Disclaimer: Don't own'em but sure wish I did...
Rated PG-13 for language.
Notes: As this is a missing and a fill-in scene for TSbyBS (yes another one :::sigh:::) there are major spoilers for this episode.
The morning had dawned clear and beautiful. And Blair Sandburg hated it as he'd walked and walked without any destination in mind and only the companionship of the nightmare that stalked him for three days now.
Who would have believed that one well-intentioned action could throw Blair's life into utter chaos? Not that his life was all that neat and orderly to begin with -- with dodging bullets, knives, fists, and the occasional body-falling-from-an-airplane.
However, everything up to this point had been a cakewalk because all those other times he'd been able to rely on his friend and partner Jim Ellison.
Now he had no one to turn to, not even his mother who had unwittingly tipped the first domino, and all Blair could do was watch helplessly as the rest of them tumbled.
When the reporters had ambushed them on the way back to the truck and Jim had discovered what had happened, Blair actually felt the temperature fall in the cab. The icy glare and frozen set of Jim's shoulders told him in no uncertain terms that the detective was not ready to hear any excuses.
That had been the second domino.
Jim had driven in stony silence to the waterfront and though the day was damp and chilly, the two men walked where no reporters or curious eyes could see them. Blair had tried to explain but Jim had closed himself off and the only reaction the anthropologist had gotten was bitter anger. Then Jim had pulled out his most lethal weapon -- cruel sarcasm -- and accused Blair of setting up the dangling carrot. He had lost his temper, though he'd known better. One of them had to keep a level head, but Blair had failed.
Domino number three.
Two days ago in the bullpen when Blair had entered, intending to talk to Jim at his desk, intending to set things right. The moment he stepped through the doorway, everyone began to chant, "we're not worthy, we're not worthy," as they'd mockingly bowed to him. Blair's face had burned and his gaze flew to Jim, only to find a granite-hard expression and eyes dark with hurt and resentment. The words Blair had written had done what nobody else could -- divided sentinel and guide. Blair had fled Major Crimes, intent on escaping somewhere, anywhere that he could forget the betrayal in Jim's face.
Another domino down.
Blair realized he was in a park and lowered himself to a bench damp with the morning dew. Birds sang and chattered in the nearby trees. Two joggers ran past him, laughing about something one of them had said. Blair noticed they were women, but other than that, he had no idea what they looked like. And didn't care.
He tipped his head back, allowing the sun's rays to rest upon his face. However, the warmth couldn't even touch the ice surrounding him. Cold and alone was his world. All I need is the rain and life would be perfectly imperfect, he thought grimly.
Three million dollars. Studios bidding for the film rights. The Nobel Peace Prize committee extremely interested. It was everything he'd dreamed of and everything he and Jim had joked about early in their friendship. Blair couldn't lie to himself -- it was tempting, so damned tempting. Hell, he was only human.
He pictured a scale in his mind and on one side was everything he'd hoped for and the other side -- Jim Ellison.
Jim blinded by the camera flashes when he'd been within a few feet of capturing Zeller. Jim's wounded pride when the would-be jewelry store thief had asked him for his autograph. Jim's sad disappointment when Naomi had tried to get him and Blair to patch up their friendship. All Jim wanted was to be left alone, to revert back to the man he'd been before his senses had come on-line, before Blair had blown into his life like a tornado. Before people looked at Jim like he was a freak.
One more domino.
Blair closed his eyes, remembering last evening. Entering Major Crimes. Bullet striking the wall a few feet from him. Megan falling down in slow motion. Her whispered plea filled with pain, "Sandy." His hand pressing down on her shoulder as blood seeped between his fingers. Jim's pale face as he did the same for Simon, trying to dam the lifeblood leaking out of his friend and captain. The EMT's arriving and working quickly to save two lives.
Two dominos that time.
Later at the hospital Blair and Jim had stood staring at Simon through the glass door to his ICU room. Blair was beside Jim, but he'd never been further away.
That bullet was meant for me. That happened because of me. I don't think it's a good idea to be around me right now.
Jim's words, but they should have been Blair's.
The fault was Blair's. Nobody else's. His mother had only been trying to help -- her intentions had been good and Blair had never believed the adage that the road to hell was paved with good intentions. People were people. They followed their hearts. Sometimes they followed their fears.
Like Jim Ellison.
Jim had been taught at a very young age that following his heart was a sign of weakness. So his responses were all based on fear -- protect himself at all costs because no one really cared what happened to him. Jim's reaction to this whole fiasco could be defined by his fear, and Blair should have known. Didn't he know James Ellison better than anybody else? Hadn't he spent the last three years learning about the man and his senses? Blair was an observer of human nature and though Jim possessed the noblest of gifts, he also possessed a wariness and distrust engendered in him since he was a boy. Everyone in his life had either left or betrayed him. Hell, Jim had probably been waiting three years for the other shoe to drop with Blair.
He should have known. Blair loved the man as a friend and brother, and he accepted him with all his gifts and faults. These past few days he'd been without that friendship and his soul felt cleaved in two.
There was only one way to stop the dominos, to prevent the last one from falling.
Rafe stuck his head out of Simon's office. "Hey guys. Sandburg's on tv. He's giving some kind of press conference."
Jim's heart stumbled in his chest. What the hell was the damn kid going to do now? Wasn't writing the damn dissertation enough to ruin Jim's life? But Jim knew he couldn't blame anyone but himself. He'd accepted Blair's help in exchange for being a dissertation subject. And dissertations were published, weren't they? He just hadn't been prepared. Even after three years, he hadn't expected the piercing pain in his chest when he was the last to learn that the paper was complete.
He strolled into the office, knowing every pair of eyes was on him, trying to detect any sign of emotion and wondering if Jim "Stoic" Ellison was going to lose it in front of God and all of Major Crimes. But Jim wasn't going to give them the satisfaction. What happened between Sandburg and himself wasn't open for discussion, now or ever. He schooled his expression into its appropriate impassiveness. Nothing Sandburg could say would release those inflexible facial muscles.
He focused on the television screen, watched as Blair strode to the lectern at the front of the room. The student's expression was closed with no hint of his usual ebullience. What the hell? The kid just had his dreams set within his grasp -- he should've bounced all the way to the front of the room.
He listened carefully to the words that came from the man who had been his best friend, his partner.
"Hi. I thank you all for coming. I just have a short speech prepared here."
No doubt written with help from Sid what's-his-name in New York.
"Um... In our media-informed culture, a scientist receives validation by having his or her work published. And after years of research there is a great personal satisfaction when that goal is reached."
Yeah, great satisfaction for you, but not your lab rat, Jim thought bitterly. His fingers curled into fists, his nails biting into his palms. His muscles felt like they could splinter into a million pieces if he so much as took a deep breath.
"However, my desire to impress both my peers and the world at large drove me to an immoral and unethical act. My thesis 'The Sentinel' is a fraud."
Sounds zoomed out of range and Jim's vision encompassed only Blair. The detective's mouth gaped slightly. Jesus Christ, the kid was lying. He was lying! Why the hell was he doing this? Why didn't he grab onto the damned brass ring?
Blair continued. "While my paper does quote ancient sources of material, the documentation proving that James Ellison--"
Blair's trembling voice stumbled to a halt and his glasses couldn't hide the moisture that filled blue eyes from a sentinel's heightened vision. Jim could see his chest moving to gasp precious air in shallow breaths. He imagined he could hear Sandburg's heart beating four times as fast as normal.
A lump settled in Jim's throat and he closed his mouth, tried to swallow, but failed.
"--actually possesses hyper-senses is fraudulent. Looking back, I can't even say it's a good piece of fiction."
The smile Blair gave his audience was a pale imitation of the one he'd gifted Jim with so many times in the past three years. Jim managed to swallow this time, but his throat only grew thicker and his sight blurred around the edges.
"I apologize for this deception and my only hope is that I can be forgiven for the pain I've caused those who are close to me."
Then Blair was rushing from the podium.
Just as Jim was rushing out of Simon's office.
Jim rounded the corner of the hospital corridor, already knowing Blair was there. He could hear his heartbeat, his quiet voice as he exchanged words with the doctor in charge of Simon and Megan.
Blair approached him, trying to act casual, like he hadn't just declared himself a fraud to the entire world to save Jim's career.
"Hey. Doc said the surgery went well and the bullet missed major organs on both of them. But, uh, he said they could leave in a week or two," Blair said.
"Thank God," Jim breathed.
A stranger or casual acquaintance wouldn't have noticed anything unusual about their conversation or the young, long-haired man. But Jim could hear the forced casualness of his voice and the rapid beat of his heart.
"So, I heard you guys finally got Zeller."
"I don't know." Jim laughed and it came out more nervous than wry. "Somebody probably got him. We still got Bartley to contend with." He turned his gaze to Blair and his friend's own gaze slid away. That inability to meet Jim's eyes bothered the detective and he tried to force some levity in his tone. "I don't know which is worse."
Awkward silence, a rarity between the two men in the past, sprang up between them. Jim continued to examine Blair, and the anthropologist continued to look at everything but Jim.
"I saw your conference," Jim finally said softly.
"Oh. Yeah. You saw it?" Blair shrugged, trying to affect nonchalance and failing miserably. "It's just a book." He even managed a dry laugh.
Jim's breath stumbled in his chest. "It was your life."
"Yeah, it was," Blair admitted in a small voice that Jim had never heard come from him before. "You know, you were right. I mean, uh, I don't know what I was expecting to do with it. And, I mean, where do I get off following you around for three years, pretending to be a cop, right?"
The rambling discourse had nothing to do with the news conference. God, had Jim reduced the once-eager student to a shell of who he'd been before meeting Jim? Anguish clawed at Jim's gut, but the words were tougher to say. Hell, he wasn't the one who could spill his guts about feelings and how much Blair meant to him and what an asshole he had been
He smiled though he knew the smile resembled a painful grimace. "This self-deprecation doesn't suit you, you know." Jim blinked, glanced away, knowing he had to try to find a way to tell Blair... "You might have been just an observer, but you're the best cop I've ever met. And the best partner I could've ever asked for. You've been a great friend and pulled me through some pretty weird stuff." Okay, so it wasn't poetry, but Jim's heart was thundering so loudly, he could barely hear his own thoughts above it.
The sincere word and familiar warm smile sliced through Jim's chest, cutting straight to his heart. The kid was thanking him, when Jim should have been the grateful one. He had nearly thrown away the best friendship he'd ever known in his forty years, all because of his damned pride. But to preserve that precious camaraderie, Blair had thrown away everything he'd dedicated his life to for the last fifteen years. All for James Ellison, his sentinel, his partner. His friend.
God, how could he even begin to be the person Blair thought he was?
He had no idea.
Jim took a deep breath. "You ready to get busy?"
Blair gave his answer as he fell into step beside him... at his side where he belonged.
And the last domino remained standing against all odds.
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