I want to dedicate this story to a friend of mine, Rob, who is going through a rough time in his life. He has said, in so many words, that I was his candle against the darkness, and without me, he would have given up a long time ago. Hearing that and other such things caused us to have a two-hour phone call and several tears. Sufficed to say, I convinced him that life is worth living. He's doing better, but I can see the sadness every once and a while in his eyes and in the way he acts. If you have a friend who is thinking about giving in, don't let them. Please.
I also want to dedicate this to those of us who didn't find the candle in time. Sadly, many don't and... Well, they become a statistic, a number in a chart somewhere. May all those out there looking for their light find it. Because, otherwise, the outcome is very grim.
Two Candles in the Darkness
by Wolf Guide
Blair sat alone in the loft, lights off, curtains drawn. He wanted it that way, darkness. It was how he felt. It had been the worst day of his life; of that there was no doubt. Nothing had gone right from the moment it began. Sitting on the couch, it looked like, to anyone who saw him from behind, that he was staring off into space. In truth, he was watching a single candle, flickering alone on the coffee table. It was a rather small candle, nothing remarkable about it. No fancy carvings on it, no multi-colored wax mixed in with the white. But that whole candle had become Blair's entire world. It was who he was, all that he was. He was the candle, the candle was him. Alone, in the dark, with no one to help keep the pain and hurt the darkness brought at bay. It's my own fault. If I wasn't such an idiot, this would have never happened. God, I wish I could just go back in time and make this day never happen. But no, I had to open my big mouth and start talking.
The day started normal enough. Blair got up to the sound of Jim knocking on his door.
"Let's go Chief, breakfast will be in twenty minutes. Time to wake up and face the day," called the normally bright voice of his partner. Blair didn't know how he could get up so early. If given the chance, Blair would sleep till noon. Not like that would ever happen. Ellison would probably throw cold water on him to wake him up, or something like that. The man seemed to get some sort of pleasure in waking Blair up at seven in the morning, especially if he went to bed only a few hours before. It was not like he was trying not to sleep, though it did prevent him from getting nightmares, but with all the work he had, sleep wasn't an option. What with working at both the station and the university, there weren't enough hours in a day.
Groaning, Blair rolled out of his bed and headed to the bathroom. Glancing toward the kitchen, he couldn't help but smile. Jim was standing in front of the stove, apron on, pushing eggs around in the pan. As if sensing his partner's gaze, the Sentinel looked up and smiled.
"Get a move on Chief, you only got fifteen minuets left now. And yes, I did leave you some hot water. Just don't turn it on until you're ready to get in, ok."
Shaking his head at the older man, Blair hurried to get in the shower and get out in time for breakfast. When Ellison said fifteen minutes, he meant fifteen minutes. At sixteen minutes, breakfast would be cold. And there was nothing worse than cold eggs in the morning. Fourteen minutes and thirty seconds later, Blair walked out of his room, showered, dressed, and toweling the last of the water out of his hair. Opening the bathroom door, he put the towel in the hamper and sat at the table, grabbing the plate Jim offered him. He was just putting the first forkful in his mouth when his partner turned to him.
"What time you coming to the station today?"
Swallowing as fast as he could, glaring at the Sentinel as he did, he frowned.
"We went over this yesterday Jim, I'm not coming in today, at least not till later. I have to give a test first thing this morning, I have a test myself right after that, and I have office hours till four today. I also need to finish my intro chapter to my 'official' dissertation, the one on closed societies. It's due in three days and I've only got about half of it done. If I don't get it in, I'll be in big trouble at Rainier. They have given me enough extensions to have the entire thing done three times over if I wasn't working at the station, but I am so..."
"I thought you were going to come in and sit in during the Chambers interrogation? We worked it around so you could be there. What now, you were supposed to help verify most of the BS he is going to be shoveling at us. You ARE the expert in that field." Jim growled, putting his fork down on the table and crossing his hands over his plate, a sure sign that he was angry.
"Don't blame this on me. I told you that I couldn't make it yesterday when you asked. I also told you that I was going to come in after office hours were over and THEN I would be able to help you. You agreed and then I went to bed. Use that wonder brain of yours and try to remember." With that, Blair grabbed his bag off the floor and stormed out of the loft.
Sighing, Blair leaned his head back. The day had gone downhill from there. He had forgotten his notes in his rush to leave the loft and, because of that, had a fun time trying to remember everything he wanted to mention during his lecture. The students had realized that he was in a bad mood and no one blamed him for his numerous stutters and trail offs. Really wish today had never happened. At the rate I'm going, I'll be kicked out within a week if we have another day like today.
"Well, look who finally decided to grace us with his presence." The voice of Captain Banks drifted toward Blair the moment he walked through the doors of the elevator. He still didn't like riding in them and had seriously considered taking the stairs when he saw what time it was. 4:45 Great, I told Jim I'd be here right after office hours and it's only a fifteen-minute ride from Rainier to here. He's going to go ballistic when I get up there.
Gritting his teeth to keep from snapping at the larger man, he made his way over to Jim's desk. Putting his bag down, he sat down and waited for the detective to show. He didn't have to wait long. The Sentinel made his way over to his desk and literally pulled Blair out of the chair and down the hallway.
"Jim? Jim! What's wrong? What in God's name are you doing? Put me down!" Blair yelled, red faced as his partner dragged him through the hallways of the station. He's doing this to embarrass me 'cause I couldn't make it earlier. Well, he's going to be the one embarrassed when I'm through with him.
"Jim. Either you put me down right now and tell me what you're doing or I'll start screaming rape, abuse, or anything else I can think of." He whispered, knowing the Sentinel would hear him. For a moment, the larger man stopped his headlong rush through the halls. Turning, the larger man looked right into his eyes. Blair froze. Never in all his years working with Ellison had he ever seen such anger in those eyes. And never had that anger been directed at him. Yes, Jim had gotten pissed at him, but it was never this bad. Even when Blair hadn't told him about Alex was Jim this angry.
"Jim, what's wrong? Talk to me." Blair pleaded, trying to figure out what had caused the man in front of him to be so angered at him.
With a growl, Jim shoved him into the elevator and pushed the button for the roof. Blair didn't move, didn't talk, didn't even breathe, less those eyes look at him again. Yup, he's definitely mad. Not only did he make me take the elevator, we're going to the roof. A HIGH place. Not a good place for this seriously nervous anthropologist and seriously angry cop to be. Better do something quick.
"Jim, why are we going to the roof?" In an elevator, he mentally added, not wanting to tip the man over the edge.
No reply was forthcoming, nor was the larger man even showing signs of hearing him, so Blair didn't press. He knew the Sentinel hadn't zoned, his jaw was twitching way too fast for that. The hand that grabbed his arm and pulled him out of the elevator moved so fast that Blair was nearly pulled off his feet.
"You! Do you know what happened? He walked. He walked because YOU weren't there to tell us whether or not he was lying. I couldn't tell cause I didn't know what he was even talking about, and he knew it. He kept using these words that made no sense to us, but to you, they are probably second nature. Now, he's out and there isn't a damn think we can do about it till someone else dies." Ellison yelled, slamming Blair up against the wall.
For a moment, stars danced in front of his eyes due to the strength of him hitting the wall. The only thing keeping him from falling was the iron like grip Jim had on his shirt. My fault? This is my fault? Yes, if I had only been here then I could have helped. Now, someone else will die because I wasn't here. It's all my damn fault. Blair could feel the tears welling up in his eyes. His breath became ragged as his nose clogged up. Pushing at the arms that held him, he stumbled to his feet. He couldn't even look at Jim, knowing that if he did, he'd only see disappointment, resentment, anger, and disgust directed at him. Stumbling back toward the elevator, he opted for the stairs instead. There would be less people using them and less people to see the man who let a killer get away.
Jim was right. I should have been there, should have helped put the killer away. Office hours could have been bumped till tomorrow. But no, I had to go to the University. And look what happened. Chambers is free and is going to kill again and it's all my fault. God, I can't do anything right.
The candle on the table flickered a little, and for a second, you could see the young anthropologist's face. The look of total despair and self-hate there was enough to make even the most coldhearted person want to do anything to wipe away the sadness. It looked like he had lost any reason he had to live for, like he had totally given up. Which wasn't too far from the truth.
Blair stopped his headlong race down the stairs as he neared the seventh floor. He had to get his coat and bag, but he didn't dare go in there looking like he did right now. The bathroom was only like three feet from the stairs. If he could make it there, then he could wipe the tears from his face and then leave with some semblance of dignity still intact.
Opening the doors, he made a beeline for the bathroom. Throwing open the door, he hurried inside and blessed whatever Gods that watched over luckless anthropologists like him that no one was in there. Ripping off a few sheets of paper towel, he blew his nose before rubbing cold water over his face, trying to erase all signs of his earlier tears. After doing this a few more times, he looked in the mirror. I look like hell. But this is the best I'm going to get. I'll just walk in, get my stuff, and walk out. Won't talk to anyone, won't look at anyone, won't even smile at anyone. Just walk in, get my stuff, and walk out. If I'm lucky, Jim's still on the roof. That way I won't have to face him before I leave. Please, Please let him still be on the roof.
Taking a deep breath, Blair walked to the doors of Major Crimes. Risking a quick peak inside, he let out his breath. No Jim. Taking a deep breath, he calmly walked over to Jim's desk, took his coat off the rack, picked up his bag, and calmly headed toward the doors. He had just about made it when he heard his name.
"Sandburg, where are you going?"
Simon. Why did it have to be Simon? Anyone else, he could have just ignored, pretending he didn't hear them and apologize the next time he saw them. But not Simon. Brushing the captain off was a sure fire way to get his credentials revoked. Turning slowly, he watched as the large black man made his way over to him.
"My office, now."
The tone in Banks' voice broke no argument. Slowly turning around, he followed the older man into his office.
"Where were you today? We needed you to help out during the interrogation, but you weren't here. Why is that? Did you want Chambers to go free?"
"What? No! How could you even think that? Of course that's not what I want. And you know that. As to why I wasn't here today, I'll tell you. I do have a job at the university. It's not like I can just stop everything and rush over here at the drop of a hat. Yes, I can do it once in a while, but, do you realize how many times I've gone in front of my panel for my dissertation and have to explain to them WHY I've missed so many classes. WHY I've been out due to the fact that I've been injured while HELPING you here. It's not like I'm getting PAID to do what I do here. In fact, the only reason I'm still here is because Jim needs me. Even that isn't a sure thing anymore. He hasn't zoned in months, almost a year. He has complete control over his senses. What he wanted from the beginning. Not to be my friend, but to have me help him control something he didn't even want. So I helped him, and I stuck by him, and I nearly got myself killed several times doing it, but I did it anyway. Because he needed me. And it nearly cost me my job at Rainier. My life's work. My dream. To teach, to help those who don't understand, to make them comprehend what I'm trying to tell them. Do you know what the best part of teaching is? When a student, who didn't understand, looks at you, and says 'I get it'. That makes it all worth it. So don't tell me that it's my fault that Chambers was released. You all went to college before you came here. You're all very intelligent people. I've watched you while I was talking about one thing or another that made no sense at the time but was really important in catching someone later. You understand me when I talk. Why in God's name couldn't you understand Chambers? Or why didn't you ask him to rephrase the answer so it wasn't so hard to comprehend. There's nothing wrong in saying you don't understand. Hell, I do it all the time when you are discussing police procedure. So don't even try to pin this on me." With that, Blair stormed out of Simon's office and walked toward the elevator. He was so angry, he missed the look of shock, then regret, then shame, that flashed across the captain's face as he watched Blair push the down button.
Elevator doors opened and Blair made his way on. Bumping into someone, he mumbled an apology as the doors closed. So lost in thought, he didn't see Jim as he turned around. The look on his face wasn't one of anger. It was one of someone who had done something inexcusable, and wasn't sure how to make it right. Doors closed before Jim could open his mouth.
"I'm sorry," he said, but it was too late. The car was already on its way down.
I am such a screw-up. First, I help let a killer go free, then I go and yell at Simon. Oh yah, I'm batting a thousand today. Can't get much better than this. Wonder what Jim would do if I just up and left. Move right out of the loft and never looked back. Probably jump for joy over the fact that I'm gone. He sure as hell didn't want me at the station today. I thought he was going to kill me.
Lying down, Blair watched as the candle flickered in the dark. It was trying so hard to keep the encroaching darkness that the setting of the sun brought, but it was failing. Alone, it couldn't keep it at bay. And slowly, the darkness spread over Blair.
Jim pulled up to the loft, noticing that there weren't any lights on. If not for the fact that the Volvo was in its usual place, he would have never known Blair was home. Casting out his senses, he frowned at the total lack of noise from the loft. There should be at least a hum from the lights. Nothing. Checking Blair's heartbeat, he relaxed a little as the noise filled his ears. He knew Blair was awake, the beat was too fast for him to be sleeping, but the lack of motion was disturbing. Rushing up the stairs, the elevator was out again, Jim silently made his way to the loft door. His senses told him there was no one other than Blair in the large room, but he couldn't be sure. Slowly opening the door, the first thing that hit him was the mood of the room. Usually whenever Blair was home alone, he had the radio going and the place seemed alive. But now, it seemed more like a tomb then a place where two people lived. He could see a single candle on the coffee table, and he thought at how strange that was. Blair, more often than not, had several candles going, and they tended to be much thicker than the one that was burning. It did little to light the room. Blair's voice drifted toward him.
"Better get going. I want to be gone before Jim comes ho... back to the loft. If he catches me here, I don't even want to think about it. I mean, who wants to be chewed out three times in one day. First Jim, then Simon. I don't think I could take it if Jim yelled like that again. But he had every right. It's my fault that Chambers is out, free to kill again. Jim has every right to hate me. Simon to. God, what was I thinking? Yelling at him like that? He's going to revoke my ride-along credentials for sure. Then where will I be? No subject for either of my dissertations. No way to pay back all of my grants, debts, and numerous other things. I'll be kicked out of Rainier. God, what did I do to deserve this? Can you tell me that? What did I do in one of my past lives that royally screwed up my karma so bad that I have to go through this? What?" Blair's voice cracked as he spoke, and Jim could tell he was dangerously close to crying. So was he. In fact, there were two small tears making their way down his cheeks.
Jim had bumped into Blair as he was coming back to apologize. After seeing the look on his Guide's face, he thought about what he had said. Did I really just accuse him of failing me? How could I do that? After what we went through with Alex, how could I say that to him? How could I just stand there and say 'It's your fault Chambers is free. You should have been there, but you weren't, so a killer just got let free.' How could I be so stupid? Rushing to the elevator, he pushed the button to the seventh floor. As the doors slid close, his jaw dropped. He had pulled Blair into an elevator, and when the kid had tried to get some answer, he had ignored him. IN A DAMN ELEVATOR! Of all the places to leave the kid hanging, he chose an elevator. He had thought Blair's heartbeat was a little fast, but he thought it was due to the fact that he had just pulled him through the hallways of the department at breakneck speed without telling him why. Gripping the rail with the same intensity as Blair had done on the way up, but for different reasons, he willed the elevator to get him to the bullpen before Blair left. So intent was he on getting there, he failed to notice that the figure he hit on his way out was the figure that he had been rushing to see. Turning, he could only watch as the doors closed on his Guide, cutting off his apology.
He heard Simon calling him, and, turning, saw a look on the big man's face that matched his own.
"What have we done?"
"I don't know, I only hope we can fix it before something happens."
"It's not your fault-"
"I need to go after him, tell him I'm sorry." Turning to go after his Guide, he felt a hand on his arm. Simon was holding him back.
"Jim, give him a moment to cool down. Right now, the last thing he needs is for you to come chasing after him. He'll probably thing you're going to yell again and he'll bolt. God knows after what just happened he has reason."
"What do you mean?"
"After he came in here, I called him into my office. I yelled at him. Asked him if he wanted Chambers free and if that was the reason that he wasn't here earlier. I know, I shouldn't have said it, but I did. You would have been proud. He just gave me the most humbling verbal dressing down I've ever gotten in my life. Not even my instructors at the academy could make me feel as bad as he just did. I felt a half-inch tall and as if I had just shot some kid's puppy. I mean, I sometimes forget that Blair also has a job at the University, he's here all the time."
"I know. Just this morning, I yelled at him because I forgot to tell him that the interrogation was today. I thought that I had, but it must have just slipped my mind. I must have said something yesterday, but forgot that he said he couldn't make it. When I reminded him this morning, we had a pretty good yelling match that resulted in him storming out of the loft and me coming here in a bad mood. I suppose Chambers didn't make it any better. All I could think of was that Blair would be able to understand him and take him down a few notches but he wasn't here so..."
"So when he came in later, you blew up at him, then I blew up at him. Great, we really did it this time. What a bunch of jackasses we make."
"Couldn't agree more."
They stood there for a moment, neither saying anything nor feeling the need. They knew what they had done was inexcusable, but they hoped that somehow, Blair could find it in his heart to forgive them.
Jim had come home hours later. He had sat with Simon and the two of them had tried to figure out a way to get Blair to forgive them. Simon agreed with Jim when he said that he needed to apologize to his partner alone.
So there he stood, in the middle of the loft, tears running down his face, his heart being ripped out as he listened to what Blair said. Taking a step forward, he looked once again at the candle that sat on the coffee table. Heading silently into the kitchen, he retrieved a candle of his own and silently made his way toward the couch.
Padding silently, he leaned over the arm of the couch and lit his candle off of Blair's. He smiled as Blair jumped slightly when he saw him.
"What are you doing here? You were supposed to be working late," Blair stammered.
"I came home a few minutes ago. You didn't hear me come in? Why are you sitting here in the dark?" Yes Blair, why are you sitting here, in the dark? Is it because of Simon and I? Is it because we were total asses and because we did something we never should have? Is it because we did something so horrible, that we couldn't blame you if you never forgave us? Please, tell me the only reason you're here in the dark is because you didn't want any lights on, that this isn't my fault."
The stress of the day and Jim's total turn around of emotions finally pushed Blair over the edge, he snapped.
"Why am I sitting here in he dark? Why am I sitting here in the dark?!?! I'll tell you why I'm sitting here in the dark. But, you already know the answer to that. It's my fault. I wasn't there when you needed me and I am the reason a killer is back on the street. Because I yelled at Simon and I'm probably going to have my credentials revoked because of what I said, that's why. Because you don't need me anymore. You haven't zoned in months, almost a year. The only thing I do nowadays is take up space and let killers go free."
"Chief. Tell me you really don't think that badly of yourself. What I said at the station, I didn't mean it. I was angry, angry that I didn't understand him. That he was able to talk in such a way that I could never understand him. That he was able to make such complete fools out of all of us, and there wasn't a damn thing we could do about it. I was angry at myself, and rather than admit it, I took it out on you. We had fought this morning, and I used that as an excuse to take my anger out on you. I have no excuse for what I did, but I'm sorry. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me." He held up a finger to Blair's mouth, he wasn't done talking yet.
"Now as to you not being important, where in hell would you get an idea like that? You are the most important thing in my life. The only reason I haven't zoned in months is because you catch me each time I slip. The only reason I can do half of what I do is because I know that you're right there to catch me if I start to drift. I know that if I over extend myself, you're there to watch my back. I need you, and if you ever start to doubt that, let me know. God, I would have ended up either dead or crazy if not for you. You're what keeps me sane. YOU, not Simon, not the job, not anything. YOU." Jim said, pouring his heart out. He had no idea that Blair felt that way. Like he was just something Jim kept around for kicks. Well, no more. As long as there was breath in his lungs, he would never stop telling Blair how important he was. Not only to him, but also to the entire department. They looked forward to seeing him every day. They asked about him when he wasn't there. All in all, they considered him one of them, a brother. And he was going to make damn sure the kid knew it.
For moments neither moved. Blair, because he couldn't believe he had just heard what Jim had said, and Jim, because he was afraid of what Blair would do next. A movement out of the corner of Jim's eye caught his attention. Turning to see what it was, he was hit by a 140 lb., 5'7'' brown haired, teary-eyed anthropologist right in the chest. Arms made their way around his middle as a head landed on his shoulder. Reaching out, Jim wrapped his arms around the now crying figure in his arms. Neither spoke, yet neither felt the need. All was said merely by being there for one another.
"I… I'm sorry."
"What for, I was the ass, not you. I was the one who snapped at you this morning. By the way, you were right. You did say that you couldn't make it. I remembered after I talked to Simon-."
"Simon? Oh man, he's got to be so pissed at me, yelling at him like that. I had no right-."
"You had every right. What he said to you, that... that wasn't fair. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if you snapped like that at me too. Lately, we've been expecting so much from you, and haven't given you anything in return. That's going to stop, here and now. Starting tomorrow or whenever we go back, Simon gave us some time off to work this out; everyone promises not to take what you do at the station and at Rainier for granted. We know you have another job there, and that you give up a lot of time to help us, to help me, but still, we take it for granted that you are always at the station. We just assume that you can and will be there when we need you. From now on, ALL of us in Major Crimes promise not to hassle you if you say you have to do something for the University. It WILL stop, trust me."
"I do." Blair said, sleep beginning to creep its way into his speech. Yawning, he stretched and shifted so that he wasn't sitting in Jim's lap. Smiling, the Sentinel moved so that his Guide could get more comfortable. Nodding in thanks, Blair pulled the blanket up so that it covered both of then and then drifted off to sleep.
His smile turning softer, the Sentinel did one last scan of the Loft with his senses. Finding nothing out of place, he closed his eyes and joined his Guide in sleep.
Blair woke a little while later, trying to figure out where he was. It didn't feel like his bed, too hard. Turning, he came face to face with his Sentinel. A smile made its way onto his face. The day's events came back to him. He knew that they had a lot to work out, but together, he was sure they could. A flickering caught his attention. Turning slowly, as to not wake up his companion on the couch, Blair smiled.
There on the coffee table, the two candles were still burning. There was a small one; its flame flickering all over the place. Next to it, a taller candle stood, its flame not jumping as much, but just as strong as the smaller one. Side by side they stood, working together to keep the darkness at bay. Alone, they would have to struggle, but together, they stood a chance. Together, they cast just enough light for Blair to see by, just enough light for him to find his way. Closing his eyes he caught the voice of his Sentinel.
"One candle alone will have to fight hard to keep the darkness at bay. Two candles will stand a better chance. If you ever fear your flame isn't strong enough; I'll be here for you, like you have been there for me since the beginning. Never forget that. Ever."
"Never," was the Sentinel soft reply.
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