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Tire Tracks and Broken Hearts
Part 2

by Juliet Benson

(Written: 11-07-99)

"Hey Hairboy," Brown grinned at him, swatting him playfully on the shoulder.

"Jim’s in the break room."

"Thanks Henri," Blair returned the smile wearily. Moving over to Jim’s desk, he sat down in the chair and gently ran his fingers along the edge. Swallowing hard, he felt the butterflies in his stomach increase, as well as the lump in his throat. Terrific. It was doubtful he’d manage to get through his goodbye without breaking down. Plus, he wasn’t even totally sure what he was going to say. Oh yeah, he’d be real convincing.

"Hey Chief," his head shot up at the sound of Jim’s voice. He was striding toward Sandburg. "Is something wrong?" He asked, apparently noticing the accelerated heartbeat. Well, *everything* was wrong, but Blair knew that wasn’t what Jim was asking.

"I suppose you could say that. Is there someplace we can talk? Uh, in private?" Blair noticed in a detached sort of way that he was shaking, but his main focus was on what he was going to say and actually getting the words out of his mouth. Jim’s jaw clenched in concern, but he simply nodded and gestured toward Simon’s office. Simon was still in the hospital, but was due out any time. Megan had already been released and was at her apartment, resting.

Jim shut the door behind them and turned to face Sandburg, who was nervously perched on Simon’s desk.

"What’s up, Sandburg?" Jim asked, crossing his arms over his chest.

"Um…" he felt his heart speed up even faster and briefly worried about the danger in that. "Um…" ‘Just say it,’ he told himself fiercely and blurted out: "I came to say goodbye." Great. Now he was going cliché. Jim’s carefully set face didn’t move, though Sandburg might have detected a flinch in the jaw area. But then again, he didn’t have Sentinel vision.

"Why? Where are you going?"

"Well, actually, I’m not totally sure yet. But I left the rent money in an envelope on the table, and I cleaned out my junk. If you find anything I missed, toss it. Um, I cleaned up, too. I used that scented stuff you like. Aw, man! The bottle was low and I didn’t pick up another to replace it. Here." He fumbled with his wallet and pulled out a $5. He returned his wallet to his pocket with his left hand and shoved the money toward Jim with his right. Jim didn’t take it and Blair was uncomfortably aware that his shaking was in full view now. He dropped the bill on the table next to him.

"Um, OK. Well, I want to tell you none of this was your fault. And this isn’t some elaborate scheme to punish you or get back at you or anything. I just think we need to move on, you know? I mean, it’s not like I *want* to go, but I have to do the right thing, you know? And um… I don’t blame you for pushing me away again. I crawled into your skin and walked around a bit and I can see where you’re coming from. Now you just have to crawl into mine. Um, these last few years man, they’ve been terrific. I mean it. Really wonderful. I’ve never been so, um… happy or content in my whole life. I mean that. I really do. I appreciate all you’ve done for me. You’ve been unbelievable these past few years, I’ve never had anyone care for me the way you do- did. Even Naomi, she tried, you know? And I know she loves me and all, but she never watched out for me or anything like you do. She always wanted me to learn to let go, and to fend for myself because, man, it’s a tough world out there. And I hadn’t really *seen* that until I met you and started doing all this police stuff. And yet you still cared for me better than she ever did. That’s kinda twisted, huh?" Blair was in full babble mode now, but couldn’t get himself to stop. He also noticed that he wasn’t using his hands to gesture while he talked, but rather clutched the edge of the desk so hard his hands were white. Kinda like he was going to fall off.

"And… oh, the Sentinel thing. Well, you don’t need me anymore, you haven’t for a long time. I mean, you realize that. So I know you’re going to be OK.

And there’s always Simon, and now the rest of the gang. Rafe and Brown or Megan can keep an eye on you in case you zone or something, but I don’t think you will. And in case you’re going to say you didn’t mean what you said about not needing me: I don’t know, man, I think that sometimes the things we say when we’re unguarded are the things we mean the most. So you were right to say it and let me know I had to get lost. Wait, that came out wrong. Well, you know what I mean. And, um… Yeah. I think that’s it.

I’ll try to write and everything. Send postcards." He got off the desk and moved before Jim, who still hadn’t moved, hesitated, then threw his arms around him tightly. "I love you, Jim. I’m going to miss you." He pulled away and was proud of himself in a surprised way that he had managed to not cry.

Then he saw a wet spot on Jim’s shirt and realized that he *was* and somehow hadn’t noticed it, though he wasn’t sure how that was possible. Oh well, at least he hadn’t made a fool out of himself by hyperventilating or something.

He ran his arm across his face and turned toward the door. Frankly, he was expecting Jim to grab him or yell or *something*, but he reached the door without a fight. His heart fell when he figured that that must mean Jim was really relieved he was finally going, that it had just been guilt keeping Sandburg with him, but then he noticed that Jim hadn’t moved at *all*.

"Oh man, Jim! You didn’t zone, did you? Because I am *not* repeating that!" he hurried back in front of Jim. "Oh *man* Jim. OK, let’s do this…" Blair sank comfortably into his role as Guide and soon was rewarded with Jim blinking his eyes and focusing on him.

"I zoned," Jim spoke. It was the first thing he’d said since Sandburg said he was leaving.

"Yeah, you did. Are you OK? When did it happen?"

"After you left." Blair frowned in confusion for a second, before getting it.

"Very subtle, Jim," he said dryly.

"Guess I still need you," was Jim’s casual reply. However, his jaw was still clenched and he was staring at Sandburg with fierce intensity. Blair sighed.

"Jim, you *deliberately* zoned. That-"

"That means I can deliberately zone anytime," Jim cut him off. Blair’s jaw dropped.

"Is that a *threat*?" he asked in amazement.

"Blair, I need you." Just like that, straight out. Way to go, Jim. Next we’ll work on sharing crayons. "Maybe I convinced myself on the surface that I didn’t, but always, deep down, I knew that I did. And I hated that. I’ll do anything to get past this, just tell me what." Blair returned to Simon’s desk and leaned against it, hands in pockets. He sighed heavily.


"Consider what you’re losing, Chief." A pained expression crossed Blair’s face.

"I don’t have anything left here, Jim. Besides, I’m not just doing this for me, Jim, I’m doing it for you as well."

"How?" Jim replied, and the chiseled look had finally melted away, leaving his features stark. It almost scared Blair how vulnerable Jim looked just then.

"Please, give me twenty-four hours to convince you to stay. If you still want to leave-" Jim swallowed "I won’t stand in your way." Sandburg was silent for a long moment.

"All right," he whispered. He owed Jim that much. Jim’s face returned to stone, this time set in determination.

"Thank you, Blair," he cleared his throat. "Want to go out for lunch? My treat." A small smile appeared on Sandburg’s face.

"Jim, it’s after three." Jim shrugged.

"A snack, then. I could eat." Blair straightened.

"Sure, where do you want to go?" The scenario was so familiar, it embarrassingly choked Blair up. Jim looked at him carefully.

"Where do you want to go?" A bark of laughter erupted from Sandburg.

Now, *that* was unusual. He appreciated what Jim was trying to do, but he wasn’t sure if he wanted things to change, or if he wanted Jim to keep up this act, letting Blair take the reins. Jim gave him an odd look as they exited Simon’s office.

"Sorry, man," he apologized. "Just different, you know? Um, how does Skylark’s Deli sound? I have this terrible hankering for their potato salad." Jim’s face relaxed slightly into a tiny grin.

"That sounds great." They walked into the elevator.

"My car or yours?" Jim asked as they began the descent.

"Better go with yours, mine’s kinda crowded." Jim nodded and they were silent until they were on the road.

"So, why exactly are you leaving? Give me specific reasons." Jim finally said. Blair sighed- it seemed he did a lot of that lately- and tried to organize his thoughts.

"Well, mostly, I think you’re tired of me." Jim looked at him sharply.

"Why do you say that?" he asked cautiously. Blair gave a brief outline of his earlier reasons. Jim was quiet as he took in this new information.

"Well, you’re wrong, but I’m not sure how to convince you of that." was what he said when he finished processing. "Would it help if I told you that if I could have it my way, you’d stay with me until I died? Or that I was worn-out or preoccupied when I inferred to wanting you to leave, and it was simply my way of venting? Or that thinking back on it, I am amazed with what I said and or did, because I was talking about a bunch of bull? I’ll tell you these things, Blair, but you have to believe them. Because they’re true. I don’t want you to leave, and I’m not simply saying that to make you feel better." Jim pulled up in front of Skylark’s Deli and cut the engine, but instead of getting out, he turned to face Sandburg. Blair suddenly wanted this just to be over. "I didn’t betray you."

"I know."

"I didn’t mean for it to get published."

"I know."

"It hurt when you accused me of everything."

"I know." Their voices were both soft and Blair realized he was crying again.

"I have nothing."

"Don’t say that."

"I have *nothing*." Jim unfastened his seat belt, then reached over and released Blair’s.

"Don’t ever say that." He pulled Blair into his arms. Sandburg buried his face in Jim’s chest, his hands clutching the strong arms. Jim rocked him awkwardly. Blair felt something warm and wet fall next to his ear and tickle him. ‘Jim must be crying too,’ he thought, sniffling.

"Please stay," Jim asked, one of his hands rubbing the back of Blair’s neck.

He tried to remember his reasons for leaving, but couldn’t.

"Okay," he mumbled into Jim’s shirt front. The arms around him tightened.

"I’m not really hungry."

"Me either."

"Let’s go get your stuff."

"Okay." He felt Jim sigh into his hair, and then felt it shift, like Jim had rubbed his cheek or lips across his head. Then he pulled away and refastened Blair’s seat belt before his own. It would be okay, Blair speculated, looking out at the cars going by. Just not now. But soon, and with Jim’s help.

 They pulled into the police garage, next to Blair’s car.

"Follow me to the storage," he said, hopping into the Volvo. Jim nodded and smiled at him. They had gotten a few odd looks from several officers, a result of their tear-streaked faces. Blair buckled up and started up the engine.

Steve, the owner of the storage, looked a little befuddled to see Sandburg again so soon, and with red eyes and a tall, imposing partner.

"Could you help me with this one, Jim?" Blair asked, grasping one end to one of the larger boxes.

"Sure, Chief," Jim moved to the other end, and together they lifted it.

After getting it settled in the back of Jim’s truck- bigger, more room- Jim moved away to pick up another. However, something peeking out between the flaps on the top caught Blair’s eye. He hadn’t taped some of the boxes shut, too tired and in too much of a hurry, so he easily folded back the covers and pulled out To Kill A Mockingbird.

"Hey, Jim?" he called, not looking up from flipping through the pages.

Jim hefted up another box and grunted: "Yeah?"

"Have you ever read this book?" Jim looked over at the book in his hands and nodded.


"It’s a good book."

"Yeah, it is, Chief." Blair found the second quote he wanted: "I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do." He looked up and caught Jim’s eyes. They shared a smile, the first real smile Blair had had in days.

The End

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