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No Sexual Situations
No Violence


A Halloween story.

With thanks and apologies to Pet Fly and Van Morrison, and proceeding under the assumption that forgiveness is easier to ask than permission....

We were born before the wind
Also younger than the sun
Ere the bonnie boat was won
As we sailed into the mystic
Hark, now hear the sailors cry
Smell the sea and feel the sky
Let your soul and spirit fly into the mystic

INTO THE MYSTIC ~ Van Morrison


It was well past midnight when Jim turned onto Prospect from Lake and began looking for a parking place.  He blinked bleary eyes in a vain attempt to clear them; his Sentinel senses were not serving him well tonight.

Exhaustion was the reason.  Halloween was bad enough for the city's peacekeepers, what with the general mayhem of trick-or-treating and pranks, those benign and those less so, not to mention the outright vandalism that the latter too often turned into.  Add an unseasonably wintry night, with high winds and a nasty mix of rain and sleet which had helped discourage the late-night trouble-makers but had caused a series of serious accidents, and a flu bug that had made serious inroads in the ranks of the CPD over the past week, and Jim had ended up enduring a long and wearying shift that had stretched to almost twelve hours.

As he nosed the truck into a parking place, a slight squeal made him wince.  The power steering fluid was getting low.  Jim frowned; he'd have to spend tomorrow taking care of that.  He cut the engine and sat still for a moment as the engine shut down, listening for small noises that might give clues to other problems.  Yes ... a slight tick in a rocker arm.  Nothing he could do himself; he'd have to get the truck into Roger in the motor pool for an expert fix on Monday.  There ... something else ... a low hiss that indicated a seal going bad on the water pump.  He could do that, and it wouldn't be a bad idea to check all the other hoses and seals while he was about it.  Time to winterize the truck anyway. 

Jim shrugged, slid from the driver's seat and locked the door.  Tomorrow was a Saturday, and he'd take care of it then.  After he'd had his fill of sleeping in.  He stretched, flexed the muscles in his back and belly, and popped the joints in his elbows and the back of his neck.  Head tilted back, he caught a hot sweet scent from the balcony; a jack-o-lantern that his roommate had placed there, its candle had long since burned out into darkness.  But there was still a flicker of candlelight dancing on the wet bricks of the balcony walls.  Candles burning inside his loft.

Jim frowned again.  Blair.  The other reason he'd had such a tough day.  Jim had pulled this shift alone because Blair had succumbed to the flu, along with Megan and Rafe.  It had segued into bronchitis, and then flirted briefly with pneumonia, thanks to the early advent of another chill, damp winter and Blair's sensitive lungs. 

But Sandburg had taken the prescribed antibiotics in a tractable manner, acquiesced without argument to staying home, agreed without a hint of reluctance to long hot baths and long hours of sleep in the blanket-layered futon.  And that bothered Jim.  Because the tractability, the acquiescence, the agreeability were not the normal nature of his friend.  And yet they had defined Blair's daily intercourse with Jim all summer and fall ... all through the young man's retreat from academia, his struggle through the Police Academy, his first tentative weeks as Jim's official partner.

Still, things had been good, on the surface.  Their working relationship was, as it had always been, natural and instinctive and productive.  But Jim had noticed the difference in Blair, and worried about it  And when he thought he understood the why of it, he'd mourned.


Inside the loft candlelight danced wildly on the walls, and Jim had to turn away for a moment and adjust his hurting eyes to the shifting intensities of light in motion.  He hung up his jacket and dropped his keys in the basket, where they met Blair's with a quiet clink, and scanned the room with pained vision. 

There.  On the floor in front of the coffee table, where a semi-circle of dying votives guttered in their glass chimneys.  A dark heap of flannel shirt, gray sweat pants, mismatched and tattered socks, and a bird's-nest tangle of hair.  And uneven, strangled snoring.

"Blair."  The name whispered from his lips, loaded with soft sadness, and Jim took a deep breath of wax-scented air and shook his head.  He rounded the couch and leaned over to blow out the candles, one by one, then reached down and curled his fingers around one cotton-covered arm.  He inhaled sharply at the heat, and moved his hand to Blair's forehead, and cursed softly.  The fever that had been almost gone was back, burning bright and hot and dewing the pale skin with unhealthy damp. 

"Come on, van Winkle," Jim said softly, both hands stretched down now, finding purchase on the limp body and pulling it up and into the curve of his own.  "Come on, Blair," he urged.


Jim gathered the sick man into his embrace and held him.  Mom.  So that's what this is about.

"Just me, Chief," he answered, "just me.  Come on, let's get you to bed."

"Mom...."  Blair stirred and coughed roughly, clearly still lost in fevered half-sleep.

"Got you, kid," Jim reassured him.  He tightened his arms around Blair until the coughing stopped, then straightened and brought Blair up with him.  Carefully he walked the somnolent body around the couch and toward the small room underneath his own, and lowered him into the rumpled bed.  With gentle hands he settled Blair into the nest of his futon, shaping pillows and smoothing and tucking blankets and sheets around the shivering body.  A quick trip to the bathroom and Jim returned with a glass of water and a handful of pills, which he set on the small nightstand before dropping to his knees beside the bed.

"Blair, wake up," he said, laying one hand on the stubbled, feverish cheek.  "Meds ... gotta take 'em, buddy.  Wake up for me, Chief."


"That's it."  Jim poured a little of the water from the glass onto a washcloth that had been abandoned in a bowl on the nightstand, and ran the cloth gently over Blair's face.  "Come on, wake up."


"No, buddy.  Jim," he repeated patiently.

"Jim?"  The disappointment in Blair's voice was clear, but Jim pushed the hurt aside.

"Right here.  Time for your pills."

"Ah ... no...."

"No arguments.  Here you go."  The washcloth was replaced in its bowl, and one big hand slid behind Blair's head, lifting it slightly, while the other held three pills to Blair's lips.  "Open up."

Obediently, Blair did, and Jim slipped the pills into his mouth and quickly brought the water to his lips.  Blair drank, choked, coughed, and drank some more, and then sighed in exhaustion, his head falling back heavily into the cradle of Jim's hand. 

"Good job, babe," Jim murmured, and caught himself ... but Blair seemed not to have noticed the endearment.  "Time to get some sleep."

"No."   Blue eyes blinked furiously, and stared glassily up at him.  "Time?  What time is it?"

"Nighttime.  Go to sleep."

"What time is it?" Blair demanded, one hand curled tightly around Jim's wrist.

Puzzled, Jim covered the hand with his own, patting it reassuringly.  He glanced out through the open French doors into the kitchen, where the red numbers of the clock on the stove console glowed in the dark.  "A little past midnight."

"Nooo...."  Blair slumped back into his pillow, and Jim was pained to see that he was blinking now not to stay awake, but to hold back tears. 

"What is it?" he asked.  "What's wrong?"

"Missed her," Blair murmured sadly.  "Missed her.  Missed my mom."

Jim touched his hand to Blair's forehead, testing the fever.  Not that high.  Blair should remember....

"Go to sleep, Chief," Jim whispered helplessly.

"She said she'd come, if she could," Blair mumbled, sounding child-like in his sorrow.  "Tonight ... tonight ... I promised her I'd wait up...."

And suddenly, Jim understood.

"It's all right," Jim said softly, desperate to offer some sort of solace.  "I'm sure she was here, Chief.  I'm sure she understands."  His hand moved over Blair's cheek, stroking the hot skin, seeking to ease the sadness as he hoped the medicine would ease the fever.

But Blair remained restless beneath the blankets, lost in a twilight world of illness and sorrow.  "She was all I had."

"You have me," Jim said, knowing how often in the past it had been a lie, but saying the words anyway.  "You'll always have me."

"No...."  The soft voice trailed off, the breathing settled into a slow and steady rhythm, and Jim knew that Blair had slipped off into sleep.  Gently he settled Blair beneath the sheet and blankets, then stood and flicked off the light.


The scent of candles still lingered, faintly aromatic, in the living room.  Jim banished it by twisting the cap off of his beer and inhaling deeply.  He'd always loved that scent; spicy, summery, sweet, a lift to a good mood and a comfort in a bad one.  He drank, and let the fragrance turn to flavor, seeking that lift, and that comfort.  But neither could be found in the fragrant taste of fermented hops.

The smell of burning candles was too strong, and so were memories, and realizations.

Blair had received the phone call that spring, only a few weeks after Naomi had left Cascade; a friend, telling him that Naomi was gone.  Jim, unsure of what to say to comfort his friend in the face such a grievous loss when they had yet to make peace over the last one, had been supportive but quiet.  Blair had said little himself, and nothing at all later, when the boxes holding Naomi's things arrived.  Silently he'd carried them down into the basement, unopened, and placed them side-by-side with the boxes holding his academic career in their tightly sealed confines.  There had been no grieving, at least no overt signs of it.  Or perhaps Blair had grieved, Jim thought, as he had grieved the other losses he'd faced in this ruined year ... by withdrawing into himself, leaving behind the agreeable, tractable Blair to deal with the world. 

But tonight was Halloween.  Samhain, to Naomi.  The night when the walls between the worlds grow thin, Blair had explained to him once, years ago.  The night when the dead return to say their goodbyes.  And Blair had clearly been waiting up, hoping to say farewell to Naomi, dead now for almost ten months.  Jim didn't know how much Blair believed of the old Pagan traditions Naomi had honored.  He'd never inquired too closely about his guide's personal philosophies, although he'd intuited much from Blair's musings, shared or overheard, on stakeouts and around campfires and in hospital rooms.  Jim's own brief flirtations with the unworldly left him fearful, not comforted, and he'd never reconsidered his refusal of Blair's one-time invitation to explore the mystical. 

Blair had never invited him again, and looking back, Jim wondered if Blair's withdrawal had begun then, with that refusal, even before the disastrous events of Sierra Verde and all that followed.  He still did not know what Blair believed, or how deeply he embraced that world Jim had declined to explore with him.  Jim didn't think that Blair had really expected Naomi's ghost, but perhaps he'd been waiting all these months to make his peace with Naomi simply by keeping the night in the traditions Naomi had honored.

Whatever closure Blair had hoped for, though, he'd lost it now ... lost it to illness and exhaustion.  The unfairness of it tightened Jim's throat.  And the knowledge that Blair now felt truly alone was worse.  That disconsolate whisper before Blair fell into uneasy sleep had told Jim a bitter truth that he'd long suspected.  He swallowed hard, and the aftertaste of his beer was as bitter as that truth. 

Jim got to his feet and went into the kitchen.  He poured the rest of the bottle down the drain and left it on the sink, then went about the loft in the dark, checking the door and the windows, and pausing for a moment next to Blair's room.  He listened carefully.  Blair's breathing was still ragged, his body still moved fitfully, but he was sleeping, at least.  Jim turned away and headed up the stairs for bed.


He didn't know what disturbed his own sleep, but the scent of burning candles was so strong that Jim woke completely and immediately and peered over the railing.  And could not quite believe what he saw.

All the candles on the table were burning.  The same candles that he himself had blown out only ... he glanced at the clock ... only an hour ago.

Jim swung his legs over the side of his bed and was downstairs within moments, standing over the table, staring at the impossible.  The candles burned steadily, evenly, even though two of the small glass holders were empty of wax.  Refusing to believe the unbelievable, Jim bent over and blew them out. 

They guttered, smoked, and died beneath his breath.  And then flared up and burned again.

Jim blinked.  He reached out one hand and felt the heat of the tiny flames.  No illusion. 

And then he smelled the sage.

He was taken suddenly by melancholy, and stood rooted in place and let the feeling wrench through him with an almost physical pain.  Other emotions followed ... regret, and bereavement, and an unbearable loneliness.  Jim moved without conscious thought until he stood at Blair's door.  The darkness seemed even darker where his friend lay, and a feeling of loss infused Jim's heart and brought tears to his eyes, and he went to his knees with the weight of it.

I'm sorry, I'm sorry, whispered through his head, and vaguely Jim recognized that the words were in a voice not his own ... and yet they mirrored his own thoughts, his own emotions. 

Forgive, forgive....

"Yes, please...." he said aloud. 

I love you....

"I love...."

Take care....

"I will," Jim said, suddenly knowing, suddenly sure.  "I will, Naomi.  I promise."

The scent of sage was overpowering, and Jim inhaled deeply of it, and brought comfort and peace and love into himself with the fragrance.  He smiled in the darkness, and remained by the door for a long time, watching Blair sleep.  He didn't even notice when the candles died.



Blair leaned heavily in the doorway to his small room.  His sweats were rumpled, his eyes half-closed, and his hair made a wild halo around a reddened face creased with lines pressed into his cheeks by the wrinkles of his bedding.  "What time is it?" he mumbled.

"Nine thirty."  Jim left the coffeemaker and went to his friend, steadying him with a hand on his shoulder.  "How do you feel?"

"Awful," Blair said honestly.

"Meds," Jim affirmed.  "You okay to get to the bathroom by yourself?"

"Yeah.  Yeah."  Blair nodded, as if that would make it the truth, and stumbled away, down the hall.  Jim listened until he heard the water begin to run, nodded, and returned to the kitchen.  By the time Blair had returned, there was fresh orange juice in a glass on the table, and the obligatory pills had been laid out.  Blair made a face, but sat down and reached for the juice.  Jim picked up the pills.

"Take 'em, Chief."


"I know.  Take 'em."

Blair did, finished the juice, and hiccupped.  Jim felt his forehead.  "Still warm, but down from yesterday.  You want breakfast?"


"Okay.  More sleep, then."  Jim helped Blair to his feet and wrapped one arm around him, steering him back into his bedroom and down onto the futon.  He turned the pillow, shook out the sheets and straightened the blankets and watched, smiling, as Blair closed his eyes.

"Thanks, Jim," Blair murmured.  "Sorry to be so much trouble."

"No trouble at all, Chief."

"Sorry," Blair whispered again, and drifted off to sleep.

"It's okay," Jim whispered back.  "It's going to be okay.  We'll talk later.  I have some things to tell you."

A hint of sage touched his nose, and he smiled.


And when that foghorn blows
You know I will be coming home
And when that foghorn whistle blows
I got to hear it
I don't have to fear it
And I want to rock your gypsy soul
Just like way back in the days of old
And together we will float into the mystic  

- 30 -

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Fanfiction Library ~
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Photo Albums

Trekkers Over
and Around 40

Floridaze ~
Buffett, Key West,
& Things Parrothead
The Key West
Foreign Legion
Half Aft
Bar Stage
Warren Zevon Other Ports