Sequel to "Light"
Notes: Set shortly after TSbyBS.
Jim limped down the hall towards the loft door, hoping that the fact that Blair's car was parked outside meant that he was home since he needed to talk to Blair about making arrangements to attend the Academy. Normally, he'd be able to detect Blair's presence from outside but he didn't want to risk dialling up the pain along with his hearing. He was having trouble keeping the pain of his injured leg dialled down without dialling everything down but he really didn't want to have to resort to the prescription pain medication since it played havoc with his control of his senses. Operating with everything a little below normal was better than living with spikes, especially when he didn't have his partner along to help manage them. Closing the door behind him, Jim looked around the loft. Boxes met his gaze everywhere he looked. Scowling, he bellowed, "Sandburg! What the hell's the meaning of this?!"
A muffled thud and muttered curses came from Sandburg's room. He emerged a moment later, looking grubby and tired. "Sorry, Jim, I'll have all this stuff out of here tomorrow, I swear. Day after at the very latest. Just have to sort through it, make sure everything goes to somebody who can use it. I'd have done it at the U but..."
Of course. Blair wasn't moving out, the boxes were filled with stuff from his office not his room. Calming, Jim held up his hand and interrupted, "Whoa, whoa, easy there, Chief. That's not what I meant. I meant, why didn't you tell me you were going to go clear out your office today? I'd have gone with you and helped. We could've used the truck and saved a few trips." There was no way that all of these boxes had fit in the Volvo at once. It must've taken at least three trips.
Blair said dismissively, "S'okay, Jill's got a van, comes in handy for her business. We got everything in one trip." Lugging an overflowing box of papers, he disappeared back into his room.
Leaning heavily on his cane, Jim followed. The name didn't sound familiar... "Old friend?"
"Yep." The box was deposited on the futon and Blair started to remove papers from it, adding them to one of several piles.
Jim waited but no further explanation was forthcoming. Leaning against the doorframe to shift his weight off the injured leg, he prodded, "Good friend?"
The sorting paused for a moment. "Hmm, she spent all day helping a self-confessed fraud clear out his office and the only remark she made on the subject was that I looked like I needed a hug, which she promptly gave me... I dunno, what do you think?"
"Hey, I would have helped if you'd asked," Jim protested, stung by the sarcastic tone.
"I didn't have to ask Jill; she called me and volunteered." Sandburg threw his current handful of files back into the box. "Why am I even bothering? This is all useless crap," he muttered. Dragging the box off the futon, he moved it to join a bunch of other boxes in the corner of his room.
If this Jill was such a good friend, Jim couldn't understand why the name didn't sound familiar. "Have I met her?" He shifted awkwardly out of the doorway, leaning heavily on the cane, as Sandburg brushed by him to retrieve another box.
"Nope." Sandburg lifted the box's lid, gave a perfunctory glance at the contents. "More worthless crap." He moved it to join the pile in the corner of his room.
"Never needed her help on a case," Sandburg shrugged as he opened yet another box and began sorting through its contents. "No reason for you to meet her."
Not too happy about the apparent implication, Jim demanded suspiciously, "What the hell is that supposed to mean?!"
"It means exactly what it sounds like. That you didn't have any reason to meet her because you never needed her help on a case."
Irritated by the statement, Jim snapped, "What are you implying, Sandburg?"
A book was flung back into the box and Sandburg spun to face him. "Implying, Ellison? I'm not implying anything. I'm stating a simple fact here. The only things you know about me are the things that directly impacted you." He forcefully jabbed an accusing finger against Jim's chest for emphasis. "Name one - just one - of my friends that you know and that you didn't meet, directly or indirectly, as part of an investigation." Jim groped desperately for a name and came up empty-handed. "Can't come up with one, can you? How about an interest that I have outside of anthropology?"
"Fishing," Jim shot back with satisfaction.
"True - now try coming up with something that isn't connected to you or a case," Sandburg snapped in response.
"You..." Once again, an answer eluded Jim. There had to be something, he was sure of it. He just - couldn't think of it right now.
"And even the things that do impact you, you don't... didn't..." Stopping in mid-sentence, Sandburg shook his head sharply and drew back. "You just - don't."
"I don't what?" Jim demanded.
"Forget it," Sandburg said wearily. He returned to his sorting, body pointedly angled so that his back was towards Jim. "Crap, crap, and more crap," he muttered.
Insistently, Jim repeated, "I don't what?"
"Just forget it."
Aggravated by the dismissive response, Jim limped over and grabbed Sandburg's shoulder, forcing him to turn around. "No, I won't forget it. I don't what?!"
"Fine! You want to know, I'll tell you - you don't know me at all!" The angry outburst was accompanied by a quick movement that left Jim staggering and leaning heavily on his cane as Sandburg twisted out of his grasp. "Cause if you did, you'd have known that I wouldn't betray you and you'd have fucking listened when I tried to tell you what the hell was going on! And maybe, between the two of us, we could've come up with a different solution so that none of this," he gestured broadly at the piles of boxes from his office, "would've been necessary! But you didn't and it was and now I don't know what the fuck I'm going to do with my life because I'm sure as hell not going to be getting my doctorate let alone tenure at Rainier or anyplace else!"
Jim was well aware that he hadn't handled the whole mess very well. Guilty and not liking the feeling, he shot back, "You didn't try very hard to make me listen, did you?" Then, as the implication of the rest of Sandburg's words sunk in, he snapped out in alarm, "And what the hell do you mean, you don't know what you're going to do! You're going to be a cop! My partner!"
"Oh yeah, sure, be a cop knowing that defense attorneys will have a field day grilling the self-confessed fraud, knowing that the first time anything goes wrong my 'partner' will jump to the worst possible conclusions and leave me to deal with all the crap by myself," Sandburg fired back furiously as he heaved the cardboard box off the futon, its side ripping under the careless treatment, and dumped it in the corner with the other discards. "Thanks but no thanks, Ellison!" He stomped out of the room, presumably to get another box.
The sound of the loft door slamming corrected that assumption. "Dammit, Sandburg! Get the hell back here!" Jim shouted angrily but the feet pounding down the hall never faltered and a sharp twinge from his injured leg reminded him that chasing Sandburg down and literally dragging him back to finish the discussion wasn't exactly an option. Frustrated, he struck the damaged box with his cane in lieu of kicking it the way that he wanted to.
Okay, maybe Sandburg storming off was just as well. They both needed some time to cool down. Maybe by the time that Sandburg cooled down enough to come home, Jim would manage to figure out how to convince him that he was wrong about the cop thing. And the rest of it as well.
Jim gave the box another solid thwack for good measure. He was rewarded with the sound of tearing cardboard. The rip in the box's side lengthened ominously, the corner of a familiar leather-bound book sliding to protrude from the gap. Discovering the formerly-cherished book tossed carelessly in the "worthless crap" pile was like being doused with ice water. If Sandburg could discard "The Sentinels of Paraguay" so easily... Jim cut that train of thought off, alarm at the next step in its seemingly logical progression warring with sudden guilt at his readiness to jump to that conclusion. His readiness to believe the worst of Sandburg yet again.
Yeah, he needed to convince Blair that he was wrong - but first, he was going to have to convince himself.
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