by Terri

The skin of Blairís neck prickled and he nervously drummed his fingers against his thigh as he fought to stay still, to show no reaction. A single long curl had escaped from his ponytail, clinging to his skin, and Blair pushed it behind his ear yet again with a practiced quick movement.

His gaze automatically sought out the flyers tacked to the wall. Vice needed members to make up a football team. A get together at Flanaganís Bar. Safety notices and postcards from all over the world. Blair had seen them all a thousand times, could recite every word from every tattered note. But he read them once more, listening as the coffee machine gurgled and hissed.

On the counter Jimís mug and his stood together -- one blue, one yellow -- brought from Jimís desk. They didnít keep them in the communal cupboard anymore -- not now. Had given up two months ago after Blairís mug had been found smashed into pieces every morning when they arrived for their shift. Jim had wanted to dust for fingerprints, determined to find the culprit until Blair begged him to let it go. Reluctantly Jim had agreed, buying two new mugs, sliding them into his desk drawer while glowering at anyone in his sight.

The room was suddenly quiet as the coffee machine finished brewing, and Blair moved to pour the coffee, squeezing past the three men that stood in his way. Fighting to keep his hand steady he filled the cups, shoulders tight as he listened to the whispers, barbed words intended to hurt.

Cheat. Disgrace. Liar. Shame. Con. Fraud.

He didnít react at all. How could he when he knew Jim was listening in? Would come rushing to his defense in seconds if he thought he was needed. Blair knew the only thing keeping his partner in his seat was a promise. To allow Blair to deal with things on his own, to let him show people that he was good enough to be a detective. That he deserved to be Jimís partner.

Blair knew it was the right thing, that he had to prove himself. But it was hard -- so very hard. The pushes in deserted corridors, silences as he walked into a room, expressions ranging from pity to hatred leveled at him. It all added up and Blair was slowly losing all will to keep fighting.

He was supposed to be the Phoenix, rising from the ashes, burning brightly, renewed as Jimís official partner. But that wasnít going to happen, instead the flames were consuming him little by little, flaring hotter with each spiteful word and act.

There was only so much heat that one man could take, and Blair was nearing his limit. Heíd sacrificed his happiness once for Jim, he didnít know if he was strong enough to do it again.

The End



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