First Appeared in Whispers of the Heart, 1999

Summary: Blair seeks himself. Post S2p2, but not in the season.
Rating: R (to be safe)
Pairing: J/B
Warnings: Angst, m/m

Changes and Decisions by Voracity

Blair shut his office door, softly, not letting the frustration he was feeling show. He set his backpack down, carefully sliding it under the desk so that he couldn't hurt his laptop, before he picked up a book, one of the numerous ones in the office on Sentinels, and threw it against the wall.

"I don't feel better, but maybe some of it will go away now," he muttered to himself. He tried to sit down, but the frustration wouldn't let him stay still. He paced around his office, cramped and overflowing with books that it was, trying to let the feeling dissipate. //I'm different. I can't be different, I mean I'm human. I eat, drink, sleep, pee the same as everyone else, so why am I different? Why can't I be like everybody else, like Jim is, or Simon is, or like Rafe, Henry, or Megan are? Why can't I be like my grad assistant; she's normal, disturbingly so. So why can't I be like her, be boringly normal? Like every other Anthropologist in the world?// He tried to sit down again, and think his way through the problem, but it wouldn't let him. He stood up, and in a fit of desperate anger threw the contents of his desk across the room, pelting the four walls with debris. He grabbed his jacket and forced his way through the throng of people outside his office to make his getaway.


Blair stood at the edge of the forest. "Ah, fresh air. Maybe I needed this, getting away from everything, to feel like myself again." He took another deep breath, letting it out slowly, savoring the flavor of the woods around him. He pushed himself up the trail in front of him. He knew it well, had hiked it often since starting at Rainier. It led to a rock outcrop that looked out over the rest of the park, a nice peaceful and calming scene. He made his way up the trail quickly, letting the feel of nature around him calm his wounded psyche.

He made it to the top in, what was for him, record time. He carefully climbed off the trail to sit on the rocks, settling himself down and looked out over the park. He lost himself in the sight, letting it calm him like few other things could. //See, I *can* be my old self.// He took a deep breath, falling into a breathing exercise that he had taught Jim during their first week together. The thought made him smile. //My Sentinel, big, bad, ill tempered on occasion, but normal in all but his senses.// He tensed up again. //There's that word, normal. What is normal? Is it individual, or is it societal? Was I ever really normal? Have I always been different? Why am I just noticing this now?// He sighed, trying to exhale the thoughts that were marring the beauty of the sight before him. He leaned back against a large rock, and closed his eyes. //I don't know if I know what normal is. I don't know if I ever did. I don't know if I ever will. But who says what is normal and what isn't? Do I? Does some little person in some dimly lit government office somewhere write it in a big book? Can anyone really say what is normal and what isn't?// He thought about that, letting the question bring up new ones. //So, if no one can say what 'normal' is, then why am I so worried about being different?// He let his shoulders slump. //I bet Jim never had to deal with this problem. I mean he hid what made him different, conformed to the expectations. Wait, can I do *that*? Conform to what others think is normal, change myself to fit their views of how life should be? Should I even try? I've done it before, do it every day at the station, so why not elsewhere?// He basked in the late September sun, letting it's warmth steal the chill from his body and soul. //Can I try it? Maybe let myself conform for a while and see if it's me? Where do I, would I, start?//

He decided to go back into town, to look around and see how others saw normal. //The mall for some people watching. That's a good place to start, and if I need anything, it's there.//


He sat at the food court, eating his chicken fajita from McDonalds, just like almost everybody else was. He looked around, watching the people interact, seeing how they acted when alone and in groups. He watched mothers feed their children, listened to the one at the next table as she told her son how to act.

"No. Big boys don't drag ketchup all over the table. We dip our fries, letting any drips fall off before we bring it to our mouth and bite a piece off. We don't let it smear across our cheeks while we eat the other end. Now do it right, please." She patted his hand and handed the boy another fry.

Blair watched the child try to follow the orders his mother gave, but not succeeding. He smiled when the toddler offered a soggy fry to his mother, and she smiled down at him. He threw out the rest of his lunch, and wandered down towards the stores to see what other normal people were doing.

He stopped outside a store he normally wouldn't visit. //A lot of men in there. Nice clothes, friendly atmosphere. Maybe I should go in and look around, see what they see.// He walked in, looking at the clothes, watching what the other men in there were picking out. He ran a hand along some shirts, cotton, and looked at the colors. //Purples, blues, white, cream, tan, navy, black, red. What colors are they picking out?// He looked over at what the three closest men were buying, then looked over at the sales woman, knowing she would try to make him fit in, help him conform to the store's image.

"May I help you?" She stepped up beside him, letting him know that she wanted to show him how to do it 'their way'.

"Yeah, I mean, yes, please. I'm looking for an outfit. I'm a teacher over at Rainier, and I need something comfortable, soft feeling maybe, and active day friendly." He flashed his puppy-dog expression at her. "Can you help me?"

She smiled, "Of course I can." She pulled a shirt, a cream colored flannel sweater, down from another rack. She held it against him, measuring the color against his skin and hair. She put it back, picking out a pastel blue one. "Try this one, it should look right with your hair and skin." She watched him fold it carefully over his arm before moving onto pants. She pulled a few pairs out, letting him feel the material. When he found one he liked, she pulled out a few pairs, a black, a gray, a khaki, and a navy pair. She held them and showed him to the dressing room, handing him the clothes.

Blair stepped in, shut the door, and hung the clothes on the hook. He took off his jeans and numerous shirts. //Here goes ... everything.// He put on the gray pants, and the sweater, stepping out to let the saleswoman give her opinion.

"Uhmm. I like the pants, but not the color of the sweater. Do you mind monochromatic?" She rushed away and came back with a pale gray sweater in the same style. "Here, try this one instead with those pants." She handed it to him, and he obediently went back in to change. He stepped back out, letting her smile perk him up. He let her rush off to get some more shirts for him, and he went back inside to take those off.

Blair looked in the mirror, seeing someone else. //I *look* different. I feel different in this. Maybe someone was right when they said the clothes make the man. I feel like someone who's almost normal, not at all like myself. Maybe that's a good thing though. I mean, if I'm not myself, who is different, but someone else who is mostly normal, would that person be having these doubts?// He stripped off the sweater and pants, grabbing the new shirts as they came across the door. He hung them up, and the gray set, and pulled on the black pants and a wine colored shirt.

He stepped back out for the saleswoman's approval. "I do think that's a winner. And with that type of collar, you won't need a tie." She let him look in the three way mirror behind her, letting him turn around, looking for himself in this new image.

//This is a good thing. I can do this for a while.// He stepped back into the dressing room to look back over the clothes she had handed him. He separated out what he knew he wouldn't wear, and handed them to her after opening the door.

"Can I wear it out of here?"

She smiled brightly at the amount of clothes that he was buying and told him, "Of course you can. We'll put what you were wearing in a separate bag, and just zap the tags with the scanner. Just follow me, Professor." She picked up his other clothes and headed back to the register. On the way, she stopped another salesman, and handed him the clothes Blair hadn't wanted. She went behind the counter.

"Just let me take those tags off for you, dear, and they're all yours." She took off the anti-theft devices and the tags, letting them rest while she folded the rest of the clothes neatly. She ran them through the register, and gave him his total. "Will this be cash, check, or charge, sir?"

"Check card okay?" He handed her his check card, the one that he knew was still full from his financial aid disbursement. She took it and ran it though the machine, waiting on approval. When the slip printed out, he signed it, handing back her copy and taking his card. She bagged up his stuff and handed the bags to him.

"You'll have enough here to last you for a few weeks until you decide on your image for teaching, but when you do, come back and I'll gladly help you again." She handed him her card. He thanked her and left the store with his new image, someone different.


Blair walked back into the Anthropology department, not caring about the looks he was getting.

"Hi, Sarah, any messages?"

"No, Professor Sandburg, but we were wondering if you're all right? I mean with what happened this morning and all, we were wondering if something had happened?"

"No, it was just a fit over some minor personal crisis. Nothing major, no cause for alarm." He didn't realize that his speech patterns were different, but he noticed the secretary was still giving him her disbelieving look. "Would I lie to you?" He smiled, trying to ease her tension.

"No, you wouldn't. So I'll let you get back to work. Oh, the department meeting for later today was changed to next week. The Chair had to go to the emergency room because he couldn't talk." She smiled at him conspiratorially and leaned closer. "Dr. Chambers said it was hysterical laryngitis from the budget overture." They laughed, and Blair went to his office, feeling more at ease in his chosen place.

He opened the door, letting the bags he held fall to his very clear desk. He closed the door behind him, and sat down. He turned the chair around, using the window as a mirror, and brushed his hair until it was straighter, only wavy. //Yes, looks very different. More masculine. Those curls of mine make me look so ... so ... so feminine. And people laugh at me about them. Hair boy indeed.// He pulled out a new bag of cloth hair bands and picking a black one, pulled his hair back. He put on his glasses, and got to work straightening out his office.


It was three thirty when Blair was done. His office was cleaned, organized, and everything was put away. He loaded up the work he needed for later that night, and left the building. //Want Jim to see the new me. He'll be thrilled.// He got in his car and drove towards his other job, and the reason for him having it.


Jim stepped into the Anthropology building and went to the department secretary. "Hi, is Professor Sandburg in?"

"No, I'm sorry, Detective, but he's left for the day. He was whistling and carrying his bag, but he looked like he was headed to your office instead of home."

Jim watched the expressions flow across her face. "Is there something else?" he guessed.

She motioned him to follow her. She opened Blair's office door, letting Jim see the neatness. She followed him inside and shut the door behind him. "I'm worried about him. He came in this morning, very agitated. He started throwing things, eventually clearing off his desk, and then left. When he came back, he was wearing different clothes, and whistling. He sounded funny, too." She let out a deep breath. "I don't know that I should be telling you this, but it was weird, having him talk and act different like that. It was creepy, he turned into this Republican-sounding person over the course of a morning."

Jim monitored her heart rate, and panicked. His Guide, acting funny, something must be wrong; he had to get to him and fix it. He smiled at her, and let her proceed him out of the office. "Thank you for telling me. I'll try to find out what's going on tonight."

"Thank you, Detective. He's one of the bright spots in my day. He's not like the others, and it lightens up the whole department when he's here."

Jim left the building, heading towards the station, using his cell phone to check the loft for his Guide. When the machine picked up, he hung up and called Simon.

"Simon, it's Jim." pause. "No, I'm on my way in. Is Blair there?" pause. "Is he okay?" short pause. "What do you mean, what do I mean okay? Is he acting funny, or anything?" long pause. "No, it's okay, I'll talk with him when I get there." Jim hung up, and went just a little faster to get to his Guide, and make sure he was okay.


Blair walked into the bullpen, letting his bag fall into his normal chair. He sat behind Jim's desk, straightening it out, and turned on the computer monitor to do his share of the paper work. Before long, people started coming up to him.

"Hey, Hairboy, how's it going?" Henry asked as he walked by.

"Fine, how about you?" Blair answered.

Henry stopped in his tracks. Had Blair... Nooo, couldn't be. "I'm fine." He took in Blair's new outfit. "Is that new?" He pointed to the shirt.

"Yeah, I found it today at this little store in the mall. I have the card if you want to know where." Blair started to dig around, but Rafe put a hand on his shoulder.

"I know where it is. I buy my dress shirts there. Little place, second floor, tucked into a corner behind the common area, right?"

"Yeah, that's the one. One of the women in there was very nice. She picked it out for me." He stood up, letting both men see his outfit. "Do you like it?"

"Yeah," Henry said. He saw Megan, and waved absently before walking over to her.

Blair and Rafe sat down to talk about clothes. They listened when Simon's phone rang, but since he didn't come out and yell, they didn't pay it any attention.


Jim walked into the bullpen, searching for his Guide. He stopped at his desk, noticing the work that he had gotten done, and let his hearing roam for the familiar heartbeat.

He sat down, hearing the normalness of the beat on the floor below, knowing he would be coming back up soon.


Blair got off the elevator. He looked around for Jim, whom Simon had told him was coming in, and spied him at his desk. He walked over, softly so as not to startle him if he was concentrating on something, and sat in his usual chair. "Jim," he said quietly.

Jim opened his eyes, taking in the sight of his best friend, lover, and Guide. "Blair. How was school today?" He looked Blair over, noticing the new clothes, the new cologne, the change in his hair.

"School was fine, but I wasn't there for very long today. I needed to get out and think some things over." Blair shrugged. "I've gotten most of the paperwork done for the case that's going to court late next week, all you have to do is.... Jim, is something wrong?" //Why is he looking at me like that? Is something wrong, is my shirt crooked, did I spill something on it? Am I too different still?//

"I was wondering the same thing." He brushed a finger down the sleeve of the new shirt. "I stopped in at your office before coming here. Your secretary said that you had left early this morning after what sounded like you throwing things in your office." He moved his chair so he could look Blair in the face without having to turn his body. "*Is* something wrong? Do you want to talk about it?"

"Jim," Blair gave him a mega-light-inducing smile, "I've figured some things out, and now I'm better." //He'll like the new me, too, I'm sure. We're both going to be happy with this new me.// He held out his arms. "Do you like the new clothes?"

"Yes, Blair, I do, but ... Can we go talk? Someplace quiet, maybe kick Simon out of his office for a few minutes or go home? I would like to find out what you've figured out."

"Sure, man, if you can kick Simon out of his office, we'll go talk." Blair sat still while Jim walked into Simon's office to talk to him. //What's wrong with him. He looked almost... scared of something. It's not me is it? I hope it's not me. I wouldn't want to scare Jim, that might be bad. I'm sure, even if he's scared of this new me thing, that he'll adjust and we'll be fine. I mean, he loves me. He tells me so every morning.//


"Simon, may I come in?" Jim asked, his voice quiet, and shaking.

"Sure, Jim," Simon chewed on the end of his cigar, "what's wrong? You look like you've done something horrible again."

"Simon, I need to borrow your office for a little while. Blair and I need to talk."

"Why?" He leaned back in his chair, studying his friend and detective. "I noticed the new clothes and this calmer Blair, so what's wrong with it?"

"Simon, have .... have you ever seen someone change right before your eyes?" Jim sat down, letting Simon know he needed a friend right then.

"Yes, Jim, you did the minute Sandburg started working here. So I repeat, what's wrong?" He looked from Jim to Blair, who was quietly talking with Megan, and back. He had an idea what was wrong, but nothing concrete, so he guessed. "Are you scared of this new Blair? Are you worried that this new person won't love you, or will hurt you in some way? Are you worried about the Sentinel/Guide thing changing?"

"Yeah, I guess, I don't know. I went to his office, and his secretary told me about him throwing things this morning. Then he took off, to who knows where. He said he 'figured some things out' while he was gone. Now he's back, but it isn't him. It's some person whose office is neat enough to meet *my* standards, someone who spends major money on clothes. Simon, it's someone whose sitting *still* out there. He's not bouncing, not moving, just sitting there." Jim looked at the floor. "Yeah, I'm scared that this 'new' Blair won't like me, but I'm not sure that this 'new' Blair is going to be staying around. I don't like this new Blair."

"I can understand that. I'll give you a half hour. After that, you're going to have to take it home, or downstairs someplace." Simon got up and patted Jim's shoulder on the way out. "It'll be all right. Even if this Sandburg stays around, he's still Blair and he'll still love you." He left the office and Blair walked in.


Blair closed the door behind him and drew the shades. He took the seat next to Jim, pulling it around some so they could face each other. "Jim, what's wrong? You can tell me now, we're alone." Blair patted his hand, or tried to.

Jim pulled his hand away. "Is this... What did you need to figure out today, Chief? Why did you throw things around in your office today?" Jim pulled his chair around some, letting it face Blair's, but also pulling it a little farther away.

//He's scared of me. He pulled away from my touch. He pulled his chair away from mine. He doesn't like me like this. Maybe he can't love this me, or any part of me. Damn, why can't this 'change' stuff be easy.// "I was having problems with my self-image. I didn't like everything about who I was seeing in the mirror, so I took some time off this morning and thought about it. I decided that a few changes wouldn't be so bad, so I implemented them." //There, concise, to the point, a 'normal' explanation. He'll like it.// "What's wrong with that?"

"Nothing. It's just that this is such a ... a... a. ..."

"Shock? Surprise? Unusual even for me?" He shifted in his seat. //I will not pace. I can have a conversation about this without getting up and working myself up over it.// "That's part of what I wanted to change. Part of why I didn't like *who* I was seeing."

"So, you like this person better? This stiff, uptight, ... calm person better?" At Blair's nod, he got angry. "I want to understand this, Chief, I really do, but I didn't see anything that needed changing. I liked the old Blair, loved him. Sure I may rag on you about picking things up and stuff, but this... change," he swept a hand at Blair, "wasn't it going a bit far? You've changed your clothes, your speech, your mannerisms. Is there any part of you that didn't change?" He leaned over and grabbed Blair's hands from his lap. "Is there any part of the man I love that's still in there?"

//Ah, now I see, he's worried about losing the man he loves.// "But, it's still me, Jim, just a different me. The inside is still the same." //I couldn't change that, could I? I know that's where the different part of me lives. Maybe I can change that without changing the rest.// "The man you love is still sitting right here in front of you." He squeezed Jim's hands, trying to reassure him.

"I don't know about that. The man I fell in love with knew who he was and reveled in it. He didn't care what others thought of him. He lived for the differences in everyday life. That's part of why I love him. Can you tell me he's still there?"

//Is it? I don't know. Does he mean it, though? Did he fall in love with the different part of me, the part that I didn't like?// "Jim, underneath I'm still the same person you fell in love with." He smiled, a sad, shy smile. "I still enjoy the variety of life, even the mundane things. I love life, still. It's just that... the .. some of the things that made me different, in that way, were what was causing me the trouble." He held up a hand to stop Jim from interrupting. "Not the part that enjoys the individualism of everyday life, but the part of me that felt a need to be different. The parts that felt the need to buck the system, to shout that I was different. Now, I'm trying normality."

"You're trying what?" Jim's face went from fallen to astonished. "Normality?"

"I want to be normal. Like you and everyone else that's outside this office. I don't want to be singled out any more for having different tastes in clothes or hairstyles, or for my musical tastes, or for spouting off obscure facts at odd times. I want to be like you, normal, acceptable to everybody. That's all I want, well that and for you to understand and support me in this."

"I understand this, but it's still a lot to get through. I'll support you in whatever you want to do, but I didn't think you would ever want this. This is so much not like you, it's such a radical change, I just . . . need some time to sort this out. Give me a few minutes to think, okay?" Jim released Blair's hands and leaned back in the chair.

"Sure, should I get you some coffee or something?"

"That would be great, thanks." Jim watched Blair walk out of the office, but his mind was turning over what he was just told. When Blair came back, he took the cup and took a drink before sitting back up.

"Are you ready to talk to me now, Jim?" Blair leaned back in his chair, oozing confidence, drinking his tea. //Please understand me. Pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease understand this. I'll help if you'll meet me halfway here. Just love me for all of me, including this new part of me. Please, Gods, let him love me still.//

Jim watched Blair think and pretend to be calm. He picked up his cup and took another drink, then set the cup between his thighs. They needed to sort this out, and he couldn't do that here. And Blair would feel safe enough to tell him what was wrong at home. "Blair, Chief, I need to understand this. Since we only have half an hour, would you like to finish this at home? Or do we have enough time to go over this in detail here?"

"Home would be nice. I found a great sounding recipe at the mall, have all the stuff I need in the car. I could fix it, we'll eat and talk, okay?" //Yes, he's going to try!//

"Sounds good. Let me go tell Simon, and I'll meet you at home, okay?"

"Sure." Blair stood up, and leaned in to kiss Jim's cheek. "Don't stay too long." He walked out of the office.

Jim rearranged the shades and waited for Simon to come back. He pulled the chairs back into place, and was sitting in his when Simon walked in.

Simon closed the door, after seeing the hopeless expression on Jim's face.

"So, how'd it go? Everything okay with Sandburg?" He sat down in his chair, leaning back.

"No. He's decided that he needs the change." Jim took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. "He said he wants to be normal."

"Normal, huh? Well, that's one adjective that I never would have use to describe him before; but Brown and Rafe both used that word too." He leaned forward, resting his arms on the desk. "Jim, what exactly is bothering you about this? Is it the fact that he felt the need to change? Is it that he didn't do it with your help? Is it the suddenness of it? What?"

Jim thought hard about the question. "I don't know, Simon. I know part of what's bothering me is that he's not the same person. Not inside where it counts." Jim took a drink of his coffee. "The man I fell in love with would have hated being normal like that, or would have thought that normal wasn't real, some sort of social construct. This Blair, this new him, is so ... disturbing. It's like some creature, or robot, has taken the man over." Jim rubbed his eyes, suddenly tired. "He thinks he wants to be normal, but he's changed so much, he doesn't know what that is or who he is anymore. You know?" He slumped in the chair, letting his arms fall between his legs. "The man I love has disappeared into someone else, and I don't know what happened to make him do it. I've failed to protect him from something, and it's made him change to protect himself."

"Yeah, Jim, I know." Simon sighed. He couldn't keep the man here, he was miserable. Besides, a happy team made for a more productive team. "You're all caught up so go home to him, talk to him. Find out what self shattering event occurred that made him do this.. He's waiting for you, go to him and straighten him out. Make him bring your Blair back."

Jim got up and left the bastion of sanity that used to be his life.


Blair carried his bags into the loft, setting the groceries on the counter before leaving his new clothes in the bedroom upstairs. He went back to the kitchen, putting up the few supplies, and taking out his recipe, pulling out a pot. //Jim will *love* the new me once he gets to know me. But why did he look so upset? Did he really only love the different parts of me? Can he love this new me?// He drew some water into the pot, setting it on the stove to boil. He leaned against the counter. //I hope he decides to give this new me a chance. I don't know what I would do if I lose him; well actually I do, I'll die and probably literally. Why was he so scared?// He poured the rice into the pot and covered it. He brought out a frying pan, heating it while he opened cans. He poured them into the pan, letting them cook, stirring occasionally. //Please, let him accept me like I am now. I *need* him to, but... Hold it, but what?// He moved the pan off the heat, digging into the refrigerator for eggs that he cracked and stirred into the food in the pan. //But.... what? Will I change back if he can't? What *will* happen if he can't love this new me? What do I do, I can't walk away. I can't leave, I can't not love him. So what will I do?// He put the pan back onto the heat, stirring it.

Blair turned to look at Jim as he walked in. //He looks rough. Guess this must have shocked him pretty badly.// "Hi. Welcome home. Dinner will be ready in about fifteen." He walked over to give him a hug and kiss, but Jim sidestepped him.

"Okay. I'm going to shower." He went into the bathroom, closing the door quietly behind him.

Blair walked back to the stove, stirring the food in the pan, and checking the rice. He took the pot over to the sink, draining whatever water was left, setting the pan on the counter while he got out the butter to put in it. When he had it stirred in, he brought the rice back to the pan, sending it to meet the contents of the pan to soak up the flavor.

//Damn, he doesn't love me anymore. This was too much for him at once. He's never been good at change.// He stirred the rice mixture, lowering the heat. "Why can't he accept me," he whispered.

Jim stood at the other side of the counter, seeing that Blair hadn't heard him, but hearing the comment. "I'm wondering the same thing about you?" He leaned on the counter, letting Blair calm down from the fright.

Blair jumped, "Jim, don't sneak up on me like that! And what do you mean, you're wondering the same thing about me? I *can* accept myself."

"Sure you can, that's why you've invented this new person." He moved into the kitchen to grab the dishes so he could set the table. "Smells good."

Blair shrugged, giving the food one last stir. "Thank you. And I told you why I've changed myself."

Jim finished setting the table, moving aside so Blair could put the food on the table. "Not really, no you didn't."

"Stop doing that!" Blair slammed the pan onto the table.

"Doing what?" Jim gave Blair a confused look, then walked around him to get some glasses and water.

Blair turned to face him. "Walk(ing) around me, sidestep(ping) me. You've been doing it on purpose."

Jim came back, planting a small kiss on Blair's forehead before setting down the glasses. "No I haven't. You were in the way, so I walked around you." He sat down, motioning for Blair to sit when he didn't move. "Let's eat and talk." Jim started to go for the pan, but Blair scooped him out some, slamming the food onto his plate.

"There." Blair went into the bathroom, locking the door behind him.

Jim put his fork down, watching his lover leave the room. "Damn, now what?" he whispered. He wanted to get up, make Blair open the door; but he knew that if he did that, this would never get solved. "Blair," he called, "come back out, love. Come eat something. Please?"

"NO!" Blair shouted, hitting the door.

Jim winced. He got up, moving to stand in front of the bathroom door. "Blair?" He knocked softly, listening to his lover cry. "Blair, come out and we'll talk, okay?"

"No, I don't want to talk anymore. You don't love me, not like this, and probably never did." He sniffled loudly. "Go away and leave me alone for a while, please. Just go eat."

"No, Blair, not until you come eat with me." He tried the handle quietly, already knowing the answer. He turned up his hearing, listening to Blair take off his new clothes, and sit down in the ... bathtub. "Bathtub?" he said quietly, to himself, wondering. "Blair, come out, please, babe. Come out and let me hold you for a while. I need to .... need to reconnect to you. Please?"

"Go away."

"You know that isn't going to happen. Not while you're in there and I'm out here. Come out and talk to me." He ran a hand along the grain of the wood, letting the warmth flow into him. "Please let me in or come out, Blair. I love you, I have for a long time, and I still do. But we need to talk about this; you need to make me understand why you did this. Please come out."

"In a while. I want to take a bath, calm down."

"At least unlock the door." He rattled the handle loudly. "Just in case you fall asleep or something. Please?" He could hear Blair get out of the tub, unlock the door, and go back to start the water going. "Thank you," Jim called, then went back to the table. He shook his head at the probably wasted food, grabbed the plastic wrap out of a drawer, and put their supper up until they were both ready to eat it.


Blair listened to the sounds of Jim putting up their dinner before getting out of the rest of his clothes and getting into the water. //Oh, yes, feels good. Jim used to feel like this after sex, all hot, wet, and sweaty. Things were good back then. Why do they have to change now? Why did this come up now, when things are going good between us?//

He let himself sink into the water until it touched his chin. //It was so good, so right, and I had to screw everything up. Why? Is it some pathological need with me to destroy relationships? Is it something to do with Naomi and all her men? Is this some need I have that will ambush us again if we get through this?// "Gods, why now?"

Jim knocked, opening the door and sticking his head inside. "Would you like something to drink? A glass of ice water, or some juice maybe?

"No, thank you though. I'm fine." Blair turned to look at his lover. "I'm sorry if I upset you earlier, and just now, but I had to...."

"Later. You relax and we'll discuss it later. We'll think better alone, then talk about it. Say in an hour?" He took off his watch, laying it where Blair could see it.

"Sure, thanks, Jim. An hour is fine. Living room?"

"Upstairs. I want to be able to hold you while we talk. Unless you're uncomfortable with it?" Jim got a panicked look. This new Blair might not like to be held like his did.

"Sshh, no it's fine, calm down." Blair held out a hand, drawing him inside to touch it. "Come here. Give me a hug." Jim knelt down, and Blair sat up. He hung onto Jim, not letting go until the older man was calm. "Sshh," he whispered into an ear, "it's all right. We'll talk and it'll be fine, love." He pulled back slightly, looking into Jim's eyes. "We'll talk and it'll be fine. I'll explain it to you, and you'll understand why I had to do this, and everything will be fine. I promise, it'll be okay."

Jim nodded, and waited for Blair to let go. He stood up and watched the only true love in his life settle down. "Just promise that we'll talk, really talk about this. I don't want this to hurt us, you, any more."

Blair smiled up at him. "Of course it won't. We'll work it out, and everything'll be fine. Don't worry about it." He snuggled down farther into the water, searching for a comfortable spot. "Now, let me think?"

Jim smiled, "Sure, babe. Think and relax. I'll be on the couch in case you need anything." He left, leaving Blair alone with his thoughts.

//Yes, we will talk, and everything will be fine.// He sighed, letting the breath make waves.(huh?) //It isn't fine, it probably won't be. Why do I do this? Why does this happen to me? I can't be normal, I can't be myself. Who can I be?//

Blair sat up. "Hold it," he whispered, "that doesn't sound right. What am I thinking?"


Jim sat on the couch. He listened to Blair's breathing, his mutterings, monitoring them in case something happened. //Why did he do this? Is it something I said? Something I did?// He sighed, shifting to look out the window. //Where did this theory of 'normality' come from? I haven't seen him as really abnormal, I mean long hair and grunge are popular - or were a little while ago. I've never noticed him having any hang-ups about this. So why now? I've noticed his self-image problems before, but I never knew they were this bad. Did *I* miss something? What a stupid question, of course I missed something, otherwise I would be in the tub with him right now, not sitting here staring across the city.// He came out of his thoughts when Blair got out of the tub. //Better go upstairs.//

Jim climbed the stairs, heart weighing heavily in his chest. He turned back the covers, and debated how much clothes he should be wearing. //Boxers? Or would that look like a come on? How about sweats? That would be easy to get out of or sleep in, and it wouldn't make him think I was pressuring him for sex. Good.// He quickly changed, listening while Blair wrapped a towel around his hair and went to the living room. He climbed onto(in between?) the sheets, listening while Blair made a security check of the doors. He shifted nervously while Blair walked up the stairs, not really sure what the rest of the night would bring.


Blair walked out of the bathroom. He didn't have any clean clothes in there so had wrapped two towels around him. He made a check of the loft, letting Jim settle down upstairs before going up. //Well, time to face the music. Let's jump into the fire and see how well I cook.// He walked up the stairs, dreading what was to come.

"Hi." was the somber reply from the younger man. He stood at the top of the stairs, unsure what to do. //Should I get dressed? I see he's in a pair of sweats. Is that an indication that he doesn't want to touch me, or is he being considerate and not wanting to appear to pressure me for physical contact?//

"Hi. Have a nice soak?" Jim patted the bed beside him.

//My usual spot.// "Not really, something seemed to be missing, it was too quiet. I had too much time to think." He started to get into bed, but stopped and went back to the dresser for boxers.

"You don't have to if you don't want to," Jim said quietly. "I won't mind if you want us to talk naked instead of clothed."

//Okay, so he's being considerate. Good idea, though, it means that we won't be able to lie to each other.// "Okay, strip." Blair climbed under the covers, waiting for Jim to join him.

Jim stood up, shoving the sweats roughly to the floor. He stepped out of them then picked them up to half fold them and throw them onto the dresser. He climbed under the covers, not holding Blair, but facing him. "Okay, so explain this new you to me. I need to understand why this came out now. Is it something.... something... "

"No, it's not something you did. It's not something I did. I was feeling ... different, too different, and decided to change. So I thought about it out in the forest, and then headed to the mall to watch the normal people do things. I found the clothes and bought them. I went back to school, and then to the station where I found you. End of story." He sighed, moving marginally closer, but not touching. //He doesn't understand, and he doesn't like it. He won't touch me, probably wouldn't even kiss me if I asked him to.//

"Okay, so what started this?" At Blair's painful look, he added, "I'm just trying to wrap my mind around this. I *need* to know this, figure it out, even if just for myself. Please?"

Blair nodded. "Okay, I understand that. It took me a while of thinking to come to this decision. It started from the first day I started school, elementary school. I've always been different, in a bad way usually. It's gotten worse some times, and better others. You've seen it happen, but it never seemed to touch you." He started to reach a hand across to touch a shoulder, but withdrew it before it made contact.

Jim watched the hand, and saw the retreat. He grabbed the hand, entwining their fingers. "Okay, so this is an old hurt, not just what someone said about your clothes recently, not something I did to make you feel like you're not necessary or anything?" Blair shook his head. "So, have I hurt you like this?" A small smile, "Besides when we first met?"

Blair laughed, and Jim kissed his fingers. "Yes, that's exactly what I'm talking about. It's gotten so that it's normal to receive comments like being called a neo-hippy witchdoctor punk, or whatever it was."

"Or hair-boy?"

"Yes, or hair-boy. Or any of those other degrading names that everyone seems to enjoy calling me. It's just built up so far that I couldn't take it anymore, so I changed."

"Chief... Is that an okay ...."

Blair kissed him, softly, on the chin. "Yes, dear, that's fine. I know that it's a term of endearment from you. Now I know, that is. The time you called that other guy Chief broke my heart, but I know it won't happen again." He smiled slightly. "You should have heard some of the things I wanted to call you later that night."

Jim laughed. "I said I was sorry about that. Didn't I?" Blair nodded, snuggling in closer. "Blair, don't get me wrong, you looked good this afternoon. I would love to see you in that shirt again some time, but I want my Blair back. I miss my Blair, the one who's differences made my world brighter. I already miss the man who bounced in joy when he came up with an answer to some problem I was having. I miss the man who I fell in love with, mostly for the differences that you want to get rid of. I want *my* Blair back, I want for him to stand up to Brown and the others, especially Megan and her 'Sandi' calls, and tell them to stop it instead of changing so they have to stop it."

//He really doesn't like this new me. Can I live with that?// "I can't do that Jim. I've tried, but it wouldn't happen. They'd find something else to pick on me about." //It's not like you can make me taller, or more developed, or less of a nerd.//

"Is that how you feel, that they're picking on you?"

"Yeah, kinda. It's more of a 'little brother' sort of thing with Brown and the others at the station, but it still bothers me." //You have no idea how much it hurts when they start in on me, and you don't do anything about it.//

"Okay, would it help if I talked to them?"

He smiled a little sadly. "Jim, you can't make them stop it. For them, it's like an affectionate thing, like you calling me Chief, or Darwin, or Guppy, or any of the other names you've tagged me with. I.... I've gotten used to it, and it doesn't hurt so much anymore."

"But it still does hurt some, so what can I do to make this better?" Jim shifted, bringing Blair closer. "I hate it when you're hurt. It makes me feel like I failed you somehow. Can't I help you with this? Is it just your looks, what you wear, or is there more to why they pick on you? If you tell me, I'll help you any way I can."

"Yes, there is more, but no, you can't help me with it." He snuggled under Jim's chin. "Nobody can do this but me."

"Sounds like therapy, or one of the twelve step programs." He wrapped himself around Blair, letting him know he was there and loved him. "I love you, and whatever you need, I'm there for you. But I still like the old Blair, doubts and all."

"I know you do, and so do I. I started having these.... feelings strongly about a month ago, and they wouldn't go away."

A light went off in Jim's head. This was something he could work with, a clue. "Okay, good, let's start there. Was there a certain event, or did it just suddenly pile up on you and you snapped under it? I noticed some strange sounding dreams, but none of them sounded disturbing. Could this be some sort of mid-life crisis?"

"I don't know. I don't remember anything, but maybe it's something small that snapped me, they usually are. And I'm a little young for a mid-life crisis, don't you think." He kissed the flesh under his lips. "I didn't know what to do, so I thought a lot and read my old Psychology books before deciding to try this. I want to bring the old Blair into this new me and merge them to form someone better. I just want your support on this." He pulled back to look in Jim's eyes. "I know it'll be hard sometimes, but will you be patient with me?"

Jim kissed the precious lips, "Of course I will, what else would I do? But, I want you to do something for me, okay?"

"Sure, what?" He snuggled back into the warm and protective body.

"See someone?" He pulled Blair tight, not wanting him to leave or get mad. "Not a shrink, or anything that formal if you don't want it, but someone to talk to (to) help you work this out. Someone in the school's counseling office, or a teacher freelancing in the Psych department, someone trained to help with this sort of thing. Just so *you* don't get lost under all the changes." He kissed the wavy hair, waiting for an outburst that didn't come.

"I hadn't thought about it like that. Yeah, I can do it, but what if they want to talk to you? Will you come with me?"

Jim laughed. "Like I would leave you alone with someone who could damage your precious mind. You might loose all the lovable parts and never find them, then what would I do?" He hugged Blair tighter, letting him feel the love. "Love you."

"You too. Sleep." Blair yawned, letting the comfort and warmth of his lover overcome him. He was asleep in no time, curled onto(up on) Jim's chest, being petted like he was the most precious animal in the world.

"I love you Blair, but don't get lost. Please. Come back to me," Jim whispered, rubbing the back under his hand. He drifted off to sleep, holding Blair like he was going to disappear while he was asleep.


Blair woke up enfolded into the strong arms of his lover. //Well, how do I do this today? Do I dress like me, or do I dress in the new clothes, or do I do some of both?// He felt Jim come awake, snuggling into him. "Morning, love."

"Um, yeah." He dug his face down deeper into Blair's hair. "Morning."

Blair chuckled, Jim's breath was tickling his neck. "Jim, gotta move a little."

"Why, love your hair." He sunk his nose in deeper, nuzzling at the ear buried in it and trying to go back to sleep.

"Because, man, if you don't I'm gonna hafta do something mean."

"No won't. Good Blair." Jim stroked Blair's chest, petting the fur there in the wrong direction.

"Oh, for that you get something really bad." He squirmed until he was laying on top of Jim's chest. "Morning, love."

"Mean, you took soft hair away. I was comfortable in it."

"I know, but it tickled."

"Sorry." He pulled his lover down farther, letting Blair's head rest in the middle of his chest. "Morning."

"Ah, circular greetings." He tried to bury his nose in the hard muscles. "Did you mean that?"

"Wha'?" Jim blinked himself back to being almost awake.

"The part about loving my hair?"

"Ummm, yeah." He ran the strands through his fingers, letting them curl and bind around his hand. "Always did. That was one of the first things I noticed about you at the hospital; how alive your hair looked, all the colors in it, how soft it would probably feel if I ran my fingers through it.." He sunk the other hand into the living mass of silken strands. "Always loved it, and you."

"Thanks, Jim, I needed that."

"Keep it up, and we're both staying home today." He opened an eye to look down at the man on his chest.

"Huh?" Blair pulled his head up to look at Jim.

"I don't want you running around out in the big bad world without me if you still feel like that."

"Oh," he said, sighing and laying back down. "But I have meetings, and you can't just take off today because I'm having a bad self-image fit. Simon wouldn't like that."

"Then let him get his own Blair, mine needs me." He closed his eye, leaning his head back and holding Blair tighter to his chest.

Blair laughed. He always enjoyed Jim's forays into primitive possessionism(possessiveness). "Okay, if you can work it, I'll call in sick. The secretary has probably spread rumors about me to the other teachers anyway. They probably all think I'm having a breakdown. Shouldn't be too hard."

"Are you?"

"What, having a breakdown? Don't think so." He licked the nipple lying beside his lips. "Not right now anyway. Ask me some other time."

"Nope, now or never. You can't have one ever again, so decide now if you're having your last one."

"Not having one, don't worry. So, sex or no sex this morning."

"Mine. And no, we'll talk today. How about we build a fire and talk in front of it."

"Too warm for a fire. How about outside in the park or the forest?"

"Supposed to rain."


"Sounds good. Tomorrow's Friday, so we could take a really long weekend and deal with this together. Okay?"

"Sounds perfect. We'll talk and I'll persuade you to my side on this issue."

"Maybe, or maybe I'll figure out what's wrong and we'll fix it."

"Nothing to fix. Call Simon."

Jim looked at the clock. "Blair, it's five thirty. I'm not that brave."

Blair laughed and held a hand out for the phone. "I'll do it."

Jim shook his head and handed Blair the cordless phone. "I'll miss you if he eats you for this."

"He gets up about now anyway." He dialed the number, and listened to the ringing. "Hey, Simon, can I...."

\\Yeah, he can have the rest of the week off. Go do something with him. See you Monday.\\ He hung up.

"Well, he said he'd see you Monday." He shut off the phone. "It's like he was expecting us to need this time. You two must have had a long talk yesterday."

"Not really, only a few minutes. Hold it, he was expecting that call?" Blair nodded. "Oh, well I guess he knows me better than I thought. So, shower, sex, or food?"

"Sex in the shower while we're eating food?" The teasing Blair-smile appeared.

Jim groaned and tickled Blair into submission.


They drove to their favorite camping spot, one at the bottom of the falls and set up camp. Jim set the tent up while Blair went looking for firewood and rocks.

Jim drove the last stake (in), and turned his hearing up to find his partner. //Over by the water, looking in no doubt, since he's not moving.// He followed the strong heartbeat, and came upon his Guide staring at the falls, watching the rainbow formed by the spraying water. "Pretty isn't it?" he asked, encircling Blair in his arms. "Just like you, beautiful."

Blair snorted. "Thanks, and you're full of it today." He turned in the tight circle and watched the translucent rainbow reflect from his ice blue eyes. "You're the beautiful one. All strong and chiseled, and tight."

"Not even close. I have spots on my soul that you'll never have. Yours is clean, pure, reflective like a mirror so others can see their own spots. You shine light into the dark areas of me, dragging them with you until they rest in the light and reform to be better." He kissed the soft mouth, drinking in the taste of his Guide and the bagel he had eaten for breakfast. "Good."

The younger man was shocked, he had never heard Jim say things like that to anyone, let alone him. "Thanks, that was poetic. I didn't know you had it in you.." He smiled, looking into Jim's face, searching for something. "Can I take a nap while you finish setting up?"

Jim nodded. "Sure, anything you want. I'll get the fire pit dug and outlined and we'll get back together when you get up." He kissed the top of Blair's curls. "Happy sleep."

Blair chuckled, "Thanks, man. See you in about an hour."

Jim watched his lover walk back to their tent, listening as he stripped and slid into the sleeping bag. He listened until Blair's heartbeat calmed, and he could hear the gentle snores that meant he was dreaming peacefully.


Blair looked around. The place where he was yesterday, the mall, was different, not as bright this time. He looked down at himself, he was wearing his normal flannels and jeans, nothing unusual there. He spied a bench, sitting down to watch what was happening, sure he was there for a reason.

One of his students, a young woman walked over to him. "I don't know what's wrong with him. I mean doesn't he realize he isn't hip and cool now that he's old?"

Another student popped up behind her. "He's okay. I mean he's cute and all, and he's a good teacher. Why should we complain if from behind he looks like a woman?"

Brown walked past him, "Hey, Hairboy, what's wrong? You being 'out there' again?"

All around him, people were turning and looking at him and pointing. "Hairboy," a child said, pulling on the suddenly increasing locks. "Hairboy," all the others said, laughing and pointing at him as they turned to talk about him.

He got up, pushing through the people, ignoring the comments he heard, heading towards the outside. //Outside will be better.//

He opened the door, stepping out into the forest. He looked at his hair, now brushing the forest floor, and tried to gather it some to release the weight from the back of his neck. //I don't need this.// He could still hear the "Hairboy" calls from the mall, sounding like it was getting closer.

Blair took off, running from the people, trying to escape..

He stopped to take a breath, looking around at the small clearing he was in. A deer raised it's head, looking straight at him. It opened it's mouth, talking in a voice that sounded suspiciously like his Advisor's. "Mr. Sandburg, would you mind terribly if we don't have you talk to the college review people this year? We aren't trying to hide you, but the Dean is afraid of what they'll think of you." The deer went back to grazing, not looking at him again.

Blair took off again, after shaking himself free of the shock. //Too weird.//

A squirrel chattered next to him. "That's what we think too," it said and disappeared back into it's hole.

Blair ran until he couldn't anymore. He fell down at the bank of the river. He looked around, recognizing the place as one near where he and Jim were camped. He leaned down to take a drink, and got scared. Looking back at him was something out of an old television show, Cousin It from the Adam's Family.

//No, can't be happening. I don't look like that, not even close.// He pulled up some of the hair, looking at it. It was his, all curly and tangled together. //No, not me, I'm not like this.// He got up, heading for their camping area.

Jim would know how to fix it.

Blair burst into the clearing, startling Jim, who grabbed a gun from beside him and drew on him. //Jim, it's me,// he tried to say, but the words came out as some strange sounds. Jim didn't relax, and Blair didn't want to move closer. They stood there, staring until Jim shook himself and fired the gun, killing him.


Jim looked up, watching the tent. Blair was thrashing around in there, having another nightmare. He walked in, sitting down and pulling the struggling man into his lap to comfort him and gently wake him.(awkward sent.)

"Blair," he whispered into his ear. "Love, wake up, it's a dream. Only a dream, love, come back to me now." He rocked them both, trying to let him surface gently.

Blair shot awake, knocking into Jim's chest and chin. He panted, trying to catch his breath, before looking down at his chest to make sure there was no hole or blood. "Oh, man, can't do that again." He calmed himself, allowing his partner to stroke him. "Thanks."

"For what?" Jim kissed the top of Blair's head, which he had tucked under his chin, and brought him around so he could look at him. "Would you like to talk about it?" Blair shook his head. "You need to, just to make it go away."

"Can't." he said, trying to get up. He was tangled up in the sleeping bag on Jim's lap, and had no way out of it without help. "Get me out?"

"No, I want you here with me."

"I won't go, just get me out of the bag. Please?" Jim nodded and unzipped him, and Blair got up. "Be right back, have to visit nature."

"No, it's raining. Come back here and you can go once it slows down some."

"Jim, it's cool, I just gotta pee. I'll be right back and we'll cuddle." He took Jim's face in his hands. "I promise." He kissed him lightly, promising with his lips that he wouldn't do anything foolish like get lost.

"Okay, hurry back."

Blair nodded and grabbed his shoes, putting them on and running outside to the tree line.

Jim watched Blair dodge the raindrops on the way to the big pine tree they used for that purpose. He hadn't noticed his Guide was losing weight. but Blair was thinner, his ribs were showing again, he could count them on the naked body running for the trees.

"I've got to put him on a feeding schedule." He watched for him to come back, trying to think back to the last meal he had eaten with Blair besides breakfast that morning. He thought back a few days, not recalling their having eaten together for almost a week. "Could he be doing this to himself over all these feelings?" he asked to thin air. Blair ran back towards him, hurrying so he didn't get any more wet.

Jim waited while he entered the tent, taking off his shoes, before pulling him back down into his lap. "You, my lovely one, need to eat more often. I could see your ribs when you were outside." He petted the smaller back, running light fingers along the protruding bones. "I mean it. Don't make me find a way to force feed you Wonderburger."

"I'm fine. I haven't lost any weight at all, you just had your sight turned up too high." Blair shrugged and made a face. "And if you want to force feed me, please don't make it Wonderburger."

Jim laughed, hugging him tightly. "Oh, I love you. You know that right?" Blair nodded. "Good, now let's talk about the nightmare."

"Don't know. It's gone now." He hoped Jim wouldn't hear his heart speed up at the little lie, but he didn't want to hurt him any further by telling him about what he did in it.

"Tough, and I can tell that's not true, your pulse sped up." He stroked his sensitive fingers down Blair's throat, making him shiver. "You trained me too well for me to fall for that. Now give." Blair shook his head, so Jim turned him to face him and kissed him until neither could breathe. "Tell me and I'll make it better, " he whispered against Blair's lips, gently nipping at the flesh to make his point. "I'll protect you from all the mind monsters you have."

Blair laughed. "Mind monsters, Jim?" At Jim's hurt look, he hugged him hard and kissed him gently. "Okay, but promise me not to freak over it." Jim nodded, so Blair wiggled until he was comfortable. "I was in the mall, and everything looked so *dull*. I was trying to figure out what was wrong with the picture, so I sat down. Then two students came right up to me and started talking to each other about how 'different' I was." He swallowed. "Then Brown came up and called me 'Hairboy' and asked if I was 'out there' again, whatever that meant. Everyone looked and pointed, taking up the chorus of 'Hairboy' and pretty soon they were whispering about me."

"Oh, sshh baby, it's all right. Nobody would do that to you." Jim murmured in his ear, calming the racing heartbeat in(of) the small man on his lap. "What else happened to you? Why were you running?"

"How did you know? Oh, never mind." He smiled up at Jim, snuggling in tighter to his chest. "I got out of the mall, ending up in the forest not far from here. The animals started talking. My advisor was a deer, and he was asking if I would mind terribly being hid from the college review committee. A squirrel agreed when I thought the deer was weird. Then I came to the river, just down stream from here. I looked down and saw... saw hair, my hair, and it was covering me like I was Cousin It." He took a deep breath. "I recognized the spot, so came running up here. I came into the clearing and you drew a gun on me." He was shaking now, Jim rocking him. "You stared, then shook yourself and shot me." He was on the verge of tears. "You shot me, I can't believe you shot me, just picked up the gun and fired. How could you not know who I was?" He was crying, tucking his head into Jim's chest. "You didn't check to see if it was me, you just shot me like some monster that was terrifying a child."

Jim was shocked. No wonder Blair was this upset. He patted his back, gentling his sobs and cooing gentle and soothing noises into his hair, rocking them both gently until Blair was calm again. He pulled Blair up, wiping away the evidence of his tears and kissed each cheek, licking off the salty residue. "Better?" he asked, looking into the sorrowful eyes. Blair nodded so he pulled him back in close to cuddle him some more. "I'm sorry."

"It was just a dream. I know you would never do that to me." He sniffled into the broad t-shirt covered chest. "Thanks man."

"For what? Holding you?" Blair nodded. "Not a problem. Besides, it's what I was taught to do when someone was hurt. You see, I had this great teacher who pushed his way past my defenses and made me come out to join the rest of the world, making it bright and exciting again. He taught me that a touch was one of the most and best healing things in the world(really awkward)." Jim smiled down at his lover, loving the look of pleasure and wonder shining from his face. "And I thank God everyday that he loves me enough to continue to show me." He kissed the upturned lips, licking them for any tear traces first. "Without him, I'd be some grumpy person in some hospital ward somewhere."

"I love you too, man." Blair licked his lips and kissed Jim back, moving so he could straddle the wide lap. "You are my world, my light." He kissed his way over to Jim's ear. "You are my life, my reason for existing," he whispered, licking the inner shell, tracing the curves and whorls of the delicate tissue. "Without you, my life was an existence, but nothing more." He moved down, licking the tendon that cored(huh?) between Jim's neck and shoulder. Blair bit the tender junction of neck and shoulder, bringing a groan from his partner. "Will you reaffirm my reason to live?" He looked up, eyes dilated and dark, voice husky and deep with lust. "Please?"

Jim laid him down gently on the sleeping bag, climbing on top of him. "Yes, love, I'll make love to you and reaffirm your reason to live." He smiled and licked the tender indentation on Blair's throat. "I've never heard love called that before." He looked up, drinking in the sight of his Blair wanting him. "But, I've always known you were my anchor, my strength, my purity of spirit so I guess we're even." He licked down onto Blair's naked chest. "Without you, I wouldn't' be here, or be the me I am." He kissed a nipple, tenderly licking it before suckling on it. "I love you, Blair, now and forever, whoever you feel the need to be." Jim moved down farther, taking him gently in his mouth, suckling on the fledgling erection.

Blair arched up into his mouth, moaning and started(starting) to cry again. "Oh, Jim, that's so beautiful." Jim came back up him, hugging him close. "I just don't know who I am anymore." He sniffled into Jim's neck, raising a hand to wipe away the few brief tears from him. "Thank you."

Jim had been thinking about Blair's dream, 'processing it' as his lover would say. "Blair, do you remember those things happening?" When Blair raised his head to give him a confused look, he added, "The thing with your advisor and those two students. Did they actually happen? Because if they did, then they could be the reason behind all this change and normality stuff."

Blair thought back to the last few weeks, not finding anything but a few large blank spots, especially over two days. "Jim, I ... I found a blank spot. I can't remember doing anything for two days, and some other small amounts of time from the last two weeks," he whispered, scared. "Maybe I am having a breakdown after all. Spots like that could only mean that I'm blocking something. Something I don't want to know about."

"Nope, not going to happen," Jim said, kissing him on the forehead. "You're mine, and I say you can't have one." He rolled up onto his side, leaning his elevated head on one hand. "So, they could have happened, but you're not sure, right?" Blair nodded. "Is there any way to find out? Something like hypnosis or some sort of meditation?"

Blair thought about what he knew. "Yeah, I could try to meditate to recall. I'll do that while you go fix supper." He rolled up onto his knees, wiggling his butt for a second and leaning in for a kiss. "You're the greatest love." Blair reached for his pack and brought out a candle and some incense. "I was going to meditate tomorrow," he said when Jim looked surprised.

Jim just nodded. "I set up the extra tarp over by the seating area so it would stay dry. I can go sit out there while you do that in here." He started to get up, but Blair's hand stopped him.

"I can't burn the candle in here, the tent's flammable." He stood up and walked outside. "Besides, it's stopped raining." He walked naked to the tarp near the fire, adding a few pieces of wood so he could stay warm. He laid out his stuff, lighting the candle from the fire and sat himself in a lotus position, humming his mantra to himself.

Jim just watched him go, great wonder filling him at how calmly Blair was taking his suggestion. "He's rubbing off on me," he told himself, getting up to go make some stew.


Blair found himself in a temple, but it wasn't somewhere he was familiar with. "Hello," he called softly. He turned to watch a shadow move along the wall, trying to figure out where the figure that made it was. "Hi."

"Young one, you have finally come to us. Welcome," a voice said, coming from the shadow. "Are you ready to test yourself?"


"Shaman," his Spirit Guide said, materializing beside him. "It is time for you to quit lying and find yourself. What you fear is no longer real, and now you must give up the partial-truths you tell others to hide yourself. You must come clean and be true with your Sentinel(. H)e won't be mad, I promise. But, if you do not, then he'll leave because he won't be able to trust who you are." The wolf shook himself, sitting down and thumping his tail a few times. "Are you ready?"

"I... .I don't know." He looked down at the floor. "I just don't know anymore."

The wolf nuzzled his hand to comfort him, then howled, bringing it's mate to sit with them. They nuzzled for a few minutes, licking each other's ears in greeting. "Panther, is your guidling ready to help him?"

"He's as ready as he can be, but he's not good at this sort of thing either. You know how he hides." He tried to shrug, rippling strong leg muscles. "But, you, Shaman, must make the trip. He can protect you, but it is your choices that will decide the outcome. He can only help you, show you the way." Both animals got up, leaving him alone.

Blair came back to the camp, shivering. He looked around, not finding Jim, so he got up and put another log on the fire, stirring the stew while he was there. He took one last look around, but not seeing Jim, he hurried into the tent and put on his earlier clothes.

They met at the fire, both sitting down to watch the sparks fly in the early dusk.

"So, how was it?" Jim asked.

"Strange. But your guide was there with mine, and they said I have to take a journey." He slumped down, letting his clasped hands fall between his ankles. "Why me?"

Jim kissed his cheek. "Because the special ones always have problems." He reached across Blair, grabbing the pot and stirring it, moving it into arm's length (huh?). "Do I need to help or do you know what you need to do?"

"I don't have a clue, man. Not a one." Blair got up, walking off into the woods to be alone and think. "I'll be back in a while. I won't get lost," he called over his shoulder.

Jim watched him go, knowing he shouldn't let him out of his sight, but also knowing he needed to be alone. "Just don't go too far and don't make me track you," he whispered, moving the pot away from the fire. He waited until Blair was far enough away to not notice being followed before starting out after him.


Blair stopped, resting against a tree. He knew Jim was behind him somewhere, just because he had caught a glimpse of his shirt once. He smiled, wondering again at how lucky he was to have Jim as his.

He sat down, closing his eyes and leaning his head against the soft and firm trunk. He could feel the other plane calling him, so he relaxed into it, letting himself be pulled to where he was needed.


Jim waited, watching Blair sit down and take a rest. When he hadn't moved for a few minutes, he tuned in on(to) his vital signs, making sure he was all right.

When it had been almost a quarter of an hour, he quietly walked up to the younger man, making just enough noise to alert him if he was awake, but not enough to wake him. He touched a shoulder, noticing it didn't have any resistance to it. He shook it harder, calling Blair back to him. "Blair, buddy, come on. Time to go back."

Blair didn't answer, and Jim started to get worried. He sat down, pulling him over to rest on his chest. "Blair, come on, you're scaring me. I thought I was supposed to be the one who zoned out."

He still didn't answer, so Jim just sat there, closing his eyes gradually. He would go to whatever plane he was on to find him if he had too. He concentrated on the images of his lover and his Guide, picturing them calling him to come to them, using something Blair had taught him only a few weeks ago to find his errant Guide.


Blair found himself back in the temple. He could hear Jim calling him, but he didn't worry. The Panther and the Wolf were staring at him, waiting on him to come too.

When Jim finally gave in and showed up, Blair hugged him, hard. "Welcome," the Wolf said. "We've been waiting for you, Guardian."

"Umm, okay." He looked around, noticing the shadow that floated around. "Who's that?" he asked, pointing towards it.

"That," the Panther said, "is who you're here to find." They walked off, disappearing into the shadows themselves. "Hunt for him and he'll run, find him and he'll follow you back. Follow the Guide, Sentinel, and don't look for him."

Jim shook his head. "Are your's (always) like this always? The Panther is usually cryptic with me, but this was one of the worst." He hugged his Guide, wondering what was going on.

"We're here to test me," Blair said, hugging back. "This is my journey, but you're here to protect me from whatever it is. You're here to help me, but I still have to do all the work." He shuddered. "I thought I was having bad dreams before." He nodded at the shadow, (which was) growing larger. "We gotta get out of here," Blair said, taking off at a run. He didn't know why he was doing this, but it felt right.

Blair had learned to follow what felt right at an early age, letting it lead him to Rainier and Jim;(,) following the confusing paths when he could find them.

Jim looked from the shadow to the back of his retreating lover. "Blair, wait," he called, running after the young man. "You'll get lost. Again." Jim turned up his sense of smell and hearing, using them to track the younger man. "Blair, wait."

Blair didn't even turn as he rounded another corner and disappeared from sight. Jim ran faster, hearing the heart he was tracking speed up. He rounded the same corner and stopped.

Blair was standing in mid-air off the edge of a cliff. Jim walked as close as he dared, watching the path he was on for signs of crumbling. He reached out a hand. "Blair, take my hand and come back."

Blair smiled and looked back over his shoulder. "Why? The path is solid. The cliff edge is the illusion." He moved a step farther. "Don't you trust me?"

Jim closed his eyes and started to step off to join Blair.

"No, open your eyes. You can only join me if you trust me," Blair said hotly. He put his hands on his hips, a most un-Blair like body position.

Jim looked over him, using his Sentinel sight to check the image before him. He turned up his hearing, It was a different heartbeat. "You aren't my Blair," he said and backed up.

The not-Blair laughed. "Oh, yes I am. I'm the same Blair that came to you in the hospital. The same Blair that moved in with you, got shot for you."

Jim shook his head. "No, it's wrong. You don't sound or smell the same." He backed up some more. "You aren't my Blair."

The not-Blair's laugh got louder. "Not only am I your Blair, but I'm the real Blair where it counts." It started to walk away.

Another Blair walked toward him, moving out onto the path. Jim checked it, but this one didn't sound or smell like his Blair either. He didn't follow it, refusing to take it's hand.

He waited through four more not-Blair's before he found one that smelled and sounded like his Blair. But that one didn't move out onto the invisible path. It couldn't even step onto the part he was on without wincing. So he went to it. "Blair?"

His Blair looked up and smiled sadly. "I can't follow them." He turned to go back into the forest.

Jim grabbed his arm. "No, stay with me." They both watched as another not-Blair walked by. "Who are they?"

"Blair's that are free." He tried to turn and go again, leaving Jim, but was stopped. "Let me go. I have to join the other parts that can't walk the path."

Jim shook himself. "No, stay with me. I have to go with you."

"But I can't go on the path and you can. You should join the ones who can." He got loose and disappeared into trees.

Another not-Blair came up to him. "You have to get him back but first, Guardian, you must join all of us." He held out a hand and Jim, not knowing what else to do, went with him.

They ended up in a clearing around an ... altar. There was an animal on the stone slab, a wolf. Around it sat all the not-Blair's. As he watched a few more came and joined them.

All the not-Blair's sat down as one and started to hum something. Jim watched, his guide sitting and following along. Soon, all the not-Blair's were glowing, becoming thin. His guide to this place looked up at him and smiled.

"You must guard us and help us now. We are to be joined."

"Joined?" Jim was now throughly confused.

"Yes, it is time." The not-Blair turned back and started to hum again.

He watched as each of the not -Blair's turned thin and non-corporeal and each in turn stepped up to the wolf on the altar. Each touched the soft fur, disappearing in a soft flash of light, making the wolf become younger and more solid, almost more healthy.

Each not-Blair had it's own way of walking up. One floated, one stomped, one sashayed. Jim finally realized that each one was a separate part of Blair's personality. Each not-Blair was actually a part-Blair.

The one that must represent his Professor side looked at him and smiled right before it touched the wolf. "Very good Guardian. Now all you have to do is figure out the rest." Then he too disappeared.

The part-Blair that led him here was the last. "Now you must get us to the other's," it said, standing up. "You must protect us and we must be joined." Then he too disappeared.

Jim watched in awe as the wolf got younger and younger, becoming a cub.

The cub stood up and looked at the ground, then at him, then at the ground again, and whined. Jim got the hint and came over to lower him carefully to the forest floor. He watched the cub roll around and sniff everything, investigating. When it looked up and gave him a Blair smile, he knew he was doing the right thing.

"So how do we find the other parts of you?"

The cub headed back down the path, making sure to stay on it. They came to the edge of the cliff, and the cub stopped.

"Can't you cross it?" The cub laid down and buried it's head under it's paws. "I guess that's a no. Can I carry you across?"

The cub got up and jumped and bounced around him in joy. Jim just smiled, that was so much like his Blair. He picked up the cub and stuck a foot out, tenderly searching for the path. He couldn't find it until he looked down for it.

He stepped out, carefully stepping across the open spaces and onto the other side. The cub whined when he tried to put it down, so he continued to carry it, letting it find it's way inside his shirt and snuggle down. The next thing he knew, he was feeling cubly(cub type) snores coming from down the front of his shirt. He pulled out the collar, looking down, but the sleeping little one never woke up.

Jim just shrugged and stepped off the path, following the trail marked by the off path part- Blair's.(huh?) He wound(maneuvered) his way through the woods, walking around trees and bushes that reached for him and tried to scratch him.

When he finally came to the other clearing, he found a mirror of the other site. All the part- Blair's sitting around humming. But none of these were glowing, none were getting ethereal. What could be wrong?

One of them looked up at him and said, "You shouldn't be here Guardian. You belong on the path."

"Why?" he asked the part-Blair, but he didn't get an answer. He pulled out his collar and looked down, checking on the Blair-cub. "What do I have to do now?" he asked it. He didn't get an answer. At least from the cub.

The part-Blair looked up at him again. "You shouldn't have brought the path walker here. This place will kill him."

Jim looked around. He couldn't see any danger. "What will?"

"This place," another said. "It's deadly to the free Blair's."

Jim was starting to understand now. These parts of Blair were the parts he was repressing. And he thought he had a lot of repression. There were more part-Blair's here than at the other site. "So then come with me out of here," he offered them.

They all laughed, a sad and sickly sound. "We can not," they said. "Here we must stay. Here we must die."

Jim shook his head. He couldn't let these parts of his Blair go, he needed them to be whole. Then the thoughts started hitting him again. //If these are part-Blair's then they must all be part of his personality. Only these are the parts he wants to get rid of, kill off. So I have to get them and the cub back together again so Blair could be whole. Otherwise Blair will never be himself.// Jim sat down and thought, idly stroking the wolf cub in his shirt. //So, why is this one hiding? Can it not get down over here or risk the same fate? Would my Blair be lost if he let the cub down here?// He looked at the part-Blair beside him. "What part are you?"

"I'm his enthusiasm for new ideas," it said simply.

"But Blair does have enthusiasm for new ideas, so why are you here?"

"I'm part of that. That's why I'm less here than they are. Blair only wanted part of me." The figure pointed at the altar here, and the little boy laid out on it.

Jim stood and walked closer, looking at the child. It was his Blair, at about age four. He recognized him from the pictures Naomi had showed him. He stood next to the altar and touched the little Blair's shoulder. He looked up and coughed.

"I'm sick," he said.

Jim nodded. "If you could convince them to come and be part of you I might be able to make you well."

The boy smiled sadly. "I can't. That's why I'm sick, because they're part of me." He closed his eyes and sighed. "The cub can't live on this side, like I can't live on it's side. It needs to go home Guardian before it get's hurt. Or worse starts to be able to live over here."

Jim smiled. "Blair, I know how to cure you, make you better, but you must join with the others here. That's your only chance." He leaned down and kissed the soft cheek. "I don't want to lose you or any part of you. Can you do as I ask?"

The boy shook his head, but didn't open his eyes. "I can't. I'm scared." His breath got rapid and shallow. "If I join with them, then no one will like me."

Jim patted the soft curls and thought. //Self-esteem problem. He thinks no one will like the whole him so he's killing off the parts of him he thinks no one likes. Doesn't he know I'll love him no matter what?// Jim looked down. The child was getting paler by the second. //Apparently not. Got to get them into him and him joined with the cub. But how?// "Blair, open your eyes. Please, for me?" He waited until the boy complied. "You have to trust me. I'll love you and want you no matter what parts of you come back. But I really only want the whole you. All the parts together. I need, I want, you to join together with these parts of you."

The boy thought about it, not closing his eyes, but Jim could still see his mind working slowly. "Will you still want me? Swear?"

"I swear it. I will want and love all of you. No matter what parts of you come back, no matter how long you take to settle. No matter how much you think I'll leave, I won't. I love you, all of you. You're the reason I exist." He smiled and kissed the soft cheek again. "Come back to me?"

The boy nodded and got up. Jim helped him down to the forest floor and walked him over to each part-Blair. He held his hand as he touched each in turn, absorbing each part and becoming more healthy and whole. More solid. When the little Blair had gotten each one, Jim walked them back to the cliff side. The path on this side was gone, so he left the child there and walked the cub over to the other side and put him down.

The cub came awake instantly, running around and sniffing things. Jim waited until it had peed on three of the nearest trees before standing up. He called the wolf cub. "Blair," he said and kneeled down. It came scampering over, it's tail wagging. "You need to join now with the other parts . You have to meet him halfway. I'll be waiting there for you."

He turned and walked out onto the invisible path, which had grown wider. "Blair," he called the little boy. "I need you and the cub both to come to me." He smiled. "I'll be waiting right here for you."

The boy shook his head and said, "Can't."

"Yes you can. The only reason you can't is because someone told you that you couldn't and you listened. Listen to me. I'm your Guardian. I would never steer you wrong or let you get hurt. You have to come and meet me here. Come meet the other parts of yourself."

He watched as the little boy took the first step, the pain evident on his face. Each step got worse. When he couldn't watch that anymore, he turned to watch the wolf cub come over, each step bringing a whine of pain. He watched each in turn, seeing them get closer and closer until they were just a few inches apart on each side of him.

Jim stepped back, knowing somehow that they had to do this part themselves.

The two parts of Blair looked at each other, the cub sniffing, the boy looking scared. They would inch forward, then retreat, then come closer, then go farther back, then come closer but not close enough to touch, then start all over again. But, they had to do it. Themselves. That was something the spirit guides had told them, it was Blair's decision.

The little boy turned to look at him. "Are you sure?"

The cub looked at him and yipped.

Jim almost laughed. If this wasn't so serious, he would be rolling on the invisible path. Both Blair's asking the same question, but neither hearing the other. "Did you hear what he asked?"

They both shook their heads no and turned to look at the other. They stared, they blinked, they tipped their heads the same way. Eventually they caught on. They turned to look at him. "We're the same," the little boy said, the wolf echoing it with a bark. Jim nodded and let them figure the rest out. "So we can come together and be one?"

"You were meant to be one. Someone bad just told you differently and you didn't have a guardian then to tell you otherwise." He crouched down, coming to their eye level. "I will protect you from now on, no one will ever be able to separate you again. All you have to do is join."

The little Blair looked up at him. "But you didn't always protect us."

Jim swore mentally. "I know." He looked down at the valley below them. "And it was my mistake. I was stupid and scared and I didn't know I should've come to you with that. Can you forgive me?"

The little Blair came over and gave him a hug, the cub coming over to lick his hand. "We love you. Are you sure you want to protect us? It'll mean a lot of extra work for you and it'll mean you have to be around us always. You can never send us away again."

Jim smiled and ruffled both their hairs. Okay, I know what you're saying but it sounds like they only have two hairs between them. Maybe 'patted both of their heads'? "I'm not going anywhere. I'm yours and (you're) mine. I'll protect you always to the best of my ability."

The little Blair looked at the cub and shrugged. "He'll take care of us, he's the guardian." The cub barked and came forward. The little Blair sat down and held out his arms, letting the cub lay in them.

Jim watched as they both glowed and became one before his eyes. They merged, becoming the Blair he was used to seeing everyday, growing older the more they came together. When they were finally one, Jim helped the normal aged Blair up, pulling him into a hug.




"Home," he said He kissed Blair's mouth, sliding the velvet soft ones against his and closing his eyes.

When they opened them, they were back in the forest, sitting together under a tree. Blair snuggled back into Jim's arms and smiled. "Thank you," he said quietly.

Jim just smiled and stood up, pulling him up and starting the walk back to the camp, hand in hand.


Blair stood out on the balcony, looking over the city, staring at it like he had never seen such a sight before. Jim came up behind him and wrapped him in his arms.

"Are we okay?" He pushed the hair out of his way with his lips and kissed the tender spot behind Blair's ear.

Blair turned in his arms, smiling. "Never better." They kissed, searching and finding each other in his mouth. Blair pulled back and grinned, his eyes twinkling. "So, does this mean we're like married?"

Jim laughed, pulling him close and hugging him tight. "Oh, married is such a light word for what we are." He kissed the top of the curls, taking a deep smell of their scent. "We're joined, never to be parted. Guardian and whole Blair. Now and forever."

Blair smiled into the broad chest and nipped it "So, does that mean that I can be on top tonight?"

Jim swatted him gently, and turned them back inside. "You can be whatever you want. Top, bottom, side, husband, wife, lover. Mine and that's all that matters. That we're together and you're you."

Blair smiled and led his lover, his guardian, up the stairs. He stopped next to the bed and stripped them both, easing their flesh together and onto the bed beside each other.

Jim laid there and let Blair lead them closer to each other. It was the right decision. For now, forever. For them.

The End. Okay, and now I have my dose of angst for the month. One story left.;-)