He settled himself gingerly on the still-cold ground, wincing a little as the damp from the grass bit into him through his jeans.
The headstone in front of him gleamed with the warmth of polished stone, stray bits of sunlight slanting off the plaque on the front of it. Lovingly, gently, he ran his hand across the front of it, his body still tight with the pain this brought. A year. Today made a year, and it still hurt as bad now as it did then.
James Joseph Ellison
Knowing him was a pleasure;
Loving him was the greatest gift of all.
"Why?" he asked softly. "Why does it still hurt so bad, Jim? Because you swore you'd never leave me alone? Because we'd only just found each other? Because you weren't supposed to die like that? Most people get some warning--unless they're a cop."
Blair Sandburg looked down again at the headstone. He hated it; hated looking at it. It was a beautiful piece of stone, but it had no right resting there, saying what it said. His eyes filled again, throat closing over the sobs that always seemed to accompany him to these visits.
"It's been cold again here. I've thought about moving somewhere warm…after all, what reason do I have to stay here, now? Oh yeah--just coming here to talk to you. No big deal, right? Right." His lips twisted into a sad, slightly bitter smile; a parody of the smiles those lips had seen in the past, full of life and living and love.
"I handed in my notes for the dissertation, told my advisor I didn't think I could finish it. Does that surprise you? You never saw me as a quitter, did you? Well…I always had you to support me, Jim. I don't like to think of myself as a quitter, but I can't seem to make myself go on, with that, anyway. She's giving me an extension anyway; told me to take some time and think about it, *really* give it some thought. I promised her I would, but I don't know--" His voice cracked on the last word, chest heaving for a minute with the effort it took to pull the control back into himself.
"I brought us some music to listen to, today." Blair took a small, portable cassette player from the backpack he'd set next him. "I've been listening to it a lot, big guy. You'll probably remember it better than I do--Terry Jack's 'Seasons in the Sun'. Nice melancholy little number. Was it hard to die, Jim? Did you know you were dying? Or were you just…gone? Do you know they declared you DOA? The doctor attending you said you were probably dead even before transport, but that they had to try anyway. Simon told me all of that--I barely remember any of it. I think it was three weeks after your--funeral--before I even knew who *I* was, much less anything else that happened.
"I like this line the best, man. 'Goodbye my friend it's hard to die.' It's fucking hard to get left behind too, let me tell you. I wish I'd gone with you, Jim." A stray tear rolled down his cheek and he brushed it away impatiently. "I still want to, most days. Do you know that I wake up every day and have to *think* of a reason to keep living? And that most of the time it's the same stupid one: I don't know for sure that I'd find you even if I was dead. I wish I could say I believe one-hundred percent in an after-life, and that you're up there, on some fluffy little white cloud just waiting for me…but I don't. And I don't know if I'm brave enough to take the chance.
He wiped more tears away, his heart aching from the pressure within.
"I watched a movie the other night, about lovers that were separated…shit. 'Somewhere in Time', I think. Do you remember Christopher Reeve? He was in it. He traveled back in time and fell in love with this woman at the turn of the century, then lost her when he ended up back in his own time. Then he found her again, at the end, but she was an old, old woman…God, Jim…if I could travel back in time and find you--
"Simon stopped by the other day and asked me if I'd consider coming back to the department and working as an advisor--in an official capacity. I told him I'd think about it, but I don't know. I don't know if I could stand to be there, surrounded by cops all the time, and never see you. Sit in the bull-pen and look around…I'd expect you to look up at me and bellow "Sandburg!" like you used to do. Or ask me for help getting the computer program running…or run files down to records…"
His voice broke off, unable to continue without losing the very tenuous hold on his control. Long minutes passed as he sat there on the cold ground, stroking the headstone, trying to draw comfort from knowing that Jim was here, at least, even if he didn't feel him any longer.
"I put the loft up for sale last week. I'm sorry, Jim…I can't stay there. I haven't, actually. I've been living in a studio apartment over on Cherry street. I thought I could stay there; draw some comfort from being surrounded by *you*, but I was wrong. I was going out of my mind like that. Every time I closed my eyes to go to sleep I'd feel you settling into bed with me, but as soon as I opened them you were gone. If I waited, and closed my eyes, you were there again…Jesus, Jim, I could feel your arms holding me, if I waited long enough. I'm sorry--were you really there? Haunting me? You said that once, didn't you? That you'd haunt me forever, because I was unfinished business for you, or something like that. I can't stand it, though. I mean, if you were really *there*…but I know it was just my mind, wishful thinking.
"Do you know how much I miss all that, though? I'm not even talking about the sex, but just you holding me, loving me. Comforting me when I had a shitty day. Hugging me tight for your own comfort, when you had a shitty day. Kissing me for any reason, or no reason. Holding me tight at night, anchoring both of us. You were--are--like the other half of my soul, Jim, and the hole it left when that was ripped away is almost more than I can deal with, even now. The rawness of it still takes my breath away. I swear there isn't anything that hurts me like that does. The pain of not being with you…
"Do you know that I hated you for the longest time, for leaving me like that? Oh, I know it wasn't your fault; you hardly would have asked to have a terrorist's bullet take you out. But I couldn't seem to put it into perspective, Jim. I needed a target, and you were it. I felt so bad like that--hating you, loving you, missing you…needing you. Jesus!" It was an anguished wail in the bright sunlight that felt so out of place. "You made me love you…want you…need you…then you fucking went and DIED on me!"
His shoulders shook with the sobs that flowed from his body; at last, finally, catharsis as he released a year's worth of pent-up pain and anger. Jim was dead. He wasn't coming back. He--Blair--was alone.
He wasn't sure how long he cried for. Ten minutes, ten hours? It was a while, though; he was chilled to the bone when finally sat up straight and scrubbed at his face. God, that was awful. His chest and eyes hurt and he felt slightly sick to his stomach now. He didn't hurt as badly now though; he was more numb than anything. A sniffle and a few stray tears lingered to remind him why he felt numb--such an outpouring of emotion was bound to be hard on the system.
Clouds had gathered overhead at some point while he cried, and Blair wasn't surprised to feel the wind pick up, feel the chill in it. This year had been unusually hard, with more rain and snow than normal. He looked around, his eyes falling on the tape player; it was still playing, that same melancholy tune he'd put on the tape. He picked it up and smoothed his fingers over it, imagining Jim's dear, stern face, imagining his fingers tracing over the beloved, well-known lines on that face. "I miss you so bad," he said, softly, voice still hoarse with grief. "I'd give anything to see you one more time, to tell you once more how much I love you, what you meant to me."
There was no answer, and he hadn't really expected one; after all, this was reality, right? Still, it would have been nice if whoever was in charge of such things had listened to him, granted him that one moment.
"Sometimes wishes get granted, Chief."
His head swiveled so fast he nearly hurt himself. "Jim?" he breathed, certain he was having a mental breakdown. The--whatever it was--in front of him nodded.
"Just for a minute, Blair. These wishes are hard to grant, and don't last long." Cool, clear light blue eyes regarded him solemnly for a long moment, then the apparition in front of him spoke again. "You're so sad. I wish I could do something to help that. I didn't mean to leave, Blair. I wasn't given any choice in the matter. You have to know that. If it'd been up to me, I'd be with you right now, loving you."
"D-do you still love me?" Oh, god, I'm asking a figment of my imagination if it still loves me. Well, grief has done stranger things to people, I suppose.
"I'll always love you. You know that. If you look inside your heart, Chief, you can still find me, find my love for you, there." The eyes regarded him another moment. "I have to go soon. I can't just appear like this, for long. I'm always watching over you, though. It hurts that I hurt you so bad--"
"Are you at the loft? Is that what I felt when I laid down to sleep?"
The image of Jim smiled gently at him, then nodded. "I can't leave you completely alone. I'm there as best as I can be. I understand if you can't be there, though. I know this has been hard for you." A soft, cool breeze fluttered over his cheek, then moved across his face. Blair looked at the apparition that had moved closer to him, shivering a little when he realized he was being caressed lightly, gently.
"D-don't go," he asked roughly. "Please…don't leave me again, Jim. I can't stand it…it hurts too much."
"I can't stay, Chief. You know that. The bonds that connect us will never be severed, but the bonds connecting me to my life as Jim Ellison are gone. I can't get them back. I won't ever leave you, though. As long as I'm in your heart, a piece of me will always remain with you. I'll stay around as long as you need me…as long as you want me. You'll just have to trust that I'm there."
It was fading. He could see that, now. Whatever, whoever, was standing in front of him, was fading now. The tears started again, sliding silently down his cheeks. "P-please…oh, god, Jim. I love you…miss you so bad…don't leave me."
"I love you, Blair Sandburg. Always, forever. Believe in that. Believe in me." Cool air swirled over him, and he felt--*FELT*--warm, rough skin touch him, cup his face. Then soft, warm lips were brushing over his in a kiss so gentle, so sweet, it made him ache straight down to his soul. He stared up at the ghostly image of Jim, who was smiling down at him sadly. "I miss you, too, Chief. I love you…will always love you."
He touched his fingers to his lips and managed a tremulous smile through the tears. "I'll be home tonight, Jim. I promise. And when you come to hold me…I won't open my eyes."
The figure smiled at him, warmth in those clear eyes. "I'll be waiting for you." It started wavering, and the smile intensified, love pouring from ghostly eyes. "Goodbye, Blair."
He nodded, his eyes never leaving the wavering image, watching intently until he couldn't see anything any longer but the sparkles of sunlight moving through the clouds. "I love you, too, Jim," he finished softly, still watching the sparkles of light. He cast his eyes upward, caressing the gray sky with them. He had a lot to do this afternoon, now. "Thank you," he mouthed, watching the clouds moving. "Thank you so much."