Risking the Fall



(Follows The Love Below)



must sometimes risk a fall.

"Simon says hi."

"Yeah. Where's the Kinsey contract?"

"I'll get it." I sighed and swung my legs out from beneath the table, hesitating a little before rising to my feet.

Don't look don't look don't look

And he didn't. Not even a twitch of an eyelid in my direction - or more precisely, in the direction of my scrambled left knee. That change had been a long time coming, but thank God his gaze had finally stopped zeroing in on that part of me every time I moved.

But I knew he still listened - to my breathing, just in case some remnant of old pain remained; to my step, for the slight hitch that told him I was tired or the knee was becoming uncooperative. I even think he listened to the chip of Teflon I was using for a patella these days, making sure it was resting correctly and not irritating what remained of my cartilage.

Oh, yeah, Jim listens - he just can't seem to hear anything that really matters.

It wasn't all his fault, if blame for our current situation had to be placed somewhere. Some would say we'd triumphed over circumstances that would have ruined most friendships. I knew better and hoped that Jim did, too, but it was only that slim possibility that he felt something beyond the awkward balance of suspicion and affection we had between us right now that kept me here.

Nah, who was I kidding? Hope is one thing - cowardice is another. And two of the biggest cowards ever born lived at 852 Prospect, terrified of each other and of a future that looked pretty damn bleak from where I stood.

It's funny - they said I was brave to stop a bullet that wasn't meant for me, but hey, it wasn't like I had a choice. Then I got to watch my budding crime-fighting career get tossed on top of my defunct academic career, despite the medal they gave me. Just as I started wondering what I could possibly do for an encore - there was Jim.

And there Jim remained - by my side, in my face, behind me to push, above me to protect, beneath me to catch me when I fell - everywhere but where I needed him to be.

The barely disguised longing in Simon's voice was making me face something I'd ignored too long, something that needed to be healed as much as my knee. As I walked toward the file cabinet, I glanced at Jim's bowed head. Noticing the gray sprinkled in the hair above the curve of his ear, I wondered if I've caused this new evidence of his - our - vulnerability.

Yes, I know you're listening, Jim - but what do you hear? Do you hear me trembling over here, wondering if I'll ever get the nerve to tell you that I can't continue being the center of your world - because I'm not the center of your heart?


The End



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