Blair could see Simon smiling at them across the bullpen. 
He wasn't surprised.  The gamble had paid off.  The last six
months had gone extremely well in terms of police work.  Yes, Jim
was a little overprotective, but he'd always been that way.  The
cases got solved and neither had seen the inside of an emergency
ward in weeks, which had to be some kind of record.  Heck, Jim
wasn't even dropping his gun!
       And both of his dissertations were working.  He'd gotten
a grant that let him do his research full time without teaching
(although he missed that part of the job) and he found he had
enough information both on Sentinels and on the police station
that he could write two.  His advisor thought he was insane, but
both topics were too good to let go.  Besides, Blair was secretly
worried that he'd compromised something with his relationship
with Jim.
       And then there was Jim.  Blair smiled to himself.   Every
night for the last six months, unless Jim was out on a stakeout
and didn't want Blair along for some reason, Blair had slept in
his arms and woken up to Jim's smile.  It was more than just good
sex, it was hugs at odd moments, even in public.  It was the
times he'd had nightmares and Jim soothed him back to sleep.  It
was stealing kisses while watching television, and long camping
weekends where they'd made love under the stars.
       It was the way Jim treated Naomi like a mother-in-law -
he even called her that to her face.  To Blair's confusion, she
liked it.  She was even willing to design a wedding ceremony for
them, but Jim said he didn't want one.  He didn't need a ceremony
to tell him he was committed.  Blair didn't know how to take that
but he didn't want to think about marriage anyway.  
       Life was *good*.  There was even real sunshine outside
for a wonder.  
       Jim walked into the bullpen.  There was absolutely no
expression on his face.  He didn't look at Blair at all.  He just
walked straight to Simon's office and knocked.  Simon shouted
"Enter!" and he disappeared.  He even closed the blinds.
       Blair couldn't stand the wait.  He kept bouncing up and
down, trying to listen and wishing he were a Sentinel himself. 
The others just looked at him and smiled.
       "Blair?  Could you come in here, please?"
       Something was wrong.  Something was very wrong.  Simon
was being polite and quiet.  Blair practically ran to the office.
       Jim's eyes were red.  Why were Jim's eyes red?  
       "Sit down, Blair.  Jim has something to tell you."  Blair
sat.  
       Jim started to pace.  He was holding two pieces of paper,
crushing them in his hands.
       "Blair, before I tell you this, you have to know....I
love you."
       "I love you, too.  What's going on?"
       "These...these are our latest blood tests.  Chief,
I'm...HIV positive."
       "What!  There has to be some mix-up!  No way."
       "He was tested twice, Sandburg.  There's no doubt.  And
his viral count is high."
       "But...how?  What's my...my status?"
       "Here."  Blair took the paper.  Negative.  He sat back in
relief.  Then it came to him.
       "If I'm negative and Jim's positive...how?"
       "I hate to ask, but have you two been careful?"
       "Yes, of course.  I mean, I knew I was clean and I
thought...I thought Jim was clean, but it only makes sense."
       "You should see our condom expenses, Simon."
       "I'm not in the mood, Jim.  Not now.  Jim, tell him the
truth.  If you don't, I will.  Remember our agreement six months
ago?"
       "Yeah.  I'll tell him."
       "Tell me what?  Jim?  Captain?"
       "I'll leave you two alone.  Blair, if you need to talk to
someone later, I'm around."  And he was gone.
       The room was too silent.  Jim just stood there, crushing
the medical printouts.
       "Tell me what?  Jim?"
       Jim rubbed his hands over his face.  "You're negative. 
I'm positive.  What do you think?"
       "That you were never as straight as you made me think?  I
knew that.  I'd guessed that months ago."
       "You did?"
       "Hey, you kissed me first, and you let me top first and I
could tell right then that you'd done this before."
       "Oh, Angel.  I'm sorry."  Jim knelt next to Blair's
chair.
       "Don't worry about it, Jim.  We'll get you through this. 
Sickness and health, remember?"
       "We're not married and that's not in your ceremony
anyway."
       "You're sick.  I'll help.  I love you.  Whatever happened
before we got involved, it's okay now."
       "Yeah, well.  I have to tell you everything.  I've been
doing the bars for years.  It started in college and I didn't
stop in the Army, either.  I'd go, pick some guy up - the bigger
and uglier, the better - and let him use me.  Or I'd use him. 
I'd get off on the danger.  All the kinds of danger - the guy,
the bar, the fact that I could lose my job and, later, that no
one wanted to use a condom.  I must have gotten six kinds of VD
over the years."
       "How could you be so stupid?  This isn't like you, Jim. 
You're always so careful, so precise."
       "Yeah.  And that gets boring.  Sometimes.  The guys here
all know.  They've known since I was working vice and everyone
knew me."
       "That's why they looked at me like that."
       "Yeah.  They're used to me and guys, but they like you. 
Simon told me that day that I'd better have given all that stuff
up.  I didn't for Carolyn, you know.  It helped end the
marriage."
       "Jim, what are you saying to me?  Jim, I don't want to
hear this."  Blair suddenly couldn't breathe.
       "The day we slept together?  I'd just gotten a blood test
back, and I'd been good for a long time.  I knew I was clean.  I
wanted to make this work.  I *love* you, Blair.  All I knew then
was that I wanted it to be forever."
       "I never expect forever.  Nothing's forever.  You were
clean that night?  Oh, God.  No condom that night."
       "Yeah.  I took the chance once.  I wanted to feel *you*
once, if never again.  Never again.  We're never going to...I'm
never going to..."
       Blair tried to keep his voice steady.  "Jim, if you were
clean, then...what about now?  What about now!"
       "I'm sorry, Angel.  I was an idiot.  And I'm paying for
that now, aren't I?"
       "You say you love me, then you...what?  Fuck some leather
queen somewhere?  How is that love?"
       "I love you, baby.  It's that you are safe.  Warm.  Home. 
I thought that's what I wanted and I did...I do.  It was, it
started a couple months after we started.  I had never been
happier.  Everything was perfect.  Dangerous things to think."
       "Yeah.  A few minutes ago, I was thinking the same
thing."
       "Anyway, I'd been on stakeout.  It had been pretty boring
and you were home.  I wanted to be home.  But after I was
relieved, instead of doing the smart thing, I went to one of the
bars.  And I got welcomed back.  They'd missed me.  You're my
world, Blair, but I guess I needed someplace we didn't share. 
You have the university.  I had...the sleaze.  And it all came
back.  All the danger, all the lies.  And there was this guy.  I
don't even know his name."
       "Great.  Just great.  You ruin everything for some slut
who doesn't even have a name."
       "No.  Tell me I didn't ruin everything!"
       "I don't know.  You cheated on me.  You're sick.  I don't
know.  Was he...the only one?"
       "He was the first.  I insisted on a condom with him.  But
not the next time or the next.  Whenever I had a stakeout or you
were away."
       "Jim...why?"
       "It was too perfect.  Too wonderful.  I had to sabotage
it.  Something in me said I didn't deserve you.  But so long as
you didn't know...I never went back to our bed right afterwards. 
I wouldn't do that."
       "I never touched anyone since we've been together.  Not a
man, and not a woman.  I never even wanted to look.  You and our
relationship.  They were everything."
       "'were'?"
       "Yeah.  I don't know.  I can't handle this.  I gotta go. 
I gotta process this.  I'll be in my office.  I'll ... I'll call. 
Tonight.  Good-bye."
       And he was gone.  He grabbed his jacket and his bag and
he was gone.  He could feel the eyes of the rest of the unit on
him.  He did *not* hear Jim following him.
       Blair drove around for hours.  Phrases kept going through
his mind.  "Jim's got AIDS."  "Jim betrayed me."  Over and over
and over again.  "Jim's sick."  "Jim cheated on me."  "I love
him."  "I hate him." 
       Finally, exhausted and starving and practically out of
gas, Blair found himself at the university.  He had nowhere else
to go anyway.  He got some soda and candy from a vending machine
and went to his office.  He'd been working at home for a couple
of weeks now, but he had some notes here.  Except that he
couldn't face his dissertation - either dissertation.  He didn't
know what to do.
       There was a knock on his door.
       "Go away!"
       "It's Simon.  Let me in."
       "It's not locked."
       And there Simon was.  He looked so solid, so dependable,
so safe.  Just the way Jim did.  But Jim lied.  And Jim was sick. 
 Blair didn't know what to hang onto.
       "We've been looking for you." 
       "I had to get away."
       "Jim's been going crazy.  He's convinced that you're
leaving him."
       "Simon...I..."  
       "I know he did something very, very wrong, but he does
still love you.  We all care about you, Blair."
       "I...Oh, damn!"  He hadn't cried all day.  Now he was and
he couldn't stop.  The sobs tore through him.  
       And Simon's arms were around him, his big hand stroking
Blair's hair, letting Blair cry himself out on his shoulder.  
       "It's okay, Blair.  I'm right here.  We'll see this
through.  That's right, son.  That's good."  Nonsense words, but
Blair felt oddly comforted.  Safe, but a different kind of safe
than the way Jim made him feel.  Had made him feel.  He slowly
calmed down.
       "Look what you did to my suit!"
       "I'm sorry, Simon."
       "It's okay.  I've had worse.  Blair, I need to call Jim
now.  You don't have to talk to him just yet, but he needs to
know that you are all right."
       Blair nodded.  Simon picked up the office phone.  
       "Jim?  It's Simon.  I found him.  He's just fine - a
little upset but that's it.  No, I don't think so.  I think you
both need some time right now.   Go home, Jim.  You're on sick
leave until you get things together.  I'll take care of Blair. 
No.  Not now.  Go home." <click>
       "Sick leave?"
       "Yeah.  Jim has to adjust to a new way of life now. 
He'll have medication and diet and appointments to keep, and
that's not going to change.  And he'll have to deal with
insurance and all that."
       "Why are you telling me this?"
       "So you know. *If* you go back to him, you'll be sharing
in this.  And you'll have to get tested a lot more often, and to
be even more careful."
       "Why?  So I get to be alone anyway?  Simon, I don't know
if I can do this."
       "I believe you can.  You still love him, right?"
       "Yeah.  I love him.  He says he loves me, too.  And I
know he needs me, but damn it, Simon, he lied to me.  You lied to
me.  You all knew what he did, and no one told me."
       "He said he'd stopped, and the two of you were so very
happy.  Sickeningly so.  I wasn't going to ruin that.  But I
wanted him to tell you."
       "You guys all knew?"
       "Yeah.  We figured you did, too, but then you walked in
that morning.  No one would look that happy if he had any doubts
about his lover's loyalty."
       "Why was I so blind?  It's not that he was so closeted
from me in the past.  Past is past, and I've done things that I
haven't been proud of.  Did you know about it after..."
       "So far as I knew, Jim was faithful to you.  If he hadn't
been, I would have been on him like white on rice.  It was part
of the deal.  You two could work together so long as he was
faithful and he promised to have safer sex with you."
       "Now what?"
       "That's up to you, to him and to his doctors.  He has a
very high viral load for someone who contracted it so recently. 
We may need a miracle."
       "Oh, God.  He has full blown AIDS, doesn't he?"
       "Not yet.  Maybe not ever.  Blair, you can't stay here."
       "I can't go home."
       "Come home with me.  You can stay in Daryl's room, at
least for a couple of weeks."
       Blair nodded.  "By then I'll have decided where I'm
going."
       "And you will be at work tomorrow in the station."
       "Not much point to my coming in if Jim isn't there."
       "Are you kidding?  If you don't show up, I'll have a
riot.  Come on.  Ever think about the academy?"
       "I'm not cutting my hair..."
       Two weeks later, Jim reported in for work.   He would be
permitted to remain on the force, which meant that he had
insurance to cover the treatment, but he would not go out on the
streets again.  He'd be on desk work until he couldn't work
anymore.  
       Blair was already there, doing some paperwork for one of
the other guys.  He'd been used as a consultant a couple of times
and sat in on strategy meetings.  Simon was right - he was there
on his own merits now.
       "Hi, Sandburg."
       "Jim!  Jim.  You're here."
       "Yeah.  I'm riding a desk now."
       "It's been quiet here without you."
       "It's been quiet at home without you."
       "Bet it's a lot neater."
       "I still have your stuff where you left it.  I like it."
       Well, this was awkward as hell.  Blair looked around and
saw that the captain's office was empty.  He gestured to it.
       "I don't think Simon would mind."  Jim nodded.
       Jim took the time to close the blinds again.  Neither was
about to sit behind the desk.
       "Jim.  How are you feeling?"
       "It's not easy."
       Blair smiled tightly.  "Are the drugs interacting with
your senses?"
       "Oh, yeah.  They've been on and off, up and down since I
started.  It's driving me crazy.  And I can't eat anything. 
Blair, I miss you."
       Was Jim about to cry?  Not Jim.  Never.   "I miss you,
too, Jim.  I wish...I wish I felt ready to go home again."
       "Home?  Do you really think of the apartment as home?"
       Blair smiled.  "It's not my home.  You are.  I need a
little more time, Jim.  I need to forgive you."
       "How can you forgive me?  I messed up your life, and I
totally screwed up mine."
       "I love you.  That means I have to try.  And I need you. 
I'm not me without you."
       "I need you."
       Blair nodded.  "We'll have to see how we can get you
under control again.  We can't play with your drugs or dosages,
and you have to watch your diet, right?"
       "Like a hawk."
       "Well, then it's meditation and music and lots of
guidance.  Maybe if we start working together we can start being
together again."
       "We'd have to be very careful."
       "That's okay, big guy.  I think...it will be so worth it
when we can.  And I know with the proper diet and meditation, we
can get you through all of this, and we'll have a long life
together.  The two of us."
       Jim didn't say anything.  He just took Blair's hand and
held it tightly.  
       Just then, the door opened.  Simon stood there.  He
smiled at them.
       "Well, if you two have begun to patch things up, I think
you'd better get to work."
       "Yes, sir."
       "Okay, Simon."
       Blair smiled inwardly.  It wasn't going to be easy, but
they'd be together for as long as Jim had.

Copyright 1998 Debra Fran Baker and NightRoads Associates
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