The Book

By K9

Jim gritted his teeth and gripped the package that he had in his hand tightly. The butterflies in his stomach were multiplying at an alarming rate. His back was wet with perspiration and his white cotton shirt was clinging to it desperately.

Was this the hardest thing he'd ever done?

Looking down at the brown wrapped item in his hands, he swallowed with difficulty.

<It's just a book,> he told himself, <Just a book.>

Jim ran his fingers through his hair and stared at the door of apartment 307. He'd been standing there for a few minutes, just staring at the door. Knowing that what happened in the next few moments, after he opened the door of his home, could have a lasting effect on the rest of his life.

<But, it's just a book.>

Looking down at the package again, he closed his eyes and remembered.

The look on Blair's face as he threw him out of his home would be forever etched on the Ellison soul. The hurt and betrayal had been obvious to everyone. Everyone but a stupid, selfish unforgiving man who had wiped out three years of friendship, three years of giving and caring, for the sake of pride, then compounded the act of betrayal by saving the very person who had murdered his closest friend.

And through all this, Blair had never once accused Jim of being anything but the most important thing in his life.

Had never thrown back the anger in his face, and never once said 'How dare you treat me this way after all I've done for you?'

Never.

Oh yes, Blair had moved back in and things had on the surface at least, returned to normal. Even Simon had smiled and patted Jim on the back, telling him how good it was to see the old Ellison/Sandburg team back together.

But, it wasn't the same.

Blair wasn't the same.

Gone were the earrings and the loud clothes. No longer did the loft reverberate to the sound of tribal drums. Blair had taken to tying back his hair and Jim had even heard him discussing having it cut with his mom on the phone a few days ago, the prospect of which had filled Jim with horror.

He secretly loved Blair's long hair, the way it framed his face and made him look so young.

Correction, he secretly loved Blair.

Jim drew in a breath, once more he turned the plainly wrapped book over in his hands.

Somehow, it represented everything about them both.

When Jim had packed away Blair's things and had them waiting for him as he returned home, it had been a betrayal of the worst kind.

This one book had been damaged when the boxes were stored in Blair's office at the university, and when he'd moved back in, this one volume alone had been left aside, pushed away, kind of like their friendship.

Jim had stumbled upon it when he was hanging up Blair's clean shirts, a job which he had taken on to prevent his partner from being mistaken for a street bum. The younger man regularly having to reach his shirts out from under the bed, crumpled and creased before he could go to work in the morning.

When he'd asked about it, Blair had just shrugged and said that it didn't matter, it wasn't really worth anything.

Kind of like what was *left* of their friendship?

Jim had watched as the remnants of their life together had been shredded and torn by event after event. The whole affair with his ex-lover, Veronica, yet another betrayal, had been the final nail in the coffin for Blair and he'd closed himself off.

Jim ran his fingers over the brown paper covering the book. He'd taken it to a specialist in book-binding, had it lovingly restored, re-bound and had an inscription added to the inside cover.

But would it be enough? Could Blair really forgive everything that happened...for a book?

At last, Jim opened the door. Blair was seated on the sofa, his laptop in front of him.

He glanced up and nodded as Jim entered. "Hey," he mumbled.

"Chief," Jim nervously set the book down while he shed his jacket and placed his keys in the basket. "I, erm," he began, suddenly wondering how the hell he was going to put all those thoughts and feelings into words.

He was, by now, sure that nothing he said or did could possibly make matters worse, so maybe this was the time for pure unadulterated honesty?

Blair had looked up and was merely watching, studying Jim's face as the thoughts visibly whirled around inside the bigger mans head.

"Blair, I.." Jim tried again.

"What is it Jim? Problems with your senses?" Blair asked with concern, "You're not feeling ill?"

Jim looked down at him, he could feel the emotion welling up inside. Despite everything he'd done, his partners first concerns were still for him. Was he sick? Were his senses out of whack?

"No, I'm fine. I just...I had this fixed for you," he thrust the book forward and swallowed hard.

"There was no need, it's just an old book, not first edition or anything. I think I picked it up at a garage sale," Blair smiled slightly and looked puzzled as the wrapping came away, "Man, this has been leather bound. Jeezus, Jim, this must have cost a fortune. Why bother on a worthless old book?"

"I had to fix it, Chief. It was my fault it was broken. I was the one who tossed it away like it didn't matter. Threw it in a box with no care as to where it landed or if it was damaged or where it would be stored."

Blair watched inexorably as the words spilled from Jim's lips.

"I was responsible for taking it from where it was safe and almost getting it destroyed. *My fault*. I'm the one who needed to pay, the one who *deserves* to pay. "

Jim suddenly stopped. He rubbed his hand across his face and turned away, making his way into the kitchen.

He stood for an eternity just staring at the contents of the fridge. It wasn't like he was hungry and he was sure that how tight his throat was, not even a beer would go down. He was so unsure, so afraid that he'd just compounded his sins and made a fool of himself.

Suddenly, he felt a hand tentatively touch his back. Looking around he saw Blair's smiling face.

"Yes," Blair whispered. Moving closer, he enfolded Jim in his arms. Pulling him close, placing a gentle kiss on his partners lips.

The simple gesture spoke volumes. Words, explanations, all became singularly unimportant and irrelevant as the bond that had brought them this far, began to heal.

The book, in all its innocence, lay open on the coffee table, the inscription read:

Blair

I'm sorry

I love you.

Can you ever forgive me?

Jim

 

The end

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