Silence. Anger. Denial.
What had he said to Simon? Oh, yeah, "He'll get over it, maybe not today..." Blair's attempt at levity. But in reality?
Silence. Anger. Denial.
And Sandburg? Living with the silence. Anger directed at him because he was "there" and convienent and he'd "take it". And a double dose of silence because when Jim went into denial? Well, he got silent. Big, strong, silent.
How many times had he been through this little ritual with his best friend? Too many times. And bouncing back was getting trickier. How many times can you watch someone you love tear themselves apart over another ill-fated romance? How many times can you watch that person pick up the pieces, but each time leave more behind than were picked up? And watch bricks being laid on that ever-growing wall around his heart?
How many times can you watch - and hurt?
Veronica was proving to be the straw. She'd been so close to being "The One". For one month. Thirty days, four weeks, 720 hours, 43,200 minutes...And for all that time Blair had held his breath, his tongue and his heart.
The whole affair had been too damn convienent. But who'd listen to him? Hell, he didn't even listen to himself anymore...he knew he was jealous. But the green-eyed monster hadn't kept him from seeing the truth about Veronica - Or Alex - Or Lila -Or Laura.
He needed professional help. Anyone could see that. Who in their right mind would stay in a relationship like this? Live with someone they loved but who couldn't love them back? Maybe he was a masochist? Maybe he liked going through these little episodes with Jim? Feeling Jim's pain and his own?
Being a safety net was exhausting - and painful and mind-numbing and...exhausting. And hell, who was supposed to catch him?
Jim's silent phase had just ended two days ago and he'd moved predictably into his anger mode. He was angry with himself so that translated into angry with everyone and everything. But he couldn't be angry with perfect strangers, after all, he was a cop, protect and serve and all that shit....and he couldn't be angry with perfect friends and he couldn't very well yell at Simon, so who did that leave? Yep, Blair Sandburg.
Wrong order from the Chinese take-out:
"Can't you even get one little dinner order right, Sandburg? How hard is it to check four - count 'em - four, cartons?"
Jim's truck breaking down - during the historic second time in six months that Blair had been driving said truck:
"That's it, Sandburg! You - Never - Drive - My Truck - Again. Ever."
Man, this sucks. It's not going to last. He doesn't mean it - Except.
Forgot to pick up the cleaning:
"Shit, Sandburg. One simple thing, but no, you had to get wrapped up at the University when you were supposed to be at the station with me "and" picking up our cleaning. You need to get your priorities straight."
Priorities. Like trying to figure out how to change a dissertation so that one anthropologist cum police observer could actually get the doctorate he'd been working toward for the last fourteen years. So he could maybe, actually get a real job with the Cascade P.D. and get paid, for real. For being something other than Jim Ellison's shadow and exhausted safety net.
Turning in his existing thesis was turning out to be impossible but the Police Department as a Closed Society was starting to look more viable every day...Which meant a whole lot of scrambling to go through his journals for the last three years and cull all the observations, try to organize them into some semblance of an outline, a chapter, anything to give the committee and his advisor...when he gave them the interesting news.
"Sorry guys, but "The Sentinel" by Blair Sandburg is in the toilet...I fell in love with my subject. But I do have another diss up my sleeve....".
Okay, maybe he wouldn't say exactly that, truth though it was...more like, "Guys, I stopped observing the subject about three years, or 36 months, or 1,095 days, or 26,280 hours ago....and started "living" his/her life with him/her, somehow became a part of him/her."
Does melding with him during an "after death" experience count as a no-no in the world of the anthropological observer studying "his subject"? Could that be defined as "getting too close"? Oh, yeah. Way too close.
So here he was - at the kitchen table, typing away on his laptop, trying to formulate a new Intro...Jim watching TV...After midnight...Jim's anger showed no signs of moving into the denial stage any time soon and Blair Sandburg was looking at the end of a very frayed rope....So? Maybe he could hang himself with it? Maybe?
Jim Ellison turned his head away from the TV screen to look at his partner. Blair was typing away, the kitchen table spread with papers, black notebooks, two coffee mugs and the dinner Sandburg "hadn't" eaten.
And the typing was driving him crazy.
"Sandburg. Would it be possible for you to stop that infernal racket? I'm trying to watch television here."
The body at the table stilled. Slowly a head came up, blue eyes connecting with blue eyes. The gaze held a moment, then Blair looked down at his laptop, at the mess on the table, pushed himself up and away, reached behind him and pulled the plug on the PC, closed it and gathered up his papers and journals.
"Hey, no problem, Jim. None at all."
His voice, flat and monotone, should have clued the detective...but it didn't.
Blair took his "stuff" into his room, threw them onto the bed, went back to the kitchen table, took his dishes into the kitchen, threw the food into the garbage, washed the dishes, put them into the drainer, then went back and picked up his laptop.
"Going into my room, Jim. Goodnight."
Ellison had turned his attention back to the TV so he just waved a hand in acknowledgment.
Blair stood, immobile, eyes unblinking, expression unreadable. Then he turned and walked into his room, shutting the doors behind him.
For several seconds he just stood there, laptop in his hands. Decisions. And anger. White, hot anger.
Carefully he hefted his pc into his right palm. Then he raised his hand up and back, balancing the pc like a pizza. He balled up all his strength, directing it to his right arm - and threw the machine as hard as he could.
The laptop crashed against the fire escape door and smashed into several pieces.
Calmly he walked over to his closet and was pulling out duffel bags when Jim came bursting into his room.
"SANDBURG! WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?"
Blair put the bags on his bed.
"My laptop was bothering you so I killed it."
As he turned to the chest and opened one of the drawers, Jim took several more, now cautious, steps into the room, craned his neck and spotted the mess that had been Blair's computer.
"Jesus. What's wrong with you? You destroyed your laptop, are you crazy?"
"I don't think so, Jim, but it's entirely possible. I mean, I know it wasn't the laptop that was bothering you, it was me...but I've already died once this year, so I opted for killing the machine instead."
Blair's words hit Ellison like a fist. His knees weakened, he swayed slightly, then dropped down onto the bed.
Blair started stuffing some books into the bag, following them with underwear, socks, T-shirts, sweats...it didn't take him long to empty the chest. Jim continued to sit, stunned, on the bed so Blair just worked around him. Shirts, jackets, jeans, all into the other bag...toiletries, shoes, boots...He wasn't packing in the best order possible, but he was in a hurry.
One duffle bag filled, zipped, on the floor. Backpack filled, closed on the floor, last bag almost full....
Jim looked at the luggage...what the hell?
"Sandburg, what are you doing?"
"Packing, Jim, packing."
Jim swallowed hard, stood, turned and watched Blair as he put more books into the last bag.
"You're leaving because I asked you to stop typing? You're seriously leaving because of that?"
"Don't be ridiculous. I'm leaving because I finally figured this out. It's so simple. It's gonna work like this....I move out tonight.
Now, until I find a place to stay you can reach me at my office, but as soon as I have a place I'll give you the phone number and you call if you have any problems with your senses...or any questions. Or need any help on a case....well, we know that won't happen, but you get what I'm saying."
Blair had finished with the last bag while he was talking and now zipped it up and slung it over his shoulder.
"Once you have my new number? Well, a simple phone call...see? You get your privacy back, your space and your life."
Jim was dumbfounded. No way. No fucking way. This was not happening. What the hell had gone wrong? Well, besides everything.
Jim started shaking his head, no, everything was wrong, except Blair. The only right thing. Jim didn't even think about it - he just reached out and took the bag by the strap and pulled.
"No. You're not leaving. Give me the bag."
"Oh, I'm leaving alright. There's nothing keeping me here anymore. I don't need you for my dissertation and you don't need me for your senses. This relationship is no longer symbiotic."
"Symbiotic? S Y M B I O T I C?"
"Yes, Jim, symbiotic...you know, two organisms living off of each other, to the mutual benefit of both? There is no "mutual benefit" any longer."
"Jesus, you're cold. Is this what dying does to you?"
Jim's words hung between them like a sword ready to drop, to slice a heart apart.
The pain of the words flashed briefly across Blair's face but then he got control and composed himself once again.
"I don't know about cold, but dying certainly clarifies one's life. But don't try it, Jim, I mean, if I'd had a choice? I'd have chosen another method of being able to see things so clearly."
Blair started past the larger man when his next words temporarily halted him.
"Was that all it was to you? A symbiotic relationship? What about "friendship"? Was it ever about friendship?"
"Always. But I can't handle my end any longer. Not here, not living with you. I can't watch you getting stronger as a sentinel..."
"And not needing the Great Sandburg anymore?" Jim spat out.
Blair took that blow, then continued on, "While getting weaker in the relationship department. And feeling helpless about it."
Jim's eyes narrowed.
"And just what do you mean by that?"
The cutting words and barbs had been flying fast and loose and Blair knew it was serving no purpose. Time to end it. Time to backpedal, Time to obfuscate.
"Nothing, Jim, I didn't mean anything. You know this is right, my moving out. It's time, man. Just forget what I said earlier and stop a minute and think. It's right. Your privacy, you'll have it back, we'll still be friends, better maybe, these last few months have been kinda rugged, you know? And you need time. To move on, deal with your feelings about Veronica - so this is right."
It was a lame finish and he was out of breath and judging by the way Jim was looking at him, no - looking "through" him - he wasn't buying.
Blair took a step back, which succeeded in pulling the strap out of Jim's grasp. The look on his friends face was tearing him apart and if he didn't leave now...then he thought of how Jim had looked, kneeling over Veronica's body, or on the beach with Alex...yeah, he could leave. He could.
He once again started out of his room, but again Jim reached for the bag and it slipped off Blair's shoulder.
Blair whirled around, his hair flying, panic taking over. "WHAT? WHAT?" he screamed.
"It's after one am, Blair, stay tonight and we can talk in the morning."
This surprised him. He really never thought Jim would even try to stop him....
"No, Jim. I'll sleep in my office and talking isn't going to change the facts."
"You haven't given me any facts yet. You've yet to tell me the truth. And until you do?" He didn't need to finish, he just let it hang.
"You'll what? Keep me here?"
"Well, I am considering sitting on you until you cough up the real reason for this." Jim smiled in an attempt to lighten the mood. It didn't work.
"Fine, Jim. The truth. You've got it. The truth and nothing but...I'm tired of watching you fall for every woman you can't have. I'm tired of picking up the pieces, watching you shore up your heart and then go through it all over again when the next murderess, thief, blackmailer or mobs wife comes along. I mean, what's next? You gonna fall for a ghost? Shit, I sit here and watch you go through hell, so I go through it with you and it gets harder each time because there is someone who is right for you, but you keep running and running when all you need to do is "stop"...just - stop. You were running with Alex, but you bumped into yourself with that one, but as soon as we got home? You started running again. And Veronica? She made it real easy, you could go back to a time before you were a sentinel...you said you were protecting a friend, remember? And I said you were protecting the wrong friend...it's always the wrong friend...Veronica, Alex...I wish just once...".
But Blair couldn't finish. Instead he reached for the other bags.
"You wish, just once, what?" Jim whispered.
"I - give me the bag, please?"
"No. You're not leaving. I'm not real good at talking, we both know that, but I'm real good at understanding you, of reading between your lines...and you've got it wrong...you think I'm running from my Sentinel responsibilities and from you...."
Blair started to interrupt but Jim held up his hand.
"No, let me finish. You are right. I am running, but you've got the reasons all wrong. Did I have any reason to believe that if I just "stopped", recognized the one right person for me, that he'd be in the least bit interested in me? A man? And if I believed he couldn't be interested in me, then I had to prepare for the inevitable day when he left me."
Okaaaay...that definitely got Blair's attention.
"Blair, you were dead. I went in after you. Did you see me going after Veronica? Or trying to bring Alex back? Do you have any idea what it's been like for me? You're damn right I've been running, it's what I do when I can't have what I want. How can I be a Sentinel without you? And that was the future I was facing, or thought I was facing. So yes, I ran."
Blair was still on his feet, but only because no one had yelled "Timber" yet.
Nothing had prepared him for this. Nothing. Not even his best fantasy prepared him. His best fantasy only had Jim discussing the possibility of practicing celibacy.
Well, fuck. Maybe, with luck? He just might. Get.
Someone must have finally yelled timber, because his legs did give out and he collapsed onto the bed. The bed. Good place to be. He looked up at his friend, his best friend.
"Chief, for you? That counts as speechless."
Blair nodded and repeated.
"So. This could be tricky. I'm not a criminal."
"Oh, I don't know. The way you leave the bathroom after a shower could be considered criminal."
"Oh. Then I'm just your type."
"Yep, my type exactly."
"So. Veronica? Alex? The others? You were just making...do?"
"Most people "make do" with look-a-likes. You know, sublimation? And usually with, like the same gender they're sublimating...They were tall...and women."
"Yeah, but they had long hair and pouty lips. And there is no "look-alike" for you. No real substitute."
"Shit, I'm blushing."
"Yeah, you are. Cute. I'm gonna do some more reading between the lines here and assume that a relationship with me, a man, would not - bother you after all?"
"What about you? Man, here, male...two men."
"Ah, but I'm used to it. Been there, done that. See? There is "always" something new to learn about your Sentinel."
"Well...shit. And no, it doesn't bother me. At all. New, different, but good. I love you. Simple."
"Simple it won't be, but you're right....it will be good. And I love you too."
"So. You're staying? We can unpack?"
"Yes, I'm staying. We can unpack. Tomorrow."
They were sitting side by side on the bed and Jim could hear Blair's heartbeat thundering inside his chest...he was nervous - and aroused. And Jim didn't quite know how he'd contained himself up to now...but the containment field dissolving - and fast.
"Blair, I really need to touch you."
Blair turned to face his sentinel. He reached out one hand and gently stroked the side of Jim's face, then ran one finger gently over the older man's lips. Jim groaned and his arms reached and pulled Blair in.
The first kiss was gentle, chaste. They pulled apart, Jim hesitant to go further. But the smile on his partners face was all the encouragement he needed. He leaned in again and this time lips parted and the duel began.
Jim's tongue investigated every inch of the beloved mouth, the sweetness, the richness and he, who hadn't zoned in months, found himself ready to do just that. He could stay in this warm, wet cavern for ever.
Blair wasn't feeling much different...God, how Jim could kiss.
Hands started exploring, but none to gently...ripping was a better description. Buttons went flying, hands grasping for zippers, pulling down jeans, shorts, shirts off...and when they were both completely undressed they took a moment to enjoy...Blair seeing what he'd seen and loved for years, Jim seeing much of Blair for the first time...and enjoying the view...his eyes growing black with passion, his breath catching...Blair was beautiful. But he had to go slow, for Blair. He didn't want to scare him.
Which just goes to show how much Jim still had to learn about his guide.
Slow was not in Blair's vocabulary that night. Period. He'd waited too long.
Before Jim could even think, Blair had him on his back and was exploring to his hearts content...the strong, smooth skin, the lean muscles, moving under his touch.
Blair let his fingers and his lips taste and tease, finding Jim's hot spots, enjoying the bigger man's groans of pleasure and impatience...finally Blair used his knee to move Jim's thighs apart and he then lowered his body on top of Jim's, their cocks aligning in a delicious heat that almost sent Blair over the edge...he'd had no idea it could feel this good, this hot.
Jim's hands grasped his lover's hips and together they began to thrust and move, and Jim found Blair's mouth again and he pulled the younger man's tongue into his own mouth and sucked and bit and nibbled, and the moan that escaped Blair's throat seemed to go straight to Jim's cock and he knew he wouldn't last, and he knew Blair was close.
He let one hand travel around to that beautiful ass, to tease around the cleft, another moan from Blair his reward...his finger moving in, circling, teasing and Blair's body, jerking, pulling his mouth away from Jim's, dropping his head to Jim's neck, groaning now in deep pleasure, latching on to Jim's neck as the finger now went in....and Blair seemed to understand, to push in response and Blair's arms wrapped around Jim's chest, to latch onto something as Jim's finger fucked his ass, looking for that one spot and finding it, stroking it and and Blair jerking in earnest now, uncontrollably, saying his name, over and over again...the friction building and then Blair came, screaming Jim's name and he followed, just as hard, Blair's name forced from his soul.
They were tired, sated, sticky and sweat covered and neither of them minded a bit. Blair still lay on top of Jim, his head tucked under his new lover's chin. One arm was down and resting on Jim's hip, the other up and his hand stroking the older man's face.
Jim had one hand where he'd often fantasized ....in Blair's hair....tangled in the sweaty curls...luxuriating in the silky, damp feel of them while the other hand roamed over the soft curve of his back and ass.
"I suppose you want to shower, clean up the mess?"
"Nope. I like the mess. It's our mess. They'll need the Jaws of Life tomorrow to pry us apart, but what the hell."
Soft laughter in his neck, Blair's warm breath tickling him...oh, yes, he loved this mess. Could stay like this forever...and then words, Blair's words...."Don't need you for my dissertation...."
"Blair, what did you mean when you said you didn't need me for your dissertation? You finished it?"
"Yes, I finished it, but I'm not going to publish. We'll frame it, keep it hidden and take it out every few years and remember. It did bring us together. But I lied when I said I didn't need you for my diss...I do...and Simon and Rafe and Joel and Brown and Megan and the whole department. And before you get all hot and bothered....although that is one beautiful sight...you know you felt relief just when...when I said I wasn't going to publish...so don't get all uppity."
"Uppity? Me? Jim Ellison, stoic Jim Ellison, uppity?"
"You're right, I did feel relief."
"I know. I think from the begining, you never believed I'd publish it. Could publish it. You knew I'd realize what it could do to you. So you just waited. Such an ego. So omnipotent."
"Yep, that's me. Omnipotent. Wait, does this mean the whole lie about the police department dissertation is no longer a lie?"
"That's exactly what I mean."
"Shit, Simon is going to have a cow. You better write nice....".
"Ummm, nice...you, feel...so nice...how does that feel?"
"Shit, Sandburg, you're insatiable....".
"So. Oh, yeah, there....god."
"Thank you for the promotion."