Running Home

By: Debbie Tripp

EMAIL: Debbie

This is the second story in my Running Trilogy, Running Home. In this story, Blair comes home, hoping to reclaim his life and Jim comes home, hoping to reclaim his friend. Both start to talk, to try to resolve their differences and see if there is anything left to salvage. Originally posted on the SentinelAngst list 2/2005.

 

RUNNING HOME -- BLAIR

 

I wasn't sure where I was going. I just knew I had to go. I left behind the letter for Jim and it had been obvious to me I wasn't wanted around anymore. Although Jim hadn't said that in so many words, it was obvious from his body language. Jim's body language is easy to read. And then there was the fact both Jim and William went silent as soon as I walked into the loft. It didn't take a genius to figure out they were talking about me. The only words Jim said to me were that morning before he left by himself to go to his father's cabin. He claimed when he came back it would be better. But I'm not giving Jim the chance to find out. It will be better when he goes back because I won't be there.

 

I've been driving now for the better part of four days. Taking my time, admiring the sights. I passed a highway sign saying I was now in Atlanta, Georgia. I wonder how far I will run. And then I wonder why I'm running away. In the beginning, when I left, it was just a knee-jerk reaction to what Jim was doing. He was leaving and so I figured I needed to leave also. See, even in that respect, I still do what Jim does. I'm just like his shadow. I'm a Jim-clone. I hadn't realized how much I've become like Jim since the three plus years I've been with him. I somehow lost myself within his word. It's time for me to find out just who Blair Sandburg is. And I'm thinking in finding who I am, I need to go back to Cascade. To confront my responsibilities and actions. I had originally thought I needed to run away to find my life. I was wrong.

 

When I started out on my great adventure, I was going away, running away from my life and my responsibilities. But I can't really run away from my own life. After all, I'm 30 years old and I've been basically on my own since I was 16 years old. Definitely old enough to know what I want out of my own life. And I had been on the fast track at Rainier to get my PhD until I was unable to find a sentinel. To prove my dissertation subject. Then, I found Jim and for a while, I was helping him. But I think, deep down, Jim always resented me to some extent. From the very beginning. And whenever I did anything wrong, even if it was minor, Jim showed me his resentment and disappointment. It wasn't intentional; at least I don't think so. And Jim's words of praise were few and far between. I don't know why I find it important to be accepted by Jim, but I suppose it's because I thought we had built a friendship. Flight instead of fight has always been the Sandburg way. But I'm going to change the generation long reaction to running away. I'm going back to Cascade to reclaim my life. Cascade is my home.

 

I hadn't thought things through before I ran off. The university owes me an explanation of why I was dismissed without a hearing or without being able to tell my side of the story. And I've been thinking Sid Graham needs a reality check and to be told he can't run roughshod over me either. People won't recognize the Blair Sandburg that returns to Cascade.

 

I turn my car around and head back towards Washington state and Cascade. It will be good to be back. Deep down, I really didn't want to leave my home. Or my friend.

 

But Jim and I are at an impasse. That's the situation between Jim and I. Other than telling me he was going ALONE to his father's cabin and assuring me things would be better when he came back, he didn't say much to me the morning he left. Of course, that's Jim. And I know it's Jim. It shouldn't surprise me at all that he's not forthcoming with talking about what we went through. I just thought maybe some of me rubbed off on Jim since some of Jim rubbed off on me. Wishful thinking on my part. Nothing could be that easy. I'll go back and TRY to get Jim to talk. Try being the operative word. If he doesn't want to talk, I'll talk, knowing he'll listen to me. Jim always listens to me. He doesn't always like what I say, but? Usually when I talk, he talks. We'll see.

 

I'm wondering if I can push things and see if I can get back to Cascade in three days. It would be really nice if I could get back before Jim and take back that letter I wrote before he can read it. I really laid myself out there in that letter.

 

The only problem will be getting into the loft. I left my key behind with the letter. But there's always the fire escape.

 

I drive practically nonstop back to Cascade. It's worth it as I arrive back within the city limits in just three days. I drive towards Prospect Avenue, a sense of home and family surging within me. I'm not sure where that is coming from, but I suspect it's the thought of seeing Jim again that puts the smile on my face. Then it disappears as I remember Jim's tone and the looks he gave me just before he left. And the things he told me when the dissertation was released. And how he avoided me after we returned from Sierra Verde. Maybe this is a mistake. No, it isn't a mistake. If Jim doesn't want to talk, we won't talk. If he doesn't want me in the loft, I'll leave. My week was up several years ago now anyway. I'm in control of my life now.

 

I pull into the parking lot behind the apartment building and I don't spot Jim's truck anywhere. Good. I beat him back. Of course, now I have to get into the loft. I go around to the back of the building and see the ladder up to the fire escape. I can do this.

 

But after three unsuccessful tries, I debate about waiting for Jim to come home and explain to him my frame of mind when I wrote the letter. Then I remember Simon has a key to the loft. One Jim had given him when it happened too many times that both Jim and I were unable to be there for the other.

 

I look at my watch. It's 6:00 PM. Simon should be home. I'm sure he hasn't been put back on active duty yet. He was seriously hurt. I go back to my car and get my cell phone out of my backpack. I call Simon's home number while I sit in the driver's seat of my car. The phone is answered after the fourth ring.

 

"Banks!"

 

"Hey, Simon. How's it going?"

 

"Sandburg? Don't you have anything better to do than to harass other people?"

 

"Well, I love you too, Simon. Uh -- Simon? I have a favor to ask."

 

"What favor, Sandburg?"

 

"You have a key to the loft, right?"

 

"Yes. Where is this going, Sandburg? Where's your key?"

 

"Well, it's a long story, Simon. Can I explain when I come for the key?"

 

"Sure, Sandburg. Just give me a little extra time to get to the door after you knock."

 

"Sure enough, Simon. See you soon."

 

I close the cell phone and close the driver's side door. I head towards Simon's house, wondering how much I will tell him about Jim and I.

 

I pull up in front of Simon's house and I sit there for a minute. It was a fortuitous turn of events that Simon and Megan survived the attack by Zeller. Plus everyone else in the line of fire of that psycho. Including Jim. He took a big risk pursuing Zeller as he did. And I took the same big risk following Jim to provide backup even though I knew our relationship was tenuous at best.

 

I finally get out of my car and walk up to the door. I knock on the door and wait patiently. As Simon nears the door, I can hear his movements. The walker creaks as he moves along.

 

The door opens and I see Simon standing there. Whole and alive. I'm grateful everyone survived. I feel a small degree of guilt for what happened. because Jim wasn't focused on Zeller as he had to field questions and inquiries about the rumor of him being a sentinel. That's why I gave my press conference. To deflect the attention away from Jim. But in the end, the shooting still happened.

 

"-- stand there all day, Sandburg?"

 

"What? Oh, sorry, Simon. I was lost in thought there for a minute."

 

"Well, don't expect me to find you again."

 

"Funny, Simon. Don't quit your day job."

 

I walk into the house, past Simon. He closes the door and then turns to face me.

 

"Okay, Sandburg. Why do you need a key to the loft? Did Jim change the locks on you? Cause if he did, I don't have a new key."

 

"No, Simon. See, Jim left Cascade a week ago. He went to his father's cabin just outside Cascade. He went without me. He didn't even ask me to go along for the ride. Anyway, after he left, I felt I should do the same. It didn't seem right I stay in the loft alone when it felt as if Jim didn't want me there anymore. So, I packed up my things and left, with every intention of not coming back. But three days ago, I decided to come back and reclaim my life. It's a long, drawn-out explantion that I'm sure you don't want to hear. Anyway, Jim isn't home yet and I left my keys when I left, not intending to come back."

 

"So, what do you hope to do now that you're back? Reunite with Jim?"

 

"I don't know. I need to talk to Jim and hope that he talks back. See if we can come to an understanding."

 

"So, you were running away and you weren't going to dignify our offer with a response?"

 

Shit! I've been caught with my hand in the cookie jar. I look down at the floor and then back up at Simon.

 

"I'll be honest, Simon. I was thinking that sooner or later you would have realized I was a fraud and a liar and there was no way I'd be able to be accepted as a respected member of teh Cascade Police Department. That was assuming I could even make it through the academy. I'm sorry I didn't say anything, Simon. I wasn't thinking about letting anyone know about my leaving. I figured Jim would let you know."

 

"Blair?" He looks me straight in the eye. I can't look away. "You are not a fraud or a liar. I guess I just assumed you would be allowed to explain yourself and why you did what you did. I always thought you were a stand-up guy."

 

"Gee, thanks Simon." I'm impressed with his words.

 

"From what I understand, it wasn't even your dissertation that was released by that publisher. And Jim had said something about a tape of you and that publisher recorded with the police department telephone recording equipment. Is that true?"

 

"I suppose it is. He first contacted me at the station. I repeatedly told him no when he asked to publish the material he got hold of. I suppose it was recorded. I didn't really think about that. I'm surprised Jim would have thought about that."

 

"Whatever you think of Jim, Sandburg, he realized that he's made a lot of mistakes. You have to understand this all took him by surprise also. He didn't want to believe what was happening. He felt hamstrung, like he was hampered and couldn't do his job."

 

"I understand that now. I just want Jim to know I only did what I thought was reasonable. What I thought was right. I never suspected anything aobut him being a sentinel to be released to the public. Now, I have to convince Jim of that."

 

"If anyone can, you can, Sandburg."

 

Simon hands me the spare key he has to the loft.

 

"Thanks, Simon. So, has the doctor released you back to active duty?"

 

"Not yet. He still says I need to take things easy. After all, it was a serious injury. But it is getting better."

 

"I'm sorry about it happening, Simon."

 

"What are you apologizing for, Sandburg? You didn't conspire with Zeller, did you?"

 

I look at him incredibly. "No, but -- "

 

"No buts, Sandburg. You are not responsible for some psycho shooting up the bullpen. Get it?"

 

"Yeah, but --"

 

"What did I say, Sandburg?"

 

"No buts, but had the part about Jim being a sentinel not been released, then Jim would have been focused on Zeller and catching him, not worrying about when the next reporter was going to ambush Jim."

 

"I don't believe you, Blair. You can't take blame for the world's problems. Just chalk it up to bad choices and wrong circumstances. It happened. No one died and Zeller was killed. The good guys won, Sandburg. Just be glad for that."

 

"I know. It's just that it could have gone so differently."

 

"Might have and could have. It's all just speculation in the end. No use dwelling on it. Is that the real reason you ran away?"

 

I don't answer Simon. But he gets me thinking. I thought it was because I was following Jim. I look back down at the floor and shrug my shoulders.

 

"So, does reclaiming your life mean you'll reconsider the police academy?"

 

I look back up at Simon. I want to say yes without hesitation, but I can't. I shrug my shoulders again.

 

"I'll let you know. I should go. You need your rest. Thanks for the key."

 

"Don't be a stranger, Blair. I mean it. Whether you realize it or not, you still have friends a tthe PD."

 

"I do realize that."

 

I leave Simon's house, reflecting on what we discussed. How open he had been with me. How much he wanted to make me see it was not my fault. I know that in my head, but my heart can't quite get around it.

 

As I drive back to the loft, I realize it was a mistake to leave at all. I was just following in Jim's footsteps, doing what Jim did. When I left, it was because of what happened and I didn't want to face up to it. I had held onto a small portion of guilt, blaming myself for distracting Jim with the release of my sentinel study. That wasn't my fault either. Jim was pissed off at me and that allowed Zeller to get under Jim's radar. It was fate and fortune that no one was killed at the PD and that Zeller was the one to end up dead.

 

I pull into the parking lot behind the building and I see it -- Jim's truck. He's home. I look at my watch. It's well past 7:00 PM. I wonder if Simon had some inkling that Jim was coming back tonight? I was over at Simon's for almost an hour.

 

Well, this is what I wanted. I best go up there and do damage control for the letter. If I give Jim my puppy dog eyes and sincere apology, maybe he'll forgive me. Or at least listen to my side of the story.

 

I walk inside, taking the stairs to the third floor. He'll know I'm coming. After all, that's Sentinel 101, the basics. Of course, he wanted to abandon his gifts. Maybe that why he wanted to go off alone. To try to lose his abilities. I don't think he can do it.

 

But he'll know I'm coming because he's always been attuned to my body, my breathing, and my heartbeat. He probably already knows I'm here. Just the sound of my Volvo -- he's attuned to that also.

 

My suspicions are confirmed when I walk down the hall and he's standing in the doorway, waiting.

 

"I just finished reading your letter."

 

Well, so much for the preemptive strike to lose the letter.

 

"I actually got back to Cascade a few hours ago. I was going to destroy the letter and talk to you. But I couldn't grab the end of the fire escape ladder to boost myself up and get inside. I had left my keys behind and had no other way of getting inside. I remember you gave Simon a key to the loft and I called him from my cell phone and asked him to loan me his key. He agreed to and he and I had a long talk. That's why I didn't make it back before you got here."

 

"I arrived about an hour ago. I brought my things upstairs and unlocked the door. As soon as I walked in, I saw your keys, the note and your observer's pass. I knew what you did. You ran away, just like I did. We are so much alike, Chief."

 

I push my way past Jim into the loft. I don't like the implications of his words. I mean, on the way back to Cascade, I told myself I wasn't Jim Ellison's shadow. I don't want to be a Jim clone.

 

"So, what brings you back?"

 

Such a loaded question.

 

"I knew running away wasn't the answer. I was going to find myself and I realized it would be much easier to do that here than somewhere across the country. I got all the way to Atlanta before I came to my senses."

 

I see Jim's wince at my unintentional reference to senses. Well, it wasn't his senses. It was mine.

 

"Sorry about that remark, Jim. I didn't think before I spoke. It seems to be a common trait of mine. Anyway, I decided that I didn't need to run away and I needed to take responsibility for what I did and what had happened."

 

"You know you weren't responsible for Simon and Megan and the others getting hurt? You weren't responsible for me getting hurt?"

 

"Yeah, I know that. At least my mind tells me that. My heart on the other hand keeps saying if I hadn't even started on that damned paper, none of it might have happened."

 

"You can't know that, Blair."

 

I see Jim pause; open his mouth like he wants to say something else. But he doesn't. And in that instant, I know it will be hard to get Jim to talk. Par for the course. It shouldn't surprise me.

 

"So, are you going to stay here? I noticed you cleared out your things."

 

"If I can?" I'm hopeful he'll let me stay.

 

"You don't need to ask, Chief. I told you, the loft is as --"

 

"Yeah, yeah." Suddenly, I'm getting real irritated at Jim. And I start to wonder why I came back. But then I remember that I'm taking charge of my life now. And I can't let Jim's insecurities undermine my intentions.

 

"Maybe it would be best if I go somewhere else. After all, all my things are still in my car and I'd have to haul them upstairs. And I'm sure you don't need the aggrevation."

 

"No, Blair. Please. Stay."

 

I hear the pleading in his voice. I look up into Jim's eyes. Well, I was the one who wanted to come back.

 

RUNNING HOME -- JIM

 

As soon as I got out of the lot and started down the street, I wanted to turn back and talk things out with Blair. I'm sure that's what Blair expected us to do. But talking really isn't my thing. Blair knows that. And I basically ignored Blair -- telling him I was going alone. I needed to be alone. It will be a wonder if Blair ever talks to me again. This might be the straw that breaks the camel's back.

 

It will be better when I go back. I keep telling myself that. I'm sure while I was gone Blair had time to think about where we stand. Where he stands. I'm sure he's got an argument and a position for every point I can possibly come up with. I've had nothing but time to think about where we stand. Where I stand. What I did to Blair. And how I acted like a total boob.

 

I can't believe I was actually agreeing with my father. Not that I never agree with him, but he's always been skeptical of Blair. Thinking Blair was only taking from me. No matter what I told my dad, he didn't want to believe Blair was a help and not a hindrance. I tried sticking up for Blair when my dad started off that night, but I was no better towards Blair as I gave him the silent treatment even after my dad left. I had every opportunity to say something. A missed opportunity. I didn't say a word. And I was immediately ready to leave town. Running away.

 

I really thought it was the best idea. Get away for a while, relax, and get my bearings once again. Forget about Zeller, the shootout, and the injuries. And Blair. I had to admit to myself I needed to distance myself from Blair. Whenever I think of Blair, I think of the dissertation and the sentinel stuff. I needed a break from my hyperactive senses. Blair told me I couldn't turn them off. But I sure could try.

 

It was peaceful in the cabin for maybe part of the first day. Then, things just seemed to spiral out of control. My senses were all over the map and I had a hard time finding the dials. The only thing that would work was for me to close my eyes, picture Blair in my mind and recall his voice. That's when I knew.

 

I knew no matter what, Blair and I had to work out our differences. I needed Blair to make the hyperactive senses work. It was some type of illusion I was living under thinking I could ever do this sentinel thing without Blair. At the very least, I need to have Blair help me deal with all this. And if that meant talking things out with Blair and being civil, then that was what I would do.

 

But a part of me that is an arrogant SOB, and a loner, didn't want to accept that. I didn't want to go running back to Cascade and grovel to Sandburg that I couldn't do any of this sentinel stuff on my own. I mean, it was like saying, even though I'm a grown man, I needed a 'neo-hippie witch doctor punk' to survive day to day. Me -- an ex-Army, Major Crime detective, tough as nails and hardened by life, needed a carefree, lover of life, non-violent graduate student? It didn't seem possible. But I had the proof. I stayed at the cabin and endured the week.

 

I also realized I had a lot to talk to Blair about. Not only this latest incident, but also all the incidents from the beginning. It's a wonder Blair didn't just take off. Just get fed up and walk out, leaving me high and dry. It's probably what I would have done, had the roles been reversed. But Blair is nothing if not loyal. I'm not sure I would have stayed. It's a major difference between us.

 

I keep remembering back to his press conference. The look in his eyes, like he was giving up the last chance at his hopes and dreams. And it was all because of me. I was his field of study, his Holy Grail. And I had disappointed him big time by lashing out at him. Not very mature on my part.

 

But I keep wondering, can I explain that to Blair? Do I want to appear so flawed in front of him? I'm sure he knows I'm not perfect, although I wonder sometimes. Does he see me as a man, or does he see me as a sentinel? Is there a difference in his eyes? I know over the years, there have been doubts. But we're both adults.

 

As I stayed at the cabin, I realized I should have offered Blair a chance to come with me. I shouldn't have shut him out. I shouldn't have turned my back on him and abandoned him like everyone else had. I'm sure he could have used the time away. After all, people were hounding him as much as they were hounding me.

 

He would have loved it at the the cabin. It's in the middle of nothing but trees and nature. And yet, I had to conjure up Blair's image and voice to keep an even keel.

 

Maybe we could have started talking there. But at the time, I didn't want Blair anywhere near me. I needed the time away alone. I needed to be away from Blair, as much as it pained me to admit that.

 

It will be better when I get back. Blair will know what he wants to do. Blair Sandburg is resilient and always bounces back. I will back him in whatever choice he makes, even if it isn't the PD. I saw his looks in the bullpen when he thought no one was looking. I've seen that look of apprehension on Blair's face before. When he's not sure about things. I just want him to be happy at this point in time. We've always been better together rather than apart. Even if we can't stay together, I can live with it. I don't like that idea, though.

 

Blair is a grown man, not some kid who needs a babysitter and an overprotective friend. Blair has stood on his own two feet before and I'm sure he will do it again. I can't have him follow me blindly like he has no choice in the situation. He has a mind and will of his own and I'm sure he will do whatever he wants to do, no matter what I say or do.

 

By the third day in the cabin, I was missing Blair and his constant chattering about this, that and everything else. It's a clear reminder to me that Blair has been the one constant, consistent part of my life I've come to expect and accept. Not where I thought I'd ever be. I started writing down the things I wanted to talk to Blair about, if he gives me the opportunity. By the time I left to come home, it was up to ten pages. I'm not sure I have that much talk in me. But I vow to change my ways. In the hopes I can at least salvage our friendship. But as I think about things, the more I think Blair might just decide things aren't worth it and just leave. Start fresh somewhere else. And I may not get the chance to tell him goodbye. And what he means to me. That is my biggest worry.

 

I packed up my things to return home. Home. I hope it still is a home. I allowed Blair into my life and loft and through our friendship we made it a home.

 

The pain in my leg is down to a dull ache and I no longer need the cane. My limp is almost completely gone. I place the cane in the bed of my truck with the rest of my things. I walk back into the cabin, double-checking that I haven't left anything behind. Maybe Blair and I can come back here if we want some place quiet to discuss things.

 

On the drive home, my thoughts return to Blair. No matter what happens, I'll worry about him. No matter where he goes or what he does. He'll have to accept that. It's part and parcel of who I am and what he means to me. He'll be amazed that I've accepted the whole sentinel/guide connection.

 

That being said, I'm not so sure I want Blair to follow me in becoming a cop. At one point, that's exactly what I wanted. But it's a dangerous job. Blair learned that just as an observer. It was just a knee-jerk reaction to the situation at the time. Blair had lost the university and trashed his reputation and good name. I had suggested the badge offer to Simon and he had agreed. Blair didn't accept right away. But I can just see Blair doing this just to please me. And he'd become a Jim-clone and that's definitely not what I want. I want Blair to do what he wants to do. I want Blair to be happy. And I want Blair to know I'm not mad at him, I don't resent him, and I don't blame him. I know he probably thinks all of this from me. I've given him that impression. I think deep in my subconscious, I did resent him to some point because he was in control of my life. And I've shown him the resentment through the years.

 

Our second meeting, when I knew it was he, I pushed him up against the wall and threatened him with arrest. I was trying to regain control. I didn't want to let him in control. And I tried to fight what he was trying to tell me. Over the years, the resentment was always there. The fact Blair had control over my life and well being and I wasn't in control was big on my list.

 

I've blamed Blair over the years for both big and little things. And the more I think about it; he'd be better off away from me. Maybe I can't change. But I've got to at least talk to him and see if I can do it.

 

I reach the loft and pull in behind the apartment building. I don't spot Blair's car anywhere. But I look at my watch -- it's just past 6:30 PM. He could be anywhere. I can't expect him to be sitting in the loft, just waiting for me to come home. I get out of my truck; grab the cooler and my duffel bag and my cane. I get inside the building and take the elevator up to the third floor. I don't want to chance overdoing things on my leg just yet. I get out my keys when I get off the elevator.

 

I walk towards the door to the loft and extend out my hearing. I started doing that as soon as I learned how to extend out my senses. It was a wonder I could do such a thing. I never wanted to be surprised in my own home. I hear nothing out of the ordinary. And I don't hear any indication of Blair being inside. Wishful thinking on my part that Blair and I could start talking right away. I'm afraid I'll lose my nerve if I wait too long.

 

I unlock the door and walk inside a dark, cold place. It doesn't feel like home at all. And the first things I spot are Blair's keys, a note and his observer's pass. Blair did what I did. He ran away. We're already too much alike.

 

I put my things down by the table and pick up the letter Blair left. I start to read what he wrote. And I can practically hear his despair when he starts to apologize and take the blame for everything. I left him like everyone else and he ran off to places unknown to find a real job. What have I done?

 

I'm thinking I should track him down. He's neither a fraud no a liar. He did it all for me and he'd never lie about me. I think I'll give credence to Blair's findings -- it's the least I can do for him. We'll talk about this, too. I don't want him far away with a real job. He needs to be here, so we can talk. And he can help me with my sentinel abilities.

 

Suddenly, I hear the unmistakable sound of Blair's Volvo. I pause and listen again. It is the Volvo. Blair must not have left after all. I hear him park in the lot, by my truck. I hear him get out of the car.

 

As I track him up the stairs, I look around the place. Blair has moved out all of his things. The place looks bare -- nothing like what it had been. I can just imagine Blair's state of mind after I had left him like everyone else. He must have thought he was all alone. I hope I can change his perception of things.

 

I smile as I track him to the third floor. I walk over to the door and open it up. I'll wait at the doorway for him. I can completely lose myself in his being. It's much better than when I had to conjure him up at the cabin. I look up as he walks down the hall. He stops just in front of me. We look each other in the eye.

 

"I just finished reading your letter."

 

I see a look of something pass over his face and it's quickly gone. I'm not sure what it was. But I don't think he wanted me to read that letter.

 

"I actually got back to Cascade a few hours ago. I was going to destroy the letter and talk to you. But I couldn't grab the end of the fire escape ladder to boost myself up and get inside. I had left my keys behind and had no other way of getting inside. I remember you gave Simon a key to the loft and I called him from my cell phone and asked him to loan me his key. He agreed to and he and I had a long talk. That's why I didn't make it back before you got here."

 

I take in what Blair says and what he doesn't say.

 

"I arrived about an hour ago. I brought my things upstairs and unlocked the door. As soon as I walked in, I saw your keys, the note and your observer's pass. I knew what you did. You ran away, just like I did. We are so much alike, Chief."

 

I see the look of anger cross Blair's face. He pushes his way past me into the loft. It was definitely the wrong thing to say. He goes to stand in the middle of the living room. I close the door and turn to walk towards him.

 

"So, what brings you back?"

 

He doesn't look at me. He's trying to think of the right words to say.

 

"I knew running away wasn't the answer. I was going to find myself and I realized it would be much easier to do that here than somewhere across the country. I got all the way to Atlanta before I came to my senses."

 

I wince at his use of the word senses. He sees my wince.

 

"Sorry about that remark, Jim. I didn't think before I spoke. It seems to be a common trait of mine. Anyway, I decided that I didn't need to run away and I needed to take responsibility for what I did and what had happened."

 

He blames himself for what happened. I can't let him think that.

 

"You know you weren't responsible for Simon and Megan and the others getting hurt? You weren't responsible for me getting hurt?" He's got to see the logic in that.

 

"Yeah, I know that. At least my mind tells me that. My heart on the other hand keeps saying if I hadn't even started on the damned paper, none of it might have happened."

 

He's unbelievable. He'd take the blame for the world. I shake my head.

 

"You can't know that, Blair."

 

I want to tell him more. I really do. But I'm wondering if this is the right time. I pause, not saying anything else. I decide to find out a little bit more.

 

"So, are you going to stay here? I noticed you cleared out your things."

 

He pauses a moment. "If I can?"

 

"You don't need to ask, Chief. I told you, this loft is as -- "

 

He interrupts me. He's angry again. "Yeah, yeah." He turns away from me and walks further away. Then he turns back to face me.

 

"Maybe it would be best if I go somewhere else. After all, all my things are still in my car and I'd have to haul them upstairs. And I'm sure you don't need the aggrevation."

 

"No, Blair. Please. Stay."

 

I sound pleading and pitiful. But if I don't get him to stay now, he may leave forever. He looks straight into my eyes. And I hold his gaze.

END