Disclaimer: Jim, Blair, and Simon aren't mine... not yet. Well, maybe never, but a girl can dream, can't she?
Missing scene from "Remembrance".
The elevator pinged on the seventh floor, grabbing Blair's attention. From the bullpen he watched two passengers disembark and disappointment brought a sigh. Neither one was Jim.
The day before, after the scene in the dump where Jim had shoved an overly aggressive reporter, the detective had informed Blair he was going to see his father. If Jim had said he was going to sprout wings and fly, Blair couldn't have been more surprised. Though Blair didn't know the entire history between father and son, he knew it hadn't been only one or two incidents that had driven the two apart years ago. With Jim's odd gaps in his childhood memories, Blair had a feeling there were old wounds that had never completely healed within his friend. The last two serial murders had scraped that fragile scab from those old wounds and now they oozed black bile into Jim's mind, poisoning him with their virulence.
Jim had told Blair little about his family, and what he did reveal was colored with bitterness. Yet, despite his upbringing, he had turned out to be a generous, compassionate man behind the outwardly cold facade.
Blair had wanted to go with Jim to see his father, but his reasons had been totally selfish -- he wanted to see the man who had raised his partner. He wanted to see the home his friend had grown up in and imagine him as a ten-year-old boy within those walls. He wanted to see the environment that had surrounded the young sentinel during his formative years.
When Jim had told Blair he was returning to his boyhood home to question his father about the suspect, he again hadn't invited the younger man to accompany him. Blair had known Jim long enough to know when he could push him and when he couldn't. It hadn't been the right time.
He took a deep breath and raked a hand through his curly hair. Nearly two hours and Jim still hadn't called in. Blair stood and crossed over to the breakroom to refill his coffee cup. As he passed Simon's office, his nostrils twitched at the smell of a fresh pot of Simon's special coffee collection. If Jim were here, he could've told Blair what kind.
Inside the lounge, Blair filled his cup with the thick sludge from the pot, which had been sitting on the hot plate for who knew how long. Maybe he should've tempted fate and asked Simon for some of his. No, that was pushing it, even for Blair.
Grimacing, he exited the breakroom and headed back to Jim's desk, only to find his partner sitting behind it. Blair forced himself to approach slowly, to hold back his questions.
"Do you think that coffee's even safe for consumption, Chief?" Jim asked, not raising his head from the file he was studying.
Blair smiled slightly. "Probably not, but I needed the caffeine fix." He pulled a spare chair around to the side of the desk and sat down, taking a sip of the mud. It was even worse than it looked and smelled. Setting it aside, he leaned forward to look at the report Jim was so closely examining. "What's that?"
Jim raised his head, meeting Blair's gaze for the first time. "The old file from when Bud was murdered."
The flat monotone in Jim's voice didn't surprise Blair. In order for Jim to do his job, he needed that ability to separate his emotions from his work. It only bothered Blair this time because Jim was so closely entwined in this case.
"Did you talk to your dad?" Blair dared to ask.
Jim blinked, the impassiveness in his blue eyes giving way to some other emotion that Blair wasn't able to identify. "Yeah." He gathered up the old papers and slid them back in the file. "Ready for lunch?"
Avoidance -- Jim was a master at it.
"Sure," Blair replied, intentionally keeping his voice light.
Jim grabbed their jackets, then tossed Blair his. The younger man followed the detective down to the car garage where they piled into Jim's 69 Ford pick-up. Without asking, he drove unerringly to Wonderburger.
"Hey, man, I thought you said lunch, not a cholesterol buffet," Blair groused, more out of habit than disapproval.
"My treat," Jim said with a brief smile that didn't quite touch his eyes.
Blair grumbled half-heartedly, knowing it was expected, but he wouldn't begrudge his friend, who sounded like he needed comfort food. Jim ushered him inside, a hand pressed lightly against Blair's back. The heavy odor of grease made Blair's stomach do a somersault, but he could tell Jim was inhaling it like fresh morning air.
After Jim had gotten his two burgers, order of fries, and soft drink, and Blair his salad and iced tea, they sat down at a corner table by the big window. Blair picked at his slightly wilted lettuce as he watched Jim eat slower than usual, and with less gusto. Something had definitely happened at his father's place.
Though a veritable whirlwind by nature, Blair could be patient when the situation demanded it. He'd learned through his anthropology studies and fieldwork how to wait.
A loud slurp from Jim's straw announced that he had finished his soft drink. He stood. "You need a refill on the tea, Chief?"
Blair nodded and handed him the paper cup. While Jim was at the beverage center, Blair cleaned off their table, tossing away the remains of his salad. Jim returned, handed him his filled cup and slid back into the seat across from Blair. He took a sip of his soft drink, then stared out the window. Blair followed his line of sight, noticing only the usual traffic on the busy street and the pedestrians moving like wind-up toys, not looking at anyone as they scurried to their destinations.
Jim's words were so soft Blair almost missed them. Puzzled, Blair remained silent, hoping Jim would continue on his own. After a full two minutes, Jim brought his gaze to bear on him. The naked anguish in his blue eyes cut Blair deeply, slicing open a vein of empathy.
"My father knew about my senses all these years," Jim continued, his voice low.
Shock robbed Blair of speech for a long moment. "He knew about your heightened senses?" he asked dumbly, hoping he'd heard wrong.
Jim nodded, the motion slow and painful. "I saw Bud's killer, but he was 75 yards away and the cops didn't believe me. My father told them I was making it up, then he took me home." His gaze became unfocused.
"What happened then?" Blair asked quietly, holding on to his anger by a slender thread.
"He said that I couldn't tell anyone that I was different. He asked me if I wanted the other kids to call me a freak." Moisture glimmered in Jim's eyes, nearly tearing Blair's heart in two. "I was a kid, Chief. I only wanted to fit in. I didn't want to be a freak."
"So you buried your senses," Blair finished, his voice trembling with a rage so powerful he was afraid of the violence he was capable if he saw Jim's father at that moment.
"I had to." The three words were a whispered plea for understanding.
Blair clasped his hands together in his lap, hoping Jim couldn't sense his increased heartbeat or stiff, angry breaths. He leaned forward, lowering his head so he could look into Jim's eyes, which were aimed at the table. "It wasn't your fault, Jim."
"I let Bud's murderer get away." The hitch in Jim's voice gave away the tight rein he held on his emotions. Self-reproach was written across his features. "Because I was scared that I'd be called a freak, a murderer escaped."
Blair's nostrils flared with helpless rage. "Damnit, Jim, you were only a boy. If anyone's to blame, it's your father."
The detective remained silent, staring at a round stain on the table. He traced the circle with his forefinger, around and around. Strained silence grew between the two men with the buzz of surrounding conversations and intermittent laughter a low backdrop. "He looks so old," he finally spoke.
It took a moment for Blair to realize he was talking about William Ellison. "That doesn't excuse what he did to you twenty-five years ago."
Jim shrugged tiredly. "No, but we all make mistakes." He looked at Blair, a faint smile on his haggard face. "Like when I shoved you up against the wall the first time I was in your office."
Blair thought back to that time. Understanding came like a sparked match in pitch darkness. Now he understood why Jim had been so angry -- he'd told him he was different, not like everyone else. In Jim's mind, a freak. Jesus, it was a miracle he hadn't done more to Blair than slam him against the wall.
"Your father was wrong, Jim," Blair said firmly. "You have a very special gift, one that maybe no one else in this world possesses. That doesn't make you a freak. That makes you special. More special than even you realize."
Jim scrutinized him and Blair could feel his uncertainty. The ten-year-old boy that still lived within Jim Ellison was afraid.
"You know what I'm talking about because you made your choice," Blair said.
Bewilderment shown in Jim's eyes.
"The choice you made in Peru," Blair added, his tone as intense as his steady gaze.
Understanding flowed through his friend's expression, and the uncertainty shimmered away, replaced by the more familiar confidence. "I did, didn't I?"
Blair nodded, his own spirits lifting. "You did, and it was the right one."
The two men stared at one another for a long moment, mirroring blue eyes filled with acceptance, gratitude and abiding trust.
Jim's cell phone rang and the detective reached for it automatically. "Ellison." His jaw clenched. "Get back-up to that address. We'll be there in fifteen minutes." He slapped the phone shut. "C'mon, Chief. Simon got an address for Mick Foster."
The two men stood as one and the guide followed his sentinel without hesitation.
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