Notes: Set sometime after Murder 101 and before TSbyBS.
Blair set the soldering iron down then loosened the clamp and eased the second finished piece from its grip. He touched it gingerly, checking its temperature. Much too warm to wash off. He carefully laid it flat then started to tidy up his work area, tucking the remainder of the coil of copper foil into a plastic bag and sealing it tightly, unplugging the iron, disposing of the soiled leftover flux. Meticulously, he returned the workbench to the state it had been in when he'd arrived this morning. Jill was good enough to be willing to loan him space and equipment in her shop, simple courtesy dictated that he not leave a big mess for her to clean up, especially considering that he'd already kept her way past the arranged time.
He touched the glass again carefully, then checked the solder. Still warm. "Look, Jill, I can clean this and apply the patina at home; I'll just buy a bottle of..."
"No way," she interrupted. Hand on her hip, she shook one finger at him, playfully scolding, "I've waited this long, I want to see the finished product, buster."
Wincing, he apologized again, "I'm sorry it took so long; I didn't realize how out of practice I was."
"That," Jill said, pointing to the first piece, clean and glowing slightly where it rested on the light box, "is not the work of someone who's too terribly out of practice. You'd have been done early if I hadn't talked you into doing your second design too."
Blair studied the suncatcher, noting critically that he hadn't gotten a perfectly even bead around the edge. And he'd wasted more of the rough rolled grey cathedral glass than he should have in the process of cutting the wolf's main body from the section that most closely resembled fur. That hadn't been an issue with the black since he'd gone for the smooth black cathedral. It was totally uniform so he'd managed to get the jaguar for both pieces out of the same sheet. He was mostly satisfied with the pale blue waterglass that surrounded the two animals but the clear iridescent starburst between them - their forelegs, outstretched in mid-leap, ended abruptly at its edge - hadn't quite turned out as well as he'd hoped. A white iridescent might have done a better job of creating the impression that their front paws were obscured within it rather than cut off.
"It's not too bad," he finally acknowledged. "Just - not quite as good as I'd hoped."
"You never did tell me where you got the idea..."
"Oh, I dreamt it," he shrugged dismissively. Yeah, he'd dreamt it. If you could call dying and being called back to life - though why, he hadn't a clue since Jim didn't seem to care whether he was around or not most of the time - a dream.
"Both of them?"
Turning, Blair ran a tentative finger over the second suncatcher - the one that would never see the light of day once he left here - and decided it was cool enough to clean up. "Yeah, both."
Not a very informative answer but then this wasn't something that he could or would talk about anyway. One dream that was past and one that would never be. Jim couldn't even talk about the fact that he was responsible for Blair's revival at the fountain; he'd already made his feelings about pursuing that - that sense of unity - quite clear, and Blair had put it in the least threatening terms possible - brotherhood - when he'd made the suggestion. If Jim wasn't ready to go even there now, after everything that had happened, Blair didn't think that he would ever be willing to go the step beyond.
Carefully, Blair rinsed away all trace of the flux and polished the dark glass to a sheen. The jag's smooth black curved around the textured grey of the wolf, black and grey tails twining together. Slits of brilliant blue gleamed within the dark head as it bent over the lighter, a tiny sliver of red bestowing a rough kiss on the grey head resting on their overlapping forelegs. Shadows created by dark gray and white opalescent glass surrounded them. Overall, it was very dark for a suncatcher.
And about to get darker. Blair reached for the black patina, intending to eliminate the lightening effect of the silver solder. He'd used black-backed foil on purpose; once he was done, the piece would be as dark and gloomy as the future.
Jill snatched the patina bottle out of his hand. "Don't you dare!" she exclaimed, horrified. "It's beautiful as it is; the black will spoil it."
He could have told her the truth. That he wanted to spoil it, wanted to make it as dark and tarnished as his hopes for the future had been since Jim left him alone in a hospital bed after an experience that should have bound them together more tightly than ever, since he'd seen Jim kissing his killer on the beach, since Jim had treated him like shit through the whole Ventriss mess, since Jim hadn't even bothered to apologize about *any* of that crap...
But if he opened up that particular Pandora's box - especially with Jill, the former Resident Assistant who'd big-sistered a very lonely, geeky sixteen-year-old through his totally miserable first year at Rainier - he might never get it shut again. Worse yet, he might find out that Hope wasn't part of the box's contents. Then he might have to actually do something drastic like acknowledge that it was time to let go of hopeless dreams and move on.
Blair didn't want to do that quite yet, even if some part of him did realize that it was inevitable. So he conceded, "Yeah, I suppose it needs a little brightening up." He picked up the bottle of finishing polish instead and prepared to apply it.
"Nothing is ever completely dark." An arm slid around Blair's shoulders and gave him an affectionate squeeze. "There's always room for a little colour, a little light, remember?"
He shook his head ruefully. He should have known that he couldn't fool Jill into believing he was fine. She'd probably known something was wrong from the moment he'd called to ask if he could drop in and use her equipment. He leaned his head sideways, dropping it against her shoulder. "Can't fool you, huh?"
"Nope, big sisters always know when their little brothers are feeling down."
Blair snorted in reluctant amusement. "Yeah, you always did seem to know just when to drag me out of the library and off to do something else." Frequently, that "something" had been stained glass, one of the art student's favourite outlets for her talent. He hadn't minded; stained glass was kind of neat and it wasn't like anyone else had wanted to spend time with the geeky sixteen-year-old. Jill had been warm and friendly and missing her own younger brother enough that she'd been quite willing to "adopt" a lonely teen.
He sighed and straightened. "I'll be okay. It's just - been a couple of really rough months, that's all."
She tousled his hair fondly. "Hey, if you need to talk - or even just a hug - I'm always here, remember?"
He protested automatically, "Hey! Not the hair!"
Jill just laughed and gave his head another teasing rub before taking the suncatcher from his hands and carrying it over to the lightbox. She lifted the other one off and put the dark one in its place.
A surprising amount of light penetrated the opalescent background, gleaming off the silver solder lines outlining the darker, more opaque animals. The darkness of the piece became warm and cozy, intimate rather than gloomy and forbidding. The intimacy of the pair's pose was unmistakable, reinforcing Blair's determination to hide the suncatcher away rather than display it in the loft.
Shit, who was he kidding? Displaying the other one wouldn't be a bright idea either. Jim didn't want to be reminded of that experience at the fountain; rubbing it in his face like that would only increase the tension between them.
"They're both gorgeous, Blair," Jill said reverently. "Listen, if you ever find yourself with some free time on your hands..." He snorted in derision at the idea and she laughed too. "I know, I know, Blair Sandburg and free time are mutually exclusive concepts but still... These are too personal to sell but if you ever feel like it, come on in and do a few pieces, I'll put them out for sale on commission. Your work's got a more mystical feel to it than my ultra-realistic pieces; there's sure to be a market for it."
He couldn't imagine ever having that kind of free time as long as he was working with Jim. But then again, hadn't he already acknowledged that those days were probably coming to an end? Maybe it was time to get serious about his dissertation. Finish it up and get out while he and Jim were still at least on speaking terms. Then he'd have more time on his hands than he'd know what to do with.
Meanwhile, though... "Listen, Jill, they're not for sale but if you want to display them, see what the interest level's like... Maybe I'll have some time to spare a few months from now."
"Going to finally finish your diss?"
Blair sighed and switched the light box off, watching sadly as the patterns of warm light faded from the suncatcher, leaving it cold and shadowed. "Yeah. I think it's time."
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