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Summary: Blair's stopped punishing himself, but he's still running.

Author's Note: Written for the 'Late' challenge at [livejournal.com profile] sentinel_thurs. This story follows on from Fathers' Day and Routine.

Rating: PG

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

Acknowledgment: Title from a song by Chris de Burgh.




Late at Night on the Open Road, Speeding Like a Man on the Run

By Fluterbev

September 2009



Blair truly lost it, for the very first time, under the healing hands of a massage therapist. The intensive relaxation, and the long-denied pleasure of being touched in ways which eased his hurt, unexpectedly obliterated his defenses, allowing him to grieve openly at long last.

“Is there anyone I can call for you?” the therapist asked, clearly dismayed by Blair’s sudden breakdown.

“No,” Blair could only gasp. “No one. There’s no one.” And recognizing the truth of that he delved into the store of willpower which kept him breathing, pulled himself together, apologized and fled.

Over the last couple of years, Blair had gradually gotten over the impulse to unceasingly punish himself, and had gotten on with the business of living. He’d needed to put a lot more space between him and Cascade before he’d been able to truly start over – a different country, a different life, an ocean away. The manual work he’d been using as a prop to keep him from thinking was finally cast aside, and he rekindled the brainpower he needed to drag himself out of limbo and reinvent himself afresh; recognizing once and for all that there could be no turning back.

He’d ended up travelling to England on a student visa, having enrolled on a Masters degree in a redbrick university in the Midlands, financing his study primarily with the generous funds which miraculously appeared one day in his bank account. It was, so Jim told him during one of their difficult, volatile telephone conversations, compensation he’d been awarded for the dissertation nightmare. It seemed that, despite turning his back on everything and everyone from his past, they had somehow failed to completely turn their back on him and had fought, in his absence, to clear his name.

He was almost done with his MA, now, and had been accepted onto a PhD, due to start in the Fall at the same university. He was planning to stay here for the foreseeable future, hiding out where no one from his past knew him, immersing himself in study and shying away from forging new relationships other than those borne out of necessity. He rented a flat near the university, the sparsely furnished basement of a converted terraced house which he could never really bring himself to think of as home.

Blair had re-established contact with Naomi, and it was her sincerely and innocently expressed love and concern for him which had finally helped him to find some measure of peace and the strength to move forward with his life. She still didn’t know what it was that had upset him so badly – Jim had kept true to his word, and had never enlightened her about his past relationship with Blair. And Blair was grateful for that.

These days, Blair was weary of holding onto his anger. It was hard enough keeping a lid on his ever-present sadness, isolated as he was on the other side of the world, let alone finding the energy to stay so intensely furious at the two people he loved more than life, yet who had hurt him so very badly. He made a conscious effort (apart from on certain, specific occasions when he gave it its head) to let the negative feelings go, falling back on techniques his mother had first taught him so many years ago to help him get a handle on it – massage, meditation, yoga. It had helped – some. But true inner peace was still a long way off, and he’d never managed to gain enough equilibrium to agree to meet either one of them face-to-face.

Since he’d gotten back in touch with Naomi, Blair chose to communicate with her primarily by letter and email, because he was afraid if he didn’t take time to consider his words that he would confess everything in a moment of weakness, and that could never happen – he would simply never hurt her like that. He still called Jim on the phone from time to time, though. And he never knew on those occasions who he was torturing more by doing so – himself, or Jim. Their relationship had always been dysfunctional, but during their long estrangement it had reached new heights of co-dependent destructiveness.

Blair made his next call a couple of days after he’d broken down during the massage, waiting until late at night when he knew, due to the time difference, that Jim would have just gotten home from work back in Cascade, but Naomi would be out at a regular meeting of one of her groups. The last few days Blair’s fortitude had been lower than at any time since he’d arrived in the UK, so his hands shook as he dialed, his sense of vulnerability and isolation profound. He both longed for and dreaded this act, compelled to engage in it like a moth battering itself against a flame.

“Ellison.” Jim’s voice when he answered, as always, filled Blair with a conflict of emotion, such that he couldn’t speak right away. Jim, however, with his amazing gifts, easily detected it was him. “Blair?” he breathed.

“Yeah.” The word was scarcely above a whisper.

“Are you okay?”

Blair snorted, and found his voice. “Am I ever?”

There was a pause. Then, “What do you need?”

“To abuse you some more?” Blair said wryly, the unmistakable bitterness in his tone not quite making the words a joke. “Seriously, man, why do you put up with this? You could tell me to stop calling you, yet you never do. And it’s always me who hangs up first.”

“You know why,” Jim murmured, sounding oddly weary.

The resigned tone in Jim’s voice spurred Blair on to the crux of the matter. “You do it because you owe me, right? Or is it because you care? Because if so, you’ve got a strange way of showing it, you know?” He was warming to it, now. Getting into the flow, feeling the rage he kept deeply buried, apart from these rare moments, ignite and begin to burn. “How’s my mom doing, by the way? Hey, you never did tell me who was better in bed. Me, or her?”

There was silence on the end of the line and Blair wished, just this once, that Jim would fight back. Argue with him, tell him to get over it already, give Blair something to rail against other than this goddamn endless contrition and concern. But instead, after the space of several heartbeats, Jim confounded Blair with something else entirely. “Your mom and I… we’re not together anymore, Chief. She’s filed for divorce.”

Blair couldn’t parse that for a stunned moment, his rage derailed before it had barely gotten on track. “What?” he said. “Why?” Then his mood darkened. “Did you tell her?”

“No, absolutely not. This has nothing to do with you and me,” Jim said firmly, though he faltered a little when he added, “She… she’s not been happy for a while. You know what she’s like, Blair. She hates to be tied down to one place, hated everything that goes along with being a cop’s wife. She met someone else, someone who can give her what she needs. And she went with my blessing.”

Shock added a caustic edge to Blair’s words. “With your blessing, huh? So, you’re casting her off just as easily as you did me. Like that’s a surprise.”

“Goddamn it!” At last there was actual emotion there, instead of the endlessly penitent robot Blair had gotten so accustomed to baiting. “I just want her to be happy. Like I want you to be happy.” Jim’s voice cracked and to Blair’s astonishment he could detect pain, real pain, of the kind he’d never expected to perceive in Jim. “I can’t give either of you what you need, because I destroy everything I touch, everything I love. It’s best that she’s gone, before I screw up her life like I screwed up yours.”

Unwillingness to reveal his soft underbelly to this man, who had hurt him so badly, made Blair immediately want to assert that his life was just fine, thank you very much, but something held him back, and it wasn’t just the fact that it wasn’t true. Instead, he asked, “So you’re both okay with this, huh?”

“Yeah.” Jim sounded subdued, beaten. “It’s an amicable split. It’s the best thing for both of us.”

“You don’t sound all that happy about it,” Blair pointed out. “Or maybe you’re just pissed off because I’m calling you, yet again, to tell you what a loser you are.”

“You don’t need to tell me,” Jim said, sounding for all the world like he meant it. “I already know.”

That was too defeatist for words. “Get a grip, man. You brought this whole situation on yourself.”

“Like I said, I know that. I don’t blame anyone but myself, believe me.”

“So, what happens now? You’re not expecting to cry on my shoulder, right? Because that’s so not going to happen, man.”

Jim sighed. “I’ll never ask anything like that of you.”

“You did once,” Blair pointed out. “You asked a lot more of me than that. I gave it, too.”

Silence again. Then whispered, as though it hurt to say it, “I’m sorry.”

“You should be,” Blair retorted bluntly. But the warped satisfaction he usually got out of twisting the knife had dwindled, so that he was impelled to ask, “Are you managing okay?”

“I’m fine.” Short, to the point.

“C’mon, man!” Blair was incredulous. “Your wife just left you. You’ve gotta be a little bit upset, at least.”

Silence. Then, “You want the truth?”

A reckless thing, this; yet suddenly Blair was feeling reckless. “Yeah,” he said. “I want the truth.”

There was a brief pause, then Jim dropped his bombshell. “The truth is, I don’t miss her as much as I miss you.”

That was about all Blair could take. “This conversation is over,” he said, before decisively cutting the connection.

***

Blair got an email from Naomi the next morning. She was in Thailand, traveling with ‘a friend’, as she put it.

She basically reiterated the same thing that Jim had said. ‘It’s for the best, Blair. I love Jim dearly, and I know he cares about me, but we’re not making each other happy, so it’s time for us both to move on and start afresh.’

‘None of this is Jim’s fault, so please don’t be mad at him,’ she’d added. ‘He’s a very damaged person, very deeply hurt by something in his past, that he’s never been able to talk about, not even to me. I know you and he have had your problems, sweetie, but I really do think he needs a friend right now, so I wish that you’d consider putting your quarrel behind you. I’m worried about him, because although we both agreed this was the right thing to do, he seemed so sad and lost when I left.’

Blair’s answer to that was to spend three days working furiously to finish off his dissertation and submit it, working from before dawn until late into the night before falling into bed, exhausted, so he could simply avoid thinking. The evening after he handed it in he headed off into town to watch a play at the local theatre, a completely incomprehensible modern re-telling of Macbeth, presented in an even more dark and gloomy context than the original text. It did nothing at all to improve his mood.

Afterwards, drinking a pint of beer in unapproachable silence in a city centre pub, he looked at the people around him, many of them young students out celebrating the end of term with their friends, and felt lonely and old beyond his years. He’d turned thirty five just a little while ago, and had spent the last five years running from a past which continued to define him, living life as an eternal observer, but never a participant. He didn’t belong, not in this place where he was playing at being an academic all over again, not on the building sites which had sustained him as he travelled right across America, trying but failing to exorcise the pain. Five years after the most devastating moment of his life he was still running, still on the outside looking in, and getting absolutely nowhere.

“It’s time to close the circle,” he said aloud to himself, causing the people sitting at the table beside him to give him uncomfortable looks. Smiling at them sadly, well aware of how odd he sometimes acted around people these days, Blair drained his pint, got up and headed home.

Once there he booked a flight, packed up his meager belongings, and left his flat without looking back.



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: 2010-09-14 06:14 am (UTC)
whyskeyeyes: (jim)
From: [personal profile] whyskeyeyes
So does this mean we might be heading toward some sort of reconciliation or at least resolution? This is definitely one of my favorite "agnsty" series. Well done.

Date: 2010-09-14 06:29 am (UTC)
whyskeyeyes: (jim)
From: [personal profile] whyskeyeyes
Very cool.

I just don't know what to think on Naomi anymore

Date: 2010-10-16 04:02 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I do belive she is not a bad person, but it seems that she never stops to think before she does something - be it getting into a relatioship, or getting involved in her son proffesional life, and when she ends up hurting someone she's suppose to love, she goes on her merry way, leaving others with the damages she's done. And somehow, with all the damage done all around, she is the onlyb one who seems to go on happily and almost un affected, while othera pay the price.

I thinks it all shows perectfly the first episode she appears - wheter in small things like rearranging the furnitures or going to talk to Simon, as if Blair was a small child unable to make his own decisons = the woman sorts of means well - at least in her mind - but she just doesn't stop to think about how others are affected.
For the first time I started to feel sorry for Jim too, I think he finally realized the he made bad choices and gotten both him and Blair into this bad and it seems like even now, there's good way out of it.

Date: 2011-11-19 04:42 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Hey Bev,
It's Debbie Stone,I just reread this and wondered if you'd written the next chapter yet? I LOVE this story and can't wait to see what's next. If I missed it just drop me a line. Hope you're feeling better. Hugs,
Debbie

Date: 2011-11-19 04:50 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Cancel this comment other than the get well wishes. I just found the next chapter. Off to read.
Debbie Stone

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