It is a peculiarly lovely thing, the sight of Blair's hand wrapped so carefully around the stem of his glass, the side of his thumb and forefinger just cradling the base of the goblet. He releases the glass as Jim pours water into it, knowing, perhaps, that Jim will be able to hear the slight, singing sound of the crystal as it fills, and then he silences the vibrations with the careful touch of fingers, as if orchestrating sound itself for Jim's pleasure.
When Blair finally lifts the goblet to his lips, he handles the crystal as though he's afraid it will fly to pieces in his grasp.
Jim looks away so Blair won't see his rueful smile. He's thinking that if the goblet can survive Blair's elaborate caution, it will survive anything.
They eat, and Blair talks about his day. His new 101 class seems brighter than the last batch, but they're starting kinship relations next week and that's always the acid test. Blair chuckles to himself. In fact, Chagnon has this footnote about the way professional anthropologists themselves will skip over the kinship stuff. It's really pretty funny. He takes a quick sip of water from the goblet and says, "Just a second. I've got the book in my bedroom. You have to hear this."
He sets the glass down on the edge of the table as he gets up, and for an instant it teeters on the very cusp of being salvageable.
Jim sees it going, but Blair is already too far away.
It's too late to grab for it, too late to yell.
Jim simply closes his eyes and waits for the crash, his face composed, then opens his eyes and smiles at Blair kindly, seeing the horrified realization there.
Blair is frozen in his tracks. "Oh, Jim." Utterly heartsick. "I'm so sorry." He kneels and tries to pick up the silvery, needle thin shards with his bare hands.
"Sandburg." Jim knows the tone of his voice will stop Blair, and he uses it deliberately, wanting him to leave the pieces alone before he's cut. "Just leave it, please."
He finally moves, heading for the counter to get the dustpan and whisk broom from the cabinet under the sink as Blair rocks back on his haunches, a few shards cradled in his palm, shoulders hunched in misery. "Your grandmother's crystal, Jim. And I broke it."
There's a slight feeling in the pit of Jim's stomach, a sense of loss of something beautiful that had meant something to him. But he also knows quite consciously that he had made the deliberate choice to use the glasses rather than pack them away. A calculated risk, and one that had just played out pretty much the way he'd expected
He can't say it's OK, because it wouldn't be completely true. "Don't worry about it. Just be careful - those pieces are sharp." He kneels beside Blair and holds out the dustpan for him, but Blair just keeps holding his broken pieces, looking down at his hand, at the glittering pool of water and glass spread out around him.
Jim begins to realize he should have brought a towel too; his own knee is getting soaked through his jeans where it rests on the floor. The glass had been nearly full. He watches an ice cube finish its lazy frictionless spin and come to rest against the table leg.
"Is there any way to replace it?" Blair asks quietly. His voice is shaking. "Like those places that find old china patterns and stuff."
There probably is, Jim thinks, but he wouldn't do it. He knows himself well enough to know that a replacement glass would bother him worse than the broken set, somehow. It wouldn't ever exactly match, the scratch pattern on the crystal would be different from different users, and he would always know which one it was.
Blair still holds those fragments in the palm of his hand, wishing so desperately that he could undo the last minute of his life and save that poor doomed goblet Jim can feel it rising from him like heat. He reaches out, wraps his fingers around Blair's wrist, and gently tilts his hand so the few shards he's holding fall out of his palm and into the dustpan. They make a light, pretty sound as they hit, and one hums to itself in that faint singing voice Jim knows so well.
He tilts his head to listen to it, eyes sliding half closed at the note dying away. So pure and clear that he follows it, opening his hearing to catch the last of it, wondering at how the tone stays so perfect.
There's blood on Blair's hand. Jim sees it as the last note ends. He has the slightly unsettling sense that he has been away longer than he intended. He's still holding Blair's wrist gently, and for some reason, Blair is not speaking. He draws Blair's hand up and says in quiet exasperation, "Broken glass is sharp, Sandburg. I asked you to be careful."
"I know." Blair's words are so low even Jim's still-sensitive hearing isn't assaulted. Instead he hears something else in them, not just the familiar sound of Blair's voice, or the hoarseness of his control, but some faint echo of that clear ringing crystal tone, a hint of the same purity in Blair's half-breathed words.
"Come on," Jim says gruffly, feeling both awed and shaken. He lays the dustpan down on the floor, hearing the grinding of the smallest fragments underneath the metal, and draws Blair up with him as he stands, still holding Blair's wrist. His regret for the broken crystal is changing into something else, an emotion with no taint of grief or loss about it.
Instead of answering Jim pulls him close. He ducks his head to lay his cheek against Blair's. Temple to temple, he can feel the faint, sweet singing in his bones.
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