip? And do you have any idea why I'm scared shitless everytime I think about the day you leave? Any idea, buddy?"

"What? I'll miss the mess? The incessant chatter? The non-stop flow of information, from a brain that remembers every piece of knowledge it *ever* heard or saw? Maybe it's the constant prodding I'll miss? Or the touching? Or the voice? Or the way you fall asleep at the kitchen table after pulling an all-nighter? Or the way you keep me from going crazy during a stakeout? Or the way you answer the phone? That drawn out, "helloooo", or the touching?"

So what if they'd been practically inseperable for three years? So what if he published the dissertation? He'd leave. Jim would have his life back. Life would go on SS. Sans Sandburg. It would.

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