Title: Burning Bright

Author/pseudonym: alyjude

Email: alyjude@webtv.net

Rating: G (oh, for heaven's sake, I *can* do G, you know! <g>)

Pairing: J/B

Category: Challenge/drama

Status: New, complete

Series/sequel: nope

Date: April 28, 2002

Disclaimer: In spite of the fact that Jim will only admit to being owned by Blair -- I do own them. But then I also think I'm the Queen of

England, so there you go.

Warnings: You really need to watch those peel-off masks, you know? Ouch.


Note: This was a response to my own challenge to write a story using the ten most beautiful words in the English language. Most everyone has

already posted theirs. I struggled with this and finally decided that it does stand on its own and the reader can assume whatever they wish about

the circumstances leading up to where this story starts.


Summary: The brightest candles eventually grow dim, but can they be extinguished altogether?


Burning Bright

by alyjude


Naomi stood just inside the door, her body wedged into a corner on the other side of the opened plantation shutters. The sun had just begun its descent and she watched not the sinking beauty, but her son.

Blair was on the small balcony, his body stretched out on the chaise lounge. Several blankets were pulled up almost to his chin. Earlier in the day she’d tied his hair back for him and she now found her gaze fixed on the strands that had escaped. A small breeze caught them and they moved languidly with the playful zephyr.

As Naomi Sandburg watched her son, words first dreamed by Edna St.Vincent Millay came to her mind—

“My candle burns at both ends; it will not last the night; but ah, my foes and oh, my friends—it gives a lovely light!”

Her son. Always burning the candle at both ends, often using the midnight oil to give the candle strength. And oh, how bright he’d burned. But now? The candle sputtered fitfully, its light nearly extinguished.

Blair’s breathing was labored in spite of the oxygen tube that fed him 24/7. Even now, the sound of the concentrator that sat in the corner of the living room, smothered the sweet sound of the wind chimes that tinkled from the rafter just above Blair’s head.

How many more sunsets would they have together before—

No. The medications would work. The virus that had invaded his heart would be beaten back by modern medicine, she was certain of it. There could be no other outcome.

Yet—even as she chastised herself, her sould whispered a different truth.

The doctor had let her take him from the hospital.

Naomi could remember returning from the cafeteria, where a cold cup of truly awful coffee had been her only company, to hear the murmur of voices on the other side of the hospital door. She’d stepped forward to catch her son’s words, words said in a voice weakened by pain—

“Is there any reason to stay, Doctor Robinson? Is there anything else you can do for me that requires my continued presence?”


“Oxygen, the medication, isn’t that all you can do now? Isn’t time to let me know comfort?”

Naomi had crept closer, waiting for Robinson’s answer, an answer that would tell her the fate of her son—

“You should go home, Blair.”

“Thank you for the truth.”

“You’ll be at the cabin?”


“That’s good. Not too far away from us, eh?”

Blair must have nodded for Naomi had not been able to hear a reply. With tears blinding her, she’d rushed down the hall—away from her son’s room. With her back against the wall, she’d sobbed.

Yes, she knew the truth. Her son was dying. He had—at the most— days.

Every waking hour was spent out on that balcony. With his face turned to the glorious sun and eyes, once luminous from an interior light that could blind with its brilliance, following every wave on the sparkling blue lake and every bird that winged overhead, Blair sat and waited.

Every morning Cal, the male nurse, would carry Blair out to his chair and together the three of them would welcome the new day. Later, Naomi would read to Blair, his strength so far gone that even holding a book was impossible, or they would remember their traveling early years. And sometimes—they would talk of his time with Jim Ellison.

A time ruined by her foolish mistake.

Naomi sighed and moved quietly to her son’s side. She took her usual seat and noted with some relief that Blair was asleep. She searched his features, and with a shock, realized how frail he appeared. Not gaunt, but—frail. So at odds with the brightness that was Blair. His skin was almost translucent in its pallor, his hands white against the forest green blanket that covered him. Lord, she could see his veins so close to the thin, ill skin.

Naomi rested her own warm hand on his and as he moaned and turned in the chair, she started to hum softly.  The melody was of an old lullaby that when he was a toddler would relax him and allow twitching limbs to rest and a lively little boy to sleep. The words came back and she allowed them to escape quietly—

“hush my little man, the night is warm and safe; hush my little man, my

arms hold you tight; hush my little man, as I carry you with love to


Her voice cracked as tears slipped down unchecked.



“I’ll sit with him, Naomi.”

She glanced up and into Cal’s gentle face. She rose, smoothed down her dress and nodded.

“Thank you, Cal. I—need to make a phone call.”

As the nurse took her abandoned seat and while large tender hands tucked the blanket tighter around the slightness that was her son, Naomi headed inside to do what she should have done weeks ago—in spite of the promise made to Blair.

She called Jim Ellison.




Jim stood on his balcony and watched the mist swirl around his city. He didn’t even attempt to look through the fog, instead choosing to lose himself inside the protective shroud of gray.  The ringing of the phone almost went unnoticed, but something roused him and compelled him to walk inside and answer.


//Jim—it’s—Naomi. Please come--*now*. He—my son—he doesn’t have

long. Please.//

Hand gripping the phone, knuckles white, Jim ground out one word, “Where?”

//We’re in California. Lake Tahoe. I know I should have called you

sooner, but he made me swear, but—but--//

“I’m on my way. Hang on—“ he pulled the pencil to him and with hand poised over phone pad, said, “Okay, directions.”




A quick call to Simon and Jim was on his way—after picking up his Captain. There was no way Simon would allow Jim to go alone. Not under these circumstances.

Hours at the airport, hours in the air, then the rental car and finally, they were on their way to Lake Tahoe.

“A virus,” Simon murmured as Jim drove steadily and fast.

“A virus that settled in his heart.”

“He knew. That’s why he left?”

“I’m guessing he knew something was wrong. According to Naomi, he called her after he collapsed and was rushed to a hospital in Tahoe. He went up there to—do another—dissertation.”

“Right. Cabin owned by Naomi.”

“Yes. She was in Barbados, flew to his side six weeks ago.”

“And now—he’s dying.”

Jim’s jaw tightened. “No he’s not.”




It was five-thirty in the morning when they turned onto the first road that would take them to Naomi’s cabin. Jim’s piercing gaze tore through the early morning darkness and he easily made each and every turn required until the split-level came into sight.

He pulled in behind an SUV, shut off the engine and both he and Simon hustled out and up the drive to the porch and the front door, which opened before either man could knock.

“Thank you, Jim. Thank you,” Naomi said breathlessly.

“Where is he?”

“It’s almost dawn, he’s on the balcony. He won’t miss a single one, nor a sunset either.”

Jim and Simon dropped their bags and as Jim removed his coat, he asked, “Does he know you called me?”

“No. I honestly don’t know what he would have done—“

“It’s all right. I’ll handle it.”

He started forward, drawn by the sluggish heartbeat somewhere below him.

“Jim. Wait.”

With great impatience he turned—and waited.

“He doesn’t need—your—pity. Do you understand? If that’s all you have to give, along with your guilt, well, maybe it would be better—“

“I love him, Naomi. And I’m about to learn how to talk. May I go to him now?”

Numb with emotion, eyes nearly blinded by the sudden onslaught of tears, she nodded.




The sun was lending its golden glow to the world as Jim stepped silently out onto the deck.

A large man stood and quietly exited as Jim sat down beside the lounger.

Without a word, he took Blair’s hand.

“Jim?” Blair whispered.

“Yes, it’s me. She understood about us even if we didn’t. I’m here, I’m staying, I’m never leaving. Neither are you.”

Blair tried to raise his head and failed. Turning instead, he stared at the man who’d filled almost every waking moment.

“Jim, I’m dying—“

Jim laid a gentle hand over the tired mouth, then removed it as he said, “No, you’re not. I simply won’t allow it.”

A grin tugged at the corners and Blair whispered, “Figures.”

Jim turned and gazed out over the lake. “Look, the dawn. For us.”

Over the next several days the sun rose steadily, like clock-work, and with it, Blair’s strength.

Modern medicine had nothing on a modern day sentinel who finally saw the light burning bright in Blair Sandburg’s eyes.

The virus never had a chance.