To Change the River’s Path - Bumpkin
Notes: This is a mirror story to Karie’s The Invitation. Both stories were written from the same plot bunny.
He didn’t! There was no bleeding way!
Megan gaped. There were just no other words to describe it. Well, maybe gawping worked too. It sounded as undignified as she probably looked at the moment. She had good reason though.
Jim hadn’t really done what she thought he’d just done… had he?
Christ on a crutch - she’d made the bloody invitation in jest!
But Jim, the daft fool, he’d… Well, hell, she couldn’t believe what she had just heard the bleeding idiot say to Blair. He’d had those huge blue peepers turned on him, laughingly, and managed to snuff all the light out of them with a few simple words. How could Jim bear to do that? Seems it was easy - because there he was, still nattering on and being some kind of great noble boob as he actually told Blair that he should go back to Australia with her! To do the Officer Exchange Program in return that he’d been offered now that she was returning home. That he was the best choice of all of them to go.
But, maybe it wasn’t as dire as all that. Maybe Jimbo was just suggesting this out of some kind of misplaced and belated sense of guilt, specially seeing as things hadn’t exactly been all fun and games around the station in the months since Blair got his badge. Or maybe this was being done out of pride, that Jim was trying to tell Blair that he thought he should be able handle things with the senses just fine nowadays all on his lonesome. Or, Heaven forbid, that Jim thought if Blair left and went to Oz that he could go back to being ‘Anthroboy’ and then be happy again. Didn’t the big berk realize Blair was happiest at his side, no matter where they were or what they were doing? Well obviously not, or he never would’ve made the suggestion that Blair leave with her.
Blair was utterly crushed by what Jim was saying. Megan could see it clearly. She had known for a long time Blair Sandburg was in love with Jim Ellison. Hell, the entire precinct had known for forever that Blair loved Jim, except it seemed, for one Jim Ellison. She shook her head, how a man that dense ever got to be such a good detective she’ll never understand. Then Blair did something Megan had so hoped he wouldn’t do, he laid it all on the line, and asked Jim point blank.
“Jim, man, are you sure you want me to go. Because if you say you want me to, I'll stay - no hesitation at all - so be very sure when you answer."
It was deliberately worded in a very specific way, Megan could tell, and she found herself holding her breath for Jim’s answer. Hoping against hope that he wasn’t going to mess this up beyond belief. But he did. Jim was either not paying attention, or he deliberately misunderstood because he blithely answered,
"Yeah, I'm positive - go, have fun."
Megan watched as the strongest friendship she had ever known shredded and blew away with those careless words and mourned. She watched the shutters come up in Blair’s large blue eyes again as the affably impersonal professional Anthropologist came back into being, while Blair rebuilt the walls he’d let fall long ago. She watched as Blair took the urging from Jim to go as a rejection of his very self and cursed.
"Damn you Jim," she said under her breath while she closed her eyes in her grief. "You may be able to hear more than the average bloke, but you never bloody listen, do you."
Jim stared at the phone. Should he do it? He’d been wanting to for a while now, ever since he realized what a colossal screw up he’d made. Frankly, which had been about an hour after Megan and Blair’s plane had lifted off, if he was being honest with himself.
Hell, more than half of Central had agreed with his assessment of what a poor choice he had made too. The support staff alone had managed to make him understand his mistake’s magnitude, and they certainly hadn’t made any bones about letting him know what they thought, he recalled with pained amusement. He’d never had so much trouble in getting the little things done before. Not that he’d really needed them to point it out to him – he’d already felt like half his soul had been ripped away. He’d been cut in half and bleeding out ever since.
His gaze again strayed to the phone as he debated within himself. Should he call? It had been seven long years since the two had left for ‘Down Under’, one to return home and the other to make it his new home. Jim hadn’t once in the entire time they’d been gone contacted either one. Of course, the return was also true. Neither of them had made any motions to get in touch with him either, and he’d tried to respect that. But now, something was telling him that he should. That he should break the silence and call, no matter what hard feelings might still be being harbored by either.
His mind made up, Jim reached for the handset and swiftly dialed the only number he had. Then he drummed his fingers against his thigh as he impatiently waited while it rang.
**Ring** **Ring** **Ring** **Ring**
“Wot? Who’s there? Dammit! Damn phone!”
Megan woken from the first sound sleep she’d been able to get in over five days was not happy as she fumbled for the receiver of the ringing phone. Fumblingly, she managed to pick it up and drag it to her head.
“Hello? Hunh, what? Blair who? Who is this?”
”What do you mean Blair who? How many Blair's do you know?"
Groggy, not fully awake, she didn’t recognize the voice on the other end of the line. Plus, she was feeling justifiably belligerent after being woken what felt like bare minutes since she’d managed to fall asleep, so she snapped back,
"Eight off the top of my head, granted though, most of them are still in nappies. But that is neither here nor there as you still haven't said who you are, mate."
"Jeez, Connor, it's Jim."
She made a disgusted sound and he clarified,
"Ellison, from Cascade... and the Blair I was asking about was Sandburg."
Megan sat bolt upright in shock.
“Jimbo? Mate, it’s been seven years! What on earth prompted you to call now?”
Needless to say, she never expected to hear from him, especially after so long. Jim’s exasperated answer to her query was pure Ellison through and through though, and it ticked her off.
”Connor, never mind how long it’s been or why I’m calling now. Let’s just say I had a feeling I should. So, Sandburg?”
Megan decided to get some of her own back; the man had woken her up after all.
“Oh, Sandy, well why didn’t just you say that’s who you were looking for mate?”
Jim growled, but Megan wasn’t done. Now fully awake, she kept needling the man on the other end of the phone – it was his dime after all.
“And Jimbo! How in the hell are ya?"
"Fine, but still wondering about 'Sandy', which is why I made this hugely expensive call in the first place..."
Jim let his voice trail off while Megan huffed a bit,
"Well it's just that it’s been so long... well I didn't think you and Sandy..."
"Yeah, Sandy... have you seen him? Have any information on him. Know how I can contact him myself perhaps?"
Jim interrupted rudely again. Megan snorted.
"Jimbo, don’t ever change. If you do I won’t know who you are.” Megan said with cutting sarcasm, then continued. “And yes I've seen him, he's fine. Hell, he's half the reason for the sudden rise in ‘Blairs’ round about here. Him and his partner from over here, Inspector Sandra Blair, that is. The two of them stopped a rampaging gunman in a maternity ward - in their honor there were a lot of new wee 'Blairs' named that day.”
”Whew, sounds like he hasn’t slowed down much.”
Jim’s voice had a strange quality that Megan couldn’t quite place, but rather than try to ferret out what was up she laughed and said in return.
“Sandy, slow down? Not likely, mate.”
"So Sandburg's got himself a steady partner out there, huh?"
Now Megan could place exactly what she was hearing in the voice of her old co-worker, melancholy. And perhaps a bit of jealousy too. The jealousy was something she could do something about, even though she should probably let him stew. Nah, with Ellison, that way lay disaster – better she tell him straight out that there was no romantic competition for Blair’s heart if he was thinking of coming for a visit.
"Yeah, they’ve been teamed together practically from the start. Sandra and her domestic partner love him to death. Partly because he didn't even blink when his very dainty and feminine partner on the force didn't answer his flirting except with the response that her wife would get mad."
“Yeah, you got that right, mate. It was a big ‘Oh!’ moment there for most blokes – but Blair, he didn't bat an eye, just made some comment about including her."
”That sounds like him. Naomi’s wild child, nothing seemed to make him uncomfortable that way. They must have loved him.”
Jim’s voice was indulgent and Megan wondered if he knew how much he was giving away. But then she realized that she had to let him in on the major snag he would run into if he wanted to try and convince Blair to return to Cascade.
“Oh yeah, they did. They loved him so much for accepting them so easily like that, that when his regular rotten luck with housing hit again - they took him in. And six months after that, they both turned up pregnant – turns out there had been too much wine at New Years.”
Jim audibly choked and Megan continued with a strained chuckle,
“Yeah, as you can imagine, they have since sworn off the booze. Said never again, but they’re now living in something like a tri-marriage – the two women are still in a committed relationship with only each other – and Blair staying with them to help raise his two sons. The boys are almost five now.”
There was dead air being transmitted as Jim obviously didn’t know what to say, but then he seemed to get a handle on himself.
”Could you email Blair’s contact details to me at the Cascade P.D. care of Major Crimes? They haven’t changed.”
“Sure, Mate, no worries.”
”Thanks Connor. I’ll let you go now so that you can get at least some sleep tonight. Sorry to have woken you in the first place.”
Then Megan heard the soft click that signaled the other end had been hung up followed by the dial tone. Sighing she hung up her own end, thinking that for some reason the tone had sounded more mournful and even lonelier tonight than it normally did.
Back in Cascade, Jim sat in the dark and thought gloomy thoughts after hanging up the phone. One inescapable fact in particular and its ramifications was hitting him harder than the rest of the knowledge he had gleaned from Megan.
‘He’s got two sons. Two little boys, and their mothers, are depending on him. There is no way I could even possibly begin to compete.’
Jim thought with despair that Blair might not have any romantic claims on his heart, but the other bindings that held him in place there were so much stronger and durable. Blair would never leave Australia as long as those two boys needed him, not after the way he’d missed having a father in his life.
And there was no way he’d uproot them willy-nilly, even if he could get their mothers to agree to the move, to drag them all back to Cascade considering that the other thing young Blair had yearned for was security and stability. The two things his mother Naomi had denied him as a child were never going to be the same things he would ever visit on his own offspring. The irony of it all almost made Jim want to cry.
But, none of that changed the very simple fact that Jim still needed to apologize to Blair. To fix the massive mistake he’d made when he’d pushed Blair away for reasons he couldn’t even remember anymore. Jim needed to mend this rift with the other half of his soul, even if he wasn’t going to be able to take it any further than that. And hopefully, after Megan got back to him, he’d be able to do it in person.
When Jim stepped off the plane in Australia and met Blair’s eyes across the concourse, he found that for the most part he’d already been forgiven. It was all in Blair’s eyes. Jim, of course, wanted to make sure he was seeing what he thought he was and so he asked why.
Blair’s answer was simply, “You made a point of coming all the way down here to see me in person – took the time off work, left your home territory to come to what is now mine - and all for something that we already did for the most part in correspondence. You wanted to let me know how much I matter to you, and by doing all this you succeeded. How could I not forgive you after all that?”
Jim couldn’t argue with that, because essentially that was exactly why, and what he had done. Instead he took the opportunity of having Blair in front of him to do something he’d been yearning to do pretty much since he’d left – he grabbed him up in a great big bear hug and pulled him close. Holding him there like he never wanted to let go he whispered fiercely into Blair’s ear,
“God, Chief, I missed you so much! I am so sorry, I know you say you’ve already forgiven me but I had to say it to you in person, it wouldn’t have felt right otherwise.”
Blair hugged Jim back just as fiercely as Jim was embracing him, while he said in a voice that only broke slightly with the emotion he was feeling,
“No worries, Jim, no worries at all.”
Laughing at the use of the phrase all of Major Crimes had used to drive Megan absolutely up the wall with, Jim finally let Blair go enough to look into his face again.
Blair just smiled crookedly up at him and asked, “So, Jim, ready to be given the third degree? I promise you that my new roommates leave you in the shade in the scary department when they’re wanting answers.”
Jim just laughed and said, “Of course they do, they’re women aren’t they? I was a married man once, Sandburg, remember? Caro used to interrogate me to an inch of my life at times, never mind the confessions she could terrify out of the hardened criminals when she put her mind to it.”
This time it was Blair’s turn to laugh, and Jim luxuriated in the rich sound. He made a point of storing it away in his mind with the peculiarly perfect recall that his enhanced senses allowed him. Actually, Jim was storing away everything about this visit; it was going to have to last him once he returned home – to be all alone once again.
Blair, in the meantime, had started to tow Jim along behind him. Chattering away in his old pattern of anthro-babble and information dump, Blair filled him in on most of what had happened in his life while living on this new continent. Jim just listened with a combination of nostalgia and awe. He’d forgotten just how much Blair could impart, and on how many subjects all at one time (and some of those were truly bizarre), with barely having to take a breath. But, the gabble did do what it was intended. By the time they reached Blair’s home, Jim was more than ready to meet the four very important people in his Guide’s life, downright eager in fact.
Actually meeting the two women in Blair’s life was a bit of a shock. From everything he’d heard of them and their reputations he’d built them up in his mind as a pair of Amazons, much like some of the women Blair used to date back in Cascade, but they couldn’t have been further from his mental image of them if they’d tried.
The one Blair introduced as Chief Inspector Deirdre Blair was the more strapping of the two, and even then she wasn’t exactly what Jim would call large. About the same height as Blair, but thinner, her Irish name was obviously honestly come by as her looks let you know in no uncertain terms that she came from Irish ancestry. The bob of bright red hair, pale freckled skin - that was somehow miraculously un-burnt even under the brutal Australian sun - and the deep leaf-green eyes that danced with her every emotion; well, when you put them all together they were pretty much a dead giveaway on the subject. Jim liked her immediately. But then, his fondness for redheads was a well established fact. Even if he didn’t have a chance in hell, or want one for that matter.
The other, Inspector Sandra Blair, the one that Jim knew was Blair’s new partner on the Force – she was even daintier and feminine than her lifemate. Some would call her ethereal, not to mention exotic. Long, light-brown, loose spiral curls spilled down her back in an incredible fall all the way to just below her waist. It was hair that almost defied description and Jim just knew that when she allowed it to hang down unfettered, it would envelop her like a living cloak. Jim also had a strong feeling that the only reason its length stopped where it did was because of safety considerations of her work, otherwise she probably would have let it grow until it stopped on its own or it reached the floor. Combined with the dusky golden skin and the large blue eyes she also laid claim to, she was stunning. Jim could well understand why Blair had been prompted to make a move on her, even if he had been summarily shot down.
And they both had cores of pure steel, just like Blair had warned him.
Jim had been interrogated by Army brass that didn’t have the drive these two did. They soon had the whole story out of both men, more than either man realized they could articulate into words about all of it. Things were tense for a bit, then as they talked and clarity was found, forgiveness was given. So, in the end, things turned out just fine and Jim was accepted into their odd family grouping. He even became an instant ‘Uncle’ to their boys. Uncle Jim, the odd duck their Dad knew back from when he lived in the States.
When he met both the boys - Corwin, who was Deirdre’s son, and Liam, Sandra’s son – he was tickled pink. Both boys were so much like their father in mannerisms and personality that it was incredible to someone like him who had spent so much time with Blair. The fact that both of them shared Blair’s general body type and facial stamp made the similarities that much more evident to someone like Jim who knew Blair backwards and forwards. Thankfully they also seemed to have inherited his awesome intelligence; at least Jim thought it was Blair’s legacy to them. He supposed it could’ve been from their moms too, but Jim thought it would have been positively criminal if Blair hadn’t had brilliant children. Besides, wasn’t every parent out there supposed to get kids just like they were when they were a kid? Wasn’t that a rule?
Jim studied the boys. They were Blair’s sons, how could he not?
Looks-wise, Corwin was much like his mother in that he had her red-hair and mercurial type of eyes. But his father’s curls had also bred true, along with the denim blue shade of his eyes. For his skin tone he had managed to get an even mix between the two parents, giving him both the slightly darker tint and the freckles which were liberally speckled across his face, as well as a few other places. He was the more outgoing and boisterous of the two boys, his high energy leading him to fling himself at top speed headlong into whatever interested him.
Liam, on the other hand was the quieter one. More somber. But he still had a genial enough nature and was more than willing to follow his half brother into whatever scrapes he would lead them into. Liam also didn’t look as much like his mother as his brother did, his skin was the closest match as both parents were rather dusky. But, his hair wasn’t the riotous head of curls like both his parents had, or his brother’s ironically enough, instead from somewhere he had gotten these smooth rich brown waves Clark Gable would have envied. His eyes were the same denim blue as his brother’s, his mom and dad both having blue eyes having made that pretty likely, but his eyes were more shadowed than his brother’s.
They were two very handsome kids, Jim thought and said so aloud. That broke any last ice there might have been between him and the two women Blair was sharing his life with. Things began to move fairly fast for Jim after that, and he began to feel a bit like he was caught up in a whirlwind.
The rest of the week he had there passed in a blur. Visits were made to friends from the Force, showing him around and taking him to all the sights where only a native would know to go, sitting around drinking tea and coffee while chatting about everything and anything. Jim felt by the end of his visit that he would need a second vacation to recuperate from this one like people often joked.
He did have a grand time teasing all three of them during one of the coffee and tea chats about their total ban of alcohol in their home. He’d nearly asphyxiated laughing at Sandra’s sly rejoinder of, “Hell, Jim, we don’t want to give the boy’s any more siblings. Turn’s out Blair’s a potent fellow – as well as damn good in bed – he’s the only man Dee and I ever thought about asking to join us, and that was only when we were both under the influence. And damn it all if we didn’t both end up pregnant the one and only time we did, we’re just not willing to take the chance.”
Then it was time, his time was up and Jim had to go home. All the ‘Blairs’ were there to see him off, every single one of them promising to keep in touch. Even the boys. Jim didn’t think anything could feel more bittersweet than this moment, but when his ‘Blair’ pulled him off to the side for a slightly more private goodbye he knew he’d been wrong.
“Jim, I think I understand why you did what you did, and I have forgiven you but-”
“You can’t come back to Cascade, Chief, I know. Just promise me we’ll keep in touch okay?”
“I promise, that at least I can do.”
Blair reached up and using his thumb caught the single tear that fell from Jim’s eye. His head cocked to the side slightly as an echoing voice called a familiar flight number, then Blair leaned forward to press a quick dry kiss to the corner of Jim’s mouth after which he whispered harshly.
“Goodbye, Jim. Take care of yourself.”
He didn’t give Jim a chance to do or say anything else himself; he just took off back towards the four people his life revolved around now. Jim watched him go until they were again a group of five. That done, he turned to board his plane.
The next three years passed easily with Jim regularly receiving the various versions of mail from his ‘Blair Family’. Jim joyfully shared all the communiqués from Australia with the bullpen as they came in and bragged about his ‘nephews’ to anyone who would listen, getting looks of amused tolerance from the old guard and fascinated gawking at the odd behavior from the newcomers who’d heard nothing but horror stories of the legend of old ‘Iceman’ Ellison, grump extraordinaire. This cheerful and expansive version of the man who wanted to share just didn’t jive with what they’d been told and made them wonder if someone had been jerking their chains.
What Jim didn’t share, is the weekly phone call from Blair Sandburg, the phone call that kept him sane and mostly on an even keel. He also never mentioned to anyone that long before his trip to Australia he had used some of his inherited wealth to buy his entire building because after Blair had left his control had been almost nil. His immediate neighbors had irritated the hell out of him and he’d had to really fight not to shoot them. These were only the three other units who shared the third floor with him of course, the soundproofing between floors was better to start with and he’d only made it better after purchasing the building. But damn, the walls he had shared with the others on his floor had been entirely too thin.
So now he lived in a pretty wild penthouse loft apartment, one that he’d rattled around in until his return from Australia. Until then he couldn’t decide what he wanted to do with the space, but after he got back ideas began to flow and he began to renovate.
He did everything himself, he needed to in order to keep his hands and mind busy while at home. It was too quiet otherwise. Calling old skills long unused to the surface, Jim knocked out the walls that used to separate the four units and put up support pillars. He then physically blocked out what he’d planned so meticulously in his mind’s eye. He roughed out a library nook, complete with a large study off of it against one of the four balconies. He combined two of the old bathrooms into one large one and put in a positively sybaritic setup of Jacuzzi and multi-head shower. He set out three lower level bedrooms, the largest off one of the other balconies and abutting the new bathroom. He removed three of the kitchens and greatly expanded the last one into a gourmet’s dream. And finally he linked together all four platforms into one large open space, removing two of the staircases on kitty corners.
Looking around at the freshly finished product, Jim was both proud and impressed. He couldn’t wait to tell Blair about everything the next time he called. Making some quick calculations Jim suddenly realized that the call should have come two days past and was immediately worried.
Still covered in sawdust and other construction detritus, Jim strode over to where he’d stashed the telephone to keep it safe while he worked and checked to make sure he hadn’t missed the call while he worked.
No. No calls at all.
Jim dialed out, using the number he’d been given by his Guide.
Jim dialed another number Blair had given him.
Again, no answer.
Jim cycled through all the ‘Blair’ numbers he had.
No, no, no and again no. Dammit, what is going on here?
Jim dialed out again, this time to the same number he called after seven long years of silence. This one was answered.
“Megan, thank god! What is going on? I can’t get a hold of anyone-”
”Jim? Is that you?”
“Yes, Megan, it’s me, now-”
Jim didn’t get a chance to get another word out as Megan burst into tears. Awful heartrending sobs that even over the long distance connection he could tell were shaking her entire frame. But then she was speaking through the tears and Jim was struggling to understand her.
“Oh God Jim, it’s awful. Please, get here, as soon as you can, do whatever you have to, just get here now. I’ll explain then.”
And then she hung up. Jim stared at the phone for a moment in pure shock. What the hell? But then the import of her words sank in and he was dialing again, this time the airport.
When Jim got off the plane in Australia this time, he couldn’t see anyone waiting for him that he knew and wondered what he should do. Should he call Megan and let her know that he’d arrived? Or should he just grab a cab and try to head to the house on his own and hope that someone would be there?
The decision was taken from him as a vaguely familiar stranger approached him. Then it hit him why the guy looked familiar and just who the man was, Megan’s boyfriend. Or wait, husband now – he’d gotten that news almost two years ago. But he hadn’t been able to get the time off to come to the wedding although he’d been invited. What was his name though? Jim struggled to remember. Oh right, now he remembered. He greeted the man by name.
Paul looked awful. His eyes were red and puffy in a face drawn and grey. He didn’t bother wasting any time with small talk either, he just shook Jim’s hand perfunctorily and said,
“Jim. You got everything? Good, follow me then, please.”
Then he led Jim further into the airport rather than out of it. Jim was confused but followed along easily enough. He figured if the man had been sent to pick him up then obviously he would know where to go. Jim’s understanding paid off as they neared another plane, this one a smaller private craft you saw a lot of in Australia – a Cessna.
Paul motioned for Jim to get in and followed afterwards, still without saying another word. Jim actually found it a bit eerie. He never thought he would actually want someone to talk, but he soon found himself mentally urging the other man to speak. Paul didn’t oblige him, just stowed Jim’s bag and made his way forward to the cockpit. Then he did speak, but only to get the clearance he needed for takeoff. After that he again fell silent.
This second flight right after the mind and butt numbingly long one from Washington State was mercifully brief in comparison, but it still wasn’t the most comfortable way he would have chosen to travel at that point in time. Jim didn’t say anything about that though, he had a feeling it would have been wildly irrelevant in light of whatever was going on. Thankfully Megan was there to pick them up from the tiny airstrip in an open top Jeep, and Jim knew that he would be getting the answers he needed from her. Even if her eyes were just as puffy and red as her husband’s, and her face as grey and drawn.
She proved him right too just as soon as they started to drive. Told him that a case from Deirdre’s past had come back to haunt her. Of how one of her old collars who had been locked up in a loony-bin for the criminally insane had gotten loose and snatched Deirdre and Sandra right off the street while they were out together one night. She told him the horrifying way the nutcase had gleefully sent pieces of the two women to the station, parts they knew incontrovertibly were of their Inspectors, while at the same time making sure the two women stayed alive and proving that to the station as well. And how when they had finally managed to track the sick bastard down, it was too late. Deirdre and Sandra had gone. They had held on as long as they could, but in the end it was too much.
Then in conclusion, Megan told him that right now they were on the ‘Blair Station’ because Liam Blair Senior had insisted, seeing as this is where all his family was buried. He saw no reason to change that, no reason not to inter his daughter with the rest of the family. Not even under these different circumstances. Deirdre and Sandra had been cremated together, and now they were going to be buried together, and that was that. In fact, today was the interment ceremony – Jim had made exceptional time.
Megan had just finished the whole awful story, starting to cry again near the end, when they pulled into the ‘Station’s’ private cemetery. Jim found his sight arrowing ahead to three forms clustered amongst a gathered crowd that was just beginning to break up. One taller with two smaller on either side clinging for all they were worth. All three look like they are on the edge, barely hanging on, and Jim’s heart constricted.
The Jeep crunched to a stop on the graveled drive and the sound drew the attention of Corwin. He looked up and saw who was levering himself out of the all-terrain vehicle and cried out in a cracking sob that was half relieved, and half pained.
Liam Jr. looked up along with his father at the cry. They’d only barely managed to get their heads up before Jim had enveloped them all into in a massive hug. He clutched them all close. Held them as tight as possible to his large frame while still trying to ensure them enough leeway to breath. Blair proved he’d succeeded in his efforts when he leaned forward to whisper brokenly into Jim’s ear,
“I can’t stay here anymore, Jim.”
Jim mumbled back a reassurance, hoping he wasn’t just voicing another platitude. Blair had probably already heard too many of those in the last few weeks to more than last him.
“Hush, we’ll be able to get going in just a minute – then we can head back to the city.”
Shaking, Blair whispered a bit more stridently,
“No! I – We can’t stay here anymore. Me and the boys, we have to leave. Not the cemetery or the ‘Station’, or even the city, but Australia. There are just too many memories – too many reminders.”
Jim winced as what Blair was saying sank in, he understood. Well then, that left him free and clear to tell the other man and make the offer, didn’t it? He pushed Blair back enough that he could look him in the eye and told him,
“Blair, I love you. Thought I should tell you that in case you hadn’t realized it, but you know that means you always have a home with me, don’t you? And yes, that includes the boys – they are a part of you and I love them dearly as well. You are all just going to have to come home with me and move in.”
Blair looked a bit confused.
“Into the loft?”
“Well, it’s not really a loft anymore – more of a penthouse with a full rooftop garden,”
Jim said sheepishly and Blair frowned at him, still looking more confused than not. So Jim said both grumpily, and defensively,
“What? The neighbors were irritating when you weren’t around. I had to do something.”
Blair just shook his head, a bittersweet smile on his face. He hoped Jim never changed. Mainly because he was a reassuring constant in his life. Even if it was as a grouchy, crotchety constant – and besides, the growls only sounded like disguised purrs to his ears.
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Acknowledgements: Betaed by the marvelous, wonderful, stupendous Dorothy! This is the plot bunny that bit two people. KarieAuthoress and Me!