Blair walked toward the steps to the science building. A chill wind blew through his light jacket causing him to shiver and wish he had put on something a little warmer today. The falling leaves around his feet crunched as he stepped on the ones that weren’t fortunate enough to be blown out of his way. He hurried his way to the large stone building, taking the steps two at a time. The sooner he got into the warmth the better. He knows he’s early, but there’s a reason besides the fact that his dorm room has had no heat for two days.
“Hey, Sandburg,” he heard as he walked down the hallway. He stopped and looked toward the voice, a smile growing on his face.
“You’re early,” he said as he moved closer. So close that Blair could smell the unique scent that was Cal.
“Well, the heat’s off in my room and I was cold. I figured it would be warmer here and I think it’s working already. It’s quite warm now.”
“My office is right down the hall…” Cal said as he reached up to touch wild, dark curls.
Det. Jim Ellison gazed at the motionless body of his partner; motionless that is, except for the rise and fall of his chest and the rapid movements of his closed eyes. Jim wondered what Blair was thinking about or to be more specific, dreaming about. The monitor by the bed had registered an increase in heart rate, just another sign that Blair was still here. Jim ignored the monitor and listened to his lover’s heartbeat, giving a sigh of relief when he picked up the steady rhythm. He realized that no matter what else was going on a part of his senses was always on Blair.
“Hey, Chief, I know you’re in there; it’s time to wake up.” Jim closed his eyes, continuing to concentrate on the other’s breaths and beating heart. “I’m here. I love you and I’m not going anywhere, so you need to wake up.”
The two men lay in each other’s arms for several minutes, neither one wanting to get up and break the mood, disturb the calm, face the day.
“We really need to move, you know. The day’s not going to go away just because we want it to.”
Blair moved his head to kiss that certain spot on his lover’s neck; the spot that usually brought a shiver of pleasure. Usually is the operative word here. Cal placed his hand gently on Blair’s shoulder and after a moment of debate gently pushed the younger man away and sat up.
Blair took a deep breath. He swore he wasn’t going to let Cal see him cry. “I know, you have to go; it’s your big chance, this opportunity may never come again. I get it, I really do, but you know what, I don’t have to like it.”
“Blair, it’s something I have to do. I have to go. Some day you’ll understand; it’ll be your turn to go and you’ll be the one leaving someone behind.” With that statement Cal got up and went into the bathroom, closing the door a little harder than he intended.
The sound of the door closing tore through Blair’s heart. There was no way he could hold back the tears now, but Cal would never see them. He grabbed his belongings and left the small apartment. He looked up at the cloudy sky that mirrored his own feelings. This was Cal’s big chance to make a name for himself, and he loved Cal. Why couldn’t he feel better about it?
Jim had been sitting by the bed for hours, or was it days. He’d lost track of time. All he knew was that Blair needed him now and he was going to be there when he woke up. He found himself listening to Blair’s steady breathing and, deeper, to the heartbeat, still strong and steady. He concentrated on the sound and rhythm, eyes closed and a light touch on the still hand beneath his.
A light knock at the door brought him back. Before he could answer, the door was opened and Captain Banks walked quietly into the room.
Without even turning around, Jim greeted his boss. “Captain, what’s up?”
“How’d you know it was me?”
“Yea. How’s he doing; wake up yet?”
“Evidently he’s doing ‘as well as could be expected’ they say. But he hasn’t awakened yet. I think he’s dreaming. Simon, anything new on the case?”
“We have a suspect. He’s in the ER, a little 'accident' during the arrest. I just thought I’d stop up to see how the kid’s doing.”
“Better not let him hear you call him kid.” The detective in Jim Ellison stood. “Take me to him.”
“Not happening, Jim. We want him to be put away for what he’s done, not get off on a technicality. That’s what you want too, right? Your place is here, with Sandburg. He’s the one that needs you now. Let us take care of the rest. Sit down. We’ll keep you in the loop.”
Jim sighed. “I want him to go down hard for this,” he said, nodding towards his partner and lover. “Promise me, Simon.”
“I promise. I have to get back downstairs. When the kid wakes up tell him…well, just tell him I said Hi.” With that, he turned and left the room.
Jim listened to the footsteps as his boss walked down the long hallway. His attention soon returned to the younger man; indeed, it was never very far from him. He could see the eyes moving rapidly under the closed lids and wished that somehow his abilities were able to see into Blair’s busy mind. Or maybe not, he thought; ‘I have a feeling some of the things in there would scare me.’
Blair and Jim sat on the sofa in the loft watching the Jags game on TV. High fives and friendly slaps on the arm at good plays from the home team gradually gave way to lighter touches. Each man was aware of the change but did not acknowledge it. They had been dancing around the mutual feelings but never acted on them.
Now the game was over and the room was quiet. Blair turned toward his partner, gently laying his hand on the jeanclad knee of the other man.
“Do you trust me?”
Jim took a few seconds to answer. Not because he had to think about it because he trusted, and has trusted, Blair with his life many times. But this was more than his life.
Blair waited for the answer he knew was coming.
“Yes, I trust you.”
Blair smiled and leaned in, bringing his face closer to Jim’s, touching lips in a gentle, tentative kiss.
“Are you sure?”
“More than anything else in my life.
“I’ve wanted you for so long. I was afraid of how it would change our friendship, our working relationship. I don’t want to ruin what we already have.”
“We won’t. It’ll just make what we have stronger.”
“I don’t think I could stand it if it didn’t work out…if you left.”
“I won’t leave you. Ever, I promise.”
With that, Jim stood, pulling Blair up with him and led him to the stairs leading to his bedroom.
Jim stretched his body to release the kinks acquired during his vigil at Blair’s bedside. He poured another cup of hospital coffee. The nurses allowed him access to their coffeepot which was a lot better than the vending machine stuff or even the cafeteria mud. He’d lost count of the number of cups he’d consumed over the past few days. Blair’s nurse, an older woman named Ruby, had kicked him out of the room a few minutes ago and told him to go get something to eat and take a walk outside.
“You won’t do him any good when he wakes up if you’re on your last legs,” she had told him. “You need to stay strong and healthy for him. Now go and I don’t want to see you back here for an hour. By the time you get back I’ll be done.”
The usually headstrong detective just took in the look she was giving him and decided he’d better do as she said. Besides she’d been taking good care of Blair for the last few days; he was in good hands. Jim got up to leave.
“I’ll be back in an hour, Chief. Ruby’s here with you. She’s the one who’s been taking such good care of you.” He caressed Blair’s head before putting a small kiss to his forehead and giving his hand a squeeze. He turned to the nurse, slightly embarrassed that she had witnessed that little interaction. “I have my phone, you know, just in case…”
“Detective, Blair’s lucky to have you. You need to have faith that he will wake up and be okay.”
“I know he’ll wake up, I just wish I knew when. You should see him when he’s awake. Talks a mile a minute about anything and everything. He’s one of the smartest people I know and I don’t think he could stand still if he tried.” Just the thought of an awake Blair brought a smile to his face.
So here he was, sitting on the patio outside of the cafeteria, the nurse’s station coffee and cafeteria omelet and toast on the table in front of him. Surprisingly, once he had the food, he found he was indeed hungry. But no matter how hungry he was, he kept his eye on the time and after forty-five minutes he threw the empty take-out container into the trash and hurried back to Blair’s room.
Jim stood over Blair, opened letter in his hand. “Why didn’t you tell me about this?” he asked, waving the paper in Blair’s face.
Blair grabbed the paper, already knowing what it said. “I didn’t think I needed to. I’ve already turned down the offer. I’m not going.”
“What? Why?” Jim stared at Blair’s face and let himself listen to the sound of his heartbeat, steady and only slightly increased. “But you want to.”
“No, Big Guy, I don’t.” Jim continued to stare at him, assessing his words, and Blair knew it. “Sure, it would be interesting and maybe even fun and a great learning experience, but I don’t want to go.”
“Do you want me to go?”
Jim didn’t have to think very long. “No, I don’t want you to go, but that’s for completely selfish reasons.”
“And I’m not going for those same selfish reasons. My life is here now, with you, with the police, with teaching.” He stood on tiptoe and kissed his lover. “This is where I want to be, where I need to be.” He smiled, “I’m not leaving you and that’s for completely selfish reasons.”
Jim neared the closed door just as Ruby exited the room. She told him she was done and he could go on in. With a smile and nod he did just that. His eyes quickly scanned Blair’s body, noting the damp hair, clean shaven face and neatly placed sheet and blanket. He sat down in the now very familiar chair and took the too still hand in his.
“Ruby did a good job; washed your hair and everything.” There was no answer, but he wasn’t sure he even expected one. Maybe not expected, but surely hoped for. “Come on, Chief. You promised you weren’t going to leave me. Don’t break that promise.”
It was late at night, or early in the morning, depending on how you looked at it. Jim had been nodding off and on, legs straight out in front of him, one hand on the bed, gently holding onto the hand that lay over the blanket. His senses had been off for the past few days. Oh, sure, he listened to Blair’s heartbeat and breathing and could tell which nurse was walking past the door at any given time, but it was just…off.
At first he didn’t feel the flicker of movement under his hand. Suddenly he was wide awake and sitting up as his hand was held tight in the grip of Blair’s hand. He stood, gazing at the face which was partially illuminated by the dim light of the hospital room.
Blue eyes stared back at him. “I’m here, Jim,” he said weakly. His voice was raspy and his throat was dry. Jim offered him a sip of water from a plastic cup which he gratefully accepted.
“Four days, Chief.” Blair nodded. “I’ll get the nurse. The doctor wants to know when you wake up.
“Wait.” Blair gripped his partner’s strong arm, keeping him from the call button. “I need to tell you something. I was dreaming. I could hear your voice talking to me, telling me not to leave.” Blair cleared his throat and took another sip of water. “Jim, I’m not leaving. I’ll never leave you. You have to believe me.”
Jim smiled and placed a soft kiss on his lover’s lips. He did believe Blair.
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