EMAIL ADDRESS: email@example.com
RATING: N/C - 17
SUMMARY: Careless words almost tear apart Jim and Blair's blossoming relationship.
Sincere thanks to Mary for the beta.
Hitching his overloaded backpack over one shoulder, Blair stepped out of the warm confines of his car and into the drizzling rain. He turned and pushed the door closed, muttering to himself when the catch on the old vehicle failed to engage. Pulling the door open, he slammed it again, giving a small 'ouch' as his bag swung forward and clipped him in the chest. Leaning back against the bodywork, Blair rubbed at the sore spot, and let his gaze wander up to the welcoming lights in the third floor apartment.
Jim was home. Blair smiled to himself. He could almost smell the rich beef stew Jim had promised to cook if he got home on time. The two had been running themselves ragged for several weeks now, Blair, in particular, as he geared up for finals at the university and then tried to find time to accompany Jim on as many cases as he could.
The strap of his backpack cut into his shoulder, reminding him of the long night he still had ahead of him. Assignments. He wondered now why he hadn't relented to his students' pleas and fixed them a simple multiple-choice test, instead of one requiring at least a paragraph per question. Blair had argued that he was testing himself as much as them, using it as a measuring stick to gauge precisely how much of his lectures were seeping into their overloaded, adolescent brains. The kids had laughed at that, grumbled good-naturedly for the most part, and gotten down to work. Now came the hard part.
Traipsing into the apartment building, Blair blessed whatever deity watched over bone-tired anthropologists and pressed the button for the elevator. He used the snail-pace upward trundle of the ancient car as an opportunity to rest his tired eyes, dropping his backpack at his feet, and sagging against the wall. He was going to have to pull an all-nighter if he had any hope of getting the tests graded before the weekend. He needed more hours in the day, he decided, then snorted a little hysterically, knowing he'd just find more things to fill it up with. More tests on Jim's senses, more research into the true origins of sentinels, more .
The elevator stopped with a jerk and his eyes popped open, his bleary gaze darting about uncertainly for a moment before he realized exactly where he was. He lifted his bag, the weight almost toppling him over and carried it instead in his hand, the bottom of it thumping gently against his leg as he walked.
Tests. Jim. Tests on Jim's senses. Sometimes Blair wondered where Jim ended and he began. It seemed that their personalities were as entwined in each other as their lives had become. Sometimes it felt as though it was all about Jim.
He pushed that uncharitable thought away, reminding himself that it was he who'd chased after Ellison that first day at the university. Who'd begged for a chance to study the detective's sentinel abilities, promising to teach Jim how to control and master his hyper-senses in return for research for his dissertation, his Holy Grail.
Life had certainly become a whole lot more complicated since then. He'd initially pushed away his growing attraction to his roommate, arguing it was part of the sentinel-guide dynamic, deep inside hoping he was wrong, but desolately believing that Jim would never feel the same way about him. He couldn't remember now when their relationship had turned the corner from platonic to love, only that he'd suddenly felt like he'd come home.
He grinned now as he put his backpack on the floor in the hallway and searched through the crowded contents for his loft keys. Last night had been a welcome respite from the headlong rush their lives had become. Knowing his time with Jim was going to be in short supply for the next few weeks; Blair had seduced Jim, and convinced him to try bottoming.
It was not something that Jim conceded to easily. As a sentinel, he was used to being in control of every situation; an in-built survival mechanism, Blair thought. Blair, however, loved to bottom. He loved having his ass fingered, rimmed and penetrated, and wanted Jim to at least try it. He didn't think he'd pushed his lover into doing something that he really didn't want to do. Blair could be convincing and stubborn, but he drew the line when it came to sex. It was supposed to be a consensual act, after all.
It had turned out to be one of the best nights of lovemaking that Blair could remember. Jim, after some initial nervousness, had turned almost primal as he urged Blair to fuck him harder, his strong body writhing on Blair's cock, wrenching a massive orgasm from them both. Blair felt himself harden now at the memory.
Muted voices from the loft dragged him from his erotic daydream, and reminded him that Jim was home, so he had no need for his keys. He recognized the deep second voice as Simon's.
The use of his own name had him halting in the partly-opened doorway, his heart thudding in his chest as he waited to hear what the heck it was that he'd done wrong this time. Jim's voice sounded thin and tight and Blair's concern went up a notch.
"Me and Sandburg, a couple? Simon, you've got to be joking."
Blair felt a rushing in his ears and his heart seemed to suddenly seize up. The words though could not be drowned out as Jim continued.
"Come on, Simon. I know what the talk is around the station, but Sandburg and me? Sandburg's "
"What?" Jim's voice sounded suddenly strangled.
Simon was looking directly over Jim's shoulder at Blair, and the anthropologist felt his face flame at the mix of embarrassment and accusation in that gaze. "Sandburg's here," Simon repeated softly.
The sound of Blair's backpack hitting the floor sounded as loud as a gunshot. Jim swiveled slowly around to stare at his lover, his eyes staring widely from a pinched, pale face. He took a step toward Blair, as the other man stumbled away, his back hitting the door with jarring force.
"Blair? Chief, I'm sorry. I didn't mean You weren't supposed to hear "
Blair shook his head vehemently, his throat closing up and threatening to choke him. Abruptly, he spun and ran for the stairs, ignoring Jim's pleading cry for him to wait.
Jim stood flat-footed for a moment, listening to Blair's running footsteps echo loudly along the corridor, then mute as he reached the confines of the stairwell. Fear and reproach galvanized him into action. "Oh, shit!"
He turned to face Simon, his face flaring red when he saw the sudden awareness of the situation light the captain's face. He was already at the door before he spoke, his hearing still tracking his running lover. "Simon, I'm sorry. I've got to catch up with him. I'll explain later."
Simon waved with him on, shaking his head. "Explain? I think this explains everything."
By the time Jim pushed open the front door of the apartment building, Blair was several blocks ahead. "Blair! Will you just wait up and let me explain?"
He saw Blair glance over his shoulder at the shout, then put on a burst of speed, slowing only when he came to the intersection ahead. Impatience at Blair's abrupt departure mingled with shame at the lie he'd perpetrated and Jim doubled his speed. Blair turned once more to watch Jim, his eyes widening when he realized the detective was closing on him. With a final backward look, Blair stepped off the pavement and took off across the road.
"Blair! Look out!" Jim's heart clenched when he saw the car turn the corner from Prospect and saw Blair face the oncoming vehicle. It wasn't traveling that fast, but the driver had no time to react, nor did Blair.
Jim watched in horror as the car clipped Sandburg's legs, tossing him up onto the hood of the vehicle. Screaming brakes brought the car to an abrupt halt, the rear fishtailing wildly for a few feet before the tires found traction on the wet road, and then Blair's limp body slid off the front, rolling a couple of times before coming to a stop in the gutter.
Jim stumbled toward the huddled, unmoving body, his legs seeming unwilling to hold his weight. He crouched down and pressed his fingers against Blair's neck, feeling the reassuring steady thump of a heartbeat. Brushing strands of hair back from Blair's pale face, Jim winced at the painful looking graze that oozed blood over one cheekbone. Reaching forward, he slipped his hands beneath the slumped shoulders, stopping when a heavy hand landed on his back.
"Jim? Don't move him. He could have spinal injuries," Simon said quickly.
Jim nodded and rocked back on his heels, his hands shaking as they reached for one of Blair's. "Of course," he stuttered out. "Stupid of me, I didn't think."
"You've had a shock." Simon's voice was low, deep with concern. "Ambulance is on its way. What happened?"
Jim's head shot up at the question. "What happened? He was running from me, his partner, his friend." His voice dropped to a harsh whisper, even now unwilling to share their secret. "His lover. I called him, he ran onto the road."
Another voice intruded on their conversation. The driver of the car, his voice high-pitched and hysterical. "I didn't see him. I didn't have a chance to stop."
Jim took a deep, shuddering breath. "It wasn't your fault."
Blair had regained consciousness by the time the ambulance arrived, but though Jim clung tenaciously to his hand, he refused to speak, angling his face away to stare up at the night sky. He replied to the paramedic's questions with whispered, one-syllable answers, and when they reached the hospital, and Jim was gently pushed away and asked to wait outside, Blair did not object.
Jim paused outside the door to Blair's hospital room. Blair had been lucky, the doctor had said. Numerous grazes, a nasty gash on his forehead, bruised ribs and a moderate concussion, no fractures or internal injuries.
"Yeah, real lucky," Jim breathed as he tried to work up courage to open the door. "A lover who wants to deny his existence, keep him in the corner like he was something dirty and disgusting."
He steeled himself, and with the apology he'd rehearsed cycling over and over in his head, opened the door. "Blair?"
Blair was facing toward the window when Jim walked in, but he turned to the detective when Jim spoke. The grazes on his face were stark against his pale skin, one eye already darkening and swelling.
"Who are you?" Blair's voice was a harsh whisper and Jim's heart clenched in fear at the response, but before he could reply, Blair spoke again. "Oh, I remember now, Jim Ellison, Cop of the year, Sentinel of the Great City, my partner, best friend."
Jim took a step closer, wincing at the ice in the tone. "Blair, I'm sorry. I need to explain."
"Nothing to explain," he said flatly. "You took me into your bed, fucked me, and then when it looked as though our little secret might come out, you denied my existence as your lover, making me sound like some kind of ugly little creep you wouldn't look twice at."
Jim shook his head. "It wasn't like that. I tried to explain When Simon asked, I froze, I didn't know what to say. If it got out that I'm "
"What, gay, or sleeping with your roommate? And why is it only about you?"
"It wouldn't be good for you, either. You know that." Jim stepped closer to the bed. "Come on, Chief. Try to see reason here." He regretted the words as Blair's face closed up and his features became hard.
"Did you even bother to ask me how I felt about it, before you told your lies to Simon?"
"I'm sorry. I guess I knew this would come up eventually. We should have discussed it."
"Well, you finally got one thing right," Blair spat. He shifted gingerly in the bed, shrugging off Jim's hand as the detective reached out to help him. "Get out, Jim. I don't want to see you."
"The doctor said you can come home tomorrow "
"I'll find somewhere to stay. I'll have my stuff out by the end of the week."
"What? No! I don't want to you to leave! I love you."
"And once again, it's about what you want," Blair replied disdainfully. He pushed his hair out of his face with a shaking hand. "Well, let me tell you what I want, Jim. I want you out of this room and out of my life."
Speechless, Jim turned on his heel and left the room.
Blair stared morosely at the dismal surroundings of his tiny motel room. The interior was pallid and dim, and the yellow flowers on the rickety coffee table looked as wilted as he felt. He'd been here for a week now, and even this little run-down place was getting to be too much for him to afford. He had to start making some decisions. Slumping back on the lumpy mattress, he scrubbed a hand over his face, wincing as he contacted the roughened scabs of the grazes on his cheek.
He still hurt, not just physically, though residual aches from the accident still assaulted him. He felt wounded from the words he'd heard Jim say, and try as he might; they kept looping through his mind like a stuck record.
He was worried about Jim, too, despite his still-smoldering anger at his partner. He had not been into the station since before the fateful day of his accident, though he'd kept in touch with Joel, swearing him to secrecy.
The responsible, sensible Blair Sandburg told him he should be there at Jim's side, that he could not desert his post as Jim's guide, while the vulnerable side of him worried that once he finally faced Jim again, he might just bolt and run as he had before. And every time the phone rang, he wondered if it would be Simon telling him that Jim had been shot or killed while zoning.
He knew too, that he was hurting himself, hurting both of them with his silence and uncharacteristic refusal to discuss the events of the past week with Jim. His cell phone had rung several times in the past couple of days, and, knowing it was his lover calling, Blair had allowed the battery to flatten. He knew though that Jim was watching him, could sense the familiar presence whenever he stepped outside the door, though the detective had been careful not to show himself.
If he was sure of anything right now, it was that Jim loved him, and he knew that Jim had told Simon what he had in a knee-jerk reaction to what was a volatile question. There were so many unknowns about what could happen if their relationship became known, not least of all, if someone decided to nose a little more deeply and discovered Jim's sentinel abilities. Too much importance needed to be placed on keeping that secret to worry about hurt feelings.
They should have discussed the possibility of being found out when they'd first taken that fateful step of declaring their true feelings for each other, but they'd been too caught up in the heady joy of it all, and Blair was as much to blame as Jim was.
That silent explanation should have been enough, and Blair had picked up the phone on several occasions, wanting to phone Jim and tell him he understood, but then the hated words would resurface in his memory, making his stomach churn. The tiny devil on his shoulder would mock him, reminding him that Jim was ashamed of him.
He missed Jim, still loved him, ached for him, felt as though a chunk of him had been cut out. He levered himself upright on the bed and stared into space. "So why the fuck are you avoiding him?"
The room phone buzzed, aborting any answer he may have had to his question. He stared at it for a moment, debating whether to pick it up, then a vision of Jim's bloody body, his eyes wide and staring in a total zone-out flashed through his mind and he snatched up the receiver. "Hello?"
"Blair?" Simon's voice sounded subdued, and Blair felt dread settle in his stomach like lead.
"Simon, what is it? Jim?"
"No, not exactly." There was a long pause on the line. "Are you all right, son?"
"I'm fine, Simon. I'm sorry I haven't been in touch. I left my forwarding address at the front desk," Blair paused, "obviously you got it. I just needed some time to think things over."
"And have you?"
"Not really, no. How's Jim?"
"Miserable." Simon's tone was clipped. "Look, Sandburg, I know what he did was unforgivable, but he was on the spot there."
Blair shook his head. "He did the right thing, Captain. We He can't afford to have anyone investigating him too closely. It's gotten a little too close for comfort before."
"Why don't you tell him that?"
Blair rubbed at his forehead, trying to push away the headache that was blossoming. "I doubt he'd believe me. Is that all?"
"No, I need you to come in and sign off on your observer's pass. Would this afternoon suit you?"
Blair felt the color drain from his face. "Sign off? Simon, just because I'm no longer "
"I was going to say, just because I'm no longer living at the loft, doesn't mean I'm going to run out on my responsibilities."
Blair heard the audible sigh. "You could have fooled me. You haven't been near the precinct for over a week, and I know you're pretty much recovered from the accident. Could be a little tense, couldn't it? You trying to talk Jim out of a zone with that chip on your shoulder weighing you down and Jim's guilt convincing him he'd better off staying in the twilight zone."
"I'd thought about it, I just hadn't decided what to do about it. Wait a minute. How do you know how I am?"
"I talked to Joel, all right? He made me promise not to tell you. He's worried about you two, Sandburg. We all are."
"I miss you guys too. Are you sure Jim's okay?" Blair managed to get out. "I didn't think I shouldn't have left him on his own, Simon. He needs someone with him."
"Megan's riding with him for now. He's had a couple of minor zones, but nothing major."
"All right, come down to the station this afternoon and talk to me. We'll see where we stand then. "
"Yeah, sure. I can do that."
"Good, I'll see you at one. Blair? You take care of yourself."
Blair hung up the receiver, feeling as though his heart had been wrenched from his chest.
In all the time Blair had worked at the Cascade PD, he had never felt so nervous about entering the precinct room as he did now. He breathed a sigh of relief, his gaze going unerringly to Jim's desk, when he realized the room was deserted. Everyone was obviously either out to lunch or following up on cases. Simon's door opened and Blair looked up.
"Sandburg! It's good to see you. How are you feeling?"
Blair smiled with genuine warmth at seeing the captain. "I'm just fine, Simon." He endured Simon's scrutiny of his fading injuries stoically.
"Look, Sandburg, I've just been called down to see the Chief. I'll be back in a half-hour, tops. The paper's are on my desk. Why don't you go in, have a coffee and we'll talk just as soon as I get back."
The Captain held up an admonishing finger. "Don't make me come find you, Sandburg."
Blair nodded. He watched Simon hurry from the bullpen, and wandered over to Jim's desk. There was a framed picture sitting by the computer monitor. Blair picked it up, surprised to see it there. Jim was stickler for keeping his desk clear of any trinkets. His breath caught in his throat when he recognized the image. He and Jim on a fishing trip with Simon, before they'd run into the poachers. Blair with that silly hat that he loved to wear; Jim sitting beside him, one arm wrapped firmly about Blair's shoulders, two fingers of the same hand sticking up over Blair's head. Both of them grinning madly, totally absorbed in each other, in love.
Muted voices in the corridor outside had him placing the photo back on the desk, and he quickly crossed the room and stepped into Simon's office. He sat down at the desk and picked up the papers verifying the signing off on his observer's pass. So many memories and experiences, both good and bad, reduced to just words on a sheet of paper. He picked up a pen and held it over the signature line, all too aware of how much his hand was shaking. A knock on the door startled him and he looked up as the door opened.
"Simon? Sorry to interrupt but "
Blair watched the color drain from Jim's face. "Hey," he said weakly.
Jim's gaze roamed the office then alighted back on Blair. His brow creased and Blair swallowed nervously. "Oh, sorry. I was looking for Simon." He waved a manila folder in the air. "I'll, um come back. Later."
Blair's heart thudded in his chest as Jim backed out of the office. "Jim? Wait." He held his breath, then let it out in a whoosh when Jim reappeared. Blair stood and walked around the desk. "Jim, I'm sorry."
"For what? I'm the one who should be apologizing."
"You tried," Blair reminded him. "I wouldn't let you."
Jim nodded slowly but his face remained serious. "Okay, thank you for accepting it."
Blair snaked out a desperate hand as Jim turned to go. "You did nothing wrong," he said quickly.
"I lied about you. About us."
"For all the right reasons." Seeing Jim beginning to waver, Blair rushed on. "It was wrong of you to say what you did, and I won't lie and say it didn't hurt like hell - still does - but we were both wrong for never discussing this. From the break room gossip you overheard, we both knew there was a chance questions were going to be asked. We both had blinders on, figuring as long as we loved each other, it didn't matter. It does. But in your situation, I would have done the same thing."
Jim shook his head. "It's too late," he whispered. "Simon already knows."
Blair took a step closer. "That we can deal with together. The real question here is, do you still love me?"
"You know I do. I never stopped "
"I know. I knew you were there, at the motel. I could feel you."
"It's not enough," Jim said suddenly, pulling his arm from Blair's grasp. "I hurt you, let you down."
"And I forgive you," Blair replied, one hand reaching up to stroke Jim's cheek. "Because I love you, too. Can we try again?"
Blue eyes met blue and then Jim leaned forward. Jim's lips pressing against his were his answer and Blair opened his mouth readily, welcoming him in. Arms wrapped around him, pulling him closer, Jim's lips now nuzzling his neck. "We'll start back at the beginning, Blair, and this time we'll get it right."
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