by Southy

© August 2005


Ah, yes, Blair thought, wriggling his sock-clad toes appreciably, while poising his pen over his notepad, preparing to write.

He was lying stretched out on the sofa and could do so for this evening and the next two days. Jim had left yesterday morning to go fishing with the feisty Elaine Walters of Fish and Wildlife, no doubt getting laid so that he’d be in a nice and cheerful mood when he returned; and Blair was enjoying having the loft to himself while Jim was gone.

He hadn’t been able to round up a date, but that was okay. He had some notes and journaling to catch up on, considering all that had recently happened with the poaching case.

While it was hardly the main activity during their undercover job, the first subject he was going to tackle was Jim’s reaction to the dead animal parts. Lots of sneezing there. It was hard to know what was merely Jim’s hyper sense of smell reacting and what may have been a genuine allergy. He should have asked Jim about allergies.

Wait a minute. He had asked, hadn’t he? But for some reason, he couldn’t remember Jim’s answer. Maybe that’s because Simon had yelled for them – or Jim, rather, which meant Blair automatically followed – to come into his office.

Blair needed to ask Jim again about allergies.

He tapped his pen against the notepad, trying to make sure his memory was correct that Jim hadn’t answered.

“You know, we never have done any allergy testing. Do you remember having negative reactions as a kid?” 


“To what?”

“Life in general.” 

So, Jim had answered – with a typical Ellison smartass non-answer. In fact, Blair remembered saying, “I’m serious.” And then Simon had interrupted them.

He needed to repeat his question when Jim was in a more cooperative mood.

Blair continued to tap his pen against the pad.

If he didn’t know better, he’d think that, because of what Jim had said, that he’d had a very unhappy childhood.

Nah, Jim had just been joking.

Still, Blair had gotten enough hints that Jim certainly hadn’t had a happy-go-lucky upbringing, considering his father's insistence upon perfection. Maybe not even a happy one. But not a miserable one either.

Negative daily reactions to life in general. Could Jim really make up something like that on the spot and mean it as a joke?

It was definitely an exaggeration, in any case. Maybe. 

There was the sound of a key in the door, and a moment later it opened. “Jim!” Blair exclaimed in surprise, shifting to sit up.

“Nice to see you, too.” Jim left his jacket on the hook and headed for the refrigerator.

“What are you doing home?” 

Jim had over a days’ growth of beard and hadn’t brought his fishing tackle in. He grabbed a beer. “Decided to come home early.” He twisted off the cap and drank.

“Why?” Blair realized his question sounded like a demand.

Jim grimaced. “What’s the matter, you got a girl coming over?”

Blair shook his head, realizing that Jim thought he didn’t want him there. “No, no. I’m just surprised. You were going to be gone four days, right? If you’re back tonight, you had to have left sometime this morning.”

Jim released a sigh, his cheeks billowing. He moved to the loveseat and lowered himself ungracefully. “The trip was a stupid idea.” He sounded vulnerable.

“Why?” Blair asked more gently.

Jim had already downed half the bottle. “Guess.”

Oh, okay. Uh… “You and Elaine were at each other’s throats the whole time?” After all, that’s how their behavior had been whenever Blair had seen them together, except when their lives had been in danger.

“Yeah,” Jim drawled with embarrassment, lowing his gaze. “We couldn’t say anything to each other without it turning into a battle of wills. By the time we bedded down last night, we’d agreed the trip wasn’t going to work and we should leave in the morning. That was one of the longest nights of my life. We tried to make up – you know, just talking – but we couldn’t.”

“Man.” What a rotten time. Granted, Jim and Elaine both should have seen it coming. “Sorry, buddy.”

Jim made a small shrug motion. He was drinking more slowly now and nodded at Blair’s notepad. “Couldn’t find a date, huh?”

Blair smiled. “It’s okay. I was just catching up on my notes.” In fact, now might be a good time… “Hey, Jim, did you have any allergies as a kid?” He prepared to write.

“You already asked me that.”

“Yeah. And you didn’t answer. Unless,” Blair had the feeling of crossing a line, “you were serious when you said that you were allergic to life in general.”

Jim abruptly stood and tilted his head back to finish the beer. Then he moved back to the kitchen, leaving the empty bottle on the island. “I was just kidding,” he said, reaching into the refrigerator. “Want a beer?”

No, Blair wanted to be completely sober. But, wait a minute, if he sort of pretended to get tipsy with Jim, maybe Jim would open up to him more easily. It shouldn’t take long. Once his senses came back online, Jim had admitted that the effects of alcohol hit him a lot sooner than they used to. They were also more potent, though they wore off faster. “Sure.”

Blair barely managed to put his pad aside and catch the bottle that was tossed to him. He twisted the cap, took an obligatory sip, and then placed it on the coffee table. He sat back, considering his questions carefully. “So, what sort of allergies did you have?”

Jim was back at the loveseat. After his own sip, he said, “I was never officially diagnosed with anything, but I think flowers have always bothered me. But it wasn’t any big thing.” Soft snort. “It didn’t keep me from playing sports or anything important like that.”

Blair picked up his pad again, scribbling inane figures. Eyes on his pad, he casually said, “Yeah, thank God for sports. What would a kid do without that after school?”

Jim settled back. “It was great. All those practices. I learned a lot – more than I did sitting in the classroom.”

“Uh-huh.” Blair stayed focused on his pad, but was aware of Jim continuing to sip his beer. “Teamwork and sportsmanship and self-confidence and all that.”

“Yeah,” Jim said with enthusiasm. “When you’d mastered an athletic skill successfully, you could feel like a real winner. If the whole team did well, that was all the better.”

Maintaining his casual tone, Blair said, “Yeah, without something like sports, how could a kid ever feel like a winner? Parents ragging on you about cleaning your room and getting perfect grades and marrying a proper woman.” Blair snorted on the last.

There was a pause and he darted a quick glance from his pad.

Jim was sitting hunched forward, staring into space.

Blair didn’t want the tightness in his throat to show in his voice. He’d remembered, long ago, Jim having gotten angry when Lash’s father had revealed that he hadn’t in any way intervened when he knew his ex-wife was horribly abusing their son, David. It was obvious to Blair that Jim was reacting to a personal memory of his own – when his father, as the patriarch of the family, hadn’t intervened -- but when Blair had asked Jim about it later, Jim had shut down and accused Blair of “barking up the wrong tree” and trying to psychoanalyze him. 

Blair managed to ask, “What kind of hobbies did you like doing at home? Did you and Steven play sports all the time, too?”

Jim sat back again. He slowly sipped from the bottle, his expression distant. “The usual boy stuff, I guess. Model airplanes and ships. Making tents and pretending to go camping in the backyard. We played ball, too, though it wasn’t much fun with just the two of us; and, you know, he was younger than I so he wasn’t as good.”

“Were your parents okay about you roughhousing, or did they tell you to not mess things up?”

Jim shrugged but his expression was still faraway. “We did most things outside.” Soft snort. “We didn’t like being inside anyway. No fun, worrying about knocking over furniture and breaking decorations.” Jim blinked and went silent.

Blair wanted, so badly, to ask What are you remembering? But Jim was a master at evading direct questions. Blair put humor in his voice. “Yeah. When I was a kid, I went running through the house with the football tucked under my arm. I was too young to even understand the rules of football, but the neighbor boy was chasing me, trying to tackle me. So, I go charging into the house – I had to have been six, at most – and Naomi was laughing. But then my elbow hit this statue. Some boyfriend had bought it for her in Greece. The statue fell to the tiled floor and… oh, man.” Blair drew a sharp breath.

Jim’s eyes darted to him. “What did she do?”

“Yelled. And then cried while she was cleaning it up. I felt terrible.” Shit, why had he remembered that? He hadn’t understood, at that age, why some stupid statue had meant so much. Now, he suspected that it had cost thousands, though he was sure that Naomi was hurt more by the loss of a special gift from someone who had once been important to her.

“I mean,” Jim said, his own voice forced to casualness, “what did she do to you?

Blair wanted to lie, to try to find some common ground with Jim. But he couldn’t. “What could she do? I already felt terrible. She knew I didn’t mean it. I was only six. She even hugged me after she cleaned it up, because she realized how bad I felt. I think I was crying too.”

Jim’s mouth twisted in disapproval. “She hugged you?”

“Yeah. I was six. What was she supposed to do?”

Almost angry, Jim said, “Did she ever discipline you?”

“You mean physically?”


“No. She didn’t believe in violence.”

Jim snorted. “Disciplining your kids and teaching them the difference between right and wrong isn’t ‘violence’.” Jim tilted the beer back, then put the empty bottle aside.

“That’s a matter of opinion,” Blair said firmly. Sitting back with his own beer, he asked, “So, I take it your parents believed in physical forms of punishment?” He sipped from his bottle.

A casual shrug. “Most parents in my generation did.” Jim wouldn’t meet his eye.

“So, they’d… what? Swat you on the rear? Or was your father harsher than that?”

Jim’s expression grew distant again. “My father never hit me or Steven. Ever. Talking firmly to us was enough to keep us in line. And making us aware of his disapproval.”

Blair furrowed his brow. He should have realized that Jim’s father hadn’t done anything physical. When interviewing Lash, Jim had been mad at the father for not protecting the child from his mother. Blair had to work hard now to keep his voice casual. “So, it was your mom who did the corporeal punishment?”

Jim nodded slowly. “Yeah. She had this baton-like thing. She’d tell us to drop our pants, and…” He stared at the wall for a long time. “She’d never hit us unless she’d completely lost it. We never knew when it was coming. Once, we were running through the yard and trampled part of the garden. She just laughed it off, like she enjoyed seeing us playing. Another time, we did the same thing, and she flew into a rage. She acted like we’d committed the most awful sin possible. She took us down to the basement, where the baton thing was.” Jim shifted in his chair and said, more casually, “That thing hurt like a sonofabitch. We’d already be crying and telling her how sorry we were.” He slowly shook his head, his eyes distance once again. “But it never mattered.”

Blair blinked back the moisture in his eyes. “How many times did it happen?”

“Seems like a lot.” Jim came out of his stare and tried to smile. “But, thinking back, probably just a half dozen times.” He slowly shook his head. “She’d wail away on us though. It was like she was possessed. She’d fly into this incredible rage.”

Blair held his breath. “Did your father know?”

Jim’s voice hardened as he looked at Blair. “Of course, he did. We’d be screaming and crying. How could he not hear it? And he never did a damn thing. Not one thing. He –” Jim’s mouth suddenly closed.

“What?” Blair prompted softly.

Jim was on his feet, moving to the kitchen, and placed the empty bottle next to the first one.

Blair followed him. “What?”

Jim reached for another beer. He opened it then placed it on the counter next to the empties. He stood there, staring at the counter, his hands gripping the edges. Quietly, he said, “Steven and I always thought that our mother had left us. Maybe our father sent her away. Maybe that’s why he wanted to be the one to raise us.”

Blair felt some hope in Jim’s story. “If so, he did do something.”

Jim snorted. “It was too little, too late. And he wasn’t exactly easy to live with either.” He took a few more swallows. “But he never hit us. Even when he was infuriated with one of us, we never felt that our safety was threatened.”

Blair came to stand next to Jim, needing the closeness. He leaned his elbows on the counter. “That would make sense, wouldn’t it? That maybe the only way he knew how to deal with your mother's rages – I can think of a half dozen mental illnesses that might explain them – was to divorce her and stop her from having custody.”

“Maybe. Maybe not. We still spent time with her, sometimes as much as weeks, if my father was out of the country. The beatings happened once or twice then, too, when we were still small. Of course, once we reached a certain age, they stopped.”

Jim had used the word ‘beatings’. Delicately, Blair said, “You know what she did was wrong, don’t you, Jim?”

“Doesn’t matter now.” 

Of course, Jim would say that. “You know, maybe now that you’re an adult, you can talk to your father about the facts of your mom’s leaving.”

Jim held up a hand. “No. No way. I am not going to talk to my father. Steven's and my memories of him aren’t that great, either.”

All right, he’d toed too close to that particular line. It was a discussion that was going to have to take place another day.

Jim turned away, then paused and put a hand to his forehead. “Damn.”

“What?” Blair moved back to his side.

“I’m tanked already. These damn senses.”

Blair gently took the beer from him. “Why don’t you go upstairs and sleep it off? I’ll get your gear. It’s still in the truck?”


Blair put his hand on Jim’s back as they moved toward the stairs. “I’ll take care of it. Just go on up, buddy. Unless you want to crash on the couch?”

Jim put his hand on the railing. “No, I’ll be fine.” He slowly started up.

Blair watched him. He wanted so much to throw his arms around Jim and squeeze him tight. Hold him for a long, long time while Jim remembered all the bad stuff.

Some things in life were meant to be longed for, and never experienced.

He turned away and put on loafers that rested beneath the coat rack, and then took Jim’s keys out of the basket by the door. As he made his way down the stairs, his mind began to sort through the facts that resided in the chaos of his heart.

He wondered if the irrational rages of Jim’s mother were because she suffered from hyperactive senses and had had no idea of how to control them, so if they spiked on her, or some such, she felt attacked and thought she had to attack back.

It didn’t matter though. No mother should treat her children like that.

Blair’s fist curled around the keys as he walked briskly to the parking lot.

How dare anyone – anyone – treat Jim like that. Blair’s own rear ached with the imagining of a thick baton coming down with the full force of an enraged adult.

He unlocked the passenger door and yanked the tackle box from the floorboard. Then he took the fishing pole from the back.

He headed back toward the apartment building.

Blair had his carefully crafted notes for his thesis on Jim the sentinel. And then he had his journals and special memories that were only about Jim the man. Much of tonight’s conversation was going to be added to the latter. He would protect this information, treat it with great care. He’d never bring it up again unless he was absolutely convinced that it was in Jim’s best interest.

He didn’t care if Jim’s mother was a sentinel or not. He hoped he never met her.

Blair quietly stepped back into the apartment, and left the fishing gear next to the door. Then he stood, listening. He couldn’t hear anything, which meant that Jim might have already dropped off to sleep.

He slipped out of his shoes, then moved toward his room. He stopped halfway there.

He looked up at Jim’s bedroom.


Yielding to his need, he tiptoed to the stairs. And then started up.

Alcohol dampened Jim’s senses. That was an observation that Blair had never shared with Jim, for fear of him deciding to indulge regularly.

He was hunched low as his stepped onto the landing.

Jim was curled on his side, beneath the covers, staring at the wall.

Tears ran down his cheeks.

“Jim, man, “ Blair said with choked softness.

Jim’s eyes darted to Blair as Blair moved toward him. 

“Jim.” Blair reached for him, and then decided to snuggle next to him, as well as he could with Jim beneath the covers, and himself on top of them.

“Jim.” He kept his head level with Jim’s chest, so he could look up at him. “I’m so sorry.” It was, after all, his own manipulation that had got Jim talking about this.

Jim had no way of knowing that, so he misunderstood. He tried to force a smile. “It really wasn’t all that bad.”

Blair nodded, letting his own tears fall. He knew he was expected to say “I know”, but he couldn’t say that because it was all that bad. For anyone to describe their childhood as having "daily negative effects from life in general”…. What had Jim drawn on to get him through? To make things bearable until he could make his own choices?

Blair’s arm tightened around Jim’s covered form.

Jim gazed at him for a long time. Then he said mildly, “Don’t remind me of this conversation when I’m sober.”

Blair nodded again. Jim wasn’t all that plastered, but he needed the excuse of drunkenness as permission for all he had told Blair, for feeling these emotions of abuse and neglect. 

Their agreement meant that Blair wouldn’t be reminded of his own actions, either. 

He wriggled to bring his face closer to Jim’s, and then kissed his drying tears. How salty they were. But there hadn’t been any new ones since he’d lain next to Jim.

Jim tolerated that, his eyes brushing closed.

When Jim’s face was wet – now with Blair’s love – Blair whispered, “Jim?”

Jim’s eyes opened and looked at him.

“Since neither of us will be remembering this night, will you let me hold you? Just this once?” His voice was unsteady.

Jim’s eyes closed lazily.

If Jim couldn’t bring himself to answer, he must really want that. 

Still, it was apparent that he was going to be only minimally cooperative. Blair pulled, tugged, and pushed. He was breathing hard when he was finally resting back against pillows next to railing that served as a headboard, Jim’s upper body awkwardly sprawled across his lap.

Then Jim shifted and circled his arm’s around Blair’s waist and rested his cheek against Blair’s cotton-clad belly.

Blair stroked Jim’s hair, his motion slow and deliberate. “I’ll be gone in the morning,” he whispered roughly, though he knew it would take a massive effort to dislodge a sleeping Jim from his lap.

Jim made a little noise of agreement, even as his arms tightened around Blair. Then he whispered, with his eyes closed, “I love you, Blair.”

Blair tried to swallow and couldn’t. He was determined to not disrupt the motion of his stroking hands. “I love you, too. So damn much.” His nose was running.

Jim’s head grew heavy as he drifted into sleep.

A tear fell from Blair’s eye.

He knew, this time, that it wasn’t shed for Jim.



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