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Summary: Sequel to Fathers' Day. Whenever Blair began to feel like he was getting too settled, too mired in routine, he would pack his bags, buy a bus ticket and move on.

Author's Note: Written for the Routine challenge at [livejournal.com profile] sentinel_thurs.

Rating: PG

Warning: Like the earlier story this is seriously, seriously angsty, so please read with caution.




Routine

By Fluterbev

September 2009



Whenever Blair began to feel like he was getting too settled, too mired in routine, he would pack his bags, buy a bus ticket and move on.

He was enough of a psychologist to understand that he was essentially punishing himself by doing so. He didn’t deserve contentment, security or comfort, and so he denied himself those things. He didn’t belong anywhere, and so he would not set down roots or make anything approaching a new start or a fresh connection with others.

His constant self-denial and the type of work he chose to engage in were physical manifestations of the deep pain he felt. His body’s privation was a way of expressing his internal turmoil; a kind of catharsis which he even, somewhat perversely, sometimes found satisfying. It hurt to work his ass off all day on a construction site, then go home to a sparse, empty room, absent of human companionship and the comforts of home. But damn, so often that hurt felt right.

After a while, moving on became a routine in itself. He grew to recognize the signs of itchy feet. It usually came when he realized that he suddenly knew the names of not only his co-workers, but the names of their significant others too. Sometimes it happened when a well-meaning neighbor would knock on his door to give him a bag of home-baked cookies or a casserole when he got home from work.

Usually, when that happened, he would leave the very next day.

Sometimes, however, Blair had moments of weakness. Times when he longed badly for all the things (and the people) he kept so resolutely at arms’ length. Times when the isolation and the pain ate away at his resolve, and he wished desperately to be held just one more time in his mother’s arms. Times when he didn’t hate Jim; when the memories of all the good things that they’d once been to each other were not obliterated by the great betrayal which had parted them.

It had happened, Blair now knew, in the months leading up to the dissertation disaster. Jim and Naomi had always gotten along well; surprisingly so, in Blair’s opinion, given their differences.

It had baffled Blair at the time that Jim had been so angry with him, and yet had forgiven Naomi so easily for the mess they found themselves in. Now, of course, it all made sense. Naomi, Blair now understood, hadn’t arrived on their doorstep just to visit her son; Jim had invited her.

Naomi had not known at that time that Jim and Blair had once been more than friends. Not many people did know (although Blair sometimes thought that there were people – like Megan – who had guessed). It wasn’t something Jim had wanted to advertise. He’d thought it would complicate too many things – their working relationship, their standing at the PD, his fucking self-image.

They’d long-since broken up by the time that Blair’s dissertation was leaked. Several months earlier their relationship had been severely tested by Jim’s increasing irritability, and apparently desperate need for space. Blair had stoically endured being flayed by Jim’s irrational anger, thrown out of their apartment and even his own near-death, but had still come back for more, such was his love for and loyalty to Jim.

But he’d finally reached his limit on a beach in Sierra Verde, when Jim locked lips with the woman who’d tried to kill him.

Hurt beyond measure, Blair had told Jim the moment they’d arrived back in Cascade that enough was enough. Jim had accepted Blair’s decision to end their relationship with grace, clearly even more upset with himself than Blair was. And they’d never spoken of it again.

Blair had found himself, however, during the months afterward when they still shared an apartment but no longer shared a bed, incessantly questioning his rejection of Jim. He wondered endlessly whether there truly was something fundamentally wrong between them which made them ill-suited as a couple, or if it had actually been Alex’s presence in Cascade which had caused most of their problems. He wondered many times whether he had done the right thing in pushing Jim away. He never came to a firm conclusion, but the whole time he never stopped loving Jim, or hoping that, one day, they’d somehow work it all out. A future without Jim in it had, in fact, seemed unthinkable.

Jim and he remained friends, although their relationship became a little wary and strained, as though they hadn’t managed yet to re-draw the boundaries to accommodate its multiple complications. They ceased to share quite so much of their personal lives with each other, keeping their dates (with one or two notable exceptions) out of their home and out of each others’ faces.

That, Blair was forced to conclude, was one reason that Naomi managed to slip so successfully under his radar.

It seemed that Jim and Naomi had been seeing each other for a while by the time the whole dissertation mess had come around, keeping that fact from Blair by mutual consent until it got too serious to keep him out of the loop any longer. They’d planned to tell him about it during her visit, but events had overtaken them all and, in the end, Jim and Naomi had postponed breaking the news until the smoke cleared.

Blair had wondered at the time, that fateful day in the bullpen when he’d been offered a badge, why Naomi had been there too, acting so delighted at the thought of him becoming a cop and Jim’s partner. Afterward it had all become clear – it was all so nice and neat, a story-book ending. Her son and her husband, fighting crime side-by-side and coming home to her for home-cooked meals; just one big happy family.

Yeah, right. It made Blair want to ask who she was, and what she’d done with the real Naomi.

Jim and his mom had at least had the grace to wait until after they’d left the PD to tell him the bad news, when the three of them were alone back at the loft. “We’ve had feelings for each other for a long time, although it’s only since Charlie and I ended our relationship that we decided to get together properly.” Naomi had told Blair, glancing at Jim with shining eyes as she spoke. “We were attracted to each other ever since we first met, in fact. You remember, sweetie? When I helped you both with that car theft case?”

“Really,” Blair had said flatly, staring Jim down, despite the other man not being able to meet his eyes. They’d been together back then, he and Jim, during Naomi’s first, eventful visit. He thought they’d been in love with each other. “That’s nice.”

Naomi, of course, had misread the source of Blair’s obvious unhappiness. “I know you don’t like the idea,” she said. “And I understand, sweetie. I do. Jim is your very close friend, and I’m your mom. But what you have to understand is that Jim and I, we have something very special. The kind of thing that comes along only once in a lifetime, if you’re lucky.” She came over and took Blair’s hands in her own, then. “Please be happy for us, Blair,” she beseeched him. “Please give us your blessing.”

Blair had done then what he’d always done when the going got tough – he got going. “I’m sorry, Naomi,” he said, jerking his hands away and breaking contact. And ignoring his mom’s uncomprehending, hurt expression he headed out without so much as a glance back at the two of them.

A couple of days later, when he was certain that the loft was empty, he came back, packed a bag and left for good.

Occasionally, in his weaker moments, when the longing and the loneliness threatened his resolve, Blair would poke a little at the open wound, just to remind himself why he could never go back. That was how he knew, months afterward, that they’d gotten married. He’d gone online at a public library and entered Jim’s name into Alta Vista to see what came up, then he’d printed out the article he’d found on the Cascade News website, complete with a photo of the happy couple. He carried it with him in his wallet always; his own little piece of paper hell.

He’d found other things too, in different places. Things he didn’t expect but which didn’t really surprise him – he knew his mom, after all, and he guessed Jim would do anything to please her. Messages in personal ads, in newspapers all over the country. Blair, please come home. We love you. Mom and Jim. Also: Blair, my beautiful son, I love you and miss you so much. Please call me and let me know you’re safe. Naomi. And even: Chief, let’s talk. Call me anytime. I love you, Jim.

The recurring theme of love in those messages hurt almost more than anything Blair could imagine. How could two people profess to love him, and yet wound him so deeply?

It was way past time to move on again, Blair knew. He was getting too comfortable here; too settled, his life edging once more toward routine, yet still he hesitated to do what was necessary. It was getting harder every time.

Time for a reality check, then.

Jim answered on the first ring. “Ellison.”

“Does she know,” Blair demanded, not wasting time on niceties, “that we used to fuck?”

"No, she doesn't." There was a pause, then Jim asked, “Is that what you call what we did?”

“I used to put my cock in your ass,” Blair said, driven by harsh emotion to crudity. “You used to put yours in mine. What else would you call it?”

“I’d call it making love,” Jim said softly. “I loved you, Blair. Still do.”

“Yeah, right,” Blair said. “That’s why you blew me off and married my mom.”

There was another long pause. Then Jim said, “The way I remember it, Sandburg, you were the one who ended it.”

“The way I remember it, you had your tongue down a woman’s throat,” Blair said starkly. “Oh yeah, not just any woman, was it? The one who tried to kill me. “ Blair snorted derisively. “Seems to me it was already over.”

Jim said nothing to that. Blair could hear him breathing, as close as if he was there, right beside him. Tears came to Blair’s eyes, unbidden. Goddamn him. Goddamn Jim for making him feel like this; feel this awful rage and grief and desperate yearning which never, ever went away.

As if he knew – and god, of course he knew! He was a fucking sentinel, he could hear Blair’s heart pound across hundreds of miles of cable, could hear the painful hitches in his breath – Jim murmured, “I’m sorry. I never wanted to hurt you. If I could turn back time and change everything, I’d do it in a heartbeat. But I’ve got to live with the choices I’ve made and you...” Jim’s voice hitched a little now, “I just need to know that you’re okay, Chief. And not only that, your mom needs to know it. She’s really worried about you. It would help her a lot to her to hear from you, to hear your voice.”

Blair couldn’t talk to her, not yet. He was too angry, too hurt. He could call Jim like this once in awhile, perhaps; could unleash his bitterness and his anger upon him without restraint. But he couldn’t do that to Naomi. She didn’t deserve it – she was the innocent in all of this.

“I’ll write to her,” Blair promised finally.

“Thank you,” Jim said sincerely.

“Just promise me one thing, man,” Blair added.

“Anything,” Jim murmured.

“Don’t tell her. About us, I mean. If she ever finds out the real reason I left it’ll kill her. And I don’t want her hurt like that. Okay?”

“Okay,” Jim agreed.

“I mean it, man,” Blair went on. “You fucking hurt her like that or any other way, and I’ll kill you. I mean it.”

“I promise,” Jim said. “I don’t want her to be hurt either.” Blair heard him swallow. Then he needlessly added, “I love her, Chief.”

“That’s more than I need to hear from you right now,” Blair said wryly, “but I appreciate that you care about her. Just make sure you treat her right, man.” Blair couldn’t resist one more dig. “You’d better treat her better than you treated me, anyway.”

Somehow sensing that the battle was over - for now - Jim asked, “Are you doing okay?”

Blair laughed bitterly. “How do you think I’m doing?” Then realising how whiny that sounded, added, “I’m keeping busy, keeping alive. I’m not going to do anything stupid, if that’s what you’re thinking.”

“Do you need anything?”

Blair snorted. “Not from you.”

“Can you tell me where you are?”

That was one step too far. “No,” said Blair flatly. “And even if you trace this call, I’ll be miles away from here an hour from now.”

“Okay.” Then, Jim asked tentatively, “Can I tell Naomi you called?”

“Didn’t you tell her the last time?” Blair said, surprised.

“I... I thought it would worry her,” Jim said. “You didn’t say a lot; you sounded pretty upset.”

That made sense, Blair supposed. He vaguely remembered being fairly incoherent. “You can tell her I called,” he conceded. “Tell her I’m okay. Tell her I’ll write.”

“Thank you,” Jim said. He sounded sincere.

Decisively, Blair broke the connection right after that. The thought of some long, drawn-out goodbye was more than he could bear.

Then, hardening his resolve once more, he went to pack his bag and get on the road.


The End




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