First Choice by Patt

First Choice - Patt

Carolyn Plummer knew that something was off with her husband, but she couldn’t quite put her finger on it. He always made love to her with his hands or his mouth, but he never seemed to get a hard on for her anymore. She didn’t know what to make of it. If she didn’t know any better, she would say it was the new friend in Jim’s life. Blair Sandburg had come to Jim’s rescue when he really needed help. Everyone else thought Jim was nuts, but Blair Sandburg had figured out what was wrong with Jim and was helping him control his senses. Carolyn would be forever grateful for that. She was more concerned with finding out what was wrong with him when it came to sex. Most people wouldn’t be complaining because he made her come almost every single night. But Jim wasn’t taken care of and he wasn’t happy, that much Carolyn did know.

“Jimmy, talk to me. What is the matter with us,” Carolyn pleaded.

“I’m just confused right now. Give me some time, Caro, and I promise I’ll be fine,” Jim said.

“So tell me if this Sandburg person is helping you at all with your senses,” Carolyn asked, already knowing the answer. She wanted to hear Jim talk about Sandburg.

“Yes he is. There is a slight problem with him though, his house burned down last night and he doesn’t have anywhere to go, so I told him he could stay in our office for a week while he finds a place. I hoped you wouldn’t mind,” Jim explained.

“Jimmy, we don’t need someone living here with us while we’re having problems,” Carolyn said.

“Caro, please consider it. He’s the only thing that keeps me sane these days. He’s really helping with my senses. Simon has even got him on the payroll as a consultant. He’s that good. Think about it, okay?”

“That room isn’t big enough for an actual person to sleep in it. Can’t we help him find a new apartment?” Carolyn inquired.

“It would be better to have him closer so he can do the tests he needs to do on me every day. Plus, he rides to the station house with me and it would be much closer for him. Like I said before, just think about it. Although don’t take too long because I told him I would call him today about the room,” Jim stated.

Carolyn smiled at her husband and said, “Okay…Call him and tell him that he can stay for a while, but not to get too comfortable.” Carolyn already knew that it was much more then it seemed, even if Jimmy didn’t want to admit to it.

“Thank you, Carolyn,” Jim replied. He walked into the office to start cleaning it for the new boarder.

Carolyn watched Jim cleaning, dusting and mopping from the doorway and thought to herself, he’s way too clean to be a regular guy. Maybe he’s not a regular guy. Maybe that’s what’s wrong and he doesn’t know what to do with it. Carolyn loved him enough to try and help him through it. With any luck, he would decide on her, but she would stand behind him no matter what. Stop getting ahead of yourself. It’s all in your mind.

Jim walked out once the room was done and dialed Blair’s number at the University.

“Sandburg.”

“Hi, it’s me. Carolyn said you are welcome to the spare room we have here at the loft,” Jim said.

“Oh wow, that would be great. I can’t sleep here for more then one night because they’ll call me on it. Can I move in today? I have no classes,” Blair asked.

“I’m off too, do you need help?” Jim asked.

“Jim, all of my stuff more or less burned up. I’ll be over in a little while. Tell Carolyn I said thank you very much. I know this can’t be easy for her,” Blair said gratefully.

“I’ll tell her. See you in a little while,” Jim said before he hung up the phone. He turned to Carolyn and said, “Sandburg said to tell you thank you very much. He had no where else to go.”

“As long as he doesn’t get too cozy here,” Carolyn said sounding a little bit worried. She was having those feelings again, the ones that included losing her husband.

“Jimmy? Would you like me to make you feel good before he gets here?”

Jim looked at her like she didn’t understand anything and answered, “I don’t think it’s necessary. Besides I can’t keep my mind on things these days. I have too many things to think about.”

“What are you thinking about, Jimmy?”

“I’ll discuss them with you when I’m ready. I’m not ready at this point in time. I’m sorry for being such a horrible husband,” Jim apologized.

“Can you make me feel good, Jimmy?” Carolyn asked as she held her hand out to Jim.

Jim took her hand and walked up the stairs with her. Carolyn noticed how wooden he seemed and that hurt her. “Never mind, Jimmy. I just felt like being close to you.”

Jim pulled her up the stairs and stripped her quickly and then himself. They lay on the bed and Jim said, “Can I just hold you for awhile?”

Carolyn noticed that he seemed so sad. She felt really bad for both of them. She knew she was losing her husband, but if she knew Jimmy, he would hang on no matter what. She would have to do some serious thinking about all of this.

They lay in bed together for about an hour and then she said, “That was really nice, Jimmy. We never take that time for each other to just cuddle. Thank you.”

Jim smiled a small smile and said, “Well, Sandburg should be here soon, so I guess we’ll get ready.”

They both got up and dressed and Carolyn knew she had somehow lost her husband. This had been the final step for her. She thought it was nice and cozy, but he had a look of sadness on his face that was going to haunt Carolyn until she figured out what was going on. Until then, she wasn’t going to pressure him for sex or closeness. If she understood him at all, she thought it did the opposite thing. It pushed him away. Carolyn knew that she couldn’t afford to lose Jim any more at this point in time. Sighing, she walked into the kitchen to start something for lunch.

~~~~~

It was 4:00 in the afternoon when Blair finally arrived with his suitcase in tow. Jim opened up the door and said, “Welcome.”

“Thank you, man. You have no idea what a rat race it is trying to find an apartment on such short notice. Not to mention, there aren’t that many of them out there. I’ll try to stay out of both of your hair and get out as soon as possible.

To Carolyn’s horror, Jim said, “No rush. We have the room and no one is using it.”

Blair walked over to Carolyn and shook her hand. “Thank you for allowing me to stay here. If you would like, I can show you some of the techniques in helping Jim focus on his senses. That way he’ll always have a back up for helping him.”

“That’s a good idea, Sandburg. I would like that a lot.” Carolyn meant every word she was saying. Maybe she could help Jim focus more on her. This Sandburg fellow didn’t seem to have the hots for Jim. So maybe this would work out fine.

“I’ll show you your room. It’s very small, but has everything you’ll need,” Jim said guiding Blair into the room.

“Oh cool room. This is perfect. I can do my school work in here and everything. Thank you so much for letting me stay.” Blair bounced in happiness.

“You’re welcome to stay as long as you need. Just make yourself at home,” Jim said as he walked out of the small room.

Carolyn couldn't believe that Jim had just said that. She was pissed, but didn’t want to upset Jim at this time. So she instead asked, “What would you like for dinner tonight, Sandburg?”

“Please call me Blair,” Blair answered her.

“Okay, Blair, what would you like for dinner tonight?” Carolyn repeated.

Blair came out of the room and said, “If you trust me enough to cook for you, I would like to make dinner tonight. I love to cook and it would be a way of helping out around here.”

Jim smiled at Sandburg and this bothered Carolyn even more. She had a feeling that if he had to choose, she would not be his first choice.

“That’s fine. Whatever you make, will be great,” Carolyn said trying to sound happy about it.

Jim looked at her oddly and walked over and whispered, “Are you all right?”

“Yes, Jimmy, I’m just fine. Why don’t you help Blair make dinner,” Carolyn suggested. She wanted to see them in action. As far as she could tell, Blair had no designs on her husband, but Jim might feel differently.

Blair looked through the cupboards and the refrigerator and found just what he needed to make chili and corn bread. Jim walked over to him and said, “What can I do to help?”

“We’re going to make chili and cornbread, so you can whip up the cornbread and I’ll make the chili,” Blair said as he handed the box mix of cornbread to Jim.

“Sounds good to me,” Jim answered.

Carolyn sat at the table and watched the two men in the same work space and they seemed to have it down pat. When Jim came one way, Blair went the other. Every now and then Jim would bump into Blair and smile. Blair would smile back and that would be that. Carolyn thought maybe she was just imagining it until Blair asked Jim to taste the chili. Jim walked over and Blair fed it to him wearing a huge smile on his face. Jim made the proper sounds of a man that loved what he just ate and then Blair tasted what was left on the spoon. Carolyn knew that normal people didn't eat off the same spoon. It’s just not done, but yet these two didn’t even seem to notice. Then she noticed how they talked while cooking. Oh it was only talk from the bullpen, but it was still talk. It had been ages since Jim had talked with Carolyn while she cooked dinner.

Jim took his empty bottle of water over to the trash and started to throw it in, when Blair shouted, “Oh man, what are you doing?”

“What does it look like, Sandburg? I’m throwing away my bottle,” Jim answered.

“You have to recycle. Just keep a box next to the trash and it can be for glass, paper and plastic. That way you’re doing your part. Sound good?” Blair said.

“I never really thought about it, but yeah, that sounds fine.” Jim went and got a box and set it next to the trash and put his water bottle in it. “Happy?” He asked Blair.

“Ecstatic,” Blair answered with a huge smile on his face.

Jim laughed and went to put the corn bread in the oven. He and Blair set the table next and got glasses out for the juice.

Carolyn realized that Blair didn’t seem to have a thing for Jim, but Jim had one for Blair. Now she needed to do some deep thinking and maybe even talk to Blair about it. It wasn’t like she had any friends she could talk to about it. Her family would be so ashamed if they knew that Jim wasn’t interested in his wife anymore. So she was going to have to think alone, or talk to Blair.

“Carolyn?” Jim said shaking her out of her thoughts.

“Yes?”

“I thought you zoned or something. Are you all right?” Jim asked nicely.

“I’m just fine. When is dinner going to be done?” Carolyn asked Blair.

“It’s done. The corn bread is just coming out of the oven now. Your husband is a very good helper. This was a breeze,” Blair said.

Carolyn was certain that Blair didn’t feel the same way about Jim. So maybe he could help her through this. Hopefully, he would have a day to talk when Jim was at the station alone. She would have to plan it out very carefully, she didn’t want Jim to know she suspected how he felt. He would be embarrassed.

They all sat down to dinner and Blair talked to both of them during the entire meal. Carolyn could understand what her husband saw in this man. He was nice looking, he was smart, he was witty and he was a very kind man. He was doing things to help Jim that no one else could do. Carolyn did understand completely, but that didn’t mean she had to like it.

She watched Jim during dinner and he kept smiling at Blair. It was enough to make Carolyn scream, but she knew she couldn’t. Jim was in love with Blair Sandburg and that’s all there was to it. Now she had to make a decision on what to do about it.

~~~~~

Jim and Carolyn washed the dishes when dinner was over and Jim didn’t say one word to her. He smiled at her twice, but nothing was said. She couldn’t believe that he just fell out of love with her that easily. It was breaking her heart.

He looked at her oddly and said, “Carolyn, please don’t give up on me. I’ve got things on my mind. We’ll talk in a few days. All right?”

“That’s fine, Jimmy. Take your time,” Carolyn said very sweetly, making Jim look at her even more strangely.

“Thank you for being so understanding,” Jim said.

“Not a problem, that’s what husbands and wives do for each other. Stop worrying so much,” Carolyn walked over to the living room and sat on the sofa to read a new book she had picked up.

Blair walked out and said, “Do you mind if I hang out here with you guys, or do you want to be alone?”

Jim was the first to answer. “Sure, come on out here. We’re just going to read and watch television. Bring your school work and you can chat with us while you do it.”

Blair sat down on the love seat and pulled his legs up under his butt. Jim smiled when he did it. Carolyn couldn’t believe that Blair didn’t notice that Jim was smitten with him. Was he blind? Yes, Carolyn knew that Blair needed to be told. He was an innocent in this whole mess. He might have some good ideas.

Carolyn looked over at Blair and said, “What time is your first class tomorrow?”

“At 11:00, why?”

“I was wondering if you could follow me down to have my car worked on and drive me to the station on the way,” Carolyn said.

Jim looked at her like she was someone else and said, “I can take you to the mechanic.”

“No, I was going to go around ten. You’ll be at the station by then. If Blair can do it, it would work out better,” Carolyn said.

“I’m sure he has better things to do, Caro,” Jim said quickly and sounded none too happy.

“Seriously, I’m not doing a thing, let me take her tomorrow and neither of you worry about it. Jim, it would be my pleasure,” Blair offered.

“Thank you, Blair,” Carolyn said sweetly, but her smile didn’t quite reach her eyes and Jim saw that. He knew something was up. He just didn’t know what.

“Thank you, Sandburg. It’s nice of you to do it for us,” Jim said.

“Don’t worry about it. Now what’s on television tonight?” Blair rubbed his hands together like he was going to see something good.

“Jimmy doesn’t really like television that much unless it’s sports,” Carolyn stated.

“No Two and a Half Men? No Heroes? No Life? None of the above?” Blair teased.

“Carolyn likes to watch the cop shows to see how off they are on what they show. Don’t you, honey?” Jim asked.

“Yes, I do. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get ready for bed. I’m exhausted tonight. Enjoy the shows,” Carolyn commented as she got up and headed into the bathroom.

“Man, did I say something?” Blair worried his lip.

“No, she’s just tired. She goes to bed early and gets up early. So don’t worry about it,” Jim assured Blair.

The two men talked and laughed at Two and a Half Men and didn’t even notice when Carolyn came through to go to bed.

Jim looked over at the bathroom and saw that the door was open and realized he totally ignored his wife. He sighed and got up. “I guess I’ll get ready for bed too.”

“Night, Jim. Thanks again for the room. I’ll lock everything up before I go to bed. Sleep well,” Blair said as Jim walked off.

~~~~~

Jim looked in the mirror at his reflection and wondered if anyone else could see the change in him. He was different. He was happier. He wanted more out of life these days and he was in love with Blair Sandburg. Not that he planned on doing anything about it, but he was. He was amazed that Carolyn didn’t pick up on it, this far. If he was lucky, she never would. He didn’t want to hurt his wife for anything. He loved her in his own way. Just not the right way. That seemed to be saved for Blair. Jim leaned down and washed his face and brushed his teeth. The whole time, he was thinking about what Sandburg wore to bed at night. Get your mind out of the gutter. He’s not interested and you’re fucking married.

He walked out of the bathroom and saw that Blair was in his room already. He walked up the stairs and slid into bed next to Carolyn, wishing it was Blair and saddened that he felt this way at this juncture of his life. It was so unfair to Carolyn. He owed her a lot. She put up with a lot of shit and there was no way he was paying her back with this. He pulled Carolyn into his arms and quickly fell asleep.

Carolyn was awake and knew that Jim was settling. She knew that this wasn’t the life he wanted. She had some serious questions and actions to think about. Tomorrow would be a better day, with some answers and some decisions to be made.

~~~~~

Jim left for the station at 7:00 a.m. and Carolyn made breakfast for Blair and knocked on his door at 7:30.

“Come in,” Blair called out.

“Blair, I need to talk to someone, I wondered if you would care to be my sounding board,” Carolyn started.

“Sure, give me a few minutes and I’ll be out. We can have a good talk,” Blair started to get up and Carolyn left the room.

Ten minutes later Blair sat down at the table and Carolyn said, “I think we have a big problem.”

“You don’t like me living here, right?” Blair asked.

“It has nothing to do with you living here. Or maybe it does, but it’s not because of that in my mind. It’s a problem with Jimmy,” Carolyn said.

“I don’t think I understand. You mean other then his senses?” Blair inquired.

Carolyn smiled as much as she could as she said, “He has designs on you. I need to know what to do about it.”

Blair was shocked to his very core. Jim had a thing for him? That was just too wild.

“Carolyn, I think you’re mistaking the Guide and Sentinel relationship. We’re close because we understand each other more then anyone else.”

“Blair, he’s in love with you. I used to see the same look on his face when he was in love with me. Now I need to know what to do about it.”

“Why do you seem so calm about it?” Blair asked.

“I’m going to lose him either way, I would prefer that we still be friends. But I wanted to see if you had feelings for him too. Do you?”

Blair just sat there looking at his feet for a few minutes. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t think I was overly flirtatious with him, but I must have been if he picked up on it. I find him very attractive and I enjoy being with a man, if that’s your question.”

“So where do we go from here?” Carolyn asked.

“I move out today,” Blair remarked sadly.

“No, you can’t move. He’ll blame me. I want this to work out,” Carolyn pleaded.

“What do you mean work out? If he wants to be with me, where would that leave you?” Blair was confused.

“I would give him a divorce. We would remain friends and I will always love him, but I need you to talk to him. I want you to tell him how you feel and see if you can get him to open up. He won’t talk to me,” Carolyn stated.

“Carolyn, that seems so sad. You have to give him up?” Blair felt like he wanted to cry for her.

“It might be sad, but not as sad as he’s been for the last eight months. Ever since he met you he’s had a new way of looking at life and it’s not with me in it. He’s too damn loyal to go see a lawyer, but I needed to see if you felt the same way about him. I can read my husband well, but you I’m not so sure about. Will you talk to him, Blair?”

“When do you want me to talk to him?”

“Could you do it today? I’m going to the lawyer today and have the papers drawn up. It shouldn’t wait any longer. It’s been a very sad and lonely eight months for me. It took me awhile to see what was going on, but now I do and I love him enough to step aside.”

“I’ll get my assistant to teach the class I have and I’ll call Jim to the loft. We can talk and see what happens. I have a feeling he won’t give you the divorce,” Blair said.

“He needs to think about me for a change. If he loves me at all, he’ll let me go. I would not be his first choice, and I expect him to just let me go,” Carolyn got up and got her jacket. “Call me later and let me know how the talk went. I like you, Blair. Don’t hurt him and please be happy. He deserves to be happy.”

“Thank you for everything, Carolyn. Would you like me to move out until things get settled?” Blair asked kindly.

“No, I have my things packed. I’m going to my sister’s house to live with her. I called her last week and told her I might be moving in with her. She’s thrilled. Jimmy is going to fight it, but you have to help him see that it’s the only way. We can’t all be happy. I just want someone to be happy,” Carolyn declared.

“I think I like you more then anyone I’ve ever met. You’re not only a good person, but a lovely person inside and out. Thank you for loving Jim this much,” Blair confessed.

“Have a good talk with him today and don’t let him get the upper hand. Stay strong. Be well and be happy,” Carolyn gave Blair a little hug and then took her luggage and walked out the front door.

Blair picked up his cell and called his assistant to see if she could teach for him. After that was settled, he called Jim at the station.

“Ellison.”

“Jim, I have something to talk to you about. It’s very important that we talk about it right now. Could you come to the loft?”

“Are you all right?” Jim asked worriedly.

“I’m fine, but I need to talk to you. I wouldn’t bother you at work if it wasn’t important.”

“She left me, didn’t she?” Jim asked sadly.

“In a manner of speaking, yes. Now come home so we can discuss some things,” Blair suggested strongly.

“I’ll be there in a half hour. Bye,” Jim hung up his phone and hurried to tell Simon there was an emergency.

~~~~~

On the drive home, Jim was wondering if Carolyn figured out about how he felt about Blair. If she told Blair, how did he feel about that?

God, she deserved more then she got. Now it’s too late and she’ll hate me for the rest of her life.

Jim drove as fast as he could to get to the loft. He knew it was something he had to face. He wished that Carolyn would be there too. He owed her an explanation. He had promised her to give him time. But did he want to give her what she needed? He didn’t need it anymore. Was it his fault that he changed? Was it his fault that she had to talk to Blair about it? All good questions that hopefully would be answered soon.

~~~~~

When Jim arrived at the loft, he walked in and Blair was standing there smiling. He walked closer and went into Jim’s arms.

“Yes, I feel the same way about you. It was only a secret to us. Carolyn saw it all. She’s such a good person, she stepped aside because she wanted you to be happy. She said someone deserved to be happy and she hoped we would be. She said that she knew she would never be your first choice and she wants to be someone’s first choice. She’s seeing a lawyer today and wants to remain friendly with you. She said that she’ll always love you and she knows that you love her too. Just not in the right way.”

Jim was holding Blair so tight that Blair could hardly breathe. He knew that this must be one of the most upsetting times of Jim’s life, but he had to face it.

“She’s a wonderful person, Blair. I want you to know that. She’s been nothing but good to me. I liked men before I met her and I never should have got married. I hoped that I would lose the need to be with a man. But then I met you eight months ago and I was lost. I tried to make it work, but couldn't. She was so sad. I was so sad. There was no happiness in our loft anymore and we do deserve to be happy. Please tell me that you’re going to stick around,” Jim was suddenly anxious about how Blair felt about him.

“I love Carolyn, Jim. She was so strong today, even though I knew it broke her heart. She wants us to be happy. You have to love someone like that, and I do. I know what you saw in her, because she’s everything in a woman that most men would love forever. We’re just not most men. As far as me sticking around, I plan on sticking to you like glue, man.”

Jim leaned down and gave Blair his first kiss. It was filled with many things. Sadness, joy, longing and love. Both of the men knew that things were going to be a little rough at the start, but they were in for the long haul. They both sat down on the sofa.

Blair curled up next to Jim and pulled out his cell to call Carolyn.

“Plummer.”

“Hi Carolyn, it’s me. I wanted to thank you for your selfless act once again. He’s everything I’ve always wanted and I hope to make him very, very happy. He’s upset about letting you down, but he hopes that you’ll remain good friends. I just wanted to call and tell you thank you again.”

“Let me talk to Jimmy,” Carolyn asked.

Blair handed the phone to Jim and Jim said, “Hi Caro.”

“Hi honey. Everything is taken care of at the lawyer. It’s a very simple divorce, so it’s not going to be a problem for either of us. I’ll always love you and I’m here anytime you need me. Understood?”

Jim wiped a lone tear that had run down his face. “I understand, Caro. I love you so much, honey. I wish I could have loved you enough.”

“You do love me enough. Now be happy. That’s all I ask of you. And I want you to be happy for me when I find someone new too. I really like Blair a lot.”

“Call me next week and the three of us will have lunch,” Jim suggested.

“That sounds like a wonderful idea, Jimmy. It’s going to be just fine. Have a good life. Goodbye.”

Jim closed Blair’s cell and buried his face in Blair’s neck. He felt like crying, but he didn’t want to lose control like that. He took in Blair’s scent and decided it was time to focus on the two of them. After all, she was right. Blair was always Jim’s first choice.

The end

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Acknowledgments: Thank you to Mary and to Kelly for the beta.