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Summary: This is set mid-canon, but takes an AU turn after that. What if Blair revealed Jim’s secret in a different way – under duress?

Rating: R for references to violence

Category: Gen (smarm) or pre-slash – take your pick.

Dedication: Written with much love for my friend Luicat, for Christmas 2007.

Breaking Point
By Fluterbev

January 2008

Blair knew that everything had its breaking point. He’d spent enough time in the lab to understand that if you apply heat at just the right temperature, for a prescribed length of time and at exactly the right stress points, even the strongest metal would first bend, then break.

It shouldn’t be so surprising, therefore, to discover that he had a breaking point too. And that once reached, nothing – not love, loyalty or honor – could have held him together once the right pressure was brought to bear.

Shifting uncomfortably in the narrow hospital bed, Blair considered calling the nurse to ask for some painkillers, but decided that pain was nothing more than his due. Bandages covered the worst burns and lacerations, but couldn’t hide them. Nothing would ever hide them, just as Blair could not hide from his own weakness, the scars destined to remain as a permanent, visible reminder of his failure.

Swallowing back the tears which were never far away, Blair closed his eyes and tried really hard not to hate himself.


Forefront in Jim’s mind, as he faced this asshole in the interrogation room, was Blair’s face when he’d found him. The devastated look in his partner’s eyes when Jim had bent down to untie him.

And Jim was haunted by the words he’d spoken. Not: I’m pleased to see you, or get me out of here.

Instead, Blair had said, over and over: I’m sorry.

The reason for Blair’s apology was sitting smugly across the table from Jim, and the bastard was so sure of himself he hadn’t even bothered to lawyer-up. “Like I said, Detective,” Jack Dowling reiterated. “You cut me a deal, or I drop the dime and make sure every two-bit crook in Cascade knows about your ‘special advantages’.”

This interview was on the record anyway, so it was not as if Jim even had a choice. “No deal,” he said flatly. “I’ve already got you for the kidnapping and torture of Blair Sandburg. I’m willing to bet that, as soon as forensics is finished turning your warehouse upside down, I’ll be adding the torture and murder of at least two missing students to that tally. You’re never going to be free again.”

Dowling sat back in his chair, seemingly unaffected by the threat. “It’s your funeral,” he said nonchalantly. “Your little friend was very forthcoming when I asked him why he hung around with you; of all my subjects, his story was the most fascinating. You want me to keep any of that to myself, then you’d better reconsider what you’re gonna do with all that ‘evidence’ you’ve got.” He smiled smugly. “As soon as word gets out about how to make you zone, how long do you think you’ll survive as a cop, huh? And you and I both know how interested the military will be in what you can do. When I drop the word in the right ears in D.C., how long do think it’ll be before you’re back working for Uncle Sam?”

“Listen, Dowling,” Jim growled, breaking point having been reached. “It’s your fucking funeral, you asshole, not mine!” He stood, towering over the sadistic bastard, leaning in to hiss menacingly right into his prisoner’s face. “The only off-the-record deal you’ll ever get, after what you did to Sandburg, is for me to make damned sure you never survive long enough to say anything!”

“Detective!” The door had flown open with a bang, and Simon’s imperative order halted Jim in mid flow. “Get out here, right now!”

Jim paused just long enough for the very sincere threat in his words to penetrate, feeling nothing but intense satisfaction when Dowling’s heart beat faster and the scent of nervousness emanated from him, despite his poker face. Then Jim turned away and followed Simon out of the door.

As soon as they were in his office, Simon read Jim the riot act. “What the hell do you think you’re doing, threatening him? Everything you said back there is on tape, Ellison. Anything happens to him from now on, and people are going to ask questions!”

Feeling resignation wash over him, Jim shook his head. “It doesn’t matter, Simon. My life as a cop is over, and you and I both know it. Dowling intends to spread the word about my sentinel abilities, deal or no deal. I’m guessing, from his reactions in there, that he’s already set the wheels in motion.” Reaching to his belt, Jim unhooked his badge, and removed his gun from its holster. Reverently, deliberately, he placed them both on Simon’s desk. “I quit,” he said. “There’s nothing else I can do.”

It was a measure of how right he was that Simon didn’t try to argue him out of it. Instead Jim’s Captain – Jim’s friend – looked at him with sad eyes. “I still can’t believe that Sandburg told him,” he said. “I thought the kid would protect you with his life.”

Jim shrugged, feeling rage surge, though not at Blair, god, never at Blair. “You hurt and terrify a man enough, Simon,” Jim said bitterly, “and he’ll tell you anything you want to know. I learned that the hard way in the Rangers. None of this is Blair’s fault.”

“What do you mean,” Simon asked, “the hard way?”

Jim shrugged. “There are things in my army background I can’t talk about. But believe me, Simon. I understand exactly where Blair is right now.”

“Jesus, Jim.” A look of misery flashed over Simon’s face. He cared about Sandburg, Jim knew, despite his usual gruff bluster, and Jim’s words, as well as his precipitous resignation, had deeply unsettled him as well. “I need to get Blair’s statement,” Simon went on, gathering himself with an effort. “In view of the circumstances I was hoping to keep this contained, and have you handle it personally. But I guess, since that’s no longer an option, I’ll have to hand the case over.”

“Give it to H,” Jim suggested. “He’s a good detective, and he’ll do what’s right.”

Simon nodded. “What a goddamned mess,” he noted. Then he fixed his gaze back on Jim. “You going to see Blair?”

“Yeah.” Jim flashed once again to the look on Blair’s face when he’d found him; terror, pain, humiliation and misery, but over it all, crippling, unimaginable guilt. “He’s going to need us, Simon. You know what he’s like - he’s gonna feel responsible when he finds out I’m no longer a cop because of this.”

“Go on,” Simon urged. “Get out of here. Take care of the kid.” He rose, placing one big hand on Jim’s shoulder. “Take care of yourself, too. And whatever happens from now on, I’ve got your back, Jim. Yours and his.”


Lying on his side, pain throbbing through his wounds and his heart, Blair forced himself to look ahead and work out where to go from here. He most definitely didn’t want to look back; to do so was to face terror and despair and things done to his body and mind which he did not want to acknowledge.

The memories of what had been done to him were already too close, constantly just under the surface of his thoughts. But worst of all, worse even than any of that, was the realization that his own sense of loyalty only went so far. His courage and determination to put Jim’s safety before his own was, so it seemed, merely skin-deep.

Clearly Jim wouldn’t want him around anymore, and who could blame him, after such a betrayal? Blair had broken the fundamental trust between them in a way that could never be put right. Jim’s secret, which Blair had promised faithfully to uphold, was now in the hands of a brutal murderer, who had made it very clear that he intended to use that knowledge to ruin Jim’s life. And it was all Blair’s fault; because all he’d cared about during those fateful moments had been making it stop.

If it had been Jim in that same situation, Blair was certain he’d never have caved no matter what was done to him. So what right did Blair have to remain at the side of someone as courageous and strong as Jim, when the first time pressure was brought to bear he’d betrayed Jim’s precious secret so comprehensively?

Despair overwhelmed him. He had no right, and he was certain that Jim would see it in exactly the same way.

Just as soon as he was able to get out of here, Blair would take steps to absent himself. Find somewhere else to live, abandon his research, sever his ties with the police department. Of course he’d be there if Jim needed him for advice or help with his senses, just as he’d be there to support Jim if the consequences of Blair’s actions did him harm. But Blair couldn’t imagine why Jim would ever want to trust him or accept his help after what he’d done.

If only his half-buried, fervent wish for Jim to walk in right now and tell him that everything was going to be okay would just go away. Like the pathetic loser he was, Blair couldn’t help remembering the gentleness in Jim’s hands as he’d unshackled Blair from the awful metal table he’d been secured to, or the soft, reassuring tones of his voice and the tenderness in his expression, and his own utter relief that he was going to survive the nightmare after all, now that Jim had come to rescue him.

Jeez, what a goddamned wuss he was.

But Jim had left soon enough, hadn’t he, after Blair had confessed to him exactly what he’d done? And Blair had to admit that, now Jim had inevitably gotten the other side of the story from the man he’d gone back to interrogate, it was unlikely he would ever be coming back again, except perhaps to tell Blair to get the hell out of his life.

Time to get over it, Sandburg, he told himself, grief and guilt consuming him. Time to pull it together. Hell, you failed when it came down to the wire. You can’t afford to fail again. You owe it to Jim to do the right thing, and make amends as best you can. And if that means losing Jim’s friendship for good, well, you’ll just have to live with the consequences of your actions.

But man, it hurt so bad.


As Jim drove over to the hospital, Blair’s words, as they’d traveled together in the ambulance, haunted him. “I screwed up, man,” he’d said tearfully, his blood staining Jim’s shirt as his fingers gripped on tightly. “I… I told him all about you, your senses, your weaknesses, everything. You’ve gotta stop him, Jim. He’s gonna tell everyone, you’re going to be in serious danger. Don’t let him… don’t let him…”

“Blair, come on,” Jim had pleaded, trying to get his partner to settle down; his heart rate was off the scale. “We’ll deal with this later, all right? Just take it easy.”

But Blair had been inconsolable. “I’m sorry, Jim. God, I’m so sorry,” he’d said, over and over again.

They’d been separated when they’d reached the emergency room, Blair taken away for immediate treatment for the injuries he’d suffered at Dowling’s hands. And Jim had gone straight back to the station to find out what, exactly, Dowling knew.

Now, heading back to the hospital, Jim felt nothing but a strange sense of relief. The thing he’d most dreaded had come to pass, as deep down he’d always known it might. His abilities were no longer a secret, and his career as a cop had been compromised.

All he could do was move on from here.

Jim sighed, the exhalation just one step toward shrugging off what was done and going forward. All of that he could deal with. Hell, it wasn’t as if it was the first time he’d made a new start during his life. But what concerned him the most, what made him step on the gas, was that his partner, his friend, felt himself to be responsible for bringing this about. And Jim desperately needed to convince him that it was not his fault.

The responsibility for this lay with one man, and one man only: the soon-to-be convicted murderer Jack Dowling; ex-covert ops, trained – exactly like Jim had been – in the kind of interrogation techniques which the general public never, unless they were as unlucky as Blair, got to experience up close. In the hands of a man with those skills, Blair couldn’t have stood a chance, and that was something that Jim understood better than most, from bitter, horrifying experience.


Blair couldn’t relax, no matter how hard he tried. He hurt in a million places, his muscles bunched in a semi-permanent fight-or-flight response, starting at every sound in the corridor, every footstep outside his door.

Sleep would probably help, and a dose of the painkillers he had earlier refused would probably help make that possible, but Blair didn’t feel safe enough to allow himself that respite. Not here, not when anyone could come upon him unawares. The thought that someone might touch him when he was unconscious, no matter how pure their motives, filled him with nothing but dread.

So instead he lay tense and hurting. He fantasized constantly about his own, small room back at the loft, and the security of knowing that Jim was just upstairs, wishing desperately, just as he had throughout the whole ordeal, that he could just wake up at home, and find out that this entire thing had been nothing more than a nightmare.

But Blair was terribly afraid that all his longing thoughts of home were destined to remain unfulfilled. There was no place for him in the loft now, not in the home of the friend whose secret he had betrayed.

After a while, Blair’s desire for escape became overwhelming. Desperately needing to get out of here, even if he had no idea where he was going to go, Blair pushed himself upright in the bed and swung his legs down onto the floor, wincing at every movement. His heart pounded erratically as he opened the door of the nightstand beside the bed, arrhythmia being a residual effect of the electric shocks he’d been forced to endure. The doctor had explained it to him earlier, and he’d reassured Blair that it would be likely to settle down given time. Overall, in fact, there was no serious, lasting damage; most of his injuries, though painful at the moment, were fairly superficial and would heal.

Blair shook his head bleakly. His body barely showed any sign of the agony he’d been subjected to. There would be a few residual scars, of course, some of them mildly disfiguring. But for the most part he’d gotten off lightly. He'd ruined his best friends life, and managed to walk away mostly unscathed. Where was the justice in that?

The nightstand was bare of the clothes Blair had hoped to find there and, belatedly, Blair remembered he’d been nude when Jim had found him. He guessed that his clothes, if they were still at the place he’d been held, were being treated as evidence by now. Cursing silently, Blair looked down at the surgical gown he was wearing. How the hell was he going to get out of here wearing nothing but that?

His hands shaking, he reached under the gown, and pulled off the adhesive pads which held the heart monitor’s contacts in place. Clothes or no clothes, he couldn’t stand it here any longer. He’d steal a set of scrubs from some closet if he had to.

The sound of running footsteps approaching and voices shouting out in the corridor, set Blair’s heart pounding erratically once more, his palms sweating in sudden, crippling fear. And when the door flew open a moment later to admit several people Blair’s panic reached its peak and he cried out in terror, throwing himself backwards across the bed in his haste to get away.


Upon his arrival at the hospital Jim had been talking to the nurse who was supervising Blair’s care, when they were both interrupted by the sound of an alarm at the desk. “Cardiac arrest, room 512,” Andrea called urgently to her colleague. And as they hastened towards the room in question Jim immediately broke into a run right on their heels - 512 was Blair’s room.

Inside, he found the nurses hovering over Blair, who was huddled on the floor on the far side of the bed, his eyes wild. The discarded portable heart monitor – the removal of which had set off the alarm at the nurses’ station – was lying on the bed.

Jim moved straight over and the two women stood aside to let him pass. Once there Jim wasted no time. Getting right down on the floor he took Blair into his arms. His partner was fighting for breath, clearly terrified, and rigid in Jim’s hold.

Needing to get him calm, Jim ordered, “Chief, settle down. Come on, breathe, damn it!”

Instead of reassuring him, Jim’s words seemed to have the opposite effect. Blair looked at Jim despairingly, his eyes filling, and in the next moment began to cry in huge, unrestrained sobs. Helplessly, Jim pulled Blair close, cradling him against his chest. Meeting Andrea’s eyes over Blair’s head, he pleaded, “Can you give us a minute, here?”

The nurse nodded, waving her colleague towards the door; they were aware of the circumstances that had brought Blair here, and were therefore keen to see that their patient got the emotional support he clearly needed. “See if you can get him back to bed,” she asked before she left. “The doctor wants to monitor his heartbeat for the next few hours at least - he’s been borderline tachycardic since he was brought in. It would be good if you could persuade him to take something to help him rest as well. He’s refused medication so far.”

“I’ll do what I can,” Jim agreed. Then, as the nurses withdrew, he turned his attention back to Blair. “Hey come on, buddy,” he soothed, rocking him slightly. “It’s over, you’re safe. I’ve got you.”

Blair didn’t seem to have any words with which to respond, though the awful, gut-wrenching sobs kept coming.

Not knowing what else to do, Jim held on, soothing Blair as best he could, silently cursing Dowling with all that he was for reducing his plucky, capable partner to this broken, frightened mess.


For Blair, lost in a never-ending cycle of pain, fear and shame, it was as if his last shred of control had been stripped away the moment Jim walked in the door. Lost as he’d been in reflexive, remembered fear, brought on by the commotion in the corridor and the fluttering edge of panic that was his constant companion, it had taken a moment for him to remember where he was. Now, though, he knew. Jim was holding him. Jim was rocking him. Blair wanted this moment to go on for ever, because here in the shelter of his friend’s arms he finally felt as though the world might just turn again.

But as his sobs gradually died away Blair knew that it was only an illusion. His world would end the moment he once again, though this time of his own volition, opened his mouth.

Resigned grief and shame overwhelming him, he threw himself decisively on his own funeral pyre. “I betrayed you,” he gasped out. He dared not look Jim in the eye; that was the one small weakness he permitted himself now, overshadowed as it was by the huge act of cowardice he’d already committed. “Don’t… you can’t…”

“I know what you did,” Jim forestalled him. “And there’s a lot we need to talk about, Chief. But now is not the time, all right?”

“But… I… Please…” Articulation had fled, Blair reduced once more to the halting, terrified voice he’d used when making confessions under the influence of intense pain and fear.

But Jim was not similarly lost for words. “Right now, what you need is rest, Blair. You’ve taken a lot of punishment, buddy, and you’ve had enough. We’ll get you something for the pain, and I’ll stay with you while you sleep. After that we’ll talk, all right? But not before. You’re in no shape for getting into this right now.”

Blair didn’t want to sleep, knowing that when he awoke there would still be so much unresolved. “Jim,” he said, as he already had a million times, wishing he could convey his desperate sincerity so that Jim would hear it. “I’m so sorry.”

“I don’t blame you.” Jim’s grip on him was suddenly fierce. “I don’t blame you, Sandburg,” he said again. “You listening to me? All I care about, right this moment, is that you’re here with me, alive. You hearing this?”

The tears were back, Blair’s endurance at an end. He nodded, not understanding how Jim could be saying the things he was saying. It wasn’t the first time his friend had been betrayed; not by a long shot. Yet Jim had dared to trust Blair regardless, and that trust had been so desperately misplaced.

No matter how much Jim told him he wasn’t to blame, Blair didn’t think he’d ever be able to live with the fact that he’d hurt Jim in that way, or with the knowledge that he was even capable of doing such a thing.


Blair had quietened down a little, so Jim decided to get him back in the bed. “Up you come, Chief,” he said, hauling his partner to his feet. In a couple of strides, Blair leaning heavily on him the whole way, they reached their destination.

Blair seemed to be pretty much at the end of his rope, so he was easy enough to maneuver into bed. After covering him with the discarded blankets, Jim pulled a chair close beside the bed and reached out for Blair’s hand, which he cradled within his own. Blair was trembling and exhausted, his face averted as though in shame. Keeping hold of Blair’s hand, Jim reached over with his other one and pressed the button which would summon the nurse. “Sandburg,” he said in a voice which brooked no argument. “We’re gonna get you checked out, and you’re going to take something to help you rest, okay?”

Blair finally looked at him then, his face screwed up in despair. “I don’t want to… to sleep. I need to get out of here, man.” His eyes flickered nervously toward the door as Andrea entered, followed by the doctor who was on duty.

Jim recognized Doctor Taylor from earlier; she had a good manner, reassuring yet firm, and she employed it now. “Mister Sandburg,” she smiled as she approached the bed. “I know that you’d prefer to be at home, and believe me, I understand. We’re going to do our best to get you there as quickly as possible. But the telemetry we have from the heart monitor indicates that you’re still having some arrhythmia. It will probably clear up within the next few hours, assuming you get some rest. But in the meantime it would be a good idea for you to stay here so we can make sure everything is okay.”

Blair’s hand in Jim’s was a rigid indicator of how tense he was. Intuitively interpreting the problem, Jim assured him, “Blair, Dowling is in custody. He can’t get near you again. And I promise you, I’ll stay right here with you, okay? There's nowhere else I need to be right now. I'll stay for as long as it takes, buddy. I won’t leave you for a minute.”

Pressing the issue on the heels of Jim’s reassurance, Doctor Taylor asked, “Blair? Will you allow us to do a quick examination? Nothing bad, just blood pressure, pulse, the usual.”

His expression achingly vulnerable, Blair nodded. He watched warily as his vitals were taken and the heart monitor reattached, his eyes flickering towards Jim at intervals as if for reassurance. Jim smiled at him. “Hang in there, Blair,” he soothed. “Everything’s going to be okay.”

Finally, Blair was given a couple of shots; an analgesic to soothe the pain of his injuries, as well as a mild sedative which would enable muscles and tendons stressed to breaking point under Dowling’s hands to finally shed their fight-or-flight readiness.

Once the medical staff left them alone Jim cupped one hand against Blair’s cheek, the other hand curled around his fingers, feeling with satisfaction the enforced relaxation the drugs had already begun to induce as they infused Blair’s body. He leaned in close, looking deep into eyes filled with exhausted, frightened sorrow. “I’m here,” he said. “Just rest.”

Blair’s eyes overflowed again. “I’m sorry,” he murmured brokenly.

Jim kissed him tenderly on the forehead, then used a tissue from the box beside the bed to wipe away Blair’s tears. “Don’t be,” he whispered. “You’re safe now, Blair. That’s all that matters.”

But Blair was still resisting comfort, both that of the sedative and of Jim’s presence. “How can you say that, man?”

“Because it’s true.” Bringing out the big guns, Jim cupped Blair’s face in both his hands, making it impossible for the other man to look away. “Like I told you, there are things we need to talk about, just as soon as you’ve gotten some rest. There’s a lot of stuff I never told you about my past. A lot of stuff I can’t tell you, even now. But there’s one thing I need you to understand.” Jim brushed his thumbs over Blair’s cheeks, intercepting the continuous twin-streams which flowed there. “I know you had no choice, Blair. I know that, because I know exactly, from personal experience, what someone like Dowling is capable of.”

Jim should have known that, once a bone like that was thrown, Blair would be unable to resist it, no matter what state he was in. “What do you mean,” Blair demanded, “‘Personal experience’?”

Jim had hoped to wait until Blair was in better shape before getting into this, but now he’d let the cat out of the bag he’d forced his own hand. Still, he wasn’t in a position to tell Blair everything, even now, so he fell back on generalities. “Dowling is ex-Rangers, ex-covert ops, just like me,” he said. “We were both trained in methods of getting information out of prisoners. Everything he did to you he learned in the military, and he knew exactly what would make you talk.”

Blair blinked, but his comprehension was clear. “You learned how to torture people?”

“In the army they called it interrogation, not torture. And it went both ways. We learned how to conduct interrogations. But we also learned what to do if we were captured ourselves. And you know what?” Jim held Blair’s appalled gaze with his own. “Those lessons were pretty short, compared to the others. You know why?”


“Because,” Jim produced another tissue and dabbed at Blair’s cheeks, drying his tears, “it was accepted that if the enemy captured us, and if the right pressure was brought to bear, then we’d tell them everything they needed to know. And that,” he added, taking Blair’s hand in his once more, “is why on missions where capture was a possibility, they gave us capsules to hide in our mouths. One bite and it would be all over. No chance we’d tell them anything, then.”

“Cyanide capsules,” Blair murmured. “Like in James Bond movies, right?”

Jim shrugged. “They’d moved on from cyanide when I was in the Rangers. But yeah, essentially it was the same thing.”

Blair was looking drowsy now, his eyelids heavy. “So what you’re saying,” he said “is that the answer is to die before giving in, right?”

“No, you idiot,” Jim refuted amiably. “I’m saying you weren’t given that choice or any other choice. Dowling had the expertise to make you talk; you talked. End of story. Not your fault. Anyone in your position would have done the same thing, and that includes guys like me, so you can cut out the self-recrimination crap, all right?”

Blair’s eyelids fluttered, then closed. “Jim…” he began, then exhaled; a huge sigh, finally losing the fight against the sedative.

“Yeah,” Jim breathed, fingertips stroking gently at Blair’s hairline and his other hand holding fast to Blair’s. “That’s it, Chief. You get some rest. I’ll be right here when you wake up.”


Contrary to Blair’s expectations the world kept on turning when he awoke, despite the constant wobble in its axis. Jim’s secret had already spread like wildfire in the Santa Ana winds, igniting pockets of heat wherever it went. And the huge fissures which had opened up beneath Blair’s feet were held together for him with nothing more than Jim’s understanding and forgiveness.

There had been hard lessons learned in Jim’s past, it seemed, though he never went into detail about it. And citing that knowledge as his authority, he refused to allow Blair to wallow in guilt at all. Blair sometimes thought that, if Jim said it often enough, he might even end up believing it wasn't his fault; Jim was just that convincing.

By necessity, they shielded each other from the worst of the fallout. As soon as he was back on his feet, determined to do the right thing no matter what, Blair placed himself as a buffer between Jim and those who constantly plagued him for stories; media hounds treating Jim as the very kind of sideshow freak he’d always dreaded becoming. Blair inserted himself firmly in-between, fielding their questions and, using talents gleaned from years of academic politics and misdirection, striving to deflect the glare away and onto less intrusive matters.

Jim weathered the storm like the trooper he was, although Blair could tell that the heat of exposure was almost too much to bear at times. While ever-mindful of the threat from criminals with an axe to grind, many of them now in possession of the information Dowling had leaked, Jim bore most of the rest of it stoically, occasionally erupting in fury when pressed a little too hard or just one time too many by some nosy reporter.

Jim refused to take seriously Dowling’s warnings about government interest in his abilities, now the cat was out of the bag. “The military knew about me a long time ago, just as soon as I was rescued from Peru,” he told Blair. “If they wanted me back in the ranks, they’d have recruited me a long time ago.” Blair wasn’t sure how right Jim was about that. For him, it was just one more constant worry, and one more facet of guilt, that he juggled.

But for the most part, no matter the pressure he was under, Jim remained rock-steady, planning ahead for the time, once Dowling’s trial was out of the way, when he’d move on with his life. Blair constantly marveled at how well he coped with it all, terrified as he’d been of exposure for so long.

Blair sometimes didn’t fare quite so well. The press were overly interested, in the most prurient of ways, in Cascade’s torture victim; the man who’d revealed his best friend’s remarkable secret while under pressure more commonly found in guerilla republics than U.S. cities in the Pacific Northwest, and who had narrowly avoided becoming the latest victim of yet another serial killer. It was hard enough for Blair to articulate what had happened to him even in the supportive environment of his therapist’s office, let alone deal with those pushy journalists who persisted in turning the questions away from Jim and onto Blair’s experiences, and who wouldn’t take no for an answer.

On the occasions it was Blair under pressure, like right now, Jim could be relied upon to appear at his shoulder and forcibly take the phone from his frozen fingers. “Listen pal,” Jim said, holding the phone up to his ear, his other hand heavy and reassuring on Blair’s shoulder. “This is harassment. You call here again, and you’ll be hearing from my attorney.” The phone was unceremoniously slammed down, and Blair was pulled into Jim’s arms. “You did nothing wrong,” Jim reiterated, because inevitably Blair’s perspective had gotten a little skewed once more. “Breathe, Sandburg. You don’t have to deal with scumbags like that.”

Blair swallowed down his usual retort; the words I’m sorry tended to have the opposite effect than the one he intended, making Jim angry more often than not at Blair’s continued attempts to take responsibility for this whole mess. So instead, Blair had worked to find subtler ways of expressing his ever-present remorse. “You don’t have to deal with it either, man. You’ve got enough problems of your own without taking on mine as well.”

A sharp flick to the back of the head made Blair start. “You stupid shit, Sandburg,” Jim growled at him. “We’re in this thing together. Cut the crap, all right?” A final squeeze, and Jim marched away back to whatever it was he’d been doing before the phone rang.

Left rubbing the sore spot on his head in Jim’s wake, Blair couldn’t help but grin at Jim’s ability to make a slap and an insult seem like the deepest expressions of caring.


Dowling’s trial was hard on both of them. The media spotlight, which had already become an ever-present feature of their lives, now turned on them both full-force. The press waited to ambush them outside the courthouse each day, and camped out in considerable numbers outside the loft when they went home. To make matters more stressful Blair was forced, as the primary witness in the case, to take the stand on the last day of the trial, and every moment he was up there Jim ached to spare him the pain of recall.

Thankfully the prosecution chose not to drag Blair’s testimony out, and the defense abstained from questioning him at all. It would have been futile for them to do so in any case, as well as needlessly cruel, because evidence of Dowling’s guilt already existed in spades. Recovered video tapes (which Blair had been forced to watch during his abduction, as a graphic illustration of what Dowling intended to do to him) had documented quite clearly the brutal murders of the other two students the guy had abducted. As for what had happened to Blair himself; well, that was quite simply an open and shut case.

Eventually, white and shaking after the stress of holding it together when it counted, Blair was excused from the stand. He managed to remain in the courtroom through the final summing up of the case, sitting tense and still beside Jim. But in the recess that followed while the jury was out, Jim stood sentry outside the bathroom door while Blair threw up the contents of his stomach, assiduously ensuring that his friend had a measure of privacy.

Afterwards, they took their seats in the packed courtroom to watch the jury deliver its inevitable verdict. And in the aftermath they ran the gauntlet of reporters on the way out, Jim resisting with a huge effort of will the imperative urge to punch his way through the crowd.


Instead of heading back to the loft, as Blair had expected, Jim set off driving in the opposite direction. “What’s going on, man?” Blair asked.

Jim’s face was set and hard, an expression Blair had recently become more than familiar with. “I was thinking we could spend tonight in a hotel,” Jim said. “I think we’re due a little privacy.” He flicked his gaze to the rearview mirror. “We’ll find somewhere to go just as soon as I lose these goons.” He glanced across at Blair. “That okay with you?”

“Um, yeah, yeah that’s fine,” Blair agreed. To be honest, Jim was not the only one who was less than enthusiastic about the prospect of facing the barrage of cameras and reporters waiting to ambush them back at the loft. “Hey,” Blair said impulsively. “How about we get right out of town? Head off out into the sticks somewhere for a few days?”

Jim glanced at him again. “You sure, Chief? We don’t have a change of clothes or anything else with us. I was just thinking one night away from the loft, you know? Just to give us some time out without cameras in our faces.”

“What do we need that we can’t get on the road?” Blair said, feeling reckless and a desperate urge to be free of it all. He grinned at Jim, and could tell that the other man was sorely tempted. “Let’s go, man!”

In the next moment, Blair was certain that it was the right thing to do. Jim’s face transformed from the expressionless misery which had marred it for so long into a look of calculated determination. Glancing again in the mirror, he ordered, “Hold on, Chief. Time to shake these idiots from our tail.”

Blair grabbed tight to whatever he could find, his heart pounding with a sudden surge of adrenaline as Jim made a series of tire-screeching turns. And he grinned when Jim reflexively reached out to secure him in his seat as they rounded a particularly sharp corner. The familiar, protective gesture was every bit as welcome as the flash of triumph Jim shot him a little while later when, unencumbered by their ever-present shadows, they finally hit the freeway and got the hell out of Cascade.

Blair was further downstream, standing almost up to the tops of his waders in the water. As Jim cast his line again he smiled at the fact that his partner had managed to obtain yet another ridiculous hat from one of the stores they’d visited to buy their gear, his favorite fishing hat having been left at home.

Jim breathed deep, luxuriating in the sounds, smells and sights of nature. The music of the water, the fresh smells of water and foliage, and the solitude of this place, populated as it was by no one other than him and the person he cared about most in the world. Casting his senses out freely, Jim reveled in the moment.

He planned to do a lot more living in the moment from now on.

When they’d arrived last night and finished setting up camp, having mutually decided that the great outdoors would be better for them than any hotel or motel, the two of them had talked late into the night. Sitting by their campfire, fortified by coffee laced with good whisky, they’d by turns discussed, cajoled and argued. They’d gotten pissed at each other over the course of it, and more than once both of them had shed bitter tears.

By the time the sky had lightened with the onset of dawn, they’d reached agreement. By circumstance, fate, or whatever else it could be called, they were in this together. Both of them were determined to stick by the other at any cost.

The only question left was what, exactly, their next move should be. Too many people knew Jim’s secret for him to be entirely comfortable staying in Cascade, and his career as a cop there was at an end. He was not entirely without options, however. He had a college degree and years of experience in law enforcement behind him, as well as a good number of solid ideas about where he could go from here, career-wise. In the interim, he could cash in and live off the investments he’d made over the years. And he was seriously considering selling the loft, which would net him a nice profit on the equity it had accrued.

One of the most contentious issues they’d discussed into the night was Sandburg’s future. Blair was on indefinite medical leave from Rainier anyway, due to the lingering psychological consequences of his ordeal. It turned out that he had no real plans to go back there and, instead, was adamantly determined to stick by Jim, which was something which Jim had argued strongly against. Why the hell should Blair give up years of study, as well as his doctorate, just to follow Jim to god knew where? What about his career?

Blair had gotten really angry at that point in their discussion. “If you don’t know the answer to that by now, man,” he’d said, his voice harsh and uncompromising, “then you don’t know me at all.”

But of course Jim did know. And in the end he’d given in, just as he’d done the very first time they’d met, when Blair had cajoled him into taking on such an unconventional partner. He’d learned back then, courtesy of a garbage truck, exactly how much he needed Blair in his life. Despite Blair’s continued, irrational guilt over something which had truly not been his fault, Jim knew that it was not guilt which drove his determination to stay by Jim’s side; if it had been, he would never even have considered going along with it. Instead he was fully aware that it was something far more profound, as well as something which he most definitely shared. As dawn broke they’d managed to come to a clear accommodation, the rising sun casting its light over the rest of their lives like an omen.

Jim smiled to himself as he cast the line once more. Between the two of them, they’d figure it out. With his experience and Blair’s ability to think on his feet, well, how could they possibly fail, no matter what they turned their hands to? As long as they remained partners, there was a whole world of possibilities ahead of them.

Glancing once more at Blair and deeply approving of his confident stance in the water, Jim was forced to acknowledge that they were more alike than anyone could have ever guessed. Both of them were survivors. Both of them had endured things no one should ever have to endure; Jim had meant it, when he’d said that he’d learned about torture and its aftermath the hard way. One day, perhaps, he’d tell Blair the story of his own breaking point, secrecy be damned. In the meantime, he’d do his best to show the other man his depth of understanding in a million other ways, just as Blair constantly did for him.

“Woo hoo!” Blair’s delighted yell drew Jim’s attention. “Look at this!” He was holding up a huge bass, it had to be at least a five-pounder. “Hey, don’t tell me this place is catch and release, man!” Blair demanded.

“Nope.” Jim waded over, helping Blair net his catch. “This one’s a keeper, Chief,” he said.

Just like you, buddy. Just like you.

~ The End ~

Comments are welcome, but absolutely not necessary - all of my stories are offered freely and without obligation. If you do wish to comment below please sign your name/pseudonym if you are not logged-in to Dreamwidth or Open ID, or alternatively you can email me at fluterbev@gmail.com

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Date: 2008-01-03 10:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] janedavitt.livejournal.com
Oh, that was heartbreaking to start with and then left me smiling. Beautiful exploration of a 'what if' and Jim dealt with poor Blair's guilt and trauma so well.

And I'm picking 'pre-slash' ;-)

Date: 2008-01-05 08:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
Thanks, Jane! Really glad you liked it :-)

Date: 2008-01-04 01:38 am (UTC)
starwatcher: Western windmill, clouds in background, trees around base. (Default)
From: [personal profile] starwatcher
OMG! - such a heart-breaking beginning!

Yay, Jim, refusing to even flinch at Dowling's threats!

But worst of all was the realization that his own sense of loyalty only went so far. His courage and determination to put Jim’s safety before his own was, so it seemed, merely skin-deep.

Ah, poor Blair, expecting more of himself than humanly possible. ::pets him:

Anyone in your position would have done the same thing – and that includes guys like me, so you can cut out the self-recrimination crap, all right?”

Yay, Jim, being tough to show his caring. *g*

“You stupid shit, Sandburg,” Jim growled at him. “We’re in this thing together. Cut the crap, all right?”

Hee! Same comment.

...Jim’s ability to make a slap and an insult seem like the deepest expressions of caring.

Yep; that's our boy.

In the meantime, he’d do his best to show the other man his depth of understanding in a million other ways – just as Blair constantly did for him.

Awwww.... ::basks in the warm glow::

This story's a keeper, too. Thanks for sharing.

Date: 2008-01-05 08:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
Thanks so much for your lovely comments! :-)

Date: 2008-01-04 02:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] buddhachic.livejournal.com
Definitely pre-Slash...
Why the hell should Blair give up years of study, as well as his doctorate, just to follow Jim to god knew where? What about his career?

“If you don’t know the answer to that by now, man,” he’d said, his voice harsh and uncompromising, “then you don’t know me at all.”

The answer can only be LOVE.

PS I'm glad you didn't get graphic with the torture... that's hard for me to read. But this was done very well and though painful at times it was beautiful more than it was painful. Which is super. Definitely one I'll read over and over.

Date: 2008-01-05 08:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
Thank you so much! I'm really glad it worked for you :-)

Date: 2008-01-04 04:39 pm (UTC)
ext_38484: (XXX)
From: [identity profile] karieflybabe.livejournal.com
And suddenly I have questions... Like, why was Dowling going after students? Could he have been looking for something more than a fun time torturing and murdering kids?

And where do Jim and Blair go from here?

Inquiring minds wanna know!

Date: 2008-01-05 08:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
LOL Don't ask me!

ALways leave them wanting more, Kari... ::nods sagely:: ;-)

Date: 2008-01-04 05:51 pm (UTC)
ext_9226: (Default)
From: [identity profile] snailbones.livejournal.com
Mmmm - lovely.

I really thought you were going to find a way out of Jim being exposed, but you didn't, and it's all the better for it - you've got them moving forward together in such a positive and hopeful way. I love your Jim being so tough and supportive all the way, never wavering for a moment. Bless the man. *g*

Left rubbing the sore spot on his head in Jim’s wake, Blair couldn’t help but grin at Jim’s ability to make a slap and an insult seem like the deepest expressions of caring.

Made me grin too. So Jim. *g*

Great story - great start to my weekend reading. Thanks!

Date: 2008-01-05 08:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
Sometimes things can't be resolved, so the happy ending comes from other things (like their need for each other) :-) I'm really glad it worked for you - thanks!

Date: 2008-01-04 06:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] snycock.livejournal.com
oh, that was a lovely story! Lucky luicat, to get such a nice present! It started out so sad, with Blair so guilty and tormented, but ended up with such a warm glow...and I'm going for pre-slash, too. (and maybe a little more than pre-slash in my head...*g*)

Date: 2008-01-04 06:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] luicat.livejournal.com
Yep, lucky me! I love it!
I love it for the putting Blair through the wringer, for Jim being so solid and there for him, and for the wonderful ending which gives a 'warm glow' as you so beautifully put it.

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com - Date: 2008-01-05 08:55 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com - Date: 2008-01-05 08:51 am (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2008-01-04 06:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] luicat.livejournal.com
Thank you so much!
You already know how much I love it and I'm so pleased that folks are enjoying it as much as I do. It makes me happy for you.
However, I do have this miniscule part of me that runs round going 'mine, mine, mine!' *BG* and Louie thinks I've lost it completely (again).
Thank you again! And again! And again!
::Megaly hugely massive hugs with much twirling and probably feeling a bit icky. Sorry::

Date: 2008-01-05 08:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
::squishes you:: That you like it gives me a very happy glow. I am so happy I could give you this for your pressie, sweetheart, and that you liked it too ♥. Thanks so much for allowing me to share it here - it was written just for you, but you are very generous with your toys ;-)

Date: 2008-01-04 11:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jessriley.livejournal.com
Oh wow ... that had me feeling the hurt, the angst, the sadness and hopelessness, but left me with feelin' the love.

::wipes away tear:: Thank you!

Date: 2008-01-05 08:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
Aw, thanks for your lovely comments Jess - I am really pleased it worked for you! :-)

Date: 2008-01-05 06:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jukebox-csi.livejournal.com
That was gut-wrenching and hopeful all at once. Beautiful. Thank you for sharing!

Date: 2008-01-05 08:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
You're very welcome, and thanks so much for commenting!

Date: 2008-01-05 06:37 am (UTC)
ext_33205: (TS no subtext)
From: [identity profile] sallye.livejournal.com
what a great fic! luicat is one lucky person. thanks, luicat, for allowing us the joy of reading one fluterbev's fics.

Date: 2008-01-05 08:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
Thanks so much - I'm really glad you liked it! And [livejournal.com profile] luicat is very good to tell me to post it here - I told her it was just for her, but she wanted to share, so here it is!

Date: 2008-01-05 07:05 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] betagoddess.livejournal.com
Definitely pre-slash. *g*

So very angst-full with Blair tortured and wracked with guilt.

Wonderful of Jim to find a way to let Blair know that it wasn't his fault.

I just loved this story. Thanks so much for sharing it with us. =>}

Edited Date: 2008-01-05 07:06 am (UTC)

Date: 2008-01-05 08:59 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
I'm so glad you liked it! Thanks for commenting :-)

Date: 2008-01-05 11:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sallymn.livejournal.com
Now this is how it should have been... wonderful. Absolutely, angst-riddenly, lovely.
Edited Date: 2008-01-05 11:40 am (UTC)

Date: 2008-01-07 10:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
Aw, thanks, Sally! :-)

Date: 2008-01-05 12:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] earth2skye.livejournal.com
I loved this. It's full of the wonderful h/c, angst and smarm I so like in your gen/pre-slash fics and you ended it on a through and through positive note, yet open to leave it to us to imagine just what Jim and Blair will spend the rest of their life doing together. And you included one of my most favorite Jim/Blair moments (the one with Jim holding Blair in his seat in the truck) and you depicted Jim's often gruff way of giving comfort (i.e. the scene after he told the reporter on the phone off) so very well.

It's written very well, too, on a more abstract plane! I admire your way of getting through exposition and the occasionally tell (not show) without it actually showing at all, interspersed with just the right amount of "current moments" to liven it up and make the point.

[livejournal.com profile] luicat must have been thrilled about her present! What a wonderful idea for you to give to her for Christmas.

Date: 2008-01-07 10:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
Thanks so much Skye, for your incredibly kind words. Very much appreciated! :-)

Date: 2008-01-05 03:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] banbury.livejournal.com
it's unfair *whining* - i want "to be continued", uhm, please...
Thank you for sharing, they are quite a pair in that story. I love that Jim :-))

Date: 2008-01-07 10:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
Thank you! I'm really pleased you liked it.

As for more... well, no promises, but anything's possible ;-)

Breaking Point

Date: 2008-01-05 07:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dusty-star.livejournal.com
Just saw this today, Bev.
It's wonderful, full of warmth and angst, just what I like.
Thanks to Luicat for letting us read her pressie, and to you, of course, for writing such a great story.

Re: Breaking Point

Date: 2008-01-07 10:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
Hello, Dusty! I'm so glad you liked it.

Happy new year to you!

Date: 2008-01-05 09:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] marizilda.livejournal.com
Very good, well I am suspicion for speak, therefore love your stories.
Congratulations and a Happy 2008 for you.

Date: 2008-01-07 10:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
Thanks, Mari! I'm really pleased you liked it :-)

Date: 2008-01-06 12:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] laurie-ky.livejournal.com
I saved this up to read tonight, when I could savor it. What a cocky bastard Dowling was... and Jim just cut his losses and moved on. I teared up for Blair in the hospital and in such despair. Jim is such a good guy for him here and I loved the whap to the head that translated to I love you. I, too, prefer to see this as pre-slash, even if they don't get it yet. Of course the press would fasten on Blair, with his big eyes and small stature, he would have been very photogenic as they played up the victim angle. Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] luicat for sharing and you for writing it.

Date: 2008-01-07 10:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
Of course the press would fasten on Blair, with his big eyes and small stature, he would have been very photogenic as they played up the victim angle

Ooh, good point! I can always rely on you to tease out that little extra angle ;-)

Thanks for your lovely feedback!

Date: 2008-01-06 01:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bumpkin-is.livejournal.com
Wow, I was thinking "Hey! How'd I miss a Fluterbev fic? I thought I was keeping a pretty good eye out..." Then I saw the posted date and went "Whew, not me being unobservant - just a case of my connection going wonky over the last couple days and finally getting back online to find everything."

Excellent exploration of another version of how Jim's secret could have been exposed - fascinating look at the way they coped. Felt very much like a long slice of life if only... y'know? Stands wonderfully on it's own, but I have to say if you do decide to do a sequel, or any snippets, in the same style for about 10 - 15 yrs down their road, I wouldn't be disappointed in the least. Thanks for sharing. :)

keep penning,

Date: 2008-01-07 10:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
Well, to be honest, I've not exactly gone out of my way to tell people outside my two friends lists about this fic, so if people have missed it that's probably another reason why :-).

Glad you enjoyed it, and your feedback is much appreciated. No promises about more, but you never know!


Date: 2008-01-07 01:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] shayalyce.livejournal.com
I don't have anything new to say, really. I think everyone has said it before, but I still needed to tell you that I loved this! The Jim whapping Blair on the head was just so Jim, that it made me grin like a loon. Yes, this is just the way it should have been handled by the show's writers. Your story had just the right amount of angst and stoicism - nothing over the top, and most definitely in character for both of the guys. The way you ended it, though, makes it pre-slash for me, too. LOL

Can I second Bumpkin/Marns' wish for a sequel or snippets in the future, too? I like these two too much to want to let them go.

Re: Wonderful!

Date: 2008-01-07 10:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
Aw, thanks so much! And I'm happy whatever people want to say, new or not! Much appreciated :-)

No promises on a sequel, but I never say never ;-)

Breaking Point

Date: 2008-01-07 06:12 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Loved it, totally loved it! Was so emotional and poor Blair and poor Jim and what about Simon. Loved it! I can really see this turning into a series, what do you think is there a chance? Would be happy as Gen or Slash.
more, more, more!!!
sentarla :-)

Re: Breaking Point

Date: 2008-01-07 10:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
Thanks for your lovely feedback! No promises on it becoming a series, but there is always a possibility that I might get inspired :-)

Lovely. (o:

Date: 2008-01-07 03:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gillyp.livejournal.com
Ah babe - once again you press all my buttons in a delightful, tender, sexy way.

I'm not going to go picking quotes because it was all good. Just beautiful, as always, sweetheart. Thanks to you for writing it and Nor for sharing it.

Re: Lovely. (o:

Date: 2008-01-07 08:21 pm (UTC)
ext_14365: If you made this, tell me and I'll credit (Default)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev.livejournal.com
Yay! I was dying to know what you thought of it :-)

Thank you! ♥

Great Fic!!

Date: 2008-01-08 09:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tai-fanficfan.livejournal.com
Aww! I pumped my fists up in the air when Jim defended Blair! I wish I could could give him a cyber hug!!

Re: Great Fic!!

Date: 2008-01-09 01:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
Aw, I'm really glad you liked it, Tai! Thanks so much for the feedback :-)

Date: 2008-01-09 01:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ozsaur.livejournal.com
That was wonderful! You weren't too graphic with the torture, but you still conveyed how awful it was for Blair. And I loved how understanding Jim was, and how he put Blair's recovery first. I especially loved the hopefulness of the ending. Enjoyed this very much.

Date: 2008-01-09 01:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
Thanks so much! I'm so pleased yoou liked it :-)

Date: 2008-01-10 02:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] suemc.livejournal.com
I've got a bit behind with LJ so only just managed to get to this. As usual a lovely story. A slice of life, you know your Jim and Blair so well, you can slot them in almost anywhere. I love the way you stir the emotions then carry it forward to a hopeful ending. Sequel or not, I can see these two surviving together no matter what life throws at them.


Date: 2008-01-10 11:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ladyimmortal.livejournal.com
I'm just getting back into reading Sentinel FF - this was an excellent and poignant story. I love it when the boys stick together despite the worst of adversity. :D Incredible!

--Lady I

Re: Awesome!

From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com - Date: 2008-01-12 05:24 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com - Date: 2008-01-12 05:23 pm (UTC) - Expand


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