Crumbled by Kerensa

Crumbled - Kerensa

Blair looked both ways like the good little boy that Naomi had taught him to be before crossing the street. Traffic was surprisingly heavy considering that it was mid-afternoon, but the holiday weekend was coming up and Blair figured that a lot of people had probably left work early.

That's what happened to me, Blair thought wryly. It made him kind of hypocritical to be grousing about the early crowds when he was part of the problem. Internally, Blair shook his head at himself.

The grad student had been happy to let his last class go early and his students had been ecstatic; they hadn't been paying attention to him any way. When no one had shown up for the first of his office hours, Blair had decided to blow off the rest of the day. As he was leaving campus, the grad student had realized that, except for a couple of campus guards, he was the only one still roaming around. That eased his guilt tremendously.

He stepped around a couple who were standing in front of the shop that he wanted to go in and held the door open for a pregnant young woman and the toddler walking beside her. The grad student smiled at the mother, who gave him a tired smile in return, and waved at the little red headed girl, who giggled and waved back.

"Hi, Mrs. Fredericks," Blair called out.

"Hello, Blair," the proprietor greeted him. "How are you this fine day?"

"I'm great," Blair enthused. "I have the whole weekend off!"

"That is very nice. Is your Jim free also?" she asked in her not so perfect English. The younger woman had immigrated to the United States only three years earlier and had not spoken a word of English when she moved here with her new husband, so Blair thought she was doing really good.

"Yes, he is." Sandburg looked up from the oat based soap that he had just put into his hand basket and smiled happily. "Hopefully, we can sit around and relax for a few days." The last several weeks had been murder on their love life, because Jim had been working more and more over time, so much so that they barely saw each other at bedtime, let alone meals or sitting down to watch a game on television. Hopefully, they could re-connect in the next few days.

"I am glad to hear that," she stated as she totaled up his purchases. "Have a good time," she called as Blair was leaving the shop.

"I'm going to give it my best shot," the anthropologist reassured her.

Sandburg was walking down the street, heading back to where he had parked the Volvo, several blocks back, when the sound of a man's laughter made him look up. There, across the street, sitting in an outdoor cafe, was Jim. Blair was about to call out to his lover, when he realized that he wasn't alone; a red haired woman sat at Jim's side. She appeared to be a few years older than Blair, somewhere around Jim's age, possibly, and beautiful. Her hair was a bright Titian color and her skin was the sort of pale, clear color that European women with red hair have.

Blair's heart stuttered for a moment and he saw Jim glance around, as if he heard something. The Sentinel didn't look in Blair's direction and was soon laughing at something that his companion was saying.

She's somebody he works with, Blair decided. She must be that new D.A. that Jim was talking about a week or two ago,' his mind supplied desperately. 'I trust Jim.

Deciding that standing on the street and watching his lover eating at a restaurant was a little too stalkerish for his taste, Blair determinedly continued on down to his car. Sitting inside his Volvo, Blair pulled out the cell phone that Jim insisted he carry and hit the speed dial.

"Major Crimes, Brown speaking."

"Hey, H, it's Blair."

"Oh, hey, Hairboy. I'll bet you want to speak to Jim, don't you?"

"Well, yeah, but..."

"I'm sorry, he's in a conference meeting with Simon at the moment," Henri went on to explain.

Blair blinked. He didn't say anything and blinked again, looking down the street where he had just seen the Sentinel. Dimly, Sandburg was aware that the other detective was still talking in his ear.

"Yeah, okay, thanks." Blair clicked the cell phone off, wondering vaguely if he had just hung up on his friend.

Henri lied to me, he thought in stunned amazement. Why the hell did he lie?

Blair thought back over the last several weeks, the ones that had been so hectic at work and prevented Jim and Blair from seeing each other very often. He remembered just how many times one or the other of his friends had told him that Jim was in a meeting. Sandburg also remembered that until a couple of years ago, those friends hadn't known him from Adam and even now they still treated him like an outsider sometimes.

I wonder what would happen if I called Jim? he thought to himself. Blair decided that he wasn't that brave; if Jim lied straight to him, Blair wasn't sure what he would do.

The younger man decided to forget the rest of his shopping, which was to help with Jim's allergies anyway, and headed back home.

~~~~

"So, how did your day go?" Blair asked his lover. Amazingly enough, Jim had made it home early tonight and they were eating dinner together.

"Same old, same old," Jim said with a shrug. "I had a meeting with Simon this afternoon, went out to talk to a couple of snitches and did a shit load of paperwork."

Blair nodded his head, even as his heart sped up. Jim wasn't going to mention the lunch was he?

The Sentinel gave Blair a curious glance when he heard the increase in heart rate, but he decided not to say anything. Maybe the pepperoni was a little too spicy for Blair.

"That's too bad," Blair commented. Jim raised his eyebrows in question and Blair clarified. "Being stuck at the station for most of the day like that."

Ellison nodded. "Yeah." Taking a bite of salad, Jim chewed a moment before changing the subject. "So, how did your day go?"

Sandburg answered, his mind on automatic pilot and his appetite gone. Jim just lied to me. It was a lie of omission, but still a lie. Blair's heart thudded painfully in his chest as a vague, nagging suspicion turned to more.

~~~~

"He's not here right now, Sandburg." Simon sounded completely sincere, which made it even worse that Blair had heard the tag end of Jim's laughter, right before he'd identified himself. Blair knew for a fact that it was Jim he had heard. Another lie, this time because his lover didn't want to talk to him. In the five days since he'd seen Jim out with the red haired woman, Blair had counted 11 times that Ellison was 'out of the office' or unavailable when Blair called. Back before the extra work had started, Blair had been able to reach the Sentinel any time he called, now he couldn't reach him at all.

"I see," Blair said flatly. "Thank you, Captain Banks." He hung up, not waiting for any response from Simon, because quite frankly he couldn't stomach being lied to again.

Inside Blair, something bright and colorful curled up and died.

~~~~

Simon put the phone back in its cradle and frowned. Blair never called him Captain Banks not even after repeated requests for the observer to do so. The captain wasn't sure why the younger man had cooled off so suddenly, because there was no way he could know the truth, that Jim was standing right there, but didn't want to talk to Blair. Banks wasn't sure what had happened between Jim and Blair, but he knew that it coincided with the arrival of Ms. Joanna London, the newest District Attorney.

Banks had seen the spark of interest in Jim's eye the moment he saw the beautiful woman and had encouraged it. Before Sandburg came along, his best friend was firmly on the heterosexual side of the fence and from the looks of things he definitely would be again. The relationship with Blair was an aberration; probably some Sentinel thing.

The captain wasn't exactly thrilled with lying to Blair, none of them were, but if it straightened out Jim's thinking, he'd lie through his teeth and actively encourage the rest of his people to do the same.

Jim laughed again and Simon's eye was drawn to his good friend. He couldn't hear what Jim was saying, but from the shit eating grin on Henri's face and the half smirk on Rafe's, Simon guessed that they were talking about Joanna again. It seemed that the young woman was very enthusiastic in bed, when they made it to a bed.

"...where did you end up?" H asked, encouraging Jim to share more stories.

Simon, who admitted freely that his own love life had been on a dry spell lately and that he was living vicariously through his best detective, moved closer, silently encouraging the gossiping. He missed the disapproving look that his personal assistant, Rhonda was giving him.

Banks leaned a hip against Jim's desk, unconsciously blocking the chair where Blair usually sat, crossed his arms and smiled at his men. He liked this Jim, the more easy going man who talked and kidded with his fellow officers. What Simon conveniently forgot was that Jim had only started loosening up after Blair came into their lives.

~~~~

Blair spent most of their free weekend alone at the loft, because Jim just had to work. Monday morning, which was still part of the holiday, Blair got up early and went with Jim to the station.

"Sandburg," Simon greeted him, after giving Jim a welcoming smile. It didn't escape Blair's notice that the captain was less than enthused to see him.

"Simon," Blair said back. He noticed that Banks grimaced at the use of his first name. Blair would call him Captain when he actually worked for the man. Courtesies were given, in his opinion, when people were courteous themselves, and so far, Simon treated him like a stupid twit.

"Hey, Jim! How was..." Henri saw Blair and stumbled over what he'd been about to say. The anthropologist saw his lover give the other cop a tiny shake of his head. "Uh, how was your weekend?"

"Not bad, Brown. And yours?"

Blair tuned out the chit-chat. Now, it wasn't only Simon who made him feel like an intruder, but the rest of the guys, as well. 'People I've known and been, if not friends, then at least friendly with for several years.

"I'm going to go, Jim," Blair informed the Sentinel a short time later. Ellison looked surprised at the statement. Blair guessed that the detective was used to the observer being ignored and being quiet.

"Okay, Chief. I'll see you later. I may have to work this evening."

Sandburg nodded, not even surprised anymore by Jim's obvious lies. "Sure." His tone of voice was very subdued and for a moment, Jim narrowed his eyes at him, but then he let it go.

~~~~

He hadn't planned on following Jim, but when the opportunity presented itself, he did.

Blair had gone down to the police parking garage and ended up sitting in his car for a few minutes, contemplating the changes in his and Jim's relationship. When did it start to go wrong? he wondered to himself. Was it when that woman appeared? Is that really all it took to tempt Jim?

If so, that really didn't say much for their committed relationship. Up until a few months ago, they had been happy and made passionate love every night and most mornings. Now—Blair closed his eyes to think—now, he couldn't even remember the last time they'd had sex and it had been sex, not making love.

Some instinct made the Guide open his eyes. He saw Jim heading for his truck, which the Sentinel had parked on the opposite side of the garage. Blair had no intention to follow his lover, but when Jim drove out of the underground parking lot, Blair was several car lengths behind him. In trying to give Jim enough leeway so he wasn't caught following him, Blair almost lost him several times.

Jim ended up back at the same outdoor cafe where this whole mess started. Although he wasn't surprised, Blair's heart dropped down into his chest when Jim walked over to a table and greeted the same beautiful auburn haired woman and gave her a kiss. Not a platonic kiss on the cheek, but a full out, tonsillectomy time, kiss.

Blair clicked his cell phone on and hit #3 on the speed dial. "Banks!" the captain answered the phone with a bark, obviously not in a good mood. Blair braced himself and answered.

"Oh, hey Simon."

"Sandburg." Banks couldn't have sounded less welcoming if he'd spit into the phone. Blair ignored his attitude.

"I needed to talk to Jim," Blair stated in his happy-go-lucky tone of voice, the one that he'd learned from his mother, years ago.

"Well, obviously he's not here, since I'm answering his phone," Banks snarked. "He's down in Records, looking for a case file," Banks informed him.

Blair stared right at Jim, who had one hand under the table and was rubbing it higher and higher on the pretty woman's face. "Yeah, that's what I thought you would say, Captain Banks." The congenial tone dropped from Blair's voice and his demeanor turned icy.

"What the hell does that mean, Sandburg? And where do you get off talking to me like that. I am the captain here, damnit, and I deserve the respect that goes with that station."

"Well, Captain, unless those records are under the skirt of the woman that Jim is on a date with, and currently feeling up, then I think Jim is shit out of luck." He waited for a moment to let that knowledge seep in. "And since you are obviously a bald faced liar, and have been covering for Jim for crap only knows how long, I'll talk to you with the exact amount of respect that you deserve. So, Piss Off!"

Blair pushed the off button on the phone and started the car with a roar. Jim frowned and looked up at the loud noise, irritated that his date had been interrupted. The car looked familiar—after all, how many older, green Volvos were there in Cascade—so, he focused his senses for the first time that day. If Blair wasn't around, Ellison knew better than to use his senses very much, because there was too much risk of a zone out. Immediately, Jim was inundated with sights, sounds and smells. He recognized his lover's curly dark hair, heard his distinctive heartbeat pounding and smelled the unmistakable flavor of distress.

Busted.

"Oh shit," Jim cursed quietly. His phone rang seconds later. Looking at the ID, the Sentinel saw that it was from Banks. "Simon..." His friend interrupted him and as Jim listened all of the blood drained from his face, making him look like a body that had been in the water for a day or two. "Oh damn," he said a little louder.

~~~~

After saying his hasty goodbyes to Joanna, Jim had hurried back to the loft. The Sentinel knew that he was going to have a lot of ass kissing to do, but he wasn't unduly worried; Blair forgave him all the time. He realized his mistake as soon as he walked into the loft.

It wasn't that anything was out of place. Indeed, the loft was as neat as a pin and that was a problem. The folders that Blair had been organizing for a paper he was writing for Anthropology Today were gone, instead of stacked neatly on the coffee table. The tribal mask, that Jim secretly liked, even though he professed to hate it, and several other archeological relics were missing. Jim hurried up the stairs to his and Blair's bedroom and realized that the book which had graced the bedside table for the last few nights was gone. The Sentinel searched and was heartened to realize that not everything was gone from the loft, and then it dawned on him that the remaining items were impersonal ones, things like jeans and t-shirts, which could easily be replaced.

Hurrying back downstairs, Jim looked for a note, but didn't find one. He pulled out his cell phone and called Blair, but although he let the phone ring and ring and ring, the observer didn't answer. Meanwhile, Jim rushed around in the lower part of the loft, still looking for signs of Blair. There was even less evidence of his lover than upstairs, not even his toothbrush was left.

Blair was gone and it was his own fault.

~~~~

That I've had a change of heart
I've had a change of heart
I see what I put you through
And I'll make it up to you
I've had a change of heart

~~~~

"Chief." There was a pause, while Jim waited hopefully for an answer. "Please pick up the phone," he entreated. Another wait. "I, uh, I would like to talk to you. Please." Anyone who knew Ellison knew how hard it was for him to say please. "Alright, I'll try again later."

Blair sat and stared at the phone for quite a while after his lover had hung up. It had been three days since his suspicions had been proven right and Blair moved out of the loft. In that time, Jim had called a dozen times or so. Blair was in a quandary; he loved Jim desperately, but he also knew that while he had thought they were living their happily ever after, Ellison had been humping that woman.

And who knows who else, his mind whispered. Sandburg winced. He didn't want to think that Jim had cheated on him with untold people, but...

If he cheated with one, there is nothing to say he wouldn't have messed around with several.

The anthropologist tried to tell his mind to knock it off, but Jim's behavior only added to his suspicions. Couple that with the example that Naomi had set over the years—flitting from one lover to another at the drop of a hat—and Blair was left with little reason to trust.

A knock at the door pried Blair from his reverie. Pasting what he hoped looked like a sincere smile on his face, the TA greeted one of his students.

~~~~

Jim hung up the phone and sat at his desk looking glum. Standing beside his doorway, Simon watched his good friend and grimaced.

Damn, Sandburg, he cursed silently and then chastised himself.

It wasn't Blair's fault that Jim had cheated on him. The grad student wasn't to blame for the breakup with Joanna, either. The Assistant District Attorney had had no idea that Ellison was involved with anyone, let alone living with Blair. She had been hurt and furious with the Sentinel, which everyone in the area at the time when Jim confessed could testify to. Simon watched as the Sentinel twitched from unseen, at least by him, stimulus that was attacking his senses.

I can't even blame Blair for Jim's crappy attitude. Joel had been quick to point out that Jim was behaving like a PB Jim. That is, a pre-Blair Jim. It took less than a day for the captain to remember how Ellison had acted before Blair came along—surly, grim and completely cheerless.

And all of us helped to make him that way again. Simon knew that Joel especially blamed himself for helping Jim the way he had. They had all covered for the ex-Ranger at one point or another in his affair, and while Simon had never been that fond of the hippie observer, Joel had been especially fond of the younger man. Now, they had lost both friends, Jim to his guilt and Blair, because he wouldn't take anyone’s calls.

What a complete fuck up, Simon thought with a sad sigh.

~~~~

I was playing you for a fool
Breaking love's precious rule
I did you so wrong
Guess you knew all along

~~~~

Blair loitered in the hallway outside of the loft for several minutes, dancing from one foot to the other nervously, while he decided whether or not to knock. The fact that the Sentinel’s classic 1969 truck was sitting outside, which meant that Jim was home, but he obviously hadn’t heard Blair at the door cinched the deal.

He loved Jim, desperately, but he didn’t trust him and wasn’t sure if he ever would again. However, that had nothing to do with Jim being a Sentinel and Blair his Guide; the anthropologist had made a commitment to help Jim with his senses and the fact that their love life was in the crapper didn’t figure into the equation.

Knock. Knock.

Sandburg tried to stand still, but nerves were getting the better of him. He knew that he’d feel like a fool if Jim wasn’t here at all and someone like Simon had given him a ride. Still, he’d come all this way, so Blair decided to wait a few more minutes, just in case.

Knock. Knock.

Down the hall a door opened and a head, colored an impossible shade of black, appeared in the opening. It was Mrs. O’Malley, their next door neighbor. The elderly woman was in her mid-80’s, with a mind as sharp as a tack, and nothing to occupy her time, which unfortunately gave her ample opportunity to be nosy.

Blair had to resist the urge to stick his tongue out at the woman. But his innate sense of chivalry stepped to the forefront and he smiled at her instead.

“Good afternoon, Mrs. O’Malley,” he said with a tilt of his head.

The octogenarian sniffed delicately. “Huh,” she huffed at him and then retreated back inside of her apartment where she slammed the door.

“Old battleaxe,” he muttered under his breath.

The elderly woman had hated Blair on sight. In her opinion, which she expressed loudly and to anyone who would listen, that person was a bad influence on Mr. Ellison. She made a point of snubbing him whenever she could, sometimes deliberately coming out of her apartment to do so.

The door opening behind him startled Blair who turned around swiftly. What he saw made his heart crawl up into his throat; Jim, who was only partially dry with a very, tiny towel around his waist. Blair’s resolve almost failed him, but the memory of his lover sticking his tongue down that red head’s throat flashed across the back of his eyes and he found the determination after all.

“If this is a bad time, I could come back later,” Blair offered. After all, he was here on his own, Jim hadn’t invited him.

“No! No, uh, come on in.” Jim reached out to catch hold of Blair’s arm, but the way that the younger man stiffened up at the gesture had the Sentinel rethinking the move. “Have a seat,” he gestured to the couch. “I’ll just finish getting dressed.” With that he raced up the stairs.

Blair looked away quickly, because that towel was tiny and would definitely not cover up Jim’s assets.

I wouldn’t put it past Jim to have done this deliberately, just to tempt me, Blair thought to himself.

~~~~

Upstairs, Ellison slammed on his sweat pants.

Crap! This isn’t going like I had hoped, not at all.

Jim had heard the first knock at the door and since his senses had been acting up lately, he was forced to look through the peephole to see who was outside. The Sentinel had been stunned, but instead of opening the door immediately, he decided to hatch a plan. A plan that included racing into the bathroom, ripping his clothes off, double time, splashing some water on himself and putting on the teeniest, tiniest little towel that could legitimately be said to wrap around his hips. He thought it had worked at first, because of the look of pure lust that had crossed Blair’s face, but the grad student had closed up and closed down almost immediately.

The Sentinel had hoped that if Blair had been hot and bothered enough that he would consent to sleeping with Ellison. If that occurred, Jim hoped that he could persuade Blair to stay the night and from there, maybe the Guide would consider coming home.

That idea tanked, Jim admitted to himself. Now, he had to go downstairs and hope that groveling would be enough.

~~~~

Have a change of heart
Please have a, have a change of heart
I see what I put you through
I'll make it up to you
Please have a change of heart

~~~~

“Jim, where is the Fredrick’s report?”

“Right here, sir.” Jim handed a file to the captain. “I just received some of the forensic results.”

Simon opened the file and glanced at the first page. He knew that the Sentinel had done a thorough job, as usual. “Looks good.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Jim glanced away and Simon turned to see who or what had captured his attention. Not surprisingly, it was Blair. Banks shut the folder and watched the observer as he crossed the room. Several people called out greetings which Blair returned with a smile and a wave.

"Hey, Hairboy."

"Brown," Blair greeted him. H looked up in surprise, because Blair was not known for using people's surnames, preferring instead to call them by the first names.

“Hello, Blair,” Joel’s deep voice drifted on the air.

Blair glanced over at the former bomb squad captain and gave a brief nod. “Hello.” His gaze never got as high as Taggart’s eyes. A look of pain crossed the dark skinned man’s face before his expression settled into a look of resignation. As Simon had noted, they were all to blame here.

Blair was on the outside, again, just like he was when he’d first started riding with Jim. Only now, the difference was that Blair had deliberately placed himself on the fringes. Instead of him having to earn their trust, it was going to be the opposite; they had to re-earn his trust, not an easy task.

Simon knew that Blair was living at the loft again, so that he could help the detective with his unpredictable senses. But things weren’t the same. Blair lived in his old bedroom once again and Jim had confided in Simon that he wasn’t sure if his lover would ever be his lover once more.

Banks ducked his head in shame. If Joan had cheated on him, the way that Jim had cheated on Blair, he would never have forgiven the woman. He certainly wouldn’t have trusted any friends who covered for her, and Simon didn’t know his ex-wife’s colleagues that well.

They’d apologized, but sometimes I’m sorry isn’t enough.

The End.

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Notes: Betaed by Kelly. This is for Patt who wanted something sad with the boys, for a change. This is for the 2010 Moonridge Auction.

Change of Heart

When you were mine
I was still playing
And promises that I made
Were just words I was saying
I was playing you for a fool
Breaking love's precious rule
I did you so wrong
Guess you knew all along

That I had my boss lie for me
To say I was working late
My friends alibied for me
When I'd slip out to meet a date
But, baby, now I see
I was only cheating me
Before you go
I just want you to know

(Chorus)

That I've had a change of heart
I've had a change of heart
I see what I put you through
And I'll make it up to you
I've had a change of heart

I've just got to show you
How differently I feel
That I can be true to you
That my love is real
But my past will forever haunt me
If you say that you don't want me
I'm down on my knees
I'm beggin' you please, won't you?

Have a change of heart
Please have a, have a change of heart
I see what I put you through
I'll make it up to you
Please have a change of heart
Please have a change of heart
Please have a change of heart

Sung by the Judds