Summary: I don't usually do song fics, or filks or whatever their called. Not being a poetry lover, I don't usually connect. But if you ever get the chance, listen to the late, great Eva Cassidy. Anything, really, but her version of Paul Simon's American Tune is inspiring.
Tis a touch thoughtful, but you know me, no death fics or anything.
The usual thanks go to Aly and Joy for putting up with me and helping me out.
Sandburg's been way too quiet for way too long. Since taking the badge that Simon offered him, since battling his way through the Academy... since coming to terms with the fact that his life stops here.
Oh, he says he's happy. Says he's where he wants to be, but I don't know. I just don't know.
It's Megan's birthday and the gang from Major Crimes are celebrating at O'Toole's. It's a traditional Irish pub - or so they say. Not having been in any pubs, traditional or otherwise, in Ireland, I couldn't tell you if that's the case. I'm thinking 'Hollywood' Irish here, though.
Still, it's nice. Wooden floors and an old bar stocked with good, imported beer. The 'black stuff' is flowing and we're all enjoying ourselves.
One thing that 'Paddy O'Toole' (that can't be his real name, can it?) insists on is no juke box and no karaoke machines. If you want music, you make it yourself - and fortunately, he has a stock of instruments hanging off the wall, such as guitars and fiddles, and an upright piano on the raised platform we use as a stage. That's what's happening right now. I didn't know that Megan could sing, but she can. Not long back, accompanied on the piano by one of the bar staff (a music major from Rainier who earns extra on the weekends, according to Blair) we had a very impressive rendition of 'Stormy Weather' which she dedicated to the good people of Cascade. That made us laugh - not that she associated that song with the wettest city on the planet but that there were good people here.
Let's just say that it's not been a good week.
Which leads me on to Sandburg.
He's my partner, just as Simon promised. He's the best partner I've ever had or could wish for - just as I told him. But there's something wrong, something missing and I don't know what it is. Seeing as Sandburg's the last person to shy away from talking, I'm wondering if he knows what's wrong? Or perhaps he doesn't have the words.
We're all standing up and clapping, welcoming H and Rhonda back from their 'Something Stupid' duet. I had no idea that there were so many people in MC that could hold a tune.
"It's your turn now, Sandy," Connor pushes.
He's shaking his head and muttering something about that not being a good idea.
"Aw, gowan, honey," she's really pushing now. "I've heard you sing and it would mean a lot to me if you'd give me a tune now."
He's sighing dramatically but finally, he's getting up. I think I know what this is. He's not wanting to be obvious in public. He cut his hair to help throw the press off - and to cut down on the reasons to be picked on at the Academy. It saddened us to hear about that, but we only heard about it second-hand from one of the training sergeants there - a good guy. It was about the third week into his course. Needless to say, we all wanted to do something about it, but none of us wanted to upset him by making him think that we didn't trust him to cope.
We got around it by all turning up at the end of that Friday and visibly 'kidnapping' him in front of his so-called class 'mates', probably overdoing it but showing the other cadets that he belonged to us. The call we got the following week said that the worst of the ragging and comments had gone. If those cadets ever want a position in MC... Didn't I mention that we made Blair introduce them to us? I didn't? What a shame.
He's sitting on a chair now, having taken an acoustic guitar off the wall. I can hear him tuning it up, making sure that it's just right. It is. I may not have musical training but one of the downsides to being a sentinel was developing perfect pitch. Which is a bummer. A lot of the performances I'd enjoyed before my senses came online are now painful.
He's starting, not introducing the piece. He doesn't have to. Paul Simon's American Tune. Maybe he's wanting to tease Megan. The pub has fallen silent, we're all listening in to him. I've never heard him sing. I didn't know he could.
Many's the time I've been mistaken,
And many times confused.
Yes, and often felt forsaken,
And certainly misused.
Oh, but I'm alright, I'm alright,
I'm just weary to my bones.
Still, you don't expect to be
Bright and bon vivant,
So far away from home, so far away from home.
Oh God. I think he's found the words. Does he really feel like that? So far away from home?
I don't know a soul who's not been battered,
I don't have a friend who feels at ease.
I don't know a dream that's not been shattered,
Or driven to its knees.
Oh, but it's alright, it's alright,
For we lived so well so long.
Still, when I think of the
Road we're travelling on,
I wonder what's gone wrong.
I can't help it, I wonder what's gone wrong.
He's singing about us, isn't he? He's wondering where he belongs, and more to the point, if he belongs with me. We've done our best as a department to stand with him, but I don't think that I have been telling him how I feel. How grateful I am.
And I dreamed I was dying.
I dreamed that my soul rose unexpectedly,
And looking back down at me,
And I dreamed I was flying.
And high up above my eyes could clearly see
The Statue of Liberty,
Sailing away to sea.
And I dreamed I was flying.
His eyes are shut as he sings those words, his head tipping back as his voice raises in pitch. You could hear a pin drop in the rest of the bar. No one's talking. No one's drinking - and no one from MC is really breathing. Did he feel like this when he died? Did he fly? Why didn't I talk to him to ask?
We come on the ship they call the Mayflower,
We come on the ship that sailed the moon.
We come in the age's most uncertain hours,
And sing an American tune.
Oh, and it's alright, it's alright, it's alright,
You can't be forever blessed.
Still, tomorrow's going to be another working day,
And I'm trying to get some rest,
That's all I'm trying to get some rest.
His face breaks out into a shy grin as he sings the last line. I think he's told me everything I need to know. It's time to take him home.
"Come on, Chief, it's time to get up."
"Yeah, I said get up, Chief."
He's opening his eyes. Correction. One eye. One very malevolent eye. That one eye is now travelling until it rests on his clock.
"Ellison," he says quietly, evenly and without a hint of rancour. "Prepare to die. It's five in the morning. Get that? Five o'clock in the fucking morning. Now, unless Simon has called because the city is being held to ransom by some crazed terrorists that won't give up until they get their promise that the Jags will win the championship this year, I don't want to know. Come to think of it, if that is happening, I say 'good luck to 'em'. Maybe that'll be the only way they do win the thing."
He's not really in a bad mood. A rant like that is nothing. Most mornings that I've woken him up early after a late night have been greeted with a lot worse than that - usually a long, in-depth description on just how, using tribal methods, he's going to extract revenge slowly and painfully, culminating in a not-very humanitarian death. For me and Simon.
Calls himself a pacifist. He actually knows more ways to kill a guy than I do. Having said that, I doubt he'd go through with it. Note that I'm not overly certain about that. He carries a gun now and came top in his class. That was a surprise for us all, not that it should have been. No one is more competitive than Blair.
"No terrorists, Chief, but we're going somewhere. Come on, breakfast's on the table in five. Go, get a quick shower and then you can eat."
He's up like a shot.
"Is something wrong, Jim? What can I do to help?"
Typical of the man, eh?
"Nothing's wrong, Chief, like I said. Just do as I ask, please?"
"Oh, okay, man. You would tell me if there was something, wouldn't you?" Before I can answer, he's out of the door and muttering to himself. "Shit, Sandburg, you are tired. Jim? Talk? Spill the beans without you resorting to some threat or other? Yeah, as if. Which probably means that something's wrong. Great, now I'm going to have to work it out while Mr. Strong and Silent broods."
I wonder if he knows he mutters out loud? Probably not. I don't usually listen in to his ramblings but for once, I don't feel guilty.
I've turned the bacon, it'll be done soon. A quick listen in to him and I realise he's halfway through his 'quick cycle' as he calls a five minute shower.
That's giving me just about enough time to... yeah, a handful of underwear, a couple of shirts and sweaters, a couple of pairs of jeans. Where are his hiking boots? Oh yes, there they are, under the bed. Where else would they be? All in his backpack except the boots. They can be tied to it. He's out of the shower and giving himself a quick dry down. Okay, back in the kitchen, the bag's at the door and we'll be ready to go when he's eaten. When we've eaten. I just remembered I'd forgotten to eat. Not a problem, I cooked enough for an army anyway.
"I've put some clothes out for you on your bed, Chief," I call when he comes out of the door, making him stop dead and turn slowly, looking at me in shock. "Just to save time. We don't want to be caught up in the traffic."
"Right. Traffic. Thanks."
I can't help smiling as he disappears into his room. I love to keep him off-balance. Makes up for the rest of the time when he's doing it to me.
"Are you going to give now?" he asks for the sixth time since we left the loft.
"Soon. Just sit back and enjoy the ride, Chief."
"No car chases?"
"No car chases."
"I'll do my best. You know our luck though."
"Yeah," he sighs. He's looking out of his side window, his feet are starting to rock back and forth. I haven't seen that in a while, haven't seen his trademark bounce. It's not back yet, but maybe it will come.
I think I worked it out last night, when he was singing that is. He wanted almost nothing from me, nothing from the sentinel thing, despite what I thought. He proved that. I could see what he wasn't saying in his eyes when I saw that video tape. I'd give anything to turn back time to prevent those events from happening. All of his life, he's been emotionally battered, if not physically. The physical hurts mean nothing to him, really. He makes a fuss about them initially, but I think that's part of his cover. If no one thinks that he can cope with the pain, then maybe, just maybe, they'll leave him alone.
The second verse - and yes, all of the words have stuck in my head - that one was for me. He was telling me that he understands my hurts, my past. He was also telling me that he really knows how I feel and that he'd do anything to make it better. I've never had someone that knew, not in the way he does. It took me long enough but now I get it. I finally get it.
Those words about dreaming that he was dying chilled me to the bone. I've dreamed he was dying. But he didn't fly.
I'm going to help him fly.
"Camping? Till tomorrow?" he asks as we pull up in a remote spot.
"For a week, Chief. I asked Simon last night and he okayed it. You've been looking tired. I've been feeling tired," I tell him. "We need this."
"A sentinel break?" he queries.
"A sentinel/guide break, Blair."
His face says 'whoa', as if I just said something profound but his eyes say 'wow' as if my words were special. His mouth just opens a bit but he says nothing. He just nods.
"Let's grab the stuff and take it to the site. It's about half a mile from here."
"Okay. Did you bring enough food for a week?"
"Sure. Brought the fishing rods, too."
"Ah, my Sentinel," he says with a fake tone of hero worship. "My optimist."
I cuff him up the back of the head and we start to shift the gear.
Everything's set up. The single tent that we swapped the two small pup tents for some time back is up, the fireplace is made and wood collected, I tested the water and it's as pure as we could hope for. There's a mountain stream to our west side and it flows into the river to our south. We have trees on the north and east sides and effectively, we're cut off from the outside world.
It's late afternoon, summer and the sun is out. Blair's lying on a blanket on the grass, his cut-offs his only clothes. He's not reading, not studying anything, he's just lying there, soaking up the sun. I made sure he put some sunscreen on, but he was muttering about oversensitive sentinels when I did. He doesn't need protection in the way most fair-skinned people do, he just goes brown as a nut when the sun comes out. In the summer, his hair changes colour, lightening like a lot of people's hair does. The red he has in it has a wondrous effect. He's just turned his head slightly and now I can see so many colours.
"Jim? Aw, Jim, focus on my voice, buddy. I know that something's caught your eye, but I have no idea what it is. Just dial your sight back, eh? For me?"
"For you, Chief? Anything for you."
He lets out a quiet chuckle. "If only," he mutters under his breath. "What were you zoning on?"
"My hair? It's short and brown, Jim."
"Nuh huh. It's every colour."
I get the chance to do what I love to do and I run my fingers through those lovely curls. "There is brown there, Chief, but there's blond, strawberry-blond, brass, bronze, copper, red, auburn, gold..." I hear my voice trailing off and then feel his hands on my arms.
"Jim, stop it, you're starting to zone again."
"No, I'm not. You've got lovely hair. Grow it again, please. For me?"
"For you? You hated my hair."
"No, it was just something to tease you about. I won't do that again. I loved your long hair, it's part of who you are."
"Part of who I was, Jim. I'm not him anymore. I had to lose him, remember?"
"No, you didn't, Blair. You put him away to protect me, but you didn't lose him. I see him in your eyes sometimes, aching to get out, wanting to be a part of your life - a part of our lives. You don't need to protect me anymore, Chief. And much as I love the Blair that I've got, I want my Blair back."
He's looking at me, a mixture of emotions running across his face. Confusion - certainly. Amusement - absolutely. Sadness? Possibly. Love - most definitely.
"I want you to be happy," I tell him with a shrug.
"But nothing, Jim. You know I'd have given anything to prevent what happened, but I couldn't do that and our lives changed irrevocably. You could have thrown me out," he continues, his voice no louder than a whisper. "You should have. I wouldn't have blamed you."
"No, you wouldn't, would you? You forgive me so many things, Blair. Things I don't always deserve to be forgiven for."
"Aw, Jim, don't feel like that, please. Don't you know that I'm where I want to be?"
"Are you? Really? Didn't you want to be on expeditions? Learning about tribes and stuff?"
He's taken my hand in his and he's holding it tightly. I can see a conflict warring in him, he's wondering how much he should say.
"I realised, not long after we met, that my life wouldn't be how I imagined it. Yes, when we met you were my subject, the one thing that I'd been searching for ever since I was a child. I wanted to help you, that's God's honest truth, Jim. I really wanted to take away your pain. But I was selfish enough to know that I wanted something from the relationship, too. It didn't take me as long as you think to realise that the diss was a no-go, though. But... but I was afraid."
"Afraid? Of what?"
"Losing you. If I changed my subject, I couldn't guarantee that the committee would accept it. I couldn't guarantee that Simon would let me stay with you. So I kept on going with that fucking thing. I shouldn't have, should have told them that I'd..."
I'm holding his hand now, trying to tell him with my body language what the rest of me is failing to do.
He's straightening his back and looking me in the eye, preparing himself for some sort of rejection, I think.
"That I'd fallen in love with my subject."
I'm not letting his hand go, I'm holding it tighter if anything.
He grins shyly; I think he's relieved that I'm not letting go.
"Brackett," he says. "Watching you in action, working with you... it was the first time we were really a team and not just using our expertise in different fields towards the same goal. I felt..."
"You felt the connection," I finish for him. "You knew then that we couldn't work separately, didn't you?"
He nods. I'm still holding his hand and he's relaxing ever so slightly.
"Do you remember the conversation we had that night? After it was over?" I ask. Before he answers, I get a wicked idea. I've let go of his hand, but I'm next to him, not going anywhere. I wriggle and now I'm on the blanket and lying down. He's still sitting up, his legs and mine touching. We need to touch, to connect. Still not saying what's on my mind, I put my hand up and pull him to lay with me. I've dreamed of this. Skin touching skin, his body laying both next to and on mine, his head on my chest.
"I remember," he murmurs. Neither of us speak as the events of that night run through our minds.
We'd had a few beers, feeling that we'd deserved them after saving the city from a fate worse than a nuclear explosion. There was a game on TV, our feet were on the coffee table and we were sitting next to each other, generally letting the tension go. Blair hadn't been living with me for long, just a few weeks in fact. In that time I'd nearly lost him to Lash and he'd thought he'd lost me on that damned train. Then Brackett and his shenanigans. I felt I should share something with him, testing him, I guess. I knew I was getting in over my head, that my emotions could take over if I wasn't careful. So I needed to know.
"I'm gay," I told him.
He looked up, raised an eyebrow and said, "I'm happy for you. Is this a sudden conversion?"
"Oh no, I've always been."
And he went back to the game. During the next break, he looked back at me and asked, "Carolyn?"
"Well, I like women, obviously, but give me a guy..."
He shrugged and opened another beer. Somehow, I knew that wasn't the end of the conversation. During the next break, he continued.
"So, you're telling me this... why?"
"Just thought you should know. Seeing as you live with me. Does it bother you?"
"Does it look like it does?"
"Well then. Besides, I'm bi. It's hardly something that I could get worked up about."
That surprised me. He hadn't shown any signs of being interested in men, just women. Believe me, I looked. Then he got that curious look on his face and I felt his heart rate shoot up and his breathing shallow slightly.
"You're not saying this to get me into bed, or something, are you?"
"Why, don't you like me?" I teased.
He laughed, then looked me in the eye as if challenging me.
"Oh, I do. Trust me on this one, James, I do. But I am doing my thesis on you and sleeping with the subject... major no-no."
Then he got a twinkle in his eye, the one that I've learned to dread over the years.
"So, do you like me? "he asked.
"You're living here, aren't you?"
He poked me in the arm as if to say 'you know what I mean, Ellison, so stop it.'
"Yeah, Chief. You're cute."
All right, I admit it. I looked smug at his indignation.
"Cute. With a capital C. But you're right. No sex. Sex and work doesn't."
We waited till the next break to continue the conversation. It was strange. The one conversation that was to set the tone for the next few years and we left it for moments when we could ignore 'Big Bobby' from 'Big Bobby's Body Shop' or whatever to discuss it.
"Are you out at the station?"
"No. Not really."
"Ah. They know?"
"One or two. But it's not something I advertise out of habit."
"Okay. No problemo."
"You out at the U?"
"Not out as such. Just don't really care if anyone knows. I date guys from time to time, but it's not as if it's safe to walk around holding hands or anything."
And that was it. Neither of us mentioned the fact that we both wanted the other. We bemoaned the fact that we could get away with anything (more or less) as long as we were with women and had to hide if we were with a guy, but we didn't take anything further. And never did, until today. I wish I'd held him like this over the years - he fits me beautifully.
"You feel good," I tell him.
"It's nice to be here."
"I'm not your subject anymore."
"No, but you're my partner. I couldn't let that go, Jim. I wouldn't trust anyone else the way I trust you."
"Same here, Chief."
Big sighs from the both of us. It's not fair.
"What do you think Simon would do? If we..."
"I don't think he'd say anything, as long as we were discreet."
"No one's found out about the guys either of us have dated, have they?"
"No, they haven't. Do you think they'd notice if there was a change between us?"
"Probably not. Jim, we live together, we work together, we play together. It's a fair bet they all think we're sleeping together anyway."
"Again, that's true. So. Shall we put that right?"
He looks up at me, resting his chin on my chest. I tip my head and see a wicked glance which then turns into a worried one.
"Chief. I'm in love with you, too," I tell him. "I'm not thinking a quick roll in the hay, here."
"I know. I think I've always known. I'm just scared."
"I'm afraid I'll lose you. One way or another."
"I know just how you feel," I say as I hug him closer. "But I've had some time to think recently and I think I've worked it out."
"Oh? Are you going to share with the class, Ellison?"
"Yes. I think you'll like this theory. You see, it took me a while, but I realised that I'd lost my Blair even though you were still with me. I didn't like that. I didn't like the fact that I may know every inch of your face, I don't know every inch of your body. I didn't like the fact that while I know what you look like, you smell like and so on, I don't know these things. I want to know these things, Blair. I was so close to losing you for good in that damned fountain and it scared me. I need to know these things. I don't think I can go on without knowing, either. You're the most important thing, the most important person in my life. Should the worst happen, God forbid it, but should it happen, I think that not knowing them would be as much of a regret as losing you."
"Wow. Uh, do you think that it's a sentinel thing?"
"Could be. It could be that I need to know my guide, inside and out. I do know that I was attracted to you from the moment I first saw you, before we knew about this connection we have. I do know that I was falling in love with you during the time with Brackett. It's why I brought the subject up that night. You were incredible that day, just being there with me all the time, misdirecting Caro with the taste thing, not faltering when Brackett was threatening you. On the bridge, when it looked like we could be blown sky high, you seemed to know just what to do and do you know something?"
"It was easy to trust you. I don't trust easily, Blair. I never have. But there, our lives on the line... you had so much faith in me and I just knew I could have that faith in you. I'm sorry."
"Sorry that I didn't tell you, that I didn't show you how much I need you, how much I rely on you. I've accused you of many things, Blair, and none of them were warranted."
He's snuggling even closer to me, as if to say it doesn't matter. I feel his lips brush my chest, a benediction almost.
"That's all over," he whispers. "Forgotten. Just hold me."
"Not going to let you go, Chief. Promise."
We did nothing else this afternoon. We talked a little, hugged a whole lot, cooked and ate dinner. Now it's time for bed. He's going through the bag I packed with toiletries, looking for his toothbrush.
He's looking at me, his eyes filled with amusement and he's trying not to laugh. He's just waving a tube of lube in front of me.
"Be prepared?" I offer.
"Always live in hope, Chief."
He's giving in to his laughter now, moving really close to me and wrapping his arms around me. We're on our knees and he's buried his head in my neck. It feels so good. So damned good.
"I love you," he whispers, kissing my neck so very gently that I turn up my senses to feel it. It sends a shudder down my spine.
"God, Chief, love you."
I can't hold back now, can't let him talk me out of this. I tip us down so that we're laying on the bed roll and we're kissing. Finally, we're kissing. Touching. Frantically searching out each other's skin. I don't want to breathe, don't want to stop this at all. I feel his hand moving between my legs, rubbing over the denim encasing my cock. I shudder again.
"Please," I beg. Not sure what for but whatever it is, I want to do it.
He gets the message, undoing my jeans and pulling them down. Our clothes are more or less flying off in the hurry to get what we both want.
He's looking in the bag again, grinning when he finds what he wants. I try to get myself under control as he undoes the condom wrapper. Oh shit, he's rolling it down my cock.
"You know what was missing?" he asks.
"You. That's what I always needed. That's what I always wanted."
He's preparing himself, on his knees, his back arching as he uses his fingers on himself. Then he crawls over me until he's in position. I know why we're doing it like this. He's bottom on the top, I'm top on the bottom. Where he stops, I start. I turn my sense of touch down for a moment, just as he slides down me, so that I don't go off bang too quickly.
"Aw God Jim, that feels so damned good," he whispers.
"I know," I gasp as I turn it up.
He bends down, our lips meet and the circle is complete. Now, where I stop, he starts.
"Are you going to move?"
"Do I have to? I kinda like it here."
I kinda like him there too, but for a shortass he's heavy.
"Just shift a bit so I can breathe, huh?"
He pulls away a bit and then flops onto his side, happily resting his head on my chest again.
"This is nice," I tell him.
"Nice? You just fucked my brains out, I sent you into orbit and it's nice?" If someone else heard him they'd think he was annoyed. I know him better.
"The hugging. I love hugging."
"Ah. Well, I think you struck lucky there, big guy."
"Yeah. I love hugging too."
"Oh yeah." He sounds a bit dreamy as he replies. Matches me then.
We've been here a week, exhausted the pack of condoms and lube. Exhausted us, really. Not that I'm complaining, it's a nice kind of exhaustion. The best kind.
The weather's been really kind all week, which is great. Makes a change. We're both tanned, Blair's looking positively hot. He hasn't had to wear a sweater or extra shirt all the time we've been here, so that's kept us both happy. What, you think that looking at him in cut-offs, or even better, totally naked, is a chore? Trust me, being a sentinel is a 'good thing' at times. I've got to watch him, smell him, touch him and taste him all over. Hearing him moan my name is guaranteed to turn me on big time.
He's looking at me now, as we pack up. A curious expression crossing his face.
"Jim? What are you thinking of?"
"Remember that song you sung?"
"Blair, did you fly? Did you dream you were flying?"
"No, Jim. I didn't. I took a leap of faith. I believed in you. I knew somehow that I was running to you. But you know something?"
"I'm flying now, Jim."
That'll do me nicely.