Blair did his best to breathe slowly through his mouth. He was taken aback at how this place still got to him given that last time he was there he was five years younger and lot more naive. He believed then in people being generally good and world - positive and didn't know how much of a flower-child Naomi raised him to be he was despite all.
He sat on the quite uncomfortable chair in the waiting area and the only thing he could think of apart from Jim was that next time he'd listen to his inner voice better. He knew he just fucking knew all along that it was bad idea to return to Cascade. Even with this conference he wanted to go to, even with Jim's insistence Blair needed it, he had had to listen to his inner voice.
That was bad idea.
Blair didn't know what it was with this city that every good thing eventually turned bad here. University, for example, was so what he wanted to do, but all the bulling, constant money problems, ignorant people around - if not for his scientific interests it was not worth it. With all this anxiety, he developed allergies that landed him in that particular hospital on the regular basis. He just ha...
No. That wasn't entirely right. If not for this hospital Blair wouldn't meet Jim...
Blair startled. The nurse was looking at him a bit funny. 'Doctor Musgrove will be with you shortly.' Blair nodded. He knew these people - conservative, narrow-minded, black-and-white kind of people. Somehow they usually end up being in command and that when all the problems began. At least for Blair.
The doctor came and gone. He shrugged off all Blair's questions saying they have to perform more tests on Jim, but there's nothing wrong with him so far. He strongly suggested talking to a psychiatrist. Blair nearly lost it and told the doctor that he had a degree in psychiatry himself and well qualified to perform any tests on his husband.
Blair watched with hawk eyes as doctor stiffened and nodded before speeding out.
Why did it have to happen here, in Cascade of all places? Blair rubbed at his eyes and went to the ward.
Jim was lying here utterly still with his eyes closed. There were black circles around his eyes and sharp unhappy lines in the corners of his mouth. He has become a bit thinner lately but with all his work out Blair just liked how he looked - tanned, beefy, and happy.
Not so much right now.
Blair sighed and touched Jim's arm very-very carefully. Jim sighed.
'How're you, man?' Blair nearly whispered leaning closer to Jim. He learned hard way for the last couple of days not to talk loud or bounce around the place in his usual manner. Every sound or unexpected movement around Jim hurt him.
Blair wanted nothing more than to lay down beside his man, hug him and close his eyes. He felt restless.
'Go do something,' Jim opened his eyes a fraction, 'you think too loud.' He smiled the bleak version of his usual smile. 'Sleep in a real bed for a change.' Jim made little inhaling sounds after each word, and Blair did the same unthinkingly.
He waited until Jim fell asleep. His chest hurt a little and Blair reached out uncertainly, afraid to touch Jim.
Blair woke up abruptly.
He's dreamed of green and wind and scent of something fresh and citrus, and laid now in the dark trying to decipher these dreams.
Blair was good at subconscious symbolism, though it was tricky to uncover all these layers, and he was never sure whether he managed to do it right. Sometimes these symbols were pretty straightforward and other times - not.
Blair stared at the dark ceiling unseeingly. The green and scent indicated woods.
He didn't like woods.
He didn't know why he always felt so claustrophobic there.
Not that he didn't like trees, or flowers, or the green color. On the contrary, he was the original tree-hugger. However, it was something entirely different when he found himself surrounded by a big number of trees. He found it intimidating. Like he was being observed or judged.
But none the less intimidating.
He closed his eyes and tried to lure sleep back.
Blair woke up abruptly.
He opened his eyes. The grayish light filtered in through the half-closed curtains.
Blair didn't know why on earth, he dreamed their first meeting this time. Unlike the previous dream, it was so clear.
He was quite unfortunate that time - on top of his usual allergies he'd gotten in a fight with the other student over some rights movement. Rather unsuccessful fight. Blair suffered bleeding nose, cracked ribs, dizziness, intense headache and quite low blood pressure. He had to come to the hospital that time because he quite literally couldn't lift a head from his pillow without being sick.
There was a constant shouting from the ward down. It gave Blair headache upon headache, and finally he just had to crawl from his room to the other to find out what's going on.
There were doctor, two nurses, a big black man with the air of authority about him. They stayed around the bed. Blair didn't see who was on the bed; he only heard almost inhuman keening sounds.
'Can't you do something about it?' Four pairs of eyes turned to him and Blair felt his headache spiked for a second, but then something settled - headache went down and this awful keening sound from the bed became less intense.
Blair was somehow uncertain what happened next. There was flurried of activity, and he found himself being moved to the other ward and there was that man in the bed next to him - big, buff, very pale, his forehead marred with deep wrinkles and mouth drawn to a thin stressed line.
There was something off about him.
This morning three days ago when Blair woke up in the dark to the painfully familiar keening sound from the Jim's side of the bed was like reliving that experience of seven years ago. Blair felt there was something he had to remember, something similar...
He was out of his wit.
Blair sat beside Jim's bed motionless. He was thinking. He went through all the events of the last two weeks - the same comfortable routine of planning, packing, driving... Nothing's out of ordinary.
They decided to take a trip down here from Montreal; they liked to travel every fall to new and untrodden places, and after five years Cascade seemed quite new to them both.
Jim was excited. He wanted to visit Steven and nephews he was yet to see; he hasn't seen any of the fellow detectives in a long time; even city itself... Blair wasn't sure what he felt about it. They (and he thought of it as a relatively broad definition) didn't part on good terms.
Seven years ago, Blair was ready to fuck out of here for good. He didn't even care much where. Somewhere warmer, friendlier, opener... And look where he landed in the end - one can't exactly call Montreal a 'weather friendly', though it fulfilled other expectations. The only thing he still was grateful for of Cascade, other than education, was meeting Jim.
Seven years ago, Blair's life turned upside down in more ways than he could imagine before. Five years ago, he found home. And now he knew he had to face his old demons to find soul's equanimity at last.
Seven years ago, Simon Banks saw Blair a godsend when Jim began to regain his human composure around the younger man. He welcomed their friendship to the point he allowed Blair to come to the precinct to help Jim.
No one knew what was happening with him, Blair tried to look into it then, but he was so busy with his doctoral at that point that he just took into account that Jim was better when he was around and Blair himself felt better being around Jim. He noticed at some point that his allergies almost didn't bother him anymore.
They were good together.
Until they became too attached. They began to finish each other sentences; they knew what to order for one another; they went to double-dates and had a lot more fun together observing other people, than their dates. Jim even gave Blair the keys from his loft and allowed him to crush in the spare room any time.
Naturally, it was Simon, who first saw in it something that wasn't supposed to be. He began with some offhand remarks about Blair. Jim wasn't thrilled, and Simon shut up for some time. He regained this attitude when he found Blair sleeping with his head on Jim's tight during one stakeout.
Jim and Simon had some heated arguments. And then some more. And then Simon used this word for the first time.
'You turned queer on me? Don't tell me you...'
Jim looked at Simon with dark unreadable eyes, turned and left precinct.
Neither Simon nor Blair knew what did he do for the reminder of the day, nobody hadn't been able to find him nor call him, as his phone was switched off. Blair began to worry when Jim came to his tiny rented room and told him to pack his things.
'What for? Jim, you're scaring me a bit here.' Blair looked up at his friend from his chair - Jim looked big, scary even, but he smiled this tiny shy smile, and Blair couldn't do any better than to smile back.
'I just thought that I have that room with your name on it, and it will be easier for you to live there and not pay for this hell-hole, seeing as we spend almost whole days together anyway.'
Blair nodded thoughtfully, and the question was closed.
He moved in with Jim, but it was another half year before they looked at each other with the eyes of something more than mere friendship. It was so natural transition; they almost didn't realize it themselves - smooth constant movement from health co-dependency to genuine love.
Simon didn't like it. He made it known to both of them to the point that Blair began to feel not welcomed in the precinct anymore, though, in fact it was mostly Simon and not fellow detectives, who had a problem with their relationship. They didn't flaunt it in people's faces. Very few people even know they lived in the same apartment.
And then Blair had his doctorate in anthropology.
The first job offer was from Canada, University of Montreal of all - one of Blair's professors worked there and suggested his name to the department. Jim said, 'We go.'
'I don't like it here anymore. I'd rather be kept man with you somewhere friendly.' He smiled crookedly at Blair's bewildered expression, and the chapter of their lives in Cascade was closed. Jim gave his notification to the precinct and for the next five years they didn't exchange a word with Simon.
Blair still remembered where to find detectives from the squad at the lunch time. They were steady in their habits.
There were Simon, Rafe and Megan at the table, a couple of the unknown faces. Blair spied Brown at the bar talking to some woman. He made his way to the group.
They stopped talking and looked at him a bit puzzled.
'Oh my God, Blair!' Megan was the first to recognize him. 'You... Blair, you've changed!'
He changed indeed. He cut his hair to more Jim-like almost buzz-cut; he filled out after all this jogging and hiking with Jim; he could afford clothes better than from the thrift shop - Blair knew he looks like professor nowadays. He actually liked to look good for Jim. Not that they both paid too much attention to it.
'Blair.' Simon's gaze was unexpectedly warm and hand-shake firm and unwavering. 'Good to see you. What brought you here? Anthropology conference at the University?'
To say that Blair was surprised would be an understatement. 'Yes... I didn't... Actually yes. I'm presenting my new book tomorrow, though I didn't have much time to catch with the conference.' He hesitated. 'Jim turned sick on me and landed at the hospital...'
'Oh, my!' Megan put a hand over her mouth.
'What happened?' Simon rose from his seat and brought the chair for Blair to sit with them. 'Do you need help? Where he is? What happened?'
'I don't know.' Blair almost collapsed on the chair, feeling as tension leaked out for the first time since last week. 'It's the same as the time we've met...'
Simon shook his head. 'Damn. What happened?'
'I don't know, right!' Blair felt like struggling twenty-six TA with uncertain future all over again. 'We came here from Montreal; we had some time and went by car, spent a day in the Olympia national Park hiking. It was as usual... And the first night here I woke to that awful sound... You remember, Simon.'
Blair closed his eyes and felt big calloused hand closed over his.
'It was the first time since...'
Blair felt as Simon squeezed his hand tight and saw it as an unspoken apology. He knew it would be hard for Simon actually to say the words; he was that type of men who was terrible in expressing his feelings while being ashamed of something. However, his gesture told it all - he wasn't afraid of them being different; he'd just been confused at that time and didn't share friends well... or something like that. And Blair was grateful for this support - a day short, dollar cheap, but still...
'We'll think of something...'
'I feel so desperate... Can't even research as a qualified scientist I supposed to be - just keep looking into dozen different themes at once and...'
Blair shrugged helplessly. He was sitting across Simon in his new big 'Chief of the Central Precinct' office and watched as an old friend emptied cardboard box labeled "Notes '90 - '95" and methodically scanned one notepad after another looking for God knows what.
Blair got up and wandered around the room absently touching photos on the walls and books on the shelves. He felt strange need to justify himself, to tell Simon he wasn't usually this bad in finding answers. Only the one thought that's on his mind right now was 'why is that we never talked with Jim about it, about this strange state he went into on that case that he ended up in the hospital'.
They talked about Jim's military experience and Blair's journeys; about their habits and passions; expectations and interests; about their triumphs and failures; favorite food and music, books and sports; friends, families, teachers and lovers...
They never once talked about their first meeting.
At first, it was because no one wanted to trigger something unknown while Jim was recovering. Then they wanted to put some distance between everyday life and painful memories. After that they just never returned to that experience.
Blair sighed. Some scientist he turned out to be, he supposed to take an interest in anything inexplicable.
Some noise from behind turned his attention back to Simon.
'I'm not sure...' Simon beckoned Blair closer. 'Take a look.'
Blair found himself looking at three standard issued police notepads filled with Simon's small handwriting. 'What am I looking for?'
'These are my notes from Jim's cases.' Simon gestured towards the other notebooks in the box. 'I always took my own notes on every case, to have my finger on the pulse, so to say. There are some side notes apart from regular ones on these cases. Two from 1990 and the third one not long before you've met him.'
Simon nodded Blair to read marked parts.
The notes weren't revealing.
'Jim complains about his eyes, problems with sight.' A week later, 'Jim has problems with his sight and hearing.' Simon's thoughts in brackets, 'Ear infection?'
Two months later. 'Jim has problems with hearing and smell.' Simon's reaction - 'Odd'.
Blair returned earlier. It was fascinating. One or two words - 'Jim went on a stakeout third night in a raw alone' - and Blair saw a picture before his eyes, and it all made up a bigger picture.
'Look, Simon...' Blair silently prized himself for quick thinking - it became clearer and clearer what caused sensory spikes... 'Damn, Jim was almost in solitude on the way here. I had to put down notes for my presentation, so we talked very little and Jim was by himself. And then - hiking, and woods, and nobody else around. And the first day here...'
Blair shook his head in frustration. No! It was wrong somehow - all these only explained 'when', not 'whys'. It was clear that all these sensory spikes were caused by some sort of isolation - the longer the severe spikes were. But 'why'?!
'The first day here I went to the library, and Jim went to the place he used to play at when he was a kid. Park or...'
Simon nodded. 'I know the place. But, why...?'
'Yes! Why?' Blair put down the notes and rubbed his forehead. There was something familiar in all this; he just couldn't put a finger...
'How are you, sunshine?' Blair bent over Jim to hear clearer.
'Better, a lil' bit...' Jim slurred a little and his breath was still labored, but he did look better - not so pale anymore and stressed lines not so deep. 'Did you go out?' There was uncertainty in his words and Blair nodded vigorously.
'I was out of my mind yesterday and went to see Simon and guys. Is it... okay?' Blair was worried what Jim would think of it, but his lover smiled faintly.
'That's good. Why did you go to him?'
'I thought he might think of something I don't remember or know from those days. He went through his notes, and we found a pattern, strange one, but definitely a good reason..., there still this other question...' Blair finished seeing as Jim's breathe evened and he fell asleep. He sat by the bed going through all they discovered. Something was definitely missing...
Blair woke up abruptly. He heart was pounding.
He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply, trying to settle down.
It was a strange sensation... he was still hearing that eerie voice from his dream, 'Open your inner eye, guide. Your sentinel needs you...' and something about destiny and spirit...
Blair shook his head. He still felt somebody's stare at his back, quite unpleasant sensation, the one he never liked - the one reason why he never liked his 'forest dreams', in particular.
Blair cautiously looked around, but the room was mostly gray in pre-dawn light. Grey and empty, except for Jim sleeping soundly in his bed.
Blair touched his hand lightly. Jim smiled suddenly and exhaled almost inaudible, but comforting 'Chief'.
Blair closed his eyes again. As much as he didn't want to see this 'forest dream' there was something vaguely familiar in it. It reminded him of his year in the retreat in Peru that his mom took him with her to. Strange year full of talks with old women about spirits and dream walks and guiding people...
It was too long ago to remember details, but in his dream, he was sure he almost remembered...
... The green around was lighter and somehow friendlier. Sun rays filtered through dense foliage and cast warm spots on the ground. This time Blair was ready, and as soon as he felt that stare on his back he turned sharply around.
He saw the eyes across the clearing first. It was difficult to make out the figure as it was painted with lines and circles and blended with the vegetation. They watched each other vary for some time and then the other one stepped out.
It was tall man with light skin and military air about him. He was dressed in camouflage pants and paint on his skin seemed more distracting than threatening. The most distinguished feature of his was eyes - so blue and clear, almost like...
'Hello, Chief, fancy meeting you here...' DreamJim smiled the same smile as real one. He beckoned Blair closer. He stepped forward and noticed another pair of eyes behind Jim's shoulder - black and intense and a bit scary. But this time Blair wasn't afraid; he wasn't alone, and somehow he knew that everything will make sense. This time.
This time he wasn't alone.
Seven years ago, Blair found his soul mate. Five years ago, he found lover and husband and content.
Now, he found the other half of the soul he didn't know was missing. He felt as if two hearts were beating in his chest simultaneously. He knew he would always be warm inside and never be alone again.
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