Home > Juliet Benson > The Human Heart

The Human Heart

by Juliet Benson

Rating: PG-13, maybe R to be safe. Pretty descriptive of a gory situation.
Category: Angst, smarm
Summary: The aftermath of a grisly case. Smarm alarm and angst abound.
Disclaimer: They aren't mine. Deal.
Spoilers: None

Blair winced as one of his books fell and hit the ground with a loud thud. It just appened to fall spine up, making the pages bend and fold under its own weight. On top of this, it was an old and frail one, and that position couldn’t be good for it. A large hand reached down and scooped it up.

“Here, Chief, I’ll get those.” Blair blinked as the large stack of books he had been balancing in his arms suddenly disappeared.

“Thanks Jim, just toss ‘em in my room.” Jim nodded, but rather than tossing as Blair suggested, he set them neatly on the floor, out of the way.

“Dinner will be done in half a sec.” Jim said as he walked back to the stove and whatever he was fixing. Blair wandered next to the couch, and saw that the TV was on, and the news was being reported. He settled himself down to watch, feeling tired for some strange reason. He had spent the day at the library, trying to drown himself in the wealth of information there. He had only partially succeeded. He stared at the TV, not really seeing the news. After a while, his gaze shifted to Jim, and a small smile worked its way to his face. The bigger man was working on whatever culinary delight he had dreamt up with the intensity of a soldier going to war. Blair sighed, feeling badly for the other man. He was hurting, so there for Jim was hurting.

There would always be that one thing that got them each time. They would be going along, smooth and easy, and some pothole would disrupt them. That disturbance was usually something connected with one of Jim’s cases. And this latest one had hit Blair hard. He kept seeing that little girl every time he closed his eyes. An abusive father had gotten angry at his daughter and smashed her head into the wall. Blair had only caught a glimpse of the twisted body, but it was already tattooed in his memory. The corpse of a child stood out in stark contrast to a glaringly white background. The girl’s head had been crushed, her skull broken in pieces. There had been blood on the wall. The wall had been brick, chipped and cracking, but the blood stood out terribly. Fluid and brains had been smattered on the floor around the indented head. The father had hung himself after he had killed his daughter. He was in the same room, parallel to his child, so Blair hadn’t even been spared that sight; a blue, lifeless face, eyes glazed, blood seeping from the tight rope around his neck.

“Food’s done, Sandburg,” Blair jerked, snapping back to reality. He shook his head sharply and lifted himself off the sofa with extra effort. They seated themselves and Blair silently contemplated the man across from him. Jim had been quiet and there, a silent shadow, a gentle whisper. He understood that Blair wasn’t ready to talk yet, wasn’t ready to feel yet. After Lash it had been the same way, Blair seemingly unchanged. However, two weeks after restful nights and packed days, the gravity of the situation had sunk in. The cases, the corpses came and went, Blair slowly wearing down. The reaction time quickened, the brightness in his eyes dulled after each new body. He didn’t like what was happening, and knew Jim felt equally. But they were at an impasse, no way to go but forward, into the sea of decay and death, of mutilation and misery.

And Jim was there, was constantly there. He was so lucky, Blair speculated, to have a friend like Ellison. Little things; touches, his bed made, his favorite meals cooked, a Cadbury egg- his favorite candy- mysteriously popping up on his pillow or stack of work, these were all examples of Jim’s surprising thoughtfulness.

Blair blinked at his plate, the food was somehow gone, and Jim was grinning proudly at him. Realizing his stomach was full for the first time in days, a small smile reciprocated on his own mouth.

“There’s that old movie you like on TNT tonight,” Jim said, clearing off the table.

“Dr. Zhivago?” Blair asked, returning to his spot on the couch.

“Yeah, it should be on in a half and hour.”

“Great.” The smaller man focused on the paper, waiting for the time to be up and the movie to start. After a while he felt the cushion next to him sink down. Dropping his paper to his lap, he beheld Jim making himself comfortable, a large bowl of popcorn clutched in his hands.

“I figured it’s about time I watched it, too,” Jim explained seriously, positioning the popcorn between them. A brilliant smile covered Blair’s face and he happily turned up the volume. A third of the way into the movie, both men were absorbed, hands shoveling popped kernels to their mouths. Blair’s hand suddenly froze in the air. The girl’s arm had been twisted, reaching in an obscure position for the door… He carefully returned his handful to the bowl. The stench hung heavily in the air… His stomach twisted, and the popcorn he had just been enjoying made him feel sick. Blood soaked the man’s collar… He could feel his breathing quicken. The girl’s hair had been wet, a strand glued to her cheek

“Chief!” Blair gasped, staring wildly at Jim for a moment. His body began to shake and despair clawed at his throat.

“That kid… She was so yo… She didn’t even have a chance!” Blair reached over blindly, felt Jim’s strong arms encircling him, pulling him close.

“I know, Chief, I know.” Jim’s own voice sounded strangled and sad. Tears didn’t come, but Blair continued to shake, just holding on tightly to Jim.

He woke up some time later, the television showing an old movie.  He stared blurrily at it, trying to place his surroundings. Jim’s arm was draped over his shoulders, and he was tucked closely to the larger man’s side. He laid his head back down, cheek rubbing against the fabric of Jim’s shirt, watching Katherine Hepburn talking to Tracey Spencer. His thoughts wandered. He tilted his head back, watching Jim’s face; mouth half open, eyelashes brushing his cheeks. They were both saviors for the other. Besides saving each others lives on more than one occasion, that was. He had saved Jim from going crazy, Jim had saved him from being a wanderer. They had both been saved from being very lonely.

Jim shifted, and Blair expected the arm to drop away. It stayed. Jim yawned and said: “How are you feeling, Chief?”

“All right. It’s just… It’s hard, you know?” he replied pensively.

“Yeah, it’d be bad if it wasn’t, Blair,” Jim said matter-of-factly. Blair tilted his head back again and looked up at the solemn face above him.

“How do you deal with it?” he asked, needing to hear an answer. Jim sighed, as though he had been expecting this question.

“It sounds terrible, but I can’t let it eat away at me.”

“So you just ignore it?” Blair interrupted, wincing instantly at the accusing tone of his voice. Jim’s hand came up and rubbed the back of Blair’s head.

“I didn’t say that,” he said softly. “You can’t become complacent, but you can’t let it consume you. You just have to gather yourself and take another step.”

“That’s it?” Blair felt frustrated. He had wanted a magic formula, some carefully hidden secret that would ease this pain and these nightmares as soon as he spoke the magic words.

“The human heart wasn’t meant to deal with this stuff, Chief. There’s no easy answers. You know that.” Blair propelled himself to his feet. The warmth from Jim was instantly snatched away, leaving him cold and shivering. He wrapped his arms around himself and started pacing.

“There’s nothing I can do?” he asked plaintively. Jim didn’t answer, just stood up and pulled Blair forcefully into his arms. Blair struggled instinctively for a moment before relaxing against Jim. His arms were still hugging himself, trapped by Jim’s strong embrace. His face was buried in Jim’s chest, and he took in the other man’s scent with each breath. He was exhausted emotionally, and that feeling seeped into his physical state. Jim supported his weight, keeping him upright. He moved his head so his cheek pressed against Jim’s shirt.

“Why are you always the strong one?” he asked sadly. Jim chuckled roughly.

“I’m not, I just react differently.” Blair closed his eyes. 

“Do you think I’ll learn to react differently, too?” Jim hesitated, then said softly: “I rather hope you don’t, Chief.” Sandburg’s breathing was slowing down and he mumbled: “I’d better get to bed.” 

“Probably,” Jim agreed. “You need your sleep.” But neither one moved. Peace and a feeling of safety was ringed around them, keeping them tightly together. For the moment, their minds were eased. For Blair, it felt like his mind could finally take a break.

As though he had been pondering a difficult math problem for days and finally discovered the answer, his mind felt light with the relief from his burden. Ironic that he had rather been struggling to think of nothing. Exhausted, and secure for the first time in days, he slipped into sleep.

The End

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