by Southy

© July 2005


Blair gazed out the window as the Ford F150 moved through traffic, the glare of the late afternoon sun poised sharply upon the windshield.

Fingers squeezed his shoulder. “You okay?”

“Yeah,” Blair replied. But, “It’s not going to work out with Christine.”

Jim made a turn. Then, “That’s too bad. Any particular reason why?”

Blair was about to respond that she couldn’t forgive him for thinking she was responsible for the leak regarding David Lash; on another level, he reminded himself that telling Jim such would reveal that he’d relayed confidential information to Christine. Jim would be so disappointed in him, especially after his screw-up at the church.

Blair vowed to himself right there and then that he would never again behave so foolishly as to reveal important confidential information to someone who hadn’t needed to know such. This police stuff could be life and death, as he was now only too aware. He was also aware that he’d do anything for Jim Ellison – even take a bullet for him – for Jim had come to his rescue in his time of helplessness.

Yes, he may have “done everything right”, but he still would have ended up dead, had it not been for Jim’s determination to find him.

He bowed his head, fighting, yet again, the feeling of being overwhelmed.

Jim glanced over at him. “That bad, huh?”

Blair waved a hand, hoping to get Jim off the subject. “Just the usual boy-girl stuff. Trust issues and all of that.”

Jim focused on driving a moment. Then, “I’d thought that, after what you went through, she would be boiling over with sympathy.”

Blair drew a deep breath, and then released it. “I didn’t tell her what happened.”

Jim looked sharply at him.

“It’s just one of those internal things that a person has to go through. What happened to me… it’s a difficult thing to share with someone else.”

Now Jim released a breath. “I hear that.” Then, “You’re doing good, you know? You were back at the PD the next day, back teaching…. You didn’t let this get you down. I know there’s still internal stuff to deal with after something like this, but you’re one of the most resilient people I’ve ever known.”

Blair looked up at Jim. Ellison was fair-minded, but he wasn’t generous when it came to handing out compliments. 

“Thanks,” Blair said softly, then looked out the window again, wanting to make the moment last as long as possible. 

The compliment made him feel all the more guilty that he’d gone to Club Doom when Jim had specifically told him not to, that he’d let Christine in on what was going on.

I’ll never outright disobey him like that again. I’m too old to be pulling this rebellion crap.

Of course, the information he’d acquired at Club Doom had been valuable to the investigation. “Dr. Bates” had even complimented him.

He snorted. What a joke that seemed now.

“What?” Jim asked.

Blair shrugged. “Nothing.” Then he lied, “I was just thinking about how difficult relationships are.” He really didn’t like lying to Ellison.

Jim picked up his cell phone and pushed buttons with his thumb. “I wish I could tell you that relationships get easier with age, but they don’t.”

Blair tuned out the conversation that Jim was having with Banks about various case files. He was glad that, after a day of interviewing witnesses for a new case, they were on the way home.

Home. The loft was starting to feel like that. He knew he shouldn’t be getting attached. To the loft or to Jim.

He recognized how immature it was to feel jealous that Jim’s attention was on the phone call with Banks. They always spoke so seriously to each other, like their conversations were so important. While Blair had to make such an effort to get Ellison to pay attention to the things he considered important – like Jim’s senses.

Blair was so lost in his thoughts that he was surprised when Ellison’s hand landed on his shoulder again.

“Hey, you up for going out to dinner? My treat.”

More private time with Jim? “Sure.”

“I’d just like to change first.” The truck turned onto Prospect Street. “Be thinking about where you want to go.”

Blair smiled hugely. “Lobster sounds good.”

Jim gave him a scolding look. “I said dinner, not a date.”

As the truck pulled into a parking spot, Blair laughed. “You have such a charming way with words, Jim. Makes a guy feel all warm and fuzzy inside.” He opened his door.

Jim was grinning as he got out. “I do my best.”

As they waited for their dinners in a dimly-lit Greek restaurant, Jim said, “Banks told me that the authorities in South Dakota found Lash’s mother. She’s been in a mental institution for the past fifteen years.”

Blair lowered his gaze. “That’s no surprise. I wonder if she was already loony, or if having Lash for a son made her loony.”

“I think it was losing the other child that sent her over the edge.”

“Oh, right,” Blair said, some of the conversation with Lash’s father coming back to him. What a sad figure he had been. 

He furrowed his brow at the recollection that Jim had ended up angry when the conversation was over.

And you knew about this? He remembered Jim asking the father. Blair had been so surprised by Jim’s sudden change in tone – from neutrally requesting information, to the anger – that he’d shifted his own focus from Mr. Lash to Jim.

He thought back, trying to remember what had prompted Jim’s harshness.

Wasn’t it what David Lash’s mother had done to him? Scrubbed him in hot baths and locked him in his room for days? The mother had done that. 

Yet, Jim had been mad at the father. For not doing anything about it, for not trying to stop it.

From where Blair sat, David Lash was such a “devil” – both as a child and as an adult – that it was difficult to blame the father for not getting involved; but rather, washing his hands of it. He certainly hadn’t gotten away scot-free, in any case. He’d looked as though he’d lived an awful life.

“Chief,” Jim said tenderly, leaning toward him, “it’s all right if you want to talk about what you’re going through. If you’re bothered by flashbacks or nightmares, no one is going to think less of you. Certainly not me.”

Is this what love felt like? Every word spoken by your beloved made you want to melt into a puddle of goo?

Was this the same love he had felt toward Christine? No, stronger than that. 

Like what he felt toward a mentor? Yeah, he could see some similarities to the affection and extreme respect he’d felt toward Eli Stoddard. Yet, this seemed so much more intense. 

Was this like the love one would feel toward a father? How could he ever know?

He just knew that Jim cared in a way that no one else ever had. Well, there was his mom, but as genuine as her love was, she was under parental obligation to care so much.

Poor Jim, so concerned because of these contemplative silences. “It’s not me I was thinking about,” Blair finally said, then reached for his glass of water.

Jim looked intrigued. “Then what?”

Blair sat back and decided to approach Jim directly. “When we were talking to Lash’s father?”


“It surprised me that you seemed mad at the way he ‘allowed’ his ex-wife to be so abusive to Lash.” He didn’t want to sound critical of Jim. “I mean,” he shrugged with exaggeration, “Lash seemed to have been born a sociopath. Do you think it really would have mattered if his father had tried to take him away from his mother?” He was proud of himself for being able to talk about his would-be murderer so objectively.

Jim appeared thoughtful, and for a moment Blair thought he was going to shut down. That was the main trait of Jim’s that he wasn’t enamored of. Jim always seemed to be so careful about what he chose to reveal about himself. Sometimes when you asked him a question, he’d act like he didn’t even hear you… though you knew that he did.

Jim’s mouth grew into a grim line as he reached for his beer. “Abuse is abuse, Chief. It doesn’t matter whether Lash ‘deserved’ it or not. It’s wrong.”

“I don’t think he deserved it either. Nobody deserves to be treated that way. I’m just – I’m just surprised that you seemed more mad at him, instead of Lash’s mother. Or was it because he was the most convenient target, since he was sitting right there?”

Jim shifted uncomfortably. “When you sit by and watch a crime being committed, reporting it is the right thing to do. More importantly, if you’re a member of family – especially the patriarch of a family – and abuse is taking place, you have a moral obligation, let alone a legal one, to do something about it, don’t you think?” His voice had taken on a hard edge. “He was David Lash’s father. Divorced or not, fathers are supposed to protect their children.”

He took a long swallow of beer.

Blair felt his insides turn to sympathetic mush. He stared at Jim, willing his eyes not to mist. “When did your father not protect you?”

It was almost a physical thing, the shields that went up. The smile that broke across Jim’s face was so crass. “You’re barking up the wrong tree, Chief. You don’t need to have suffered abuse yourself to be compassionate about it in others.” His hard smile tried to relax. “I realize that you minored in psychology.” He wagged his finger. “But don’t try to psychoanalyze me and look for issues where there aren’t any. I don’t appreciate it.”

Blair lowered his gaze. “Sorry.” And he was. Sorry that he had made Jim uncomfortable. Sorry most of all that Jim didn’t want to tell him whatever had happened in his past. It was so obvious that something had. 

But Blair was just “a kid”, somebody trying to fit into an adopted world that wasn’t his; trying to befriend a man who had an honorable heart and a courageous soul, but who wasn’t about to go sharing his most intimate secrets with some hippy college student – no matter how far he was willing to go to save the life of said student.

I love you, Jim.

Blair wondered how long it would take before Jim would be willing to hear that.

Suddenly, Jim looked away, a hand curled near his face. He emitted a powerful sneeze, then grabbed a napkin and placed it at his nose.

He blew into it.

Blair shook his head back and forth. This was the third time today. Ellison was coming down with a cold.

Okay, Jim wouldn’t let Blair heal his heart, but maybe he would be more receptive to Blair’s ideas of healing his body. There was that concoction from a Zimbabwe tribe that had worked before on one of Blair’s roommates. And the Monbuttus in Kenya, they believed in the rhythm of music to clear poisons from the body…. 

“Excuse me,” Jim finally said, crumbling the napkin and leaving it on the table. He sniffed a few times.

“You’re coming down with a cold, my friend.”

“No, I’m not. It’s just allergies.”

Man, Ellison could be stubborn sometimes. Contrary as hell. It was on the tip of Blair’s tongue to say, “It’s no wonder that you’re divorced.”

But that wouldn’t be a very nice thing to say, especially when Ellison had been so kind to invite him to dinner, and was expressing such tender concern after what had happened.

Besides, Blair was glad that Jim was divorced.

He wondered when he himself would be able to outwardly accept the tenderness that Ellison wanted to dole out.

What a bizarre pair they made. Poet Robert Frost would approve of the fact that, whenever confronted with a fork in the road of his life, Blair had always taken the one less traveled.

He was eager for the future, and to see where those paths would take him.

He was eager to know, at the end of it all, how Ellison had fit in.

He hoped they could travel their paths together.


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