Notes: I kept turning this challenge over and over in my mind, and unfortunately, this is what came out. I didn't mean for it to be so depressing. Oh, and there's gratuitous Naomi bashing, so maybe it's not so depressing after all...
The loft was dark and silent when Jim finally made his way back from the station. He knew Blair was at home because he'd made it his business to keep track of him since the press conference. The constant racing heartbeat had worried him, and he had half-expected boxes to appear in readiness for Blair to pack up and leave.
That same heartbeat was now steady and slow, although Jim couldn't quite make out where it was coming from. Not from Blair's room, certainly, and so Jim tracked it to the balcony. Opening the doors and stepping out, he had to dial up his eyesight to find his partner.
Arms curled around bent legs, Blair was crouched down in the corner, head resting on his knees and hair obscuring his face. As he stood there, Jim watched him slide backwards until he was sitting with his back against the wall, still curled in a ball.
"Chief? You okay?"
"Does it look like it?" Blair's voice was muffled and Jim could detect the slightly clogged sound of recently shed tears. Jim braced himself against the balcony and carefully chose his next words, realising that this was make or break time for them.
"No, you look like you need someone to talk to." He paused, "You want to go inside?"
"Okay, so we stay out here. Can you tell me what the matter is?"
"Since when has anything been easy for us?"
"This isn't about us."
"Anything that affects you affects me as well, so yes, it is about us." Jim wasn't going to let him get away with avoiding the conversation he was pushing for; he had a feeling that this was important.
"Pushy, aren't you?"
"Just giving you a taste of your own medicine, Chief." Jim smiled slightly.
"Yeah, well, never could swallow that." His voice was still muffled and he sounded miserable, making Jim ache to go over and comfort him, but his body language screamed 'keep away'.
"Talk to me, Blair." Jim carefully lowered himself to the floor, mindful of his injured leg.
Blair lifted his head and Jim's suspicion that he'd been crying was confirmed; barely dried tracks stained his cheeks and his eyes were red and bloodshot. It was a complete contrast to his cheerful demeanour at the PD earlier that day, and Jim wondered what had happened between then and now. As he looked into the darkened Loft, he had a horrible suspicion that it might have something to do with Naomi.
"What's happened, Chief?" Jim asked gently.
"I thought I was over it, you know, Jim?" a single tear slid out from the corner of Blair's eye and he leant his head back against the brick wall, closing his eyes against a further onslaught, lips tightening into a thin line. He took a shuddering breath before continuing on as if he was talking to himself.
"I'd come to terms with not coming first, with being an afterthought. Christ, I've spent enough time in therapy to know it's not my fault, that she can't help it, that I've made excuses time and time again, hoping that for once what I thought would matter and make a difference." He snorted and wiped his nose on the cuff of his flannel shirt, and Jim held his breath, wondering where this was going. "Some hope there, eh Jim?"
"You've lost me, Blair. She?"
"Naomi. My mother."
"I still don't understand."
"My whole life has been one big mistake, Jim. Nearly thirty years down the tubes and I don't know what to do about it." Blair's mouth twisted in self-derision.
"That's not true and you know it." Jim said angrily, slapping his hand down beside his leg to emphasise his point.
"No? Naomi doesn't agree with you."
"What the fuck has she got to do with this? She was happy enough earlier on."
"Ah, but she had an audience then."
"Talk to me. Explain to me what's going on here."
"How can I explain it to you when it's taken me this long to work it out for myself?"
"Try." Jim couldn't stand the lost look on his face, so he levered himself up and over to sit next to him, pressing up against Blair's side in an effort to offer support and understanding. He was rewarded by Blair leaning briefly into him before settling back against the wall.
"Did you ever wonder why I minored in psychology, Jim?" Blair's tone was almost conversational and Jim realised that he wasn't expecting an answer, but gave one anyway.
"Because it can be used alongside Anthropology?"
"In some cases, yes, it helps. I've already mentioned the years of therapy, haven't I?" Jim nodded.
"I wanted to understand what drives some women to abandon their children."
"I can understand that." Jim's gut twisted in remembrance.
"Oh god! Jim, I'm sorry…" Blair realised what he'd just said, but stopped when Jim's hand reached for his and squeezed it.
"Forget it, Blair. We'll deal with my abandonment issues another time."
"Okay." He drew in a shaky breath, "Naomi never had any qualms about leaving me with strangers."
"I always wondered about that."
"She always made it sound like a big adventure, and at first I didn't have a problem with it.
But every time I got settled and made friends, she'd come back and take me away. But not before ensuring I could never go back there."
"Please don't interrupt, Jim. I only want to tell this once." Blair squeezed his hand back, "What parent deliberately undermines and humiliates their child, Jim? Because that's what she did on a regular basis. Why do you think she came to the PD that time and created a scene? What she did here was nothing more than an attempt to draw your attention away from me and on to her. I've seen it countless times and yet I still forgave her for it."
"Why?" Jim couldn't believe what he was hearing.
"Because I ruined her life."
"I still don't understand."
"No, you probably don't." Blair sighed, "She was pregnant at a time where it was still frowned upon to be an unwed mother. God knows I've had years to process this and try to understand what makes her tick. According to her, she had a brilliant future mapped out as a model. But getting knocked up put paid to that."
"That's not your fault." Jim protested.
"Let me finish, okay?"
"When I was eight, I overheard a conversation between her and one of her many boyfriends. He wanted to go away for the weekend, but there wasn't anyone they could leave me with. There was an argument, and she told him that if she had a choice then it would be him. That I was a mistake she wish she'd done something about." Another tear slipped down his cheek and he swallowed, his voice thickening. "At that age, you don't understand what it means, but by the time I was fourteen, I did."
"Oh, Blair…" Jim whispered, feeling helpless in the face of this desperate revelation. He did the only thing he could think of and pulled Blair into his arms, lending Blair some of his own strength.
"I started getting into trouble, trying to force her to care about me, but all it did was give her another excuse to dump me again. Luckily, I ended up in a fantastic foster home." Blair gave a little giggle, ending in a hiccup, "You'll never guess where."
"No, I can't."
"It was with a cop's family. Dan Hilbury put me straight and I had a home for two years before Naomi turned up again."
"So what happened?"
"I left before she could spoil it again. Dan knew all about her, and even drove me to Cascade to sit the entrance exam."
"Is that why she threw a fit when she knew you were working with me?"
"Probably. She can't stand the fact that maybe I have what she doesn't. It's taken me a long time to come to terms with it."
"Can I ask why you always raved about her?"
"I dunno, Jim. Maybe I've been in denial too long and just didn't want you to think what a loser I am."
"You're not a loser, Blair. I think you're the strongest and sanest man I know."
"Hold onto that thought, Jim, because what I have to tell you next may make you change your mind."
"That bad, huh?" Jim rested his chin on the top of Blair's head.
"Maybe. I think it'll be a mistake if I take that badge you and Simon offered me."
"Maybe we should both sleep on it. Let everything settle before we make any decisions."
"Okay." Blair let it go for now.
Blair was a comfortable weight against Jim's side and they sat in the dark, lost in their own thoughts. With the benefit of hindsight, Jim recalled the times Naomi had visited and the way she had taken over; blithely ignoring her son's wishes, this last visit being the worst.
"Here." Blair stirred and dug his hand into his pocket, bringing out a familiar object; a key. For one heart-stopping moment in time, Jim thought it was Blair's.
"I asked for it back, not that I'd given it to her in the first place, you know? I also told her that she wouldn't be welcome here again."
"Are you sure, Chief?"
"Yeah. I can't force her to change, and I can't let it keep affecting me. I have to move on."
"As long as you don't move out."
"Are you sure, Jim?"
"Positive. That would be one mistake I wouldn't want you to make."
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