The Love Below

By Veronica


Sandburg, thank God. I wasn't up for the grunts that passed for Ellison's conversation.

"Hey, it's me."

"Simon? Jim, it's Simon! Jim? Um, okay." There was a pause, then – "Simon! Man, how are you?"

"Oh, you know, the usual. Over worked, under paid." My voice was stiff but it was the best I could do. "How you doin', Sandburg?"

"Doing good! Business is picking up – oh, thanks for the referral, man, that was great. We've got clients lined up from here to – "

I dropped my forehead into my free hand. "No, Blair. How are *you* doing? I heard there was another surgery."

"Oh, *that*," he said dismissively. "Purely cosmetic. I told Jim I didn't need it, but he insisted. You know how he gets."

God, yes, I thought wearily. "Yeah. Listen – Lindsay and Tyler today stopped by the station today."

I described my short meeting with her, feeling more awkward by the minute. It was a lame excuse for calling – but damn, it was good to hear Sandburg's voice.

"So, you ever going to stop by and see us?" My slim reason for calling exhausted, Sandburg asked the question I'd been dreading. The plaintive quality in his tone hurt, but I knew the invitation was one-sided.

"I don't know, Sandburg. You know how it gets around here."

"Oh, yeah. Sure." His disappointment was palpable but he didn't push it. I made an excuse of another line ringing and broke off with a vague promise that I'd call again soon.

Enough was enough – I was tired of feeling like a damn Judas. So what if Jim had never told Sandburg why he and I had grown apart; maybe it confirmed the accusation I'd hurled at him the morning Blair was released from the hospital. Desperate to alleviate my own guilt, I'd said the worst thing I could think of to a man already lost in his own private hell – and no apology then or since had been able to heal that wound.

If I'd ever harbored doubts about how deeply Blair Sandburg was embedded inside Jim Ellison, they were obliterated the minute I'd seen the fear in Jim's eyes. There was anger, too, but not with me – this was fury years in the making and now thrust deeply inside. From that day on, Jim cut ties to a life he was ready to reject in favor of some better world he felt he owed Blair.

For a year, I'd let them be, allowing them their privacy. But after hearing Sandburg's voice, I realized it was time to face up to what had occurred. If Ellison was still roasting himself on the spit of self-condemnation, it was time he got over it and got on with his life, a life that apparently revolved around his one-time tag-along. Knowing Jim, he'd kept his feelings submerged and what he needed was a swift kick in the ass – and maybe I was the only man beside Sandburg who could get away with it.

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