Note:  There´s probably not much point in reading this if you´re unfamiliar with the episode “Sweet Science” (the one with boxer Sweet Roy William.).

Most heartfelt thanks to my betas:  Trish, ADM, Kimberly FDR, and Sue Roush.  Thanks also to ADM for additional proofreading.  I was the last one to read the final version, so any mistakes are mine.


© July 2002 by Charlotte Frost


Jim had to make a conscious effort to ease up on the accelerator as the traffic thickened around him. 

He and Blair had followed the ambulance with Jamie Williams to the hospital, and Jim hadn´t argued when Blair had wanted to be left there. After leaving Blair at the hospital, he had returned to the station and filled out the reports on what had happened during the minutes leading up to the shooting.  He´d omitted any mention of Blair´s involvement, because that was the surest way to make sure Blair´s observer´s pass – already outdated by years – wasn´t permanently revoked.

Those omissions were the very reason Jim´s brewing anger wanted to weigh more heavily upon the accelerator as he headed home.  Blair had called to let him know that Jamie was out of surgery.  Sharita was giving Blair a ride back to the loft.  Now that the paperwork was finished and Jamie was going to recover (and hopefully confess everything he knew about his brother´s involvement with the counterfeit money), Jim´s mind had had little else to occupy it.  He kept seeing it played out before him – the moment when he´d aged years, fearing that one scared young man was going to blow a few bullet holes into one too-eager-to-help civilian observer.

Damn him, Jim cursed as he found an opening between cars and changed lanes.  His anger was increasing with the drive home, especially since the rush hour traffic was thwarting his attempts to bring this to a head.  Blair was going to have to learn that he couldn´t do this.  Or his “observing” was going to be confined to reading reports from the safety of Jim´s desk.

Finally, he turned onto Prospect Street.  The truck screeched as he braked to a halt in the nearest parking space.  Jim slammed the door.  After crossing the street to 852, he opened his hearing while climbing the stairs two at a time. 

Blair was there.  Calm.  Relaxed.  No television.  It sounded like he was writing.

Jim felt only a small twinge of guilt that he was going to interrupt his partner´s studying.  This was far more important.

He unlocked the door and entered.

“Hey, Jim,” Blair greeted without looking up.  He was sitting on the sofa, books spread out on the coffee table, and writing on a legal pad.

Jim slammed the door closed, watching Blair flinch and look up with wide eyes.

“Hey, what´s up?”  Blair asked worriedly, removing his glasses and putting down the pad.

Jim took off his jacket.  “We´ve got to talk about that stunt you pulled today.”  He managed to find a peg with just a glance.


Jim´s energy propelled him toward the dining table.  “Don´t act like you don´t know what I´m talking about,” he almost yelled.

“You mean – “

“Yes!” Jim whirled to face him.  “Do you have any idea how much I had to lie in the report I filled out this afternoon?”  He moved toward the sofa, taking satisfaction in Blair´s silent, open mouth.  “One mention of you trying to play hero and you can kiss your observer´s pass goodbye, and you´ll be spending the rest of your ‘observing´ days with your butt in an office chair.  I´d be the first one to tie you to it.”

“Jim, come on.  I was – “

“No, you listen!”  Jim jabbed a finger at him as he stood before the coffee table, looking down at Blair.  “I am responsible for you.  You know what that means?” He demanded in a rising voice.  “It means that if something happens to you the responsibility falls on my shoulders.  It´s my screw-up.  I´m the only one who has to answer for your injury.”  He felt the air deflate out of him as he turned away.  “Or death.”

“Oh man, Jim,” Blair was on his feet.  “I wasn´t trying to play hero.  Not at all.  I mean,” soft snort, “what kind of threat am I to a man with a gun?  I had no reason to think Jamie would shoot me.”

Jim swung back around to face Blair, the rage flaring up full force.  “He had a loaded gun in his hand!  Pointed right at you.  And he was scared shitless!  Do you know how many decent people can turn into murderers when they have a loaded weapon and they´re scared enough?  You had no way of knowing what he was going to do!”  Jim drew a breath.  “Don´t you ever do anything like that again.  I mean ever.  Do I make myself clear?”  He felt hot breath exhale through his nose.

Blair held up his hands, as though in surrender.  “Jim,” nervous laugh, “I-I just thought he was more likely to listen to me than to a cop.  I didn´t mean to scare you, man.  As soon as you said ‘Get back´, I got back.”

Jim´s eyes flared.  “I should never have had to tell you that.  You know better.”

Blair blinked, breathing harshly.

“How can I do my job,” Jim demanded, “if I have to be worrying about what´s happening to you?”  He shook his head.  “I count on you to back me up, Chief.  Not get in the way.  Your behavior this afternoon was inexcusable.”

Blair shrugged lamely. “I-I thought I could talk him down.  As soon as I saw it wasn´t working, I got right back behind you.”  He glanced away.  “I´m sorry I scared you so much.   It wasn´t my intent.”

Jim snorted harshly.  He wanted to stay mad, but his anger was spent.  He plopped down onto the opposite sofa.  “Don´t ever put your life in danger like that again.”  He swallowed thickly, feeling unexpected emotion well up.  “I don´t ever want to have to explain to Naomi that you got killed following me around.”

He looked up to see Blair´s expression change from one of humility to one of disbelief, his eyes blazing.  He came to stand before Jim, looking down at him.

“You think,” Blair huffed, “that you´re the only one here with something to lose?  Huh?” 

Jim´s eyes narrowed as he listened to Blair´s trembling voice.

“You think – you think – th-that it´s a goddamned picnic every time I have to stand back and watch you walk into a dangerous situation?  That just because you´re a cop, it´s okay-fine with me to stay behind, knowing I might never see you again?”

Jim´s mouth fell open as Blair´s eyes filled.

Blair continued, “You know how many times we´ve been called to a scene with a body – especially a cop´s body – and my mind keeps asking what if the body were yours?  What would I do?” Blair pleaded.  “If it ever happens, there´s no turning back the clock.  Jim dead.  Jim gone.  No second chances.  ‘It was in the line of duty.´  Like that would make it all just fine.”

Jim couldn´t handle the emotion.  He countered, “Afraid you won´t finish your thesis if I´m gone?”

Blair´s eyes widened.  His fist curled and his jaw clenched.  He turned away, body tight, and then whirled back around.  “How dare you!” he sputtered.

Oops.  Jim realized he really shouldn´t have made his last comment.

Blair said frantically, “Yes, Jim, you´re right.  It´s all about the fucking thesis.  I don´t give a flying fuck about Jim Ellison the human being.  Jim Ellison the friend.”  His fists rested on his hips.  “You know why?  Because he´s not fucking worth it!”  Blair ended in a shout and stormed to the door, grabbing his coat as he left, the loft rattling with the slam that marked his exit.

Ouch.  Jim released a heavy breath, putting his hands to his wounded ears.

Well, people tended to say a lot of things they didn´t mean when they were angry.  Blair couldn´t stay mad at him for too long.

But, damn, that hurt.

He´s not fucking WORTH it!

That really hurt.

The clock had read 2:20 AM when Blair had left the all-night café a few minutes ago.  As quietly as he could, he turned the key into the lock and pushed the door open.

The light was on over the kitchen sink.

Good.  That meant Jim was expecting (hoping?) he would come home.

Blair didn´t bother removing his coat.  The early morning air had been frosty.  He slowly moved to the stairs.

What was the possibility that Jim had gone to sleep?  It hurt to think that their argument might not have kept Jim awake, that Jim would be able to shake it off easily.

Blair put his foot on the first step.  Then the second.  The third tended to creak, so he didn´t want to go up that far.  Instead, he sat on the second step, looking up into the darkness.

“Jim?” he called softly.

He heard a shifting of the mattress.  Thank God.

“Yeah?” Jim replied gruffly.

Blair had to make an effort to keep his voice steady.  “I´m sorry.”


More shifting of the mattress, then feet on the floor.

Blair thought he would faint with relief.  He watched as Jim appeared at the top of the stairs, pulling on his robe.  After belting it, he came down the steps.

“I´m sorry about those things I said,” Blair said to Jim´s shadowy outline as it sat on the fifth step, feet resting on the third.

“Yeah,” Jim muttered.  “I´m sorry, too, when I said… you know.”

Blair nodded, then turned to rest his back against the wall.  “I really wasn´t trying to be a hero.  And I do understand that the most important thing I can do in a dangerous situation is not get in your way.”

Jim reached to pat Blair´s shoulder.  “You´re always so eager to help.  I´ll never forgive myself if I can´t protect you, and you get yourself killed.”

Blair supposed he was always eager to help. He considered that, then said, “I guess, you know, maybe I do have something of a hero´s complex.  Or a martyr´s complex.  I don´t mean to.”

Jim was silent.

Blair felt self-consciousness fill his chest and throat.  “Sometimes… ,” he muttered, “I just get so tired of lagging so far behind everyone else.”

Jim tilted his head in puzzlement.  “What do you mean, lag behind?”

Blair shrugged lamely.  “It just seems that, my whole life, I´m almost always the youngest.  Or the shortest.  Or the one with the least experience.  Sometimes I wish that, for once, I could catch up to where everybody else is.”

With gentle amusement, Jim asked, “Being the smartest doesn´t count?”

“It counts,” Blair admitted.  He lowered his eyes.  “I know I´m complaining about nothing.”  He made himself look back up at Jim.  “I just get tired of everyone always assuming I´m going to be the one to screw up.”

Jim squeezed his shoulder.  “You know, Chief, one of the main reasons you feel like you´re always lagging behind is because you put yourself in the those situations.  You keep raising the bar, challenging yourself.  You could just hang out with other students where your brilliance shines.  Instead, you immerse yourself in situations where you always have to figure out how to catch up.  That takes courage.”  He nudged Blair´s cheek with his fist.  “You´re a better person for it, believe me.”

Warmth flushed through Blair.  “Really?”


More silence.

Jim lowered his gaze.  “And, you know, there is this whole sentinel thing, which makes you most valuable of all.  I know that, even if nobody else does.”

Blair nodded.  It was hard sometimes that nobody else understood his worth there.  Not even Simon.

Jim drew a breath, as though he were debating about what to say next.  Then in a low voice, he said, “Shortly before you moved in with me, I remember there was one night when this sentinel stuff suddenly hit me – the sheer isolation.  I lay in bed, thinking about how I was one of kind. And I-I felt so… lonely.  It was like falling into a mental abyss, where all I could see was myself being this—this freak.  I started feeling this intense despair, unlike anything I´d ever felt before.  I even got to thinking about the gun beneath my pillow.  How it would be so easy to end it.”

Blair held his breath, amazed and afraid, despite the proof of Jim´s presence.

“And then I thought of you.  That there was one person – geeky kid that he was – who knew about me.  Who thought my abilities were a great thing.  Who wanted to understand me more.  Who wanted to follow me around.”  Pause.  “It gave me hope.”

Blair silently released his breath.

Jim looked directly at him.  “You moved in shortly after that.  The despair never returned.”

Blair swallowed and was embarrassed at how loud it sounded.

“Chief.”  Jim´s hand returned to his shoulder, squeezing.  “I do understand that it´s hard for you to stand back and watch me walk into danger.  If it helps at all, I´m motivated to stick around.  I don´t have a death wish or anything like that.  I´m careful.”

“I know you are, Jim.  And I know that there´s nothing that´s going to change the fact that sometimes you have to put your life on the line.   I´ve always accepted that.  It´s just… sometimes it´s not easy.”

Jim nodded sympathetically.  His fingers squeezed again.  “I guess…maybe… I´m just not used to having somebody around who cares so much.”

Blair smiled.  “That makes two of us.”

Jim made a noise of disbelief.  “Come on now.”

Blair shrugged.  “My mom cares, but she´s hardly around.  Everyone else… they´re more like casual friends.  Even Roy was more a casual friend than a close one.”

The third stair creaked as Jim´s feet shifted.  “I´m sorry about that stupid comment I made.”

Blair knew he meant the comment about Blair caring only because of the thesis.  “I should have seen it coming.  You always put up a smoke screen when things get too personal.”  His heart twisted as his voice lowered.  “I´m sorry, too, for what I said.”

“I had it coming,” Jim admitted with a sigh.

Blair wrapped his arm around Jim´s robe-covered leg and squeezed.  “We´re all right now, man.”  He rested his forehead against Jim´s knee.

Jim patted his shoulder.  “We´re all right.”

Blair knew they could now separate and get some sleep.  But he wasn´t in a hurry.  He smiled to himself when he felt Jim´s open hand settle on top of his head.



“I´m glad you appeared in my life.  I wouldn´t have changed any of it.  You´re special to me.”

Blair wondered what he should say.

“Don´t ever do anything like that again.”

Blair raised his head and looked at Jim directly.  “I won´t.”

Jim took his hand away.  “Good.”  He rose, forcing Blair to release his grip.  “We´ll go talk to Jamie tomorrow at the hospital.   I don´t believe he´s guilty of Roy´s murder.  But we won´t be able to find out who is until we talk to him.”

“I definitely want to be there,” Blair said, also rising.

“I wouldn´t want you anywhere else.”  Jim turned and started up the stairs.

Blair stretched, and then unzipped his coat as he went back toward the door.  While hanging up his jacket, he felt a flush of feeling go through him.

Jim had been afraid for him.  Because he cared.  Because he considered Blair special.

Blair moved to his room.  I could get used to this.



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