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Visiting Alex

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Visiting Alex

by Lady Ra

Author's website: http://www.visionsofprettyboys.com
DISCLAIMER: Jim and Blair? Sigh, they don't belong to me, dammit. Wah!!!! Trust me, I'm not making any money on this. But, consider this story an act of homage to two characters you created who have crept inside my heart to stay.
Author Notes: My buddy Morr says I have Alex issues. <g> I think she's right. But I'm hoping this story is more about healing than about Alex.
THANKS: To whoever ends up betaing this for me. Morr-naturally-my queen beta, Joolz, Hawthorn, Jenn, Pretense, and Trish. You guys totally rock. Happy sigh.


Visiting Alex

"What?" Blair stared at Jim, not even believing what he'd heard. "What?"

Jim stood ramrod straight, which alone should have tipped Blair off that he wouldn't like anything Jim had to say. "I just thought I should let you know."

"Are you out of your fucking mind?" Blair demanded, hands clenched into fists. "Have you forgotten what a complete maniac you were down in Sierra Verde? She had you wrapped around her finger, man."

Jim looked everywhere but at Blair. "She was sick," he said. "I don't think she had any more control over what she was doing than I did."

"Right. Oh, right," Blair said sarcastically. "So the rap sheet on Alex listing all her past crimes, and the fact that she stole nerve gas and threatened to take out the lives of millions of people, meant she was just, what, having a bad day?"

"Everyone's entitled to make mistakes, Chief." This was said to some spot on the wall behind Blair's left shoulder.

"I don't fucking believe this. She killed me, Jim. Remember that?"

Jim glared at Blair, looking directly at him for the first time. "Of course I remember," he said in a tone as cold as ice.

"Oh, good, because I wouldn't want a pesky thing like her killing me to get in the way of you wanting to go visit her now that she's conscious. Because, of course," Blair added scathingly, "she's deserving of all your attention. Poor Alex. Poor fucking Alex."

Jim took a deep breath, as if needing to calm his nerves while dealing with a three-year-old having a temper tantrum. "I just need to see her, to talk to her. She understands me," he added, as if that would make it all clear.

Blair stared at the floor for a minute, closing his eyes, almost shaking with anger and hurt. He focused on letting it drain out, letting the earth soak up his metaphorical blood. Then he blew out a long breath and gazed back up at Jim. "Right. She understands you." And just like that the anger was back. "Because I can't possibly understand what it's like to be a Sentinel. But she can. Right."

"Sandburg, I owe it to her," Jim said, his stern facade breaking for the first time, his expression begging Blair to just shut the hell up and let him go already.

"What?" Everything Jim said was worse than the thing before. "You owe it to her? What the fuck did she ever do for you? What about what you owe me? Do I get any allegiance here at all? Does it even matter to you that she killed me?"

"You're not being fair. You tried to take out a whole police station when you were on Golden and no one held that against you," Jim argued, arms folding against his chest, in his typical I-know-more-than-you stance. "This is the same thing. She was hurting; her senses were out of control, she was doing whatever she needed to do to cope."

Blair had to drop his gaze again, hating Jim right then with a fiery passion. He tried to keep it out of his voice. "Coping? She coped by killing people--and not just me, let's not even talk about me-- we're talking about the trail of bodies she left between here and Sierra Verde. Or maybe you're thinking she was trying to cope by forcing that herbal concoction down your throat, or maybe she thought killing all those people with that nerve gas would be some sort of therapeutic catharsis."

Arms still crossed, Jim was staring at the wall behind Blair again, the muscles in his jaw jumping. Now he was in his I'm-done-talkingthis -argument-is-over position.

Yanking on his hair, fully exasperated, Blair said, "Are you listening to any of this? How do you know she won't control you again, and somehow get you to help her escape? You would have done just about anything for her when we were down in Sierra Verde."

Blair was actually surprised when Jim answered. Normally the 'I'm done talking' was followed by the 'grabbing of the jacket', ending with the 'slamming out of the loft' maneuver. Instead, Jim said implacably, "It won't happen again. I won at the end. You said it yourself. I stayed on the path. I just need to talk to her, let her know she isn't alone. She's seen things, Chief, we've both seen things that you can't understand. She's the only one I can talk to about it."

Sick to his stomach, Blair nodded. "Fine. I guess your mind is made up. So, go see her. Talk to her. Let her know you're there for her." He pursed his lips, trying to control the nausea. "I won't be here when you get back."

That got Jim's attention. "What does that mean?"

"It means exactly what it sounds like it means. I won't be here." He gestured behind him to his small room. "I'll just finish the job you started."

"What job?"

"Packing up my stuff. I haven't unpacked much. It shouldn't take me too long."

Jim sat down warily on the edge of the couch. "I don't want you to go."

Blair's eyes were bright with anger. "Oh, well, that makes all the difference. Why didn't you say so? Jim Ellison wants me to stay, so God forbid I do anything different."

"Why are you being so difficult about this?" Jim snapped back. "You're the one always preaching about forgiveness and finding closure. I just want to see her, talk to her."

Touch her, Blair finished in his mind. Kiss her, fuck her. Fuck me. Blair shook his head. "Never mind. It doesn't matter. Go get your closure." He moved into the kitchen and grabbed a beer. "When are you going?"

Jim shrugged. "It's just noon. I figured if I left now I could get down there and back before dark." He walked into the kitchen and leaned against the island. "You could come with me, if you want."

Letting out a short mirthless laugh, Blair said, "Thanks, but no thanks." That's all he needed, to see Jim fawn over Alex. Poor Alex, poor misguided, misunderstood Alex. No thank you.

Jim crossed his arms over his chest again, a position that made his biceps bulge. Blair was too angry to bother admiring him.

"Okay," Jim said. "I get that you're angry, and maybe you have a right to be, but if I remember correctly, there was plenty of blame to share. You were the one apologizing to me about the fact that you neglected to tell me about Alex in the first place."

Blair drank the last of the beer and, after carefully rinsing the bottle out, placed it in the recycling bin under the sink. "You're right, I did. But you know what, Jim? I take it back, because I tried to tell you. You were standing just about there, and I said to you, 'Hey, Jim, I met this girl today--' and then you snapped my head off."

Jim glared at him. "Maybe you should have tried a little bit harder to tell me? Maybe if you'd really wanted to tell me, you'd have managed to figure out a way. You're rarely at a loss for words."

"Maybe I should have, but you were like a fucking stranger, man, and you were being a complete asshole. I know you were trying to work stuff out, but I didn't really feel like letting you rearrange my face on your quest for inner peace, all right?"

Jim dropped his arms, his hands balled into fists. "I wouldn't have hit you. I would never hit you." He sounded shocked that Blair would even entertain the thought.

"How the hell was I supposed to know that? You threw me up against a wall the first day I met you. And I never would have thought you'd kick me out of the loft, or bring me back from the dead, or fall in fucking lust with the woman who killed me." Blair stormed out of the kitchen, heading for his bedroom. The sooner he could get packed, the better.

Jim stopped him in the hallway, a hand on his arm spinning him around. "You sound like some jealous lover," he accused. "Is that what this is about? Me kissing Alex?"

Blair let out a snort, even as he stepped away from Jim, forcing Jim's hand to lose its grip. "Kissing? Jim, if I hadn't come along, you'd have been fucking her."

Jim was suddenly in his space, a threatening finger jabbing him in the chest. "You were there. You saw what was happening to me. I couldn't control it. It had nothing to do with whether I wanted to be with her or not."

Blair batted Jim's hand away. "Uh-huh. That's a real convenient excuse for you, isn't it?"

"What the fuck do you mean by that? I hated it, I hated being like that. Don't look me in the face and tell me you think I liked having something control me like that." Jim was crowding Blair even more.

Blair wanted to back up, needing some air, but he held his ground. "Maybe I can't say you enjoyed it, but you sure as hell weren't fighting it. And you know what? We've been back two weeks now, and not once, not once, has it crossed your mind that maybe you owe me a fucking apology."

"For what?" Jim demanded. "For saving your life, again? Have you forgotten that in the midst of having my psyche ripped apart by whatever the fuck was going on down in Sierra Verde, I kept Alex from killing you, that I kept that fucking buyer from killing you?" His hands were gesticulating wildly now, as if pointing out murderers in every corner of the loft. "It's not like I wasn't doing my part as your damn blessed protector."

"Jim, she murdered me. Murdered me. I was dead. And the next thing I know you're not only kissing her, but you're 'poor Alex', and 'I'm all worried about Alex'. Well, you know what? Fuck you." Blair waved a dismissive hand in Jim's direction. "Get out. Go see Alex."

His eyes flinty, Jim grew suddenly still. "Fine. You want me to apologize? All right. I'm sorry. I'm sorry I kissed her, I'm sorry if I cared if she lived or died. I'm sorry I couldn't seem to control myself." He scrubbed his face with one hand. "I thought that's what you were here for, to help me figure this shit out."

Blair let out a derisive laugh. "Right, like you've been so eager to talk since we got back, or while any of that shit was going on. In the two weeks we've been back, the most I've gotten out of you is 'what's for dinner?' or 'don't use all the hot water'. Not exactly the stuff good relationships are based on."

"Excuse me, but the last time I checked, we weren't exactly in a relationship," Jim sniped back.

Blair blew out a frustrated breath. "Oh, that's right. I forgot. If we're not fucking, then we couldn't possibly have a relationship. Just because we've been living together for three years, save each other's lives on a regular basis, eat almost every meal together, can practically finish each other's sentences, you're right, no relationship."

"Help me out here, Chief, because I'm confused," Jim said sarcastically. "Are you saying we should be fucking?" Jim had gotten close again. Too close.

Shoving against his chest, Blair pushed him away. "No, goddamn it. I'm saying that I thought we had a relationship. Friends, or at least Sentinel and Guide. But according to your definition, you were closer to having a relationship with Alex than you are with me. You just don't get it. You are clueless about how people who care about each other are supposed to act." He felt an ineffable sadness take over his body. He was so tired of trying to make space for himself inside Jim's life.

Jim grabbed his arm. "Listen, I have to do this. Just tell me you'll be here when I get back."

"Okay, tell me this," Blair said in a biting response. "Suppose you were able to help Alex. Suppose you brought her back here. How is that going to play out? Do you still expect me to be your partner? When people ask why Alex and I don't get along are you going to roll your eyes and tell them that I have 'issues'?" Blair put issues in air quotes. "Or suppose she really had killed me. Suppose I was dead right now. Would you still have fucked her? Would you take her to Simon's Christmas party and when people ask 'what ever happened to that short guy who used to hang around you all the time?' you would say something like, 'Oh, well, Alex murdered him, but we try not to let it get between us?'"

"Listen to yourself. You're being ridiculous. I'm just going to talk to her. That's all. She's not coming home with me. That's not what this is about." Jim swallowed, his eyes begging for Blair to get over it, already. "Jesus, Sandburg, even if I did want that, she's gonna be locked up for a long time, either in jail or in a mental institution."

Blair let out a soft laugh. "Right. Even if you did want that. Right." He ran his fingers through his hair. "Well, you better get on the road."

"No, I think we need to talk about this, try to have a rational discussion."

"I don't want to be rational. I'm sick of being rational." Blair stared at the floor, his jaw clenched.

There was a long silence. Finally, Jim said, "Blair, if it's that important to you, I won't go."

Blair wished that would help, but right now he mostly just wanted Jim to leave. "What was important, Jim, would be for you to have realized what a big deal this would be to me."

Finally he glanced up. When he saw the confused look on Jim's face, he decided he could throw him a bone. "Jim, look, maybe I'm just going through some sort of crisis here because I died. There's a lot of literature out there that says it's pretty typical. Maybe all I really need is a good antidepressant, some therapy, and I'll be good to go."

Jim looked so hopeful about it that Blair wanted to punch him. God forbid Jim actually deal with some of the shit he helped create. Much easier for the shit to clean itself up. Blair realized he needed about a month's worth of meditation and a field of sage to get rid of the stink.

He decided to try one more time. "I guess I thought things would change, that we'd be something different now. I think I was shown, we were shown, something so amazing I still can hardly believe it. Jim, you brought me back from the dead. Like fucking Lazarus, man. We shared a vision, our spirits merged. You saw it, I saw it." Blair shook off the memories. "I thought that meant something."

"It did mean something," Jim protested.

"What? What did it mean? I don't see any good coming out of it. We haven't talked. In fact, we're talking less now than we did before. And you just announcing that you were planning to go commiserate with Alex, because she understands you, without even thinking about how I might feel about it, tells me that your attitude about me hasn't changed at all."

"This is bullshit," Jim spit out. "Excuse the hell out of me if all I want to do is have a conversation with another Sentinel. Someone who knows what it means to have their senses out of control. I thought if anyone would get that, it would be you."

"Well, sorry to let you down, but I don't get it." Maybe after that month of meditation he'd be able to, but right now, he needed more than Jim was giving him.

"So where does that leave us?" Jim asked uncertainly.

"It leaves us with you going to see Alex, and me leaving to--well, just leaving."

Jim's eyes narrowed. "I don't appreciate being threatened."

Blair pursed his lips as he considered Jim. "No, I know you don't. And it's not really a threat. You need to do what you need to do, and I need to do the same."

"Sounds like a threat to me. Essentially, you're saying if I go, you leave me."

Blair thought about it for a few moments. "No, I guess what I'm saying is that it's time for me to go whether you go see Alex or not. I'm done here."

"I don't believe you're saying that to me. You're just giving up on us?" Jim asked angrily.

"What us, Jim? You don't need me anymore. You found your path. And now you'll have a Sentinel pal to visit with once a week. Someone who understands you." Blair was startled by how bitter he was, by the seething anger that was stirring. He'd had no idea this was all inside of him.

"I didn't mean it like that, Sandburg, and you know it. You know me better than I know myself. I'd have been in serious trouble if you hadn't come along."

Blair nodded. "I appreciate you saying that. But you don't need my help anymore, and I need to be someplace where I can stop being so angry, because I am. Really, really angry. And bitter. And hurt. It's like this thing in my gut and now that I know it's there, I can't ignore it."

"That doesn't mean you have to leave," Jim argued.

"Yeah, actually it does. Because I probably should understand that you want to talk to Alex. I should probably want to go with you so I can talk to her myself. But I can't. All I want to do is strike back at you because it feels like you plunged a fucking dagger in my chest." He placed the heels of his hands against his eyes, as if he could press back the emotions boiling up in him. "Just go," he managed to choke out.

"I can't go, not if you're going to be gone when I get back." Jim's voice sounded as strained as Blair had ever heard it.

"Why?" Blair demanded, dropping his hands and staring up at Jim. "Why do you want me to stay? You don't like being a Sentinel, you never have. All I am is a constant reminder to you of a part of your life you've never been comfortable with."

"That's not true," Jim complained sharply. "Sure, it's hard sometimes, but I accepted it a long time ago. And you helped with that."

"I'm glad, Jim. Really." And Blair was. He was glad he'd helped; glad he'd made it easier for Jim to accept what he was. The world needed people like Jim. He glanced at his watch. "You better go." Please go, he pleaded, I can't keep it together much longer.

Jim studied him for a long moment and then shook his head. "I'm not going."

"Jim--"

"Sandburg, I'm not going," Jim said firmly. "If it bothers you this much, I'm not going. You matter more to me than she does. And I'm sorry I didn't figure out how much this would hurt you."

Blair bit his lips, blinking furiously to keep tears from falling. He covered his face with his hands and fought against the emotional tsunami swamping his body. And suddenly, arms were around him, and he was being pulled close to Jim's strong chest, and he hung on tight as he rode out the storm.


Jim was not comfortable around tears. They made him feel helpless,
they felt intrusive, like the person crying was forcing their misery
on you, expecting you to do something about it.

From a very young age, Jim had been taught that tears were bad. A slap across the face every time his eyes had even gotten bright with the suspicion of tears had hammered it home. Tears were bad, tears meant you were weak, tears meant you couldn't handle it.

It was one of the reasons Jim dated strong women, why he'd married one. He liked women who would rather rip out their ovaries than shed a tear.

So as he stood there outside of Blair's bedroom, holding his friend as he sobbed, as he treated Jim like he was the fucking Wailing Wall, Jim had no idea what to do.

Jim sometimes looked at Blair and figured he must be from another planet. He was into all that New Age shit, he meditated, he was "in touch with his feelings", he actually liked people, even the ones who dumped on him, he worried about the environment and human rights issues in Nigeria, and he had a head filled with the weirdest stuff so Jim never knew what was going to come out of his mouth. But, with all of that, Blair was also one of the strongest people Jim knew.

No matter what happened to him he got up with a smile on his face and kept going. Beatings, drug overdoses, gun shot wounds, explosions, macho bad attitudes, being yelled at, ridiculed, ignored, he was like the fucking Energizer bunny. Nothing stopped him.

Not even dying stopped him. He got out of his deathbed, followed Jim to Sierra Verde and proceeded to help Jim keep his sanity.

So, as Blair continued to weep against Jim's chest, Jim had to do a rapid evaluation of a life-long belief in the intrinsic wrongness of tears. Blair wasn't weak; Blair could handle things. He'd proven it time and time again. These tears didn't have anything to do with weakness or an inability to hack it.

Maybe Blair was partly right, maybe some of this was due to his death and resurrection, but Jim was uncomfortably aware that most of this, maybe all of it, was because of him. Jim Ellison, Cop of the Year, Sentinel of the Great City, had managed to push Blair over the edge. Jim had fucking shoved him over a cliff with jagged rocks sticking up at the bottom.

Jim held Blair tighter, trying to figure out what he should do. A part of him wanted to put Blair in his room, give him a box of tissues and then run away. Actually, most of him wanted to do that. But he was hanging on tenaciously to the better part of himself that wanted Blair to stop hurting.

He ran his hand down Blair's hair, soothing the curls, trying not to zone on the texture, on the way the curls wrapped around his fingers. His other hand rubbed Blair's back, his sensitive fingers feeling the warmth of Blair's skin even through several layers of fabric, the play of his muscles as his chest expanded and contracted with his choked breathing.

Finally, the tears started to abate. Jim slowly walked Blair into his small bedroom, got him seated on the futon, Jim's arm around his shoulders, Blair's face still buried in his chest. The crying was turning into sniffling and Jim reached over to Blair's bedside table, retrieving a box of tissues, pulling a few out.

Blair let out a watery not-very-happy chuckle and snuck a hand up to grab the tissues. "Sorry, man. Didn't mean to cut loose on you like that." He pulled away from Jim and blew his nose.

Jim tried not to wince at the noise. At the same time he fought against the impulse to pull Blair back against him. His arms felt oddly empty. "Don't worry about it."

Blair flashed him a sad smile. "I'm okay. You can go now, if you want."

Jim shook his head. "Not going anywhere." He patted the bed. "Maybe you should lie down." Blair looked exhausted, and Jim could hear how tight Blair's lungs were, not fully recovered from their exposure to scummy fountain water. "Are you done with your antibiotics?" he asked, looking anxiously around the room, sure it was full of bottles of unused pills.

Blair nodded. "Yeah."

"When do you see the doctor again?"

Blair shrugged. "Don't have an appointment set up." Either deciding to do as Jim suggested, or just overcome with weariness, Blair lay back, closing his eyes. "Maybe I'll just take a short nap," he murmured.

Jim resisted the impulse to touch his hair, to stroke his cheek. "Good idea."

And just that fast, Blair was asleep.

Jim sat on the edge of the bed for a long time staring at him, at the dark shadows, and the lines at the corners of his eyes that Jim couldn't remember seeing before. He stared at the tear-stained cheeks, the reddened nose, and Jim found himself feeling an unexpected surge of love for his unconventional partner.

He looked around the room, saw the still-packed boxes filling the floor space and frowned. Jim couldn't imagine what it would have been like to come back from seeing Alex to find Blair had vacated the premises. The thought of it made him nauseous. Blair was a part of his life. End of discussion. Not open for debate.

Moving as quietly as he could, Jim started to unpack all the boxes he'd packed while temporarily insane. Clothes back in the closet, books back on the shelves, knick-knacks scattered around the room based on Jim's memory as to where they'd been before.

He made a pile of the things that needed to be returned to the living room and kitchen, but left them there for the time being. He wasn't ready to have Blair where he couldn't see him, a part of him foolishly superstitious that if he turned his back, Blair might disappear.

When he was done, Jim sat on the edge of the bed, staring down at Blair. He reached for a curl, touching it lightly, not wanting to disturb his friend, even though he suspected an explosion next door wouldn't wake him. Jim thought back on the preceding nights, remembering now how restless Blair had been. He wondered how long it had been since Blair had gotten a good night's sleep. Days, certainly. Maybe weeks.

Just then, Blair's eyes opened. He blinked a couple times, looked at Jim, frowned, looked around the room, and frowned again. "Hey," he said softly, a dozen questions unasked.

"Hey," Jim said back.

A look of confusion replaced the frown on Blair's face, and then, as his memory obviously returned, the confusion turned to sorrow. He looked beaten up. Like the world had been chewing on him for a while and then spit him out, tooth marks and all.

Jim wanted to console him, but he didn't have the slightest idea what to say or do. "Do you, um, do you--" Jim hesitated, but then forced the words out, hardly believing he was saying them. "Do you want to talk about it? Anything?"

Blair shook his head, moving to sit up. Then he took a good hard look at Jim and said, hinting, "I'm kind of thirsty." Jim had a sneaking suspicion Blair was giving Jim something to do. That he was taking care of Jim. Just like he always did.

Nonetheless, Jim was willing to take that lifeline. "I can do that. What do you want? Juice? Water?"

"Juice would be good, thanks." Blair flashed him a quick manufactured smile.

Jim stood and moved to the door, turning around at the last minute to see Blair drop his face into his hands. The action made Jim's chest hurt. He left the room focusing on juice. Juice he could do without screwing up too badly. He poured a large glass of apple juice, then took a long draw out of the bottle before putting it back in the refrigerator.

Outside Blair's door, he faked a cough to let Blair know he was coming. Apparently it had been sufficient warning, as Blair's head was up, the fake smile back in place. "Thanks," he said as he reached for the juice. Blair was now sitting on the edge of the bed, up near his pillows, feet touching the floor.

"Sure." Jim stood there, feeling awkward.

Blair took a long swallow, then put the glass on his bedside table. He glanced up at Jim again. "I'm okay. Really. And I'm really sorry for dumping all of that on you. I guess I need therapy a little more than I thought." His lips tightened in a grim sort of smile.

Jim grimly smiled back, having no idea what to say. The juice, sadly, hadn't been the magical cure the six-year-old inside of Jim had hoped it would be. In his childish fantasy, he'd given the juice to Blair, Blair had grinned, really grinned, leaped out of bed, and said something about watching a Jags game. He wracked his brain thinking of what he should do now.

"Jim, man, really, I'm okay."

Obviously, Jim looked as uncomfortable as he felt. Not exactly the look he was going for. He tried to think back to when he was a kid, to what his mom would do for him when he was freaked about something. It wasn't as easy as it sounded. Jim usually tried his best never to think about his mom.

"What time is it?"

Jim glanced at his watch. "Three o'clock."

Blair glanced around his room again. "What--?" He stared up at Jim. "Did you unpack my boxes?"

Jim nodded, shifting from one foot to the other, feeling like he'd been found with his hand in the cookie jar. "Yeah."

Blair took longer to look around his room this time, his eyes lighting on all the surfaces. He pointed to the belongings by the door. "What's that stuff there for?"

"It belongs out there," Jim answered, with a vague gesture that meant the rest of the loft. "I was waiting 'til you woke up to, well, you know."

"You've been here the whole time I was sleeping?" Blair asked, a look of surprise on his face.

Jim took a second to interpret that look, saw it was simply surprise, not a god-my-roommate's-a-stalker sort of look. He sat down on the edge of the bed, a few feet away from Blair. "I guess I--I didn't want to leave you alone."

Blair frowned at him.

Jim winced. Not the reaction he was going for.

"I'm not planning on doing anything stupid, if you're worried about that," Blair said stiffly.

Jim shook his head. "Never crossed my mind, Chief. This was for me. I mean, I--" Damn, this stuff was hard. Jim didn't know how Blair just blurted out this crap all the time. Jim would rather have teeth pulled. "I just, I needed to--"

A hand snuck out to touch him on the arm. "It's all right. I get it. Thanks."

Thank God, Jim thought. As that hand drew back, Jim wished he'd sat a little closer to Blair. Maybe he could have put his arm around his shoulder, maybe let Blair rest his head against him. But he was too far away for it to look unpremeditated.

Blair ran a hand through his tangled curls and coughed.

Jim really didn't like the way his lungs sounded. Suddenly he had a brainstorm as a memory from his childhood bobbed up. "How about a bath?" he asked. He touched his chest. "You know, the steam might help your lungs a little." Besides, baths were supposed to be relaxing. All those ads couldn't be wrong. He stared at Blair hopefully.

Blair actually smiled a little more genuinely this time. "A bath?" He nodded. "A bath sounds great." Then his shoulders sagged. "Maybe I'll fix one later, when I have a little more energy."

"No, I'll do it." Having something to do felt great. Jim almost leapt to his feet. "It'll just take a few minutes."

"You don't have to do that," Blair argued unconvincingly.

Yeah, Jim thought to himself, I do. He just pointed to the juice. "Drink up. I'll call you when it's ready."

Blair looked up at him, his brow furrowed.

Jim figured he was wondering where the pod was. He just flashed Blair a crooked smile and headed for the bathroom.

He tested the water until it started running hot, then plugged the drain. He had to focus not to zone. The sound of running water, the feel of it on his skin, the patterns of the water as it flowed, the way it caught the light; it always drew his senses.

As the bathtub filled, Jim realized the last time he'd taken a bath Blair had run it for him. He'd gotten exposed to something, and Blair wanted to soak him in some sort of oatmeal solution. Jim had bitched about it the whole time, but it had felt great.

On a whim, Jim opened the cabinets under the sink and started looking at the few bottles there that weren't cleaning solutions. He finally found one that would do and he poured a few capfuls out under the running water, smiling when the bathtub started to fill with bubbles. Jim couldn't even remember why they had the stuff, but he hoped it might coax another smile out of Blair.

For some reason, it was imperative that Jim get Blair to smile. Not the tired ones he'd seen lately, but the life-is-so-great-I'm-gonnaburst smiles that he used to share with Jim and the rest of the world. The ones that lit up a room. No wonder everything had seemed so dark lately.

A noise at the door got his attention and he looked up to find Blair standing there, staring at the tub with rapt attention. "A bubble bath, Jim?"

Jim felt embarrassed. "Stupid idea, huh?"

"No. No, it's great."

Listening for any signs of a lie but not hearing any, Jim decided Blair meant it, and he felt giddy with relief that he'd guessed right. He realized the tub was almost full and shut the tap off. Feeling it one more time to assess the temperature, deciding it felt just right, he stood. "You, um, need any help?"

Blair's eyebrows went up.

Jim could feel himself growing red. "Never mind."

When Blair let out a chuckle, Jim decided he could stand to be embarrassed. "Thanks, Jim," Blair said sincerely. "I mean it. This is--this is nice."

Jim just nodded. "I'll be, you know, out there, if you--" He snapped his mouth shut, deciding one bout of humiliation was enough to offer for the cause. He bolted from the bathroom.

As he stood in the living room, Jim listened to Blair take his clothes off, leaving them on the bathroom floor. He heard him step into the tub and sink down into it, letting out a huge contented sigh.

Jim grinned and decided to reward himself with a beer.

Twenty minutes later, Jim decided it was really quiet. Too quiet. No sounds of splashing, of washing. Certainly no more contented sighs. Frowning, Jim moved silently to the bathroom door, the need to give Blair some privacy warring with his need to make sure he was all right.

Jim knocked softly on the door, then pushed it open. Blair was sitting in the tub, legs drawn up, arms wrapped around his knees. Whatever fleeting moment of contentment that sigh had represented had come and gone, leaving the beaten and battered Blair behind.

Knowing he really had no business being in here, Jim knelt by the side of the tub. He had no idea what to say or do, so he played with the bubbles for a second, getting caught in the myriad of colors residing inside each one.

"Jim?"

Jim forced his eyes away from the bubbles and looked at Blair. "Yeah?"

"You zoning on the bubbles?" There was almost a grin on Blair's face.

"Maybe."

The almost grin was matched by a light in Blair's eyes that Jim realized had also been missing. Then the smile slid off Blair's face. "Can I ask you a question?"

"Sure," Jim said, not feeling sure at all. Well, he did feel sure. He was sure he wasn't going to like it.

"Why were you really going to see Alex?"

He was right. He didn't like it. Questions like this required thinking and feeling. Jim rested his elbows on the lip of the tub, and let out a sigh.

If he'd hoped the sigh would convince Blair to let him off the hook, he was mistaken. Blair stared at him steadily.

"Want a beer?" Jim asked, positive the thinking would go easier with alcohol.

Blair nodded. "Sure."

Jim got up, went to the kitchen and retrieved two beers, taking the caps off. He returned to the bathroom and handed one to Blair. "Here."

Blair took a healthy swallow, balanced it on the rim of the tub, then resumed his steady staring.

Shit. Jim ran his fingers over his forehead back and forth a couple of times, trying to work it through. "I guess--," he stopped, stymied. He glanced at Blair, wishing his guide would start his guessing games; Blair always figured it out sooner or later. But Blair didn't say a thing, just kept staring. Waiting.

Jim was pretty sure that the wrong answer here would be a mistake. But a lie would be an equal one, and Blair always knew when he was lying. Jim thought about how things had been down in Sierra Verde. How drawn he'd felt; how frantic he'd been to be with her, touch her. How nothing else had seemed to matter. His job, his boss, Blair. The utter humiliation of not being in control.

And suddenly, he knew the answer. "I guess I needed to prove to myself that it won't happen again."

"That what won't happen again?"

Jim frowned. Blair wasn't going to make any of this easy. "I know I acted crazy down there. I know that. And I know you came up with some reasons why but all I know is that I was out of control. I mean totally out of control."

Blair took a sip of his beer, watching and listening intently as if Jim was revealing the secrets of life.

"I hated it. All of it. It was like being on some bad acid trip. It made me doubt myself." Ashamed as the feelings washed over him anew, Jim looked away.

"Jim."

Jim forced himself to look back.

"You don't--. You don't really think the stuff she did is excusable, do you?"

Jim shook his head.

"So, most of that crap you were saying earlier was just the shit you say while you're figuring out what the truth really is?"

Not the most complimentary way of putting it, but Jim supposed Blair was right. It did take Jim a while to get to the truth sometimes. It was why it was just easier not to talk, because the first ten layers of stuff out of his mouth tended to piss people off. And usually, with the remarkable exception of Blair, they tended to stalk off before he got to the truth. "Yeah, I guess."

"You guess?"

"Yeah." Jim looked at his beer, playing with a loose corner of the label. "I'm sorry, Blair. She's bad news; I know that. I don't want her; wish I'd never met her. And I'm sorry I said most of that stuff earlier. I know she can't possibly understand who I am."

"But you wish she could." When Jim opened his mouth to argue, Blair waved him off. "Not her, not Alex, but you wish there was another Sentinel to talk to."

Jim nodded. "Yeah, I guess I do."

"Okay. I get that. And you're right. Another Sentinel would understand better." Blair looked away, his eyes bright again.

"Blair." Jim took a moment to wonder why it didn't feel weird to be having this conversation with a naked Blair sitting in a bathtub. When his friend kept his head turned away, Jim reached out for him. "Blair." Jim forced Blair to look at him.

Blair blinked a few times, his face growing red. "Sorry, man, I'm an emotional disaster tonight."

"That makes two of us, then."

Shooting him a grateful smile, Blair said, "I appreciate the apology, Jim. That means a lot to me. And I'm sorry I went off on you like that. I shouldn't be pointing any fingers at you, man, when I'm clearly living in the land of denial about what's going on inside of me."

"What I said was bullshit."

"Maybe some of it, but some of the stuff you said was true. Another Sentinel would understand what you go through better than me. And I get that you'd want to test your control, make sure that you were stronger than whatever weirdness was going on between you. And I get that you won't really believe that unless you can stand in front of her and not go nuts. And maybe you do look at her, and a part of you thinks, 'There but for the grace of God, go I'. And maybe, because of that, she does deserve your pity."

Jim shrugged, mostly stunned once again, at how Blair pulled these nuggets of truth out of the air like rabbits out of a hat.

"I guess," Blair added, swallowing, "I guess I just really needed--" He sniffed, eyes blinking again. "Jesus." He lifted his hands out of the tub, shook the bubbles off and rubbed his eyes. "Man, I'm a mess." He cleared his throat, his eyes, despite his best efforts, filling with tears again.

Jim felt his heart constrict painfully. "What did you need?" Jim swore he'd do it, get it, whatever, no matter what it was.

Wiping the tears off his cheek, Blair took a long swallow of beer, let out a self-conscious laugh. He shook his head. "Never mind."

"Tell me," Jim insisted.

Blair looked at him for a second, as if checking to see if he could really trust Jim with this, maybe afraid that Jim would let him down.

"Tell me," Jim said again, determined to be what his friend needed him to be.

"I guess I just really needed you to, um, to hate her for what she did to me." The last words were sort of choked out, and Blair cleared his throat again. "Sorry." His lips tightened and he wiped at his face again. "Sorry."

Suddenly Jim got it. All that shit he'd done to Alex, kissing her, holding her, protecting her, wanting to go visit her. All it said to Blair was that it didn't matter what Alex had done. "Jesus, Blair," he said urgently. "I do hate her. I wanted to kill her for what she'd done. But then things got so fucked up. It's like I was two different people. This crazed person who--" He waved his hand in the air, not even wanting to voice how insane he'd been.

"But I never forgot," he continued. "I just didn't know how--it just all got mixed up. But I know what she did, and I know what I felt when I saw you in that fountain, and if she'd been there in front of me, I would have snapped her fucking neck."

Blair ducked his head, nodding, tears dripping into the bath water.

Jim couldn't stand it. He leaned forward and wrapped his arms around Blair, naked and bubbles and all. "I went crazy when I thought you were dead. It was the worst fucking thing that had ever happened to me."

Blair wrapped his arms around Jim and held on tight.

After a few seconds, Jim began to realize that instead of a naked Blair in the bathtub, he now had a naked Blair in his arms.

He didn't mind at all.

Jim leaned back a little, needing to end this before it got really embarrassing.

Blair took the hint and sloshed back into the tub. He smiled quickly at Jim.

Jim decided he looked better; there was even a little sparkle back in his eyes.

"Maybe you could go make dinner or something," Blair suggested. "I'll pull myself together and hopefully I can make it through the rest of the evening without breaking down again."

Jim smiled at Blair. "Okay." He stood, looking down at Blair. "Don't ever die for real, okay?"

"Okay." Blair gave him a tired smile in return.

Jim nodded. "Good." He left the bathroom and headed for the kitchen.


Blair sat in the tub for a few minutes longer, almost feeling human.
He wasn't all the way there, but he felt like someone had replaced
maybe three out of his six worn-out batteries with new ones.

He ran his fingers through the water, watching the bubbles pop in their wake. Blair smiled at the memory of Jim's almost-zone. He could understand the attraction. They held all the colors of the rainbow, and there was a slight sizzling sound to the bubbles that probably sounded like the snap and crackle of bacon cooking to Jim.

He felt a sudden warmth that had more to do with the fact that Jim had drawn a bubble bath for him than the heat of the water. It mattered more than almost anything that Jim had cared enough to do this for him.

He reached for the soap and quickly washed himself, before pulling out the plug to let the water start its swirling descent down the drain. He stood, feeling the exhaustion an emotional catharsis often brings, and leaned against the tile for a moment, letting the moment pass. Blair thought if he lay down on the small bathroom rug, he might just fall asleep.

Only the thought that Jim would come in search of him if things stayed too quiet motivated Blair to keep moving. He stepped out of the tub and grabbed a towel, looking at his reflection in the mirror. Grimacing, Blair stared at the sight in front of him.

His hair was a mess, like he'd stuck his finger in a light socket, an outer reflection of his inner turmoil. His eyes were swollen and red, as was his nose. "Oy," he muttered. Wrapping the towel around his waist, he reached for a washcloth and wet it with cold water, holding it over his nose and eyes for a minute.

When he lifted his head again, they didn't look any better, but they felt a little less swollen and congested. He sprayed some detangler on his hair and combed it through, tearing out about a pound of hair while he was doing it.

After he got his hair looking less Medusa-like, Blair scooped up his clothes. The air was cooler outside the bathroom, so he walked quickly to his room and began to layer up. Once armored in jeans, a long-sleeved t-shirt, covered by a flannel button-down, and wool socks on his feet, Blair headed for the kitchen.

He flashed Jim a shy smile, charmed by the matching one he got in return.

"I thought we could eat in the living room," Jim offered. "There's a game on."

Blair raised his eyebrows but didn't say a thing. He hated to dig at Jim when he broke his own rules, because it might make him change his mind, or make him less likely to break them in the future. He was just as glad not to have to sit at the table across from his partner and wonder what the hell to say.

He smiled when he saw what Jim had made. Comfort food all the way: grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. At least it was Blair's comfort food. Jim liked Wonderburgers when he'd had a shitty day. "Thanks, Jim," he said with a smile, feeling a fourth battery get switched out.

They sat there, munching, watching the pre-game talk show. Blair could feel Jim's eyes on him on a regular basis, maybe wondering if Blair was going to suddenly make a run for it and jump out the window. He supposed it should be gratifying that he'd freaked his friend out with his threat of leaving. Blair only wished it hadn't taken quite so much to get Jim's attention.

But, Blair reasoned with himself, Jim was trying. He was trying very, very hard. And Blair had been serious when he'd told Jim that he didn't get how people cared for each other. Jim didn't work that way. In his mind, if you were alive, and didn't have a bullet in you or bones poking out of your body, he figured he'd done his job. Everything else was unnecessary cosseting. Not for the first time, Blair was tempted to go punch William Ellison in the nose.

Blair figured the best thing he could do was just sit there and eat and ignore Jim's looks.

Jim collected their dirty dishes and carried them to the kitchen, putting them in the dishwasher. Blair listened to him clean up, wiping down the counters, making sure everything was exactly the way he liked it to be. Blair grinned at the television set. In some ways, Jim's predictability was very comforting.

"You want anything to drink?" Jim called from the kitchen.

"Maybe some water," Blair answered.

When Jim returned, he sat on the couch, handing over the water. Blair smiled his thanks.

They sat and watched the game, no words exchanged except to yell curses at the players. At half-time Blair turned to Jim. "Jim," he said casually.

Despite Blair's offhand tone, Jim must have guessed right away there was nothing casual going on, because his body stiffened and his eyes grew guarded. "Yeah?" he said, looking like he'd rather be facing down some crazed street junkie than talking.

Seeing as there was now no need for subtlety, Blair blurted it out. "If you want to go see Alex tomorrow, I'll go with you," he offered.

Jim shook his head.

For some reason, that annoyed Blair. "I know I've been kind of a mess today, and I can see why you might feel you need to handle me with kid gloves, but I'm okay. I do get why you want to see her, and even though I think you'll do fine, I guess I'd feel better if I could go as back up. You know, just in case."

Jim got up, went to the kitchen and retrieved a beer. He sat down, took a swallow and stared at Blair.

Fighting the urge to squirm, Blair stared back. He wasn't sure what, exactly, they were having a staring contest about but he didn't really want to lose.

Finally, Jim just shook his head again.

"Is it because of me? Because of my tizzy fit?"

Jim's eyebrows went up. "Tizzy fit?" he asked incredulously.

Blair shrugged.

"That wasn't exactly a tizzy fit, whatever the hell that means. Something serious was going on here today." Jim gave Blair another long look. "And I don't think we're done with it yet. But we're both tired, so I'm thinking we should table this discussion and save it for tomorrow."

Blair felt a sense of gratitude that Jim wasn't just relegating his afternoon meltdown to some obscure spot in Jim's brain called: Blair doing weird stupid shit. However, it didn't mean this conversation was over. He wanted Jim to do what he needed to do, and once Alex got behind bars, it would be harder for Jim to see her and have any sort of meaningful conversation with her. "I'm really okay."

Jim shook his head. "No, you're not." He studied Blair some more.

Blair began to suspect this was more than just guesswork on Jim's part. "How can you tell?" After all, Jim was right. He wasn't okay. Not yet. He was getting there, mostly, and ironically, thanks to Jim.

Jim frowned at him. "You--" He scowled. "It's hard to describe. I should have picked up on it earlier, and I don't just mean today. You've been like this for a while. Just sort of off. The smell of you, the sound of you. Your heart rate's off, the way you're breathing. I know some of that is because you're still sick, and we'll be getting you to the doctor on Monday, by the way," he tagged on in a don't-even-bother-to-argue-with-me tone of voice.

"You can tell all that about me?" Blair loved it when Jim was being the great and mighty Sentinel. Even after all this time and the shit that had gone down, he still got a thrill.

Jim scowled again. "Not that it's done me or you a damn bit of good." He sighed. "I'm sorry, really." His head hung down, and he let out a heavy sigh.

Blair leaned over and touched Jim's arm. "Hey, man, it's all right. I didn't even know I was that out of whack, you know?"

Jim just looked at his beer unhappily, and Blair guessed he'd be under severe Sentinel scrutiny in the days, maybe weeks, to come.

Jim glanced up at him. "It's like I broke you," he said, his voice as tight as a violin string. "Some amazing thing I had, some priceless Ming vase or something, and I just--just broke it." His eyes were shadowed; the muscle in his jaw twitching.

Blair couldn't help but grin, delighted to be compared to a Ming vase. "Nothing a little Krazy Glue can't put together." Jim didn't smile back. Okay. Blair scooted over until he was right next to Jim and put his hand on his friend's arm. "Jim. It's just a rough spot. We'll get through it. I haven't exactly been contributing a lot of good stuff to our relationship myself lately." Blair winced. He'd already been treated once today to Jim's opinion about relationships. He really didn't want to hear it again.

Jim grimaced in concert with him. "That was a stupid thing for me to say about you and me not having a relationship. Sometimes--sometimes- -" He actually grinned. "Sometimes even I can't believe the shit that comes out of my mouth."

Blair grinned back, accepting the peace offering. "So, we're okay?"

Jim lifted an arm, inviting Blair to come closer, and Blair took immediate advantage. It seemed his heart couldn't get close enough to his Sentinel. He nestled up next to him, resting his head on Jim's shoulder.

Jim's arm closed around him. "Now we are," Jim said firmly.

Blair let out a contented hum. No, things weren't all the way better, but this was great. He felt that fifth new battery slide into place. He wasn't exactly sure what would correct that last battery, or if it ever would be replaced, but five working batteries was a hell of a better place to be than running on empty.

The game started up again and Jim didn't seem at all inclined to let go of Blair, so he twisted around a little until he could see the television more clearly. Or at least he tried. The weirdness of intimacy without real intimacy made it a little awkward to move Jim where he wanted him.

Finally, Jim grunted, shifting until he was sort of lying down, and got Blair situated in front of him, so they were both facing the television. Blair felt Jim brush some of his hair out of the way, and then his hand settled on Blair's shoulder.

Blair felt a little nervous settling back completely, but it only lasted a few minutes. The heat from Jim's body felt great, and he eventually sank back until he was completely resting on Jim. In another few minutes, Jim's arm was around his chest, holding him firmly in place.

They made it through that game and the start of the next one, when Blair closed his eyes and started to drift. As sleep almost claimed him, he realized he had something to say. "Jim?"

"Hmm?" Jim answered.

"You know what?" Blair mumbled.

A hand brushed at his hair, then touched his temple. "No, what?"

"I really love you." Now he could sleep; now that he'd gotten that said. "Night."

The arm around him tightened. "Night, Chief."


For a long time, Jim stayed completely still, but then when he was
sure Blair was asleep, he let out a long breath and wondered what the
hell Blair had meant. Was that a beer advertisement 'I love you,
man'? Was it a heartfelt brother-to-brother sentiment? Or was it
something so much more?

Never in his wildest dreams, had Jim ever thought he'd end up here, having these thoughts. But now that he'd spent most of the day picking up its fractured remains, now that he'd had that moment in the bathroom, holding a naked Blair in his arms, now that they'd actually cuddled while watching television, Jim knew what he wanted those words to mean.

He'd come face-to-face, that day at the fountain, with what his life would be like without Blair, with how silent his life would be. Today, he'd had to deal with it again. And now, as he held Blair in his arms, he knew that nothing on God's green earth was going to come between him and Blair again. He never wanted to experience the loss of Blair, whether because he was dead, his heart silenced, or because he was gone, his beating heart out of even a Sentinel's hearing range.

Jim rested his head on top of Blair's, allowing the reassuring lub-dub of his guide's heart to seep into him. Despite the relatively early hour, he was tired himself. He gave a moment's thought to getting up to turn the television off, hit the lights, brush his teeth and take a leak, but all of that required moving. And moving meant putting inches, then feet, then yards between him and Blair and that wasn't happening.

Not sure he'd be able to sleep with all the lights on, Jim closed his eyes, determined to give it his best shot. Worse case scenario? He'd stay awake all night, listening to Blair's heartbeat, smelling him, touching him. There were worse ways to spend a night.

A couple of hours later, Blair stirred in his arms. He yawned, patted Jim's arm asking to be released and sat up, stretching. In a few seconds he had the television and lights off, and was padding his way toward the bathroom.

Jim listened attentively, even when he knew he shouldn't. His senses were so attuned to Blair right now he wasn't sure he could dial them down. As he heard Blair brush his teeth, Jim hoped Blair would come back. He supposed there was every reason in the world for Blair to go off to his own room, and little to encourage him to head back this way. But Jim was hopeful, nonetheless.

After Blair flushed the toilet, Jim heard him pad into his room, and his heart sank. He listened to the rustle of bedclothes and grew depressed. Sighing, realizing he might as well go upstairs to his own bed, Jim's sulk was interrupted by the noise of rustling fabric heading in his direction.

And then Blair was there, comforter in hand, staring down at him. "It's gonna get cold."

At first, Jim thought he was offering the comforter to him, but Blair simply reclaimed his position, throwing the cover over the two of them.

Jim found himself with a huge grin on his face as he finished tucking them both in. He wrapped his arm around Blair again, pulling him close, dropping his head to bury his nose in Blair's hair, then followed his partner into sleep.


When Jim woke early the next morning, something felt wonderful and he
let out a throaty groan. He was warm and hard, and whoever's ass that
was felt great against his cock. He pushed a little, heard a startled
"eep" and only a quickly tightened arm kept Blair from falling to the
floor.

And only that same tightened arm kept Blair from getting up. "Stay," Jim said, liking exactly where he was and who he was with.

There was nervous silence coming from the man in front of him, then a cautious pushing back, so Blair's ass came back in contact with Jim's still very hard cock. He scooted forward again. "Jim," Blair softly pointed out, as if his name said it all. Said: 'you're hard, Jim', and 'we're both guys', and 'we've never done this before', and maybe a little 'what the hell is going on?'

Jim never knew his name could say so much. "Yeah?" Not really the most brilliant answer to everything Blair was asking, but he was still half asleep.

"Um," Blair said unsurely. "Is that, um, is that just a morning sort of thing?"

"No," Jim said, leaning forward, sticking his nose back in Blair's hair, sniffing deeply. Definitely not.

"Oh."

He waited to see if Blair was going to freak out. Given the delicious smell he was putting out, Jim was guessing not.

"So, is that, um, a me sort of thing, then?"

Jim snickered in Blair's hair. "Yeah." It may have started as a morning thing, but the instant Jim had realized who he was with, it had definitely turned into a Blair thing, was staying a Blair thing.

"Oh."

Jim waited, perfectly content to sniff and listen and touch for the time being. He was pretty sure tasting would be on the menu shortly.

Blair pushed back, again, but this time he stayed there, and if Jim had been naked and if Blair had been naked, it would be the best thing that had ever happened in Jim's life. As it was, it was pretty near perfect.

Jim's hand dropped down until he was cupping a matching hard cock straining the fabric of Blair's pants. He smiled as Blair moaned and shoved into his hand. He smiled again when the shove was followed by another backwards push. There might not be much room on the couch, but they'd gotten this rhythm down.

Blair stopped moving and Jim grunted at him, annoyed at the sudden inactivity.

"Jim, man, are you sure?" Blair said carefully. "I don't want to do this if it's just because we sort of bonded yesterday over me seriously freaking out. Or because we slept together on the couch and you've imprinted on me or something. 'Cause this is kind of huge, us doing this, you know?"

Blair started to squirm, and Jim knew he was trying to turn around. For an instant, Jim panicked. Suppose Blair was right, that this was only happening because Jim's senses had been happily picnicking on Blair all night.

But before he could work himself into a full-blown panic, wondering what he should say or do, Blair had gotten turned around and was now facing him, and as Jim's eyes feasted on his friend, he knew this was where he was supposed to be. All he could do was smile at Blair.

Blair smiled back. "Really?" he asked, as if he couldn't believe it. "Me?"

Nodding, leaning forward, Jim captured Blair's lips with his own. He could have done without the morning breath, but as long as it was Blair underneath it all, Jim could cope.

But, apparently, Blair couldn't. He pulled back, grimaced, and stood. "Come on, let's go brush our teeth." He grinned nervously down at Jim. "Besides, it'll give you a chance to deal with any second thoughts before we've, you know, crossed some line we can't cross back."

Jim frowned up at him, wanting Blair back in front of him. Blair stared back, equally stubborn. Jim sighed and sat up. "Way to spoil a moment, Chief," he complained.

Bouncing on his toes, Blair said, "Sorry. But, really, this is huge. You and me. I'm not saying I'm not all for it, I am, but we need to be sure. I think a short intermission is a good idea."

Jim frowned again, not wanting anyone here to change their minds. But, clearly, Blair was on a mission. "Fine." He pointed toward the bathroom. "Go ahead," he offered, feeling a distinct lack of generosity.

Blair stayed put. "It's not that I wasn't liking where I was, Jim. You get that, right?" He sat on the coffee table, facing Jim. "Waking up like that was great. You're great. Really." Blair's face squinched up and he covered his face with his hands. "God, could I sound stupider?"

"Keep going the way you're going and you probably could," Jim commented sourly.

"I don't mean any of this in a bad way," Blair protested. "I just want us to be sure, that's all. I don't want to lose you because we let our dicks talk for us."

"My dick was perfectly happy having the conversation it was having," Jim grumped.

Blair grinned at him. "You had a happy dick?"

"It was very happy," Jim informed him. He looked down at his crotch. "Was being the operative word," he added unhappily.

"Okay, okay. Ten minutes, that's all. We both freshen up and maybe we take this upstairs with a few less clothes on. Okay?"

Jim wasn't in the mood to negotiate. "I liked it where I was."

"Sheesh, you don't have to be such a grump about it."

Jim scowled up at Blair.

"Fine. Ten minutes, back here on the couch. Can we still go with the less clothes thing or do you want it exactly the same?"

Jim wanted to maintain his non-negotiable stance just on general principle, but fewer clothes sounded good. Sounded great. He settled for a grudging capitulation. "Fine. Less clothes."

Blair let out a laugh. "Wow, way to woo me, Jim." Still chuckling, he headed for the bathroom.

Jim decided there was a distinct advantage, one he'd never experienced before, to starting up a relationship--a sexual relationship, he corrected himself--with someone who knew you at your absolute worst and apparently was still willing to cut you some slack. It was remarkably freeing; he didn't need to pretend anything. "Wow," he said softly, echoing Blair's word. Let the wooing commence.


Blair stared in the mirror, feeling like it was days, maybe weeks,
since he'd last looked at himself. Maybe it was because he felt so
different. He wasn't sure how he felt; his emotions were a bit of a
moving target. Excited, terrified, horny, terrified, anticipatory,
terrified.

He noted the repetitive theme of terror. Jim could still change his mind. Even if he didn't, he could end up regretting this. Jim was, or at least Blair thought he was, straight. Despite all evidence to the contrary. That cock pushing against his ass had definitely been hard.

Blair brushed his teeth and futilely combed his hair with his fingers. He hoped Jim liked the wild man look. He hoped Jim liked the whole man thing in general.

He just didn't get it. What had changed so much in one day that Jim suddenly seemed to want him this way? He stripped off his clothes until he was down to boxers, sent an it-will-all-be-okay look to his double in the mirror who didn't believe it for a second, and opened the door.

Jim was standing there and Blair smacked right into him. It was like walking into a brick wall. "Ow," Blair complained. Then he launched into his spiel. "I just don't get it. Why now? Is this new? Is it just because of yesterday?"

Rolling his eyes, Jim gently pushed Blair to the side, walked around him and entered the bathroom, shutting the door behind him.

Blair winced. Not only was he spoiling the mood, he was jack hammering it into the ground until it was smashed beyond recognition. But, damn it, this was important. Their relationship was important.

He had to snort a little. Yesterday, he'd thought their friendship was over. If Jim had gone to visit Alex, Blair would be waking up today someplace new. Someplace Jim wasn't. Maybe someplace Jim never would be. Today, Blair couldn't imagine doing such a thing, but he'd been ready to chuck it all out the window yesterday. And now he was supposed to have sex with Jim? Blair was having trouble keeping up.

He put his pants back on. Then his shirt.

Jim came out of the bathroom dressed only in his boxers. He saw Blair's attire. "Having second thoughts?" he asked, as if it didn't matter at all. But Blair could see Jim's heart in his eyes.

"No. Yes." He thought about it. "No, not really, but sort of. But mostly no."

Jim gestured at Blair, a sort of head to toe you're-dressed-and-I'mnot kind of thing. "Looks like second thoughts to me," he said harshly.

Blair needed to stop this train wreck immediately, while there were still a few railcars on the track. He moved to Jim, putting his arms around his neck, pulling his head down while he reached up. He softly kissed Jim, letting his lips linger, feeling the softness of Jim's lips, the slight moisture there, the taste of mint from the toothpaste.

Groaning, Jim wrapped his arms around Blair, lifting him, kissing him for real, his tongue sweeping inside Blair's mouth, leaving Blair breathless and dizzy with desire. He jumped a little, using the strength of Jim's arms, to get his legs wrapped around Jim's hips, letting out a moan when strong hands supported him with a firm grip on his butt.

This, if it was real, was going to be beyond great, Blair decided, as he dueled with Jim's tongue. That thought reminded him, though, of something important. He uncrossed his ankles, let his legs drop, and pushed gently away from Jim. "Jim." Blair was flattered when Jim clearly didn't want to let him go. "Jim, we have to talk."

"Fuck," Jim said. He stalked to the kitchen.

"No, listen." Blair grabbed Jim's arm. "Please, listen to me."

"What are you? Some kind of cock tease? I don't appreciate being strung along like this." Jim opened a kitchen cabinet wrathfully enough to almost pull it off its hinges. He mercilessly grabbed the bag of coffee and slammed it on the counter.

"Jim, please." This was it. Blair dropped his head, feeling suddenly defeated. It always came down to this. Jim angry, Jim withdrawing, Jim not wanting to listen, not wanting to talk. Blair couldn't even begin to contemplate deepening their relationship, becoming more vulnerable to Jim, if this didn't change. He tried again. "I'm not trying to be a cock tease--"

"Could have fooled me, Chief," Jim interrupted, now taking his anger out on the coffee maker, yanking out the old coffee filter and throwing it in the trash.

"Jim--"

"What the fuck do you want from me?" Jim demanded. "Jesus."

His angry tones got under Blair's skin. "A little time. Is that too much to ask? Maybe we spend the day together, see what's up, what's going on, if this is something we really want. We fuck this up and it's over. I'm not saying no. In fact, parts of me are saying 'hell, yeah' but I need to be sure. You're too important to me."

Jim measured out the coffee, practically slinging it into the new filter. "Not important enough if you were willing to walk away from me yesterday."

Blair closed his eyes, biting his lips, feeling the impact of Jim's words being thrown in his face. The energy in his batteries started leeching away. How could they both care so much and do this to each other? He stood there, paralyzed, having no idea what to do. He wanted to run; go throw his stuff back into boxes and leave. He couldn't keep doing this. He couldn't.

But, yesterday notwithstanding, he didn't want to walk away. He loved Jim. He'd always loved Jim. It was why it was so easy for Jim to rip his fucking heart out. Please, he begged silently, work with me here. Throw me a bone. Anything.

Hands were suddenly on his shoulders and he was being drawn in against a warm, hard chest and held tightly. He was even being rocked, and Blair sagged against Jim, lightheaded with relief. "I'm sorry," Blair babbled. "I didn't mean to tease you; I didn't mean to make you feel like I was rejecting you."

"Sorry I'm such a jerk," Jim apologized in his turn. "I've been told I have a temper," he said wryly.

Blair snorted.

"And trust issues," Jim added.

Blair laughed softly. But then he pulled back enough to look up at Jim. "Apologies work really well with me. I love a good apology."

"How are you at make-up sex?"

Blair grinned. "I love make-up sex."

Jim kissed his forehead. "That's probably a good thing."

"And you're great with the soothing thing. I like the rocking. That will be a nice prelude to make-up sex."

As if obeying an order, Jim rocked him for a while.

Blair hummed contentedly. "I know I have a low panic threshold," he finally admitted, thinking it was only fair he share his shortcomings.

This time Jim snorted.

"And I know I like to talk a lot," he added.

"Do you talk after sex?" Jim asked with a voice filled with doom.

Blair grinned against Jim's chest. "No, I sleep after sex."

"Thank God for that."

Blair hummed again as the rocking continued, one of Jim's hands running through his hair. Considering how tangled it probably was, Blair hoped he got all his fingers back in one piece. "Have I told you yet that I really do love you?"

"Yeah, you have."

Surprised, Blair pulled back. "I have?"

Jim smiled crookedly. "Yeah, last night, just as you were falling asleep."

Blair frowned.

Jim frowned back. "You planning on taking it back?"

Blair smacked him in the chest. "Stop going there. Try to remember we're on the same side here, okay?"

"Ow," Jim said as he rubbed his chest.

"Big sissy."

Jim growled at him. "So what's the problem with you saying it, then, if you don't want to take it back?"

"It's just that I talk too much when I know I'm talking. I hate to think I'm talking even when I don't know it." That was a disconcerting thought. Who knew what he'd been saying other times as he drifted off to sleep.

"So, you do love me?" Jim asked, all six feet of his insecurity showing.

Blair snapped out of his worried reverie and focused on Jim. He nodded. "For a long time."

For that, Blair got another hug and some more rocking. As a reward, it was way up there. Blair had to remember to sweet-talk Jim on a regular basis. But then he had a thought. "Did you say it back?"

"Hmm?"

Blair pulled back. "Did you say it back to me last night?"

Jim shook his head.

"Why not?" Blair asked, affronted.

"You were asleep, Chief," Jim said reasonably. "Hate to waste stuff like that. I don't say it too often."

"From where I'm standing, you haven't said it at all," Blair said grumpily.

Jim was conspicuously silent.

"Well?" Blair said with a glare.

Jim grimaced. "They're not easy words for me to say."

Blair stared at him through narrowed eyes for a few seconds, considering the situation. "Do you feel the same way?" he finally prompted. "I mean, that you, you know, love me?" Blair prepared himself, just in case.

Jim nodded. "Yeah, I feel the same way. I just can't say it easily. Except when, well, you know." He looked away for a second, then turned back with that look that said he hoped Blair's interpretive skills were operating at peak efficiency, because that was all he had to say on the subject.

"You mean you're one of those guys who can only say it when you're having sex?" Blair inquired.

"After."

"You mean when I'm going to be asleep?" Blair asked, thinking how not satisfying this was going to be.

Jim grinned at him. "I'll try to work it in before you start snoring."

Blair rolled his eyes.

The coffee making continued in a much gentler mode; Blair decided the coffee machine might just survive the experience. He started getting out the fixings for breakfast from the refrigerator. The two of them moved around the kitchen in a familiar choreography, having done this hundreds of times.

Blair scraped the eggs onto plates just as the toast popped up. Jim snagged a piece of bacon, shoveling it in his mouth as he reached for the toast. A minute later they were sitting at the table, eating, mouths too full of food to talk.

As Blair noshed on the last piece of bacon, he said, "We could go see her today, you know."

Jim nodded. "I know."

"Do you want to?" Blair hated that most of him was desperately hoping Jim said no. Wasn't sure what he'd do if Jim said yes.

"No, I want to spend the day around here. With you," Jim added, just in case Blair hadn't gotten the point.

Blair beamed at Jim. He didn't even care if the only reason Jim was saying that was because he was hoping to get laid. Shit, Blair would give him a blow job just for that answer. Speaking of that. "Hey, Jim?"

Jim leaned back in his chair, legs stretched out, looking like the Lord of the Manor, even if he was still only in his boxer shorts. "Yeah?"

"Aren't you straight? You always struck me as a ladies-only kind of guy."

Jim cocked his head to the side, considering Blair. For a second Blair didn't think he'd answer the question, but then with another crooked grin, Jim said, "I'm certainly closer to the high end of the Kinsey Scale, but I've, you know, dabbled."

"Dabbled?" Blair said with a chuckle. He loved the idea that Jim had dabbled. That he was even using the word.

"You?" Jim asked.

"I'm pretty much smack dab in the middle. Either/or. Any of the above. Whatever floats your boat."

"I get it, Chief."

Okay. Jim dabbled. Blair could work with that. "Isn't there a game on?"

"There's always a game on." Jim stood, collecting dishes. Blair helped him get the place cleaned up, then moved to the living room to find a game to watch. They settled on college football and sat back on the couch, a few inches apart.

Blair frowned at the space between them. Now that he'd had the chance to snuggle with Jim while they watched television, sitting like this felt lonely.

"Come here," Jim said, reaching out and pulling him closer.

Smiling, Blair happily complied, resting against Jim's side, Jim's arm around him. "I like this," he confessed. "Being near you like this."

Jim grunted in a tone that suggested he liked it too.

Blair grinned and turned his attention to the game.


By the time the afternoon had slipped by, they were both lying down
again, Blair's comforter cocooning them. Blair had fallen asleep
several times and, each time, Jim had maneuvered them into a closer
position, until they were like they'd been this morning before Blair
had started thinking too hard, and Jim had assumed the worst.

Bad habits they needed to get past. Bad habits they would get past.

Jim was trying to ignore his cock which was taking an inordinate interest in having Blair's ass in close proximity again. It wasn't only his cock, though, that was interested. Jim had no intention of ever sleeping alone again. Having Blair pressed against him, having the sound and smell of him so close, completed Jim, helped him relax in a way he seldom had the luxury of doing.

He could sense Blair waking up, felt Blair's fingers trace down the arm wrapped over his chest and then lace his fingers through Jim's. Jim closed his fingers tightly over Blair's.

"Thanks, Jim," Blair said softly.

"For what?" Jim asked. "Holding your hand?" He snorted out a half laugh.

Blair shook his head. "No."

Jim leaned forward, eliminating any space between their bodies, and nuzzled at Blair's neck. "For what, then?"

There was a long pause, and Jim wondered if Blair would finish his thought. Then he wondered if he'd like what he had to say. Jim sure as hell didn't want to get in another argument. But, finally, Blair said, "For choosing me today. I guess I really needed you to do that."

Jim sighed against Blair's neck. They might have come a long way toward mending the bridges Alex had blown apart, but they weren't there yet. "I do choose you, Blair. I chose you yesterday." Jim suddenly felt like an unfaithful husband, wondering how the hell you ever got the trust back after straying. Because, while he and Blair certainly hadn't explored this part of what they might be together, so Jim couldn't be accused of truly being unfaithful, he had, in his own way, strayed. At least enough for Blair to come out the other end of it feeling utterly betrayed.

Jim suspected only time would fix this. Time, apologies, and lots of make-up sex.

He tugged at Blair, wanting him to turn over, needing to see his face. Once Blair was safely turned, courtesy of Jim keeping an arm around him to keep him from falling, Jim cupped the side of his friend's face, feeling a new sense of responsibility bloom in him. Not only to keep Blair physically safe, but to protect the softer spots in him: his heart, his feelings. The parts of him far more vulnerable than his flesh and bones would ever be.

"I can't promise I won't make mistakes," Jim said. Truer words were never spoken. He had a lifetime of regrets. "But I'll try to always choose you. Okay?"

Blair nodded, then licked his lips, his eyes focused on Jim's mouth.

When the desire in Blair's eyes registered, Jim realized he could probably be speaking in Swahili and Blair would be nodding at him, agreeing with him, eyes pleading to just-shut-the-fuck-up-and-kiss-mealready.

Jim could do that. He leaned forward and touched his lips to Blair's, swallowing the small gasp, reveling in the increased heart rate, the surge of blood heading toward Blair's cock. It was a turn-on to listen to Blair's body respond to him so thoroughly, from one simple kiss.

He started kissing Blair with serious intent, being careful not to get lost in the sensation, but rather focusing on Blair, finding out what turned him on, what made his pulse race, his cock throb.

Jim figured out pretty fast that Blair liked everything about kissing. The only thing he didn't like was when Jim stopped. Each time he pulled away to catch a breath, Blair would complain about it and yank him back. He was beginning to suspect that Blair didn't need to breathe to survive.

Hands in Blair's hair, Jim positioned him to achieve the closest connection they could, giving each other air, sustaining each other on bites and nibbles on lips and jaws and earlobes, then back to lips to start all over again. It was like a goddamn feast, and Jim could have stayed like this forever.

He could tell Blair was close, just from the kissing, which made Jim feel like the fucking king of the world. But Jim wanted to feel Blair's cock when he came, his cum all over his hands, feel it soak into his pores. He inched a hand down between their bodies and got Blair's jeans unfastened, the zipper pushed down. Blair backed away enough so Jim could work his hand in, wrapping his fingers around the startlingly warm and diamond-hard cock.

Blair took a second to push his pants and boxers down and off his legs, writhing against Jim's hands, whimpering at each touch.

Jim took a second to look at his friend, his partner, now his lover, and was captivated. Blair was a wet dream, wild curls, glazed eyes, his tongue flickering out to wet swollen lips, panted breaths interspersed with whimpers and moans, hands clenching and unclenching. If Jim ever had to spend a night alone, the memory of how Blair looked right now would be all it would take to get him hard enough to masturbate himself to sleep.

He scooted Blair closer, until he was practically lying over the smaller man. He worked his own cock out until he could hold them locked together. Then, latching his lips back onto Blair's, he began to thrust.

In between kisses, Blair started babbling. "Oh, God," was how he started. Then, "Jesus." A continuous stream of taking every other god's name in vain came next. Then he started calling Jim's name. "Jim, you--" or "Jim, keep--, and then, "Jim, ah, ah, ah!"

Jim grinned at how speechless he was driving Blair. A Blair who couldn't speak a complete sentence was a sight to see. He tongued one of Blair's earrings, pulling on it, whispering in Blair's ear, "You gonna let me fuck you?"

A fractured, "Ah! God, Jim! Yes! Now!" was his response, the point coming across loud and clear.

"You gonna fuck me?" Jim asked in a low, dirty voice, liking this verbally challenged side to his partner. Not that there was a chance in hell any fucking was going to happen now. Jim would never be able to last that long. Neither, he suspected, would Blair.

"Yes! Yes! Now! God!" And then he was coming and Jim was coming with him, feeling the heat of Blair's come all over his hand and his belly, listening to Blair keen in his ear, felt all the places their bodies were connected, Blair strong and warm and vibrant beneath him.

Jim kept his hand around them both, even as they started to soften, liking the sense of ownership it gave him. He sagged down, a little to the side, so he wouldn't squash Blair. In return, Blair wrapped his arms and legs around Jim, keeping him as close as possible, planting little kisses on his face and chest. The kisses gradually began to fade away, as did the arm and leg hold, as Jim sensed Blair fading into sleep.

"Chief, you still awake?" Jim prodded.

"Hmm."

Good enough. "I love you."

Blair smiled, and then he was gone.

Jim chuckled and leaning over Blair, retrieved his boxers, using them to wipe up the mess. Then he got the comforter worked around them again and happily succumbed to his own need for a nap.


They both woke up several hours later. Clearly, Jim decided, as he
listened to Blair wash his hands in the bathroom, they'd needed some
sleep. Blair hadn't been the only one not sleeping well.

Blair came back into the living room and smiled nervously down at Jim.

Jim just held up the comforter, making it clear where Blair was supposed to be.

Not wasting any time getting back in place, Blair proceeded to kiss the stuffing out of Jim. Then he let out a happy sigh and rested his head on Jim's chest. "That was great."

Jim laughed softly. "Which part?"

"All of it. All of you." Blair nuzzled a nipple, giving it an experimental tug with his teeth.

This time it was Jim who let out a whimper. Somehow he'd never realized his nipples were directly connected to his cock. Or maybe it was just that Blair was. "Let's take this upstairs."

Blair let go of his nipple with a wet sucking sound that got another jerk out of Jim's cock. "You sure?"

Jim rolled his eyes. "We are not playing this game again. Yes, I'm sure. Get your ass upstairs."

"No, I didn't mean it like that," Blair said, smiling, although his eyes were serious. "What I mean is that if you take me upstairs, I'm never gonna want to leave."

Jim heard what he was saying. "That works for me. We need the extra storage space anyway."

Blair grinned his thousand-watt smile at him and Jim could feel a significant part of the universe right itself. Blair stood and reached for Jim's hand, yanking him up. "Let's go."

Jim couldn't fault his enthusiasm. Lazy weekends were going to have a whole new appeal. Besides, he wanted Blair's teeth back on his nipples. With that thought in mind, he dragged Blair's ass upstairs to stay.


Blair smiled up at the skylight. He could see a few stars in the
night sky, but couldn't think of a single thing to wish for. Three
times now Jim had told him he loved him. Might have been more than
that, but Blair did have a tendency to slide into sleep pretty quickly
after he came.

What a weekend. Talk about your highs and lows. Worst weekend ever, best weekend ever. Almost losing the best home he'd ever had, ending up with so much more.

He turned his head and gazed at Jim. Never had he expected this. To get so much. To be loved so thoroughly, inside and out. What a gift to lie here next to Jim and know all the doubt was gone. Batteries fully charged and raring to go.

Blair wasn't naive enough to think there wouldn't be future arguments; they were too different to expect that. But they'd created an amazing foundation today that changed everything. Plus, Blair thought with a smile, he could now interrupt Jim with a kiss when he was on a rampage about something, and knew Jim would do the same to him. A man's sex drive was a great negotiating tool.

"Blair?" His name came from under the pillow where Jim's head was mostly buried.

"Right here, Jim," Blair reassured, running a hand down Jim's back.

Jim let out a contented grunt.

Blair grinned. Apparently Jim had just been taking roll call. He continued his contemplation of the skylight. Of being in Jim's bed. Their bed, now. Blair liked the sound of that. Then he thought about Alex. Thought about what they would, at some point, need to do, to put Jim's ghosts to rest. "Hey, Jim?"

"What?" came the sleepy response.

"We can still go see her, you know. Maybe next weekend." Blair could offer this now with a willing heart; secure in his place in Jim's life in all ways.

"See who?" Jim replied in a puzzled voice, still sounding just as sleepy.

"Alex."

There was a pause. "Alex who?"

Blair grinned. "Good answer, Jim."

The End
April 23, 2005