Puzzle Pieces by Lisa, Duncan's Twin

Puzzle Pieces - Lisa, Duncan's Twin

It wasn’t fair, Blair knew immediately after deciding to follow Jim but he tried to justify it. The excuses sounded lame in his own ears and he knew if Jim found out, there would be hell to pay. What do you mean if Jim finds out, he’s a freaking Sentinel!

What Blair didn’t want to admit was how worried he was about Jim. That was the real reason he was following Jim today. The missing hours, the unanswered questions, the evasiveness, Blair wasn’t used to living with secrets and there had been plenty in the two weeks he had been living with Jim.

Unable to stand the secrets combined with his own innate curiosity, Blair chose to follow Jim. It had taken some planning to figure out how to trail a Sentinel without him knowing. White noise generators in the truck, removing Jim’s sunglasses and leaving a well worn tee-shirt under the front seat were just a few steps Blair had taken in preparation for this task. Now he just had to pray for a little luck to be on his side.

So, now it was nine in the morning on Tuesday (missing his Intro to Anthro class) and he was trailing Jim in a borrowed car. It hadn’t been too difficult so far; Blair had left the loft while Jim was showering and had waited in the car for Jim to leave. Traffic had been moderate and Blair was certain Jim hadn’t spotted him.

Seeing Jim make a right turn, Blair slowed and followed.

A nursing home?

Blair pulled into a distant spot and watched Jim walk up to the door.

Interesting.

Waiting a few minutes, Blair put on a baseball cap and followed.

Once inside, Blair wasn’t sure which way to go, but only had a moment to speculate before a nurse stopped him.

“Can I help you?”

“Oh, yeah,” Blair said with his brightest smile, looking at her nametag, “Brenda. I’m looking for my friend Jim. He just came in, and he, um, he left his cell phone in my car and he’ll probably need it.”

Brenda looked at him skeptically.

“Tall guy, you couldn’t miss him.” Blair gestured.

“I know Jim,” she said, hands on her hips. “But who are you?”

“Oh,” Blair said, holding out his hand and turning up the charm, “Blair Sandburg, Jim’s roommate.”

It took sixty seconds, not a record by any means, and she was telling Blair all about how Jim had been coming there every week for four years, and had recently started coming three times a week. She would have gone on but got called away.

“Miss Katherine is in room 303,” Brenda said as she walked away, pointing at the elevator.

Blair took the stairs, on the lookout for Jim at every turn.

The door to room 303 was ajar; Blair held his breath and leaned closer.

“Don’t forget to wash up before supper,” the voice of an older woman seeped out.

“I will, Mama.” Blair heard Jim answer.

Mama? I thought Jim’s mother was dead.

The old woman’s voice trickled through the partly open door.

“Can you believe how hot it was today? And it’s almost Thanksgiving, too.” Blair heard the creak of a rocking chair. “Where has the year gone? It’s almost 1974.”

Wha?

“Raymond, come pray with me.”

Wondering if there was some way the voice he’d heard wasn’t Jim’s, Blair chanced a glance into the room. There was Jim, kneeling beside a rocking chair where an elderly, white haired woman sat.

“Dear Lord,” Katherine started, “thank you for the many gifts you’ve blessed us with, especially bringing Raymond home safely from Vietnam to his family and his little daughter. We’re thankful for the bounty of the land, but Lord, we could sure use some rain. Amen.”

“Amen,” Jim repeated.

Vietnam? Daughter? Crops? Blair shook his head and grabbed the door frame to steady himself, feeling as if he’d slipped into an alternative reality.

“Did you find him?” Brenda asked from behind him.

Blair spun around, looking frantically at the door behind him, hoping Jim was too busy to sense him. He took the nurse’s arm and edged her away from the room.

“Yes,” he said quietly. “They were just praying. I didn’t want to interrupt.”

Brenda nodded. “She does that a lot. Poor thing, I guess it’s good she can’t remember much after 1975. Her whole family is gone, you know; just Jim coming to visit Mrs. Sarris.”

Blair’s hand covered his mouth. “Ohhh.”

There were still unanswered questions, but knowing he was pushing his luck, Blair thanked the nurse and headed for the nearest exit.

***

Jim was putting together a lasagna when Blair got home that night. With nothing more than a hello, Blair washed his hands and started helping. Lasagna noodle, meat sauce, cheese, noodle, spinach (Blair raised an eyebrow but wisely didn’t say anything), cheese, noodle, sauce, cheese. Blair put the large pan in the oven while Jim washed up the dirty dishes.

“I like my privacy,” Jim said softly but loud enough to be heard above the running water.

Blair didn’t even pretend not to know what Jim was talking about.

“I was worried about you,” Blair explained. “You were quieter than usual. Moodier. I was...”

“Worried, I get that,” Jim said, turning off the water and turning to face his friend. “You could have asked.”

Blair nodded, not lifting his eyes.

“Chief, I’m not mad.”

Blair’s eyes jumped up to meet Jim’s. “You’re not?”

“No, I should have told you, I just... I’ve never told anyone.”

“Not even Carolyn?”

“No. She would have thought it was weird. Leave the past in the past and all.”

“I don’t think it’s weird, Jim. I think it’s...”

“If you say heroic, I’ll pop you one,” Jim teased.

Blair laughed and held up his hands. “Easy there. Seriously, it’s just your way.”

“I have a way?”

“Yeah, a good way. You’re a good man, Jim. Nothing that happened in Peru was your fault. I know you did everything you could for your men.”

It was Jim’s turn to nod quietly and then turn back to the dishes.

***

“You’re wrong, you know,” Jim said, muting the television. “It was partly my fault.”

“What do you mean?” Blair set down the magazine he was reading.

“Well, I chose every man that went out on that mission. Raymond was the pilot, he was a good friend. He was supposed to be retiring soon,” Jim explained. “Veronica was 16, he was looking forward to her graduating and joining the military, getting married, having kids. It was my fault he was there.”

“You can’t take all that responsibility on yourself. It was supposed to be another mission, just like all the others, right? Routine?”

“Yeah, but... there’s more. The whole mission felt wrong but I didn’t question it. I was so used to just following orders.”

“What felt wrong about it?”

“Oliver, my commanding officer,” Jim said, shaking his head. “About a week before... well, he made a pass at me.”

“And he lived?” Blair laughed until he saw the serious expression on Jim’s face. “Sorry.”

“No, it’s just... just another secret. Chief, I need to be fair to you and tell you the truth.” Jim sighed heavily. “I’m gay.”

“But, but...” Blair stammered. “Carolyn?”

Jim held up his hands. “Okay, technically bisexual. And you see how well that worked out, right?” Jim grinned.

“Yeah. Oh. Okay, so this Oliver made a pass and you rejected him. Why?”

“Just because I’m gay doesn’t mean I’ll fuck anybody.”

“Right, you’re right,” Blair said, holding up his hands. “I have gay friends.”

“Well, you have one more,” Jim said with a smile. “Nah, Oliver wasn’t my type, plus he was my commanding officer and a real asshole.

“Anyway, a week later these orders come down. It was a real shit assignment but what could we do. When we got down there, it turned out that there wasn’t any drug trade in that region; another team had been sent down there two months earlier and found nothing.”

“You told your superiors when you got back?”

“Yeah, and they said Oliver would be taken care of. End of story, here’s your back pay, don’t let the door hit you on the ass on the way out.”

“Damn, Jim, I’m sorry that happened to you and your men. But don’t you see, you weren’t responsible, Oliver was. You were just following orders.”

“Yeah,” Jim said with a snort, “that’s what the German soldiers said when they were put on trial.”

“There’s a big difference between killing people and going on a mission to gather intelligence.”

“Maybe, Chief, but there are still people dead and suffering because of it.”

***

Hearing Blair start up the stairs, Jim set aside the book he had been reading.

“What’s up?” Jim asked.

Blair stopped at the top of the stairs and leaned against the wall.

“I’m sorry I violated your privacy. You’re entitled to your secrets.”

“It’s okay, Chief. I would have told you sooner or later,” Jim said with a smile.

“Even the part about being bisexual?”

Jim sighed and shook his head. “Yeah, I probably should have told you when you moved in. You have a right to know who you’re living with.”

“You say that like you’re some kind of deviant.”

“Well, some people think so...”

“I’m not one of those people, Jim. I hope you know that much about me,” Blair said sincerely.

Jim studied Blair at length before answering. “Yeah, Chief, I think I know who you are.”

“Do you know I’m bisexual too?” Blair said softly.

“I wondered,” Jim said with a smile. “But all I’ve seen you go after is girls.”

Blair shrugged. “Just trying to fit in with my buff straight roommate.”

“You don’t ever have to pretend to be something you’re not, Chief. You’re a good man, too,” Jim said, echoing Blair’s earlier words.

“I, um,” Blair started shyly, “I’m also a guy who has a thing for his roommate.”

“Chief...”

“No, it’s okay,” Blair said, already turning to go back downstairs, “it’s just a crush on my part, besides...”

“Hey,” Jim said softly, sitting up and pushing the covers back.

Blair stopped and turned, looking seriously at his friend and then at the hard on barely concealed by Jim’s boxers.

“Oh. Me?”

“Well, there’s nobody else here,” Jim said, holding out a hand. “And you look so cute when you’re stuck for words. It doesn’t happen often.”

Blair started unbuttoning his shirt. “Is this a crush for you, too?”

“Could be,” Jim said, standing and helping Blair unbutton his shirt. “But it could also just be a Blair thing.”

Blair smiled widely. “I could live with that.”

Blair’s shirt fell to the floor, followed closely by Jim’s tee-shirt.

“You’re not going to pick those up?” Blair asked, Jim already reaching for Blair’s boxers.

“Later.”

“Nice,” Blair said, reaching for Jim’s boxers and another piece of the Jim puzzle.

Standing close enough to feel Blair’s warmth, Jim had to ask, “Are you sure?”

“There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”

Bared, they took the first tentative steps towards creating a Jim and Blair puzzle. It wouldn’t be all flat edges and uniform pieces, but with creativity and a little luck, they could fit together in their own special way. When you find the right someone, they become the glue that holds your life together.

The end.

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Notes: Inspired by the Brett Eldredge song “Raymond”. Betaed by Kelly and Kerensa. Cover art by Patt.