inside. How stupid was this? Running away like a frightened child. He had run away from Jim, instead of to him, in a desperate attempt to keep Brackett from getting to his friend. Jim could take care of himself, but Blair wasn't so lucky. David Lash had taken him easily, and so had Zeller. Lee Brackett had no trouble at all getting to him, then using him to get to Jim. Maybe he had---No, he hadn't done the right thing. He should have called Jim. He should have told Jim what he was doing, where he was going. He'd realized that the minute the plane lifted off. But it being a supply run, that he'd had to beg a ride on, turning around because he had suddenly changed his mind wasn't something the pilot was at all willing to do.
They were coming in for a landing now, and Blair could see Katie Hathaway standing on the pier. She must be waiting for supplies, as there was no way she could have known he was on the plane. They landed, and Katie saw him and smiled. Blair realized she didn't look as surprised as he would have thought. He thanked the pilot as he climbed out, and saw him nod in reply.
"Hey there." Katie approached, squinting against the wind from the plane's rotor as it powered back up and pulled away from the long dock. She reached out and hugged Blair warmly. "He said you'd be here about this time."
Blair returned the embrace, then pulled back, puzzled. "He?" Sudden alarm ran through his veins, but before he could say anymore, she smiled and replied.
"Jim. He called an hour ago, said you were on your way here and to hold onto you."
Blair took a step back, glancing quickly around the dock they stood on. "You're sure it was Jim?" How could he have found out so quickly? Blair hadn't made any phone calls, and the pilot didn't even know him. He intended to phone as soon as he landed, explain to Jim where he was, and apologize for running off like that.
"Yes." Katie nodded, then reached out and took Blair by the arm. "Come inside, it's cold out here." She pulled his arm and he relented, following her up the dock towards the research station. "He called, said you had just taken off, and that he figured you were coming out here." They reached the steps and started up. Blair's eyes kept darting around. "He said something had happened, but he wouldn't say what."
Blair reached out and opened the door for her, then followed her inside. "Any students here?"
"No, just Clive and me right now. You want some coffee?" She walked to the kitchen and Blair followed.
His hands were shaking again, as the realization of what he had done, and where he was, sank in. God, Jim was going to kill him. "Did you say Jim was on his way here?" Blair reached out for a chair and sat down, hoping the shaking would stop.
"Yes, he's about an hour behind you." Katie flipped on the coffee pot and turned to face him. "So, to what do we owe this unexpected visit?"
Blair sighed, closing his eyes as he rubbed his forehead. How was he supposed to explain this? He hadn't been able to tell anyone, other than Jim and those who knew at the station, about Lee Brackett. He hadn't been able to tell anyone about David Lash, or more recently, his exposure to the drug Golden, and its resultant episode in the police garage, with Jim's gun. Not even Naomi knew.
"I just had to get away, that's all. It's been a stressful week."
Katie just looked at him, with the same look in her eyes that Jim had when he knew Blair was lying. "Just had to get away? So quickly, you didn't even pack a coat?"
Blair raised his eyebrows and looked around the room sheepishly. "Yeah, well, I was in a bit of a hurry." To put it mildly. "Is Clive around?"
Katie sighed and shook her head. "Okay, be that way." She reached around and retrieved two cups from the pegs behind the sink. "Clive's upstairs." She poured the coffee, put milk in hers, then handed the other to Blair. "Come on up."
Blair accepted the cup and stood, feeling like a child as he followed her up the circular stairs to the observation and research area on the upper level. He was grateful there were no students at the station, but also extremely embarrassed that he had run out there, to the tiny, secluded island. Jim was going to skin him alive, and rightfully so. The fact that he had run with his partner's safety in mind, wasn't going to help his case any. How many times had Jim said they needed to stay together to work against Brackett? But then, how many times had Jim said the trial would go without a hitch? No, that wasn't fair. Blair reached the top of the stairs and ran a hand through his hair. Blaming Jim wasn't going to get him anywhere, and it wasn't his fault. Not really. But Blair had to blame someone...he had to.
"Well, look what the cat dragged in." Clive was seated behind his desk, ever-present pipe in hand, watching Katie and Blair approach.
"Hey." Blair forced a smile as he came closer. "I'm sorry to drop in on you two like this, without calling or anything. I just needed..." He faltered.
"To get away for a bit?" Clive volunteered.
Blair nodded, raising his eyebrows and glancing around. "Yeah, something like that." He sat down on the couch facing Clive's desk and gazed out the window behind him. Katie had stepped around behind her husband and rested both hands on his shoulders, smiling patiently at Blair.
"Anything you need to talk about?" Clive asked, striking a match to re-lite his pipe.
Blair shook his head, pursing his lips in a negative. "Just got a little stressful in the city, needed a break."
Clive nodded knowingly as he held the match to the tobacco, pulling in air. When he was finished, he sat back in his chair and Katie began to massage his shoulders gently. "Just a little stressful? Is that why your friend called in such a panic, and caught the first flight out here he could? And why he asked us to keep an eye on you till he came?"
Blair felt his face flush, first with shame, then some anger mixed in. What did he think, that Blair was unable to take care of himself? Could he not just take off when he needed to....No, no that's not what this was about. Anger gave way to fear, and the gut-wrenching terror he had felt, which sent him running in the first place.
"Listen, Blair." Katie had moved out from behind her husband and was now sitting beside him on the couch, touching his arm gently. "I'm flattered you came here when you felt you had to get away from everything, both of us are. But it's obvious something is wrong, very wrong. You must have come up here for a reason."
Blair just nodded slightly, staring into his coffee. He couldn't tell her what really happened. He couldn't tell her he had just panicked like a child and run to the only place he felt he could hide. Instead of running to someone who could help, he'd run away. "I just...I just can't talk about it, not yet. Okay?" He looked up at her, with an expression designed to convey the right feelings. God, this wasn't fair, to Jim or to them. Coming up here, to hide, and not telling Katie or even Clive just why he was there. Just drop in, unannounced, then clam up and expect them to let you hang out with no explanations, no word, no nothing.
"Okay," Katie replied. "Listen, it's close to dinner, and we've got one guest here and one more on the way. I'd better get downstairs."
"Hey, don't go to any trouble, really. I just..." Blair stopped again, aware that he was stumbling over a simple apology.
"Relax, Blair. We're used to company out here, remember?" Katie patted his arm again, then stood and smiled at Clive before walking back to the stairs.
Blair sighed deeply, trying to force back the moisture forming behind his eyes. Clive was still sitting behind his desk, puffing away, and watching him with a practiced eye. Blair set his now empty cup down and leaned back on the couch, resting his head against the cushion.
"One of those days, huh?" Clive asked quietly.
Blair laughed shortly, not lifting his head. "Yeah, you could say that."
Clive nodded, puffing on his pipe as he did. After a minute passed, he removed the pipe and examined a fingernail. "Your friend was very worried when he called. Having gotten to know him when you two were up, I didn't think him to be the panicking type."
Blair kept his head back. "He's not."
Clive nodded again, switching his attention to another fingernail. "So, does he have reason to panic now?"
Blair rolled his eyes, but didn't lift his head. There were beams crossing the ceiling, and he followed one until he found a nail to stare at. "I don't know." The nail was no longer fascinating, so he searched for something else. "More reason to be mad, than anything, I think."
"Because you came out here? Or because maybe you came out here without telling anyone, and he didn't know where to find you?"
Blair looked up then, gazing at Clive who was again sucking air through his pipe. "What did he tell you?" Clive had a way of making you forget you didn't want to talk, and Blair was just beginning to recall that quirk of his. Did they both know what had brought him here? Had Jim explained it?
Clive puffed again, then slowly pulled the pipe from his mouth and leaned back in his chair, making it rock slightly as he held the pipe in front of his face. "I find I can learn more from what a person doesn't say, than what he does. Don't you find that to be true?"
Blair closed his eyes, feeling once again the fool. There he was, trying to hide his turmoil from a man whose entire life's work was devoted to research and discovery. As was Blair's. As was Jim's. He slowly reached up a hand to rub his tired eyes, realizing just then that he had come all the way out there, spur of the moment, without even a toothbrush or change of underwear. What was he thinking? The entire trip there, he'd had plenty of time to regret his rash action, and plan his explanation after calling Jim. But upon arriving, and learning Jim was on his way out there even as he landed, his mind had begun to rationalize his actions all over again. But he knew, deep down inside, he knew what he had done was not only stupid, but dangerous, for both of them. Jim was going to be pissed. God, all those lectures about sticking together, being partners, watching each other's backs. And he had just tossed it all out the emotional window after hearing the news. Hadn't stopped to think maybe, just maybe, Jim was on top of it. And no doubt that had been Jim, or Simon, on the phone when he'd freaked out and rushed out of the office.
"Well, looks like you're going to have to face the music." Clive's voice startled Blair from his thoughts. "The boat's pulling up."
Boat? Wasn't Jim flying out? Oh God! Blair jumped to his feet and hurried to the windows that overlooked the pier. There was a small boat pulling up, with a driver and one passenger, but from that distance, Blair couldn't make out any faces. Oh God---Oh God, what if he'd followed him? What if Lee Brackett had followed him out there? He'd just brought danger to his friends by running out...
"Yep, that's him."
Blair looked again at the figure Clive was watching walk up the pier. The boat was pulling out now, and only one man remained. Jim. Blair couldn't see his face, but he knew...he knew it was Jim, and not Brackett. He breathed a sigh of relief, and the instant that breath expired, he knew he was in for it.
"I'd better go talk to him, before he gets up here." Blair didn't want to add that he'd rather his partner chewed him a new orifice outside of Clive or Katie's range. He walked to the stairs, descended, finding Katie in the kitchen, and walked towards the door. If he'd judged right, Jim should still be on the landing, coming up the stairs that led from the dock to the outer deck of the research center. He opened the door, took in a deep breath as much against the cold in the air as the cold he expected to be blasted with, and walked outside.
Jim was halfway up, taking the steps two at a time, as his longer legs allowed. When Blair stepped to the top of the landing, Jim paused, looking up at him. He could see relief visibly cross his partner's face and body as he saw Blair standing there. Blair was ready with his explanation when he opened the door, but now, seeing Jim, he couldn't start.
"Are you all right?" Jim asked, still standing on the steps, looking up.
"Jim, I'm sorry, man. I wasn't thinking. I just..." Blair stopped and Jim shook his head, glancing out across the bay that stretched out beside him.
"Are Clive and Katie here?" Jim turned and continued up the steps, one at a time now.
"Yes, they're here." Blair waited until Jim was on the landing, level with him. "Jim, I'm sorry...really." He started to reach out and touch Jim's arm, hoping it was the right time to do that, but then changed his mind. These serious times were just too much. Adding the physical part that he still had trouble with wasn't going to help.
Jim wasn't looking at him. He had at first, on the stairs, but now, as they both stood side by side on the landing, Jim was looking everywhere but at Blair. "We'll talk about it. Right now, I'm cold, and I have to call Simon." At that, Jim looked down, meeting Blair's eyes with his own ice-blue ones. "Mike's been at the loft, waiting for you to show up. Simon's been at the Station, thinking you'd go there. Randall and Stevens are monitoring Brackett's every move." He kept looking at Blair. Looking right into him. "I've had half of Cascade PD looking for you, Sandburg. If I hadn't spotted you in that seaplane, they'd still be out there."
Blair looked down at the deck, unable to say a word. He knew he was wrong. He knew he'd been stupid to run like that, and he knew Jim had every right to be pissed off. But, he also knew saying it would do him no good right now. "Jim, I..."
"We'll talk about it." Jim turned and walked to the door, slinging his pack over one shoulder. Blair remained where he was, on the deck, leaning against the railing. He watched Jim enter the building and close the door as Katie called out a greeting.
Blair turned around and faced the bay. The sun was just beginning to lower itself, casting a warm, blue-grey hue over everything it touched. The sky was clouded, and it was still chilly at night. Blair could feel the damp coldness creeping in, mixing with the ice in his gut. He just stood there, leaning both elbows on the railing, watching the waves, willing the cry of seagulls overhead to become the most important thing that was happening right now. He wanted to lose himself, to toss a piece of his mind, his emotions, right out to sea. If he could just rewind back several hours, back to him sitting in his office, eagerly scribbling notes and contemplating his tests, then he could re-evaluate his reaction to the news. He could calmly ingest what was being said, absorb it, then reach over for the phone, call Jim, and find out what was happening, and what he should do. How hard was that? How hard would it have been to react in a normal, well-trained manner, and follow Jim's lead? Why did he have to be so rash? Jim was probably disappointed in him. Simon had to be mad at him. And half the Cascade PD was most likely having a great time with this one. But he didn't care about them. The only person he cared about not failing, had just begun to give him hell for being such an idiot. There was more to come, he knew. Jim had a way of quietly making his point, and the quieter he was, the angrier he had become.
By the time Katie opened the
door and announced quietly that dinner was ready, Blair was uncaringly shivering
from the cold evening air. He hurried inside, only then realizing how cold he
had become, and walked to the table that had been set at the far corner of the
dining area. With no students to clutter the station, Katie and Clive enjoyed
a more intimate atmosphere, with a small, round table nestle up against a row
of windows that looked out over the rocky ground of their small island. When Blair
approached the table, Clive and Jim were laughing about something. At least
Jim's anger wasn't spilling over. And it never did. One of the things that
fascinated Blair about his partner was the man's ability to contain his emotions
and direct them only to the person they involved. And right now, they seemed only
to involve Blair.
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