Disclaimer: The Sentinel, Blair Sandburg, Jim Ellison, Simon Banks, and all other characters are property of Paramount and Pet Fly. No copyright infringement is intended, and no money has exchanged hands.

Rated: R

Summary: Blair thought he was clear. Sequel to 'It Could Have Been' found at the Cascade Library.

It Could Still Be

by Twilight (Dawn)

Feedback: Yes, please...at dawn_twilight@hotmail.com

Warnings: Just gooey medical stuff.

Notes: I have been working on a few stories, but Romanse brought this up and now I can't let it go.

********************

Part One

Jim shut the door with his foot, stomping some water from his boots and slipping off his wet coat. Rain pelted the skylight and wind whistled over the balcony, rocking the lawn chairs, catching and twisting the leaves of the lattice vines.

The living room was dark, but a small light in the kitchen was left on. Jim rummaged through the cabinets, looking for something fast, but satisfying. A package of thawing steak sat on a plate near the sink, so he pulled out the grill pan and steamer, searching the freezer for some frozen broccoli.

He knew that his roommate was home, but Blair had been under the weather for a few weeks now, unable to shake a nasty cold, so Jim decided to let him rest until the cooking chore was done.

Flipping the faucet, he filled the pan about an inch, dumping the vegetables into the steamer and turning on the burners to get the grill pan ready. The steaks were still a little frozen, but that was okay, he scooped them up and put them on the hot pan, searching the spice rack for Blair's steak seasoning.

Debating on taking a quick shower before dinner, he decided to wait and climbed the steps to his bedroom, rummaging through the bottom drawer for a clean pair of sweats.

Changed and back in the kitchen he pulled out a few plates and flatware, filling his glass with red wine, but leaving Blair's.

"Hey, Chief." He carried in their supper, looking toward the French doors. It was a little odd that Blair had closed them.

"Hi, Jim." Blair's voice drifted, still congested, wheezy and thick.

"I've got dinner ready? Come on out and try to eat." He went back to the fridge, moving around the mustard and pickle jar to find the A-1.

"I'm not...I'm not hungry. You go ahead, man."

Jim stood quickly, condiment forgotten, hearing his friend's voice break and the steadying breaths that followed. "What's wrong," he asked, already moving to the closed doors and reaching for the knob.

"I just...I'm..."

Peering in, he could make out his friend lying on his side, away from the door, curled into a tight ball, shoulders shaking. His heart sped, smelling salt and something bitter, sharp. "What's going on, Blair?"

The back tensed, a tiny puff of air escaping. "I just...I need a little time."

Taking a calming breath, Jim perched on the side of the bed, hand rose to comfort, but he dropped it back to his lap. "Time for what?"

Blair rolled over a little and Jim could see the puffy eyes and red nose, a tissue clutched tightly in one hand. "I ah...I went to see my doctor."

"About your cold?" His hand slid to Blair's forearm, squeezing slightly.

A short nod and then Blair rolled again, drawing his knees up to rest against Jim. A lone tear snaked down his face, but Blair caught it with the ratty tissue. "It's back, man."

And his world stopped in that instance. Noise and light and the pungent smell of cooling meat compassed him, racing out and closing in until the only thing left was the rushing roar in his ears and his own harsh breathing.

Oh, he could ask what, but he knew. He KNEW.

Oh god...this can't be happening...it's been three years...

Face flushed and hot, hand covering moist eyes; he took a steadying breath. "I...ah..."

Blair sniffed again, curling forward a little, one hand resting against a hot cheek the other patting and petting Jim's arm. "I know, Jim."

Do something...say something. "I...I'm sorry."

Damn.

"Yeah," His friend sat up, balling the tissue and aiming for the trash bin. "Me too, man. Me too."

Then he was leaning, drawing Blair close, wrapping his friend with both arms, feeling the solid body pressed against his chest, the bitter tang of hot tears soaking his shirt. "It's going to be okay, you'll see."

But he didn't know that...

His words were empty.

Rocking slightly, he held on tighter as Blair broke down, sobbing and shivering against his neck, still holding on as time passed and the tears slowed.

"I think..." The words were swallowed, hiccupped breaths and stuffy nose taking Blair's voice.

The silence stretched and than Jim asked, "What do you think, Chief?"

His friend pushed away then, wiping his eyes and face on a rumpled flannel sleeve. "I think I need to call my mom." Head downcast Blair took in a shuttering breath before easing back down, arm covering his eyes. "I need to tell her."

********************

Later Blair stumbled from his room, a little weak and very tired, tripping over his down filled blanket, sloshing hot mocha chocolate along the blue covers.

Sinking into the comfort and warmth of the couch, he leaned his head back, hand still trembling, slight shivers running throughout his body.

The rain had nearly stopped, a light drizzle slide down the balcony doors, the sun setting over the water in brilliant arrays of red and gold.

Jim puttered around the kitchen, scraping their uneaten dinner into the bin and washing up the dishes, the dull clang of pots and pans drifting through the loft, the sounds of home...of being normal.

The TV droned in the background, the evening news showing the day's events, but he wasn't watching or listening, too numb to move from his cocoon of warmth.

Tears pressed but he didn't let them fall, knuckling his eyes and rubbing his face.

He wasn't going to die today or even tomorrow, not from his cancer, anyway.

"Still want to call your mom?" Jim sank into the sofa beside him, holding a cup of steaming coffee, a slight sigh escaping.

"I'm sorry for spazzing out on you, man." Blair shifted back, turning to rest his back against the arm, drawing his leg up and under him. "I guess I just needed to have a pity party before I could think a little straighter."

Jim nodded, setting his mug on the table. "I don't blame you, Chief. Nothing to be sorry for."

Holding the warm mug between his hands, Blair looked out over the darkening city. "I'll call Naomi when I find out more."

"Can you tell me what you know?" Jim asked, voice low and Blair turned to see the downcast eyes, the hand rubbing over short hair.

God, he was a jerk.

Way to go, Sandburg.

"I'm sorry, Jim. I guess I wasn't thinking..."

"You're entitled." Jim interrupted, picking up his mug, rimming the lip with his finger.

"I just, I'm a little overwhelmed. They did a chest x-ray, saw some lesions and called my oncologist. Dr. Stokes wants to see me first thing in the morning for some tests."

Nodding, Jim stood, back straight and took his cup to the kitchen, bringing back the pan of hot chocolate, topping off Blair's mug. "I guess I'm just confused. I mean, you just had your follow up and blood work a few months ago...didn't Dr. Stokes say that you could start follow up every six months instead of three?"

"Yeah, Jim. I guess that's a good thing. My last CT and workup came back normal, so at least the lesions are fairly new."

Jim plunked down, sitting the warm pan on the TV Guide. "I'll come with you."

He thought about saying no for a millisecond, but since he didn't know what to really expect, he could use a familiar face. "I would like that. I think I'm going to try to get some sleep."

Blair stood, wrapping the covers closer as Jim grabbed the cordless, punching in Simon's number. "Hey, Simon. I need to take a personal day. Yeah...umm." His eyes darted to Blair, one hand raised to his forehead. "I got an appointment. You know, a last minute thing. Okay, bye."

"He okay with it?" Blair moved around the couch, lingering in his doorway.

"Yup. What time do we need to be at the office?"

"8:30 or so. Night Jim."

His friend stood still for a brief second, and then went back to the couch, picking up the remote. "Night, Chief."

********************

The night crept by... Jim tossed and turned, watching the red numbers on the alarm clock, listening to his friend's restless murmurs and mumbles, the squeaking of the box spring as Blair rolled time and time again, smelt the slight hint of salt and sweat drifting up to the loft.

Finally the time came when Jim could get up and shower. He slid out of bed and hit the alarm just before it went off. He had set his clock a little early, thinking he could make a nice breakfast before they left to see Dr. Stokes. If this visit were anything like the last post treatment, Blair would be there for hours, being examined and imaged and poked.

The shower was just barely warm so he reached forward to up the knob, relaxing as the stream soothed over his head and down his back.

By the time he finished, he could hear Blair stirring, hear him blow his nose and suck in a few shallow breaths...

His lungs...

Quickly drying, he dressed and brushed his teeth, using his electric razor to take care of his morning whiskers. Blair was sipping a mug of coffee when he emerged from the bathroom. "Morning, Chief."

His friend raised his cup in a little salute, and then went back to sipping.

Probably helps with his throat.

Finding his tennis shoes under the coat rack, he sat on a dining chair, slipping them on, pulling the laces tight, and double knotting.

Blair rinsed his mug and went to the bathroom; the shower came on so Jim decided to start breakfast. It took a few minutes to find the skillet pan; he had shoved it under the stove the night before in his hurry to get done.

He grabbed some eggs and butter from the fridge, going back to get the milk and some orange juice. Mixing the pancake batter in a large glass bowl, he watched as the powder and milk reconstituted into a smooth mixture, the creamy swirls as he moved the spoon round and around.

"You okay, man?"

Blair's voice startled him and he jumped, nearly dropping the bowl. "Yeah, yeah. Breakfast will be done in a minute."

Blair poured two glasses of juice, setting the table before sinking into one of the chairs, fully dressed, the morning paper in his hands.

Just how long had he been stirring the batter?

Shaking his head, he ladled the mixture onto the grill pan, searching the utensil drawer for a spatula.

Setting out the tray of pancakes, he settled with his own mug of coffee. They ate in silence, the clinking of forks to plate the only sound. "Did Dr. Stokes tell you what to expect today?"

The newspaper Blair had been reading while pushing his food around his plate was neatly folded and placed within Jim's reach, the business section to the front. "I know they are going to do some imaging and blood work. She wants to talk about treatment plans..." Blair cleared his throat, bringing a napkin up to wipe his mouth.

For the next ten minutes, Jim pretended to read the business section, sneaking glances at his roommate as Blair cleaned up his uneaten breakfast, dumped some books and papers into his backpack, and sat on the back of the couch to put on his shoes.

"Ready, Jim?"

He nodded, quickly standing and going for his coat. Blair picked up Jim's plate. "Leave it, Chief. I'll clean up when we get back."

The ride was quiet, Blair stared out the window and Jim worked on breathing, staying calm, an unexplained panic knotted his stomach, the pancakes sitting like a lump in his gut.

But Blair was taking the whole thing pretty well, maybe a little too well.

The waiting room was crowded for being so early in the morning. Old and young people alike, sitting around waiting their turn to see the oncologists that shared the space.

Jim found two seats together as Blair signed in. He watched as his partner pulled out his wallet and handed the receptionist his insurance card. A few minutes later Blair called to him. "I'll be back in a bit."

That was fast.

He hadn't even had to sit and wait.

Jim nodded, picking up a current issue of O Magazine, flipping though the pages but not really reading. A little girl sat in the chair he had saved for Blair, smiling up at him, her small face pale, eyes rimmed black and gaunt, a bright pink baseball cap covering a baldhead.

He smiled back, feeling the room tilt a little and a buzzing in his ear. "Excuse me," he told her and stood quickly, moving fast through the crowded room.

Once outside he drew in a lung full of fresh air, leaning back against the brick building for support.

Calm down, calm down.

********************

Blair was led back to an exam room and told to change into a paper gown. Now he sat on the table, swinging his legs slightly, and waiting for Dr. Stokes.

A few minutes later a soft knock sounded and the door opened slowly. "Hello, Blair."

Dr. Stokes stood before him, her blond hair shorter than at his last visit a few months before. She smiled kindly, patting his knee, blue eyes sparkling behind wire rim glasses.

He nodded, swallowing a thick lump of goop that snaked up to his throat.

She sat his chart on the nearby table and pulled a stethoscope from around her neck, placing the ends in her ears. "I'm just going to listen to you breathe."

She pulled his gown down around the front, just past his collar bones and pressed the cold instrument against his chest, telling him to breathe before moving it to another place, sliding the scope around to listen to his back.

The rest of the exam was familiar, fingers pressed at his neck and along his collar bone down under his arm and sides before she asked him to lay back.

Her hands were cool on his skin, as she pressed around his stomach, moving down to his pelvis. "Any problems with urinating or ejaculation?"

He shifted his hips a fraction, feeling the paper under him move with him. "Umm...no. Everything's been okay. I ah...I check all the time to make sure I don't have another lump. I haven't had any problems with the other stuff either."

Course, he hadn't had a date in a looong time...

Her gloved hands slid lower, she pushed his left leg back, feeling along his groin before cupping and gently rolling his one remaining testicular. "I don't feel anything...your scar is barely visible." She pulled the covers back up. "We'll do a sonogram to make sure. I want to have a look at the lymph nodes behind your abdomen too. We need to decide if this is a recurrence or a new episode."

He let out a tiny breath, glad that he had avoided the digital exam for the time being.

"I'm going to have Lisa take you to imaging." She moved to the table, sitting to write in his chart. "She'll take some blood and then take you to the C building for the sonogram and MRI. I'll talk to you when you get back."

A little later, a familiar nurse came into to draw his blood. "Hi, Blair." She was always kind to him, taking the time to ask him how he had been, what he had been doing. She was older, hair graying at her temples, but her brown eyes were bright, a little mischievous.

"How have you been, Lisa?" He watched as she sat out the numerous tubes, lining them up neatly on the bed along his side.

"I'm doing fine." She opened some gauze and pulled off a few strips of tape, sticking the tips on the side table. "Okay, just a standard draw and then I need to get a blood gas."

He held out his arm, turning his head to look at the opposite wall. He should be used to this by now. For the last three years he had been coming every three months to have blood drawn, to have it tested for cancer markers.

A slight tightening around his bicep signaled the coming needle. "Make a fist." And he did, feeling the tiny prick as the needle pierced his skin and the pressure around his upper arm eased. "Relax your hand."

He could hear her move around, pulling one tube away to be replaced with another. She chatted with him, asking about school and work and he darted a quick look toward his arm, the dark red slowly filling the tube. "So, my daughter will be a freshman this coming quarter."

"That's great." He closed his eyes, feeling a thick mucus slither up his throat, finally able to clear it.

"That reminds me," she told him, pulling the needle from him, pressing gauze to stanch the blood welling up from the tiny puncture. "I need a sputum sample."

Once the tiny round bandage was placed, she asked him to sit up. He carefully swung his legs to dangle over the sides of the table. A small specimen cup was placed under his mouth. "Spit."

He looked at her, a little startled. "Just breathe in deep, try to bring up some of the gunk you just swallowed."

Nodding, he took hold of the cup as she went to open some more gauze, managing to bring up a little of the thick fluid. She capped the container, pulling some labels from his chart to identify his samples.

Next she sat a form in front of him, handing him a pen to sign the constant form. "Now, I need to do a blood gas." He read over the paper, signing on the signature line.

Taking his arm, she rubbed gloved fingers down to his wrist and back to his elbow. "It might be a little bit uncomfortable. We need an arterial sample to check how your body is oxygenating."

We pushed his rear back a bit, resting his upper body against the wall behind him. She held a slightly bigger needle, the sight of it making him queasy; his stomach did a slow roll. The tapped her fingertips around his lower arm, just above his wrist.

"Just relax, it's going to sting." She pushed the needle in, slightly to the right, bending his hand back to expose the arterial vein.

The bigger needle hurt, a lot. A slow burning wound up his arm, the bright red blood quickly filled the vacuum tube. Another one took its place and then she was pulling the needle from him, catching the flow of blood that dribbled down his palm and between his fingers.

The tubes were placed in a cooling box with one hand, while the other continued to press the puncture site.

A light ringing resonated through his head and he leaned back. "Slide to your side, Blair."

She helped him down and over, still pressing his wrist.

"You okay, Chief?" Jim stood in the doorway.

"Yeah, I will be."

"Oh, good." Lisa turned to his friend. "Can you put pressure on his wrist while I run these samples to the lab?"

Jim stepped forward and she guided his hand to the saturated gauze. She grabbed up a few clean ones from the table, switching out the soiled ones. "Hold it tight until I get back."

Jim nodded as she picked up the tray of blood samples, turning to look at Blair.

"Blood gas, huh?"

Blair nodded, swallowing; shaking his head a fraction to get rid of the ringing.

In no time Lisa was back, applying a deeper pressure to the puncture site. "We really need to make sure the bleeding stops." She explained.

After awhile, thick gauze was wrapped around his wrist, secured with surgical tape.

"Ready for a ride, Chief?"

Blair was helped into a wheelchair that Lisa brought in from the hall. "Thanks man."

"See you later, Blair." Lisa called as Jim swiftly moved through the corridors to the connecting hall at the end of the building.

He stayed quiet, letting Jim chatter about Dr. Stokes finding him and asking him to take Blair over to the other building for more test.

The MRI tech met them at the sign in desk and took over for Jim. "I'll have him back in a jiff."

Blair gave a small little wave, seeing his friend sink into a row of chairs near the imaging room. The procedure was familiar and it only took the woman a few minutes to get him into the machine, feet first. He held the bar above his head, waiting for the noise of the machine to die down.

"Okay, I'll take you over for your sonogram."

Once back in the chair, he was pushed out a door at the opposite end of the room. "Umm...my friend. Can you get my friend?"

"The room's right across the hall. Do you want him to be present for the scan?"

Not really sure, he nodded his head. Jim had been with him for some of his other diagnostic test before...

She pushed him into the dark room, asking that he lie on the bed. Jim joined him a few minutes later.

"You okay, buddy?"

He nodded, a slight nervousness building in his chest. This test would show if he had a reoccurrence...if he had any more testicular tumors...

********************

In a quiet corner of the dark room, Jim sat in an old metal chair. Blair was lying on a raised bed across from him, waiting for the technician to come in and start the sonogram. His friend hadn't really talked much since lying down. Jim could smell Blair's fear, the bitter tang circulated through the room, carried in the air conditioning current.

He wanted to say something. He wanted to be able to say the right thing, but each time he opened his mouth, the words just got stuck.

His own stomach was still in a tight knot. After seeing the terminal child in the waiting room...three years ago, they had been through this routine, but this was different. Jim couldn't really explain it. Rubbing a hand over his head and face, he turned a little in his seat, listening for any approaching footsteps.

"You okay, Jim?" Blair's voice was just a whisper, but Jim's hearing zoomed right to the sound, picking up the loud thumping of Blair's heart, the tiny noises his stomach was making.

"I'm doing okay, buddy. How about you?" Jim perched on the edge of the hard chair, leaning forward a little so he could see Blair's face instead of his covered feet.

"I'm a little nervous." He admitted, swallowing a few time. "I just want to get it over with, you know?"

"Yeah," Jim stood, one hand going to pat Blair's leg. The door opened on silent hinges and a man in scrubs came in and smiled at them.

Jim could see recognition on his friend's face. "Hey, Mike."

The man held out his hand for Blair to shake. "Hey, Blair. You ready to get this over with?"

Blair nodded, looking toward Jim. "This is my friend, Jim Ellison."

"The cop?" The shorter man held out his hand again, shaking Jim's firmly. "Nice to meet you."

Jim made some appropriate comment, sitting back on the plastic chair, wondering just when Blair became so familiar with the people who worked at the clinic.

The tech pulled back Blair's gown and sheet, resting the cotton material low on his friend's hips. The monitor jumped to life, grainy images bounced around the screen. "It might be a little cold." The man told Blair. A thick gel sputtered from a squeeze bottle, settling on Blair's skin near his belly button.

The tool the tech held ran through the conducting gel and the shapes on the screen shifted again. Jim had no idea what he was looking at. He tilted his head a fraction, trying to see the shape of Blair's organs on the monitor.

A few buttons were pressed and the images seemed to freeze for a second. Another sweep of the wand through the gel and then it moved down around Blair's pelvis, along his right and Mike asked that his friend bend his leg a little, dipping his hand and wand down under the covers.

Jim looked to Blair's face, seeing some embarrassment and discomfort. More buttons were pressed; Mike seemed to spend a lot of time looking around before pulling the wand up and over Blair's belly again, moving upward in quadrates.

Soon the tech sat the wand aside and handed Blair some paper towels from a dispenser near the door. "Clean up and get dressed. I'll have Lisa come and get you. The doc will want to talk to you in her office."

Jim's heart did a funny little skip and he took a deep breath, looking to Blair, who was dabbing at the goop on his belly, his hand moving under the blanket, but stopped when he caught sight of Jim. "I'll ah...I'll wait outside for you, Chief."

********************

Dr. Stokes looked up when Blair and Jim entered her office. She smiled and stood, waiting from them to sit.

Blair's stomach would not settle down...

She pulled open his file, glancing at her date book, before returning her attention to them. "I just talked to the radiologist. The sonogram and MRI confirm that your testis is tumor free."

Blair sagged back in his chair, his stomach still knotted, but at least this was one piece of good news.

"Your lungs are spotty. I want to start you on Chemo right away."

Blair nodded, knowing that it was a very real possibility.

"I know we avoided Chemo on your last go around, but I think we need to be aggressive. I'm sending you back over to a treatment room so we can put a port in your chest for the drugs. I want to start tomorrow."

Blair could see Jim sitting a little straighter next to him and he gave him a little look. "This port...it's necessary?"

She nodded, closing his chart. "We give the drugs outpatients through the arterial vein. A port will be more comfortable than having to have a catheter put in on each visit."

"Okay, then." Blair stood when she did, following behind her as she negotiated the corridors.

Jim followed close behind, quite and subdued, but Blair felt better...now he had a plan, he was doing something...

The treatment room seemed to be set up, a covered tray sat near the exam bed and Lisa stood nearby, smiling a little when he came in.

He hopped up onto the table to wait. Jim moved to his left, standing close to the bed.

"Okay," Dr. Stokes went to the tray. "Just take off your shirt and lay back."

He pulled his shirt off and handed it to Jim, who had his hand out waiting for the garment. He lay back, hearing the paper beneath him cringle as he shifted his weight.

Dr. Stokes pulled on a pair of purple gloves and slipped a mask with an eye shield over her face, hair pulled back and tucked behind her ears. "I'll numb you up a little and put in the line. It shouldn't hurt."

Blair nodded, taking a few deep breaths, a little startled when someone grabbed his hand. He turned to see Jim looking down at him, eyes sad and face downcast. His heart squeezed painfully in his chest. How could he explain to Jim that he was okay...that it was going to be okay, because he had a plan and he was going to fight.

A cool swab on his chest made him jump. "Just cleaning up a little." Dr. Stokes looked down at him, eyes smiling behind the mask.

She understood.

As she worked, she talked, allowing Lisa to hand her what she needed. Blair closed his eyes when he caught sight of the large needle, feeling a tiny squeeze to his hand. Turning his head, he decided to look at Jim instead.

"Tomorrow come to the front desk. I'll set up your appointment. We're going to go with eight rounds. One week on and one week off."

A slight burning brought his attention back to her. "Just the numbing medicine."

Looking down he could see her wrist and arm, but the rest of the view was blurry. She pressed near his collarbone and then he felt the pressure. Soon she pulled back and Lisa handed her a syringe. "I'm just flushing the line. Lisa will show you how to do it. It's important that the line stays clear."

Once she was done, thick gauze was taped over the site and she stood back. "Leave the covering over it at home so it won't rub against your clothes."

Blair started to sit up, but they all seemed to jump forward, pushing him back down. "Just rest for a while." Dr. Stokes said, pulling off her protective gear. "I'll see you tomorrow."

Jim still held his hand minutes later as Lisa tidied up. "I have a packet of information for you, Blair." She handed the thick folder to Jim. "It will tell you what to expect...and I want to add that you need to take the anti nausea medication even if you don't feel sick at first...promise me, okay?"

"Okay."

She patted his shoulder, a tiny twinkle in her eyes as she left them alone.

"You feeling okay enough to sit up?" Jim asked, still holding his hand, his shirt and folder in the other.

"Sure." He allowed Jim to help him up and pull the shirt over his head. The port wasn't sore, probably because of the numbing medicine. "I need to go to the bank and see a lawyer."

Jim gave him a strange look, but he ignored him, slipping off the exam table, happy to find that he felt okay.

"I have to get things...in order. Would you...do you mind if I put you on my account...I'll need to give you power of attorney...and for the medical stuff, but that paperwork is probably in the packet Lisa gave me."

Jim followed along behind him as he made his way to the front desk. The man behind took the slip of paper that the nurse handed him, punching something into the computer.

"Your appointment is tomorrow and all this week at 10:00am. Make sure you eat breakfast and drink plenty of fluid." Blair took the appointment card and turned to leave.

On the way to the car he stopped to let Jim catch up. "I guess I can see the guy the department uses."

"Huh?"

"The lawyer, Jim. I need to see a lawyer."

Jim unlocked his door, waiting until he was in and belted before closing the door.

Half way back to the loft Jim finally talked. "I'll call my lawyer, see if she can see us today."

"Thanks Jim."

********************

Blair sat across from him, sneaker enclosed feet tapping a frantic beat on the cool linoleum floor. The room was divided into sections, curtains drawn between the chairs to give a little privacy.

On the way in, Jim could see that about half the room was full. He had seen these people before...some from Dr. Stokes waiting room, some from the imagining wing...they were all sick, just like Blair.

His friend's nervous tapping extended to his fingers, a steady beat played out on the arm of the chair as he waited. The nurse had checked them in and shown them to the treatment room before excusing herself to get Blair's meds. That was about fifteen minutes ago.

"Did I hand in my advance directives?" Blair grabbed for his backpack, digging in, feeling for the file folder that held copies of all his medical papers.

Jim reached forward, stopping just before touching his friend's arm. "You gave them to Frank, remember?"

Blair leaned back, tipping his head to rest on the cushioned chair. "Yeah, yeah, I remember."

Jim nodded, watching as Blair closed his eyes. They had spent most of the day before taking care of Blair's personal matters. His lawyer had her paralegal draw up a living will and medical power of attorney. They took a copy to Blair's bank, but the financial institution had its own set of forms. They managed to set up a direct withdraw for all of his friend's credit cards and Jim would be able to sign checks for any other expenses, which seemed to reassure his friend.

Soft sole shoes scuffled across the floor and the curtain screeched open. The nurse carried in several IV bags, hanging each on different hooks of the IV pole. She checked and rechecked the bag labeling before connecting a tube to one of them. The fluid slid down the tiny tubing, stopped by the clamp at the end.

Moving forward, she reached for Blair's unbuttoned shirt, moving the corner aside and peeling back the white tape covering his friend's port. She pulled the tubing connected to Blair forward and he jumped, drawing in a small breath, tiny lines creased his forehead.

"Sorry." The woman didn't even look at his friend. She used a tube connected to a syringe to make sure the line was clear, and then she pushed the IV tubing in, releasing the clamp. "This bag will take about forty five minutes and then the others will be about the same."

Blair nodded, taking the small cup of pills she handed him and downing them without even asking what they were.

"One is for nausea and one will help with your blood cell production. You know you need to take iron and a multi vitamin can't hurt."

Drinking the rest of the water from the plastic cup, Blair nodded.

"If you need me, press the call button." She left them alone, barely glancing in Jim's direction.

Time crawled by. Jim tried to make small talk, but he didn't know what to do with the long pauses...should he try to fill the gaps or leave Blair to his silence.

Eventually one bag collapsed, the bit of fluid left snaking down and into Blair's veins. The nurse came back, her timing uncanny. She jostled the port again, unhooking the spent bag and hooking up the other.

Blair seemed to be dozing, so Jim scanned a few magazines. Nothing held his interest. He looked around the room, listened to the sounds of the others that shared the tiny space. People talked quietly, some listened to music...a few slept, heavy breathing and shallow wheezing drifted from the cubicle next to them.

The sounds of the hospital washed over him, the smells assaulted him. Fear and depression clung heavy to the walls, the curtains, and the corridors. Soothing voices collided with whimpering and cries.

Jim hated this place.

It reeked of pain and illness.

It smelt like death.

The coarse fabric of the chair dug into his arms and legs, the life saving machines hummed and hammered into his ears.

Even the air tasted funny.

"Jim?"

Turning quickly, he pasted on a small smile. "Yeah, buddy?"

Blair's eyes met his. "I don't want you to come with me anymore."

********************

The alarm sounded. It took a few minutes to get his muscles to work, but finally he was able to slap the sleep mode, silencing the annoying buzz.

Sun poured in the fire escape door, but he wasn't inclined to get up just yet. Stretching, Blair rolled to his side, shoving his pillow more firmly under his head. He could hear his friend puttering around in the kitchen and the smell of coffee drifted in his partially opened doors.

The last weeks had totally wiped him out. The treatments drained him; zapping what little energy he seemed to have. The first round went by in a blur; his week off went just as fast. Today he had to return for his second round, but he wasn't in any hurry to get up and get dressed.

It wasn't as bad as he thought. He was tired, but it could be worse...so far he hadn't been sick...that was a plus.

"Eggs are done."

Blair flipped the pillow over his head, blocking out the light.

"Come on, Sandburg. I know you're awake."

Sighing, he kicked the blankets back and tossed his pillow on the floor. Forgoing the bathroom, he slumped in a dining chair as Jim sat out a plate of scrambled eggs and a mug of coffee.

"Eat up."

"Yeah, yeah." He picked up his fork, scooping up a pile of eggs. The smell made him feel a little ill, but he ate them anyway, knowing that he couldn't afford to get sick, couldn't risk a delay in his treatment.

The coffee was hot, but tasted sour.

"Too strong?" Jim sat across from him, eating an onion bagel spread with grape jelly.

Yuck.

"It's fine." A tired sigh escaped. "Everything tastes a little weird." He pushed back his plate and chair, heading for the shower. "Can you drop me at the hospital? I'll take a cab home."

"I can pick you up, too." His friend pointed out.

"I know..." He leaned in to turn on the shower. "I don't want to mess up your day...I'll get dropped at the station and we can get lunch."

The water heated quickly and he kicked off his boxers and shed his shirt, stepping under the warm spray.

A muffled "okay" drifted from the kitchen and Blair smiled. He was truly grateful for all his friend's help; he just wanted to keep things as normal as possible.

Washing quickly, he got out and dried off, rubbing the towel briskly over the skin of his chest, skimming around the protruding tube. He was careful not to get his hair wet, only washing it every few days to reduce the risk of damage. A few strands came loose when he washed it, a few more when he rubbed it dry. He had been using the blow dryer, but he still lost some just combing it.

Back in his room, he dressed in layers, thinking about just going for it and cutting it. Lisa had told him that hair loss was less noticeable with shorter hair styles and he knew that the type of meds he was taking was a lot easier on the hair follicles.

"Ready?"

Jim was waiting by the door, jacket and keys in hand.

"I'm coming, I'm coming." He stopped to grab his sneakers, slipping them on, leaning against the sofa to bend and tie them, joints protesting the movement. When he straightened, Jim handed him his coat. "Thanks, man."

"No problem, Chief."

When he couldn't get his arm around into the other sleeve, Jim grabbed it up helping him slide his arm in.

Tears press at his eyes and he turned to the door quickly, "Thanks."

Jim patted his back and one lone tear streaked down his cheek. "Anytime, Chief...anytime."

********************

The restaurant was crowded with late lunch patrons. Jim was a bit surprised that he and Blair had to wait to be seated.

His friend sat across from him, studying his menu. The perky waitress returned with their drinks. "What can I get you?"

"I'll have the grilled chicken Caesar salad." Jim sat his menu on the corner of the table, waiting for Blair to order. His friend shot him a questioning glance before ordering a BLT on rye.

"I thought with the way you were raving about the philly cheese steak that it was a sure bet for your lunch." Blair sat back, sipping his ice water.

Jim just grunted, picking up his own glass. He wasn't about to tell his friend that he didn't order his favorite because he knew the smell would make Blair feel sick. Jim had gotten quite good at reading his friend and his comfort levels with different smells and sounds.

They didn't talk much, instead just relaxing in the silence and sounds of the late afternoon crowds. Blair had found this place a few weeks into his treatment. A friend had told him about the café and its unique approach to dining. The Paper Moon was in a trendy part of town and known for its vast menu. They seemed to cater to all degrees of health conscious patrons, and still managed to serve a good philly cheese steak.

The interior was a bit...odd. The first time that Jim agreed to met Blair he was a little put off by the toilet sitting in the front arch way, flowers planted in the commode...but that was hardly the weirdest thing to be seen. Apparently the owner had an obsession with Pez dispensers. One wall in the main dinning area was covered with all types and the wall across held a large collection of toy wrestlers nailed and positioned. The ceiling was covered with clinging vines and lights; odd figures stuck out here and there...an infant car seat holding a tiny doll and a toy big wheel.

Jim shifted on the hard bench...the tables and chairs were all mismatched. This week Jim got the church pew and Blair sat on a wobbly chair that creaked and groaned with each of his friend's movement.

"So..." Jim shifted again, hand smoothing out an imaginary wrinkle in his paper placemat. "You still going to "Jake's?"

Blair nodded, sitting back a bit as the waitress sat his plate in front of him. "Thanks." He picked up the pickle spear and sucked on the juice.

"Stomach bothering you?" Jim asked, scooping up a bit of chicken and salad.

His friend nodded, sitting back with his pickle. "A little."

Jim continued to eat, knowing that if he stopped, Blair would get upset. Jim had learned over the past few months that there were certain things not worth arguing over, so he continued to eat, pleased when his friend began to nibble on his rye toast.

The waitress brought him another glass of soda. "Can I get another pickle spear, please?"

Blair nodded his thanks as his friend pushed a plate with a few spears his way. "Thanks, man. You think I shouldn't go to Jake's?"

Jim pushed his plate back, nodding as the waitress swooped in and cleared the table. "Anything else?"

Blair grabbed the last pickle, popping the end into his mouth. "No thanks."

Jim slid over and stood, waiting for Blair to pull on his light jacket. "So?"

"So, what?" Jim asked, paying the bill.

"Jake's?" Blair followed him to the truck, sliding in and buckling up.

Jim did the same, wondering how to answer. "Well." He started, pulling out into the busy afternoon traffic. "I think whatever you want. It's your hair, Chief."

********************

Man, this sucked.

Blair rolled over, bringing his legs up to ease the cramps ripping through his stomach. Three quarters into his treatment and it finally hit. Nausea rolled over him in waves and he moaned low, hoping not to disturb his sleeping roommate.

Jim had been great over the last couple of months, but if Blair ever gave any indication of not feeling well, his friend morphed into some hyped up version of Martha Stewart, mother henning him to annoyance. Not that he didn't appreciate it and sometimes needed the attention...he just didn't want to have to admit it, not even to himself.

Soon the churning of his stomach was unbearable and Blair pulled his sweaty body away from his sheets, leaning forward, trying to ease the sickness.

A thick wade of goop worked its way up his wind pipe and he gagged, pushing it back down, holding his hand over his mouth as he stumbled to the doorway of his room. Footsteps sounded on the steps, but he barely looked up as he rushed through the hallway, bounding off the wall and ramming into the doorframe, dislodging his hand. Red slimy mucus sloshed from his mouth, the taste sharp and tangy.

Drops hit the floor on his way to the toilet, where he knelt, bracing his hands against the seat. Jim ran up behind him, turning on the tape, kneeling with him, rubbing his back and murmuring something in his ear. Tears burned his eyes and he let them run down his face to mingle with the vomit.

God, he couldn't breathe.

He panted in time with the heaves raking his body, hardly able to hold himself up. A cup of water appeared in his hand and he took small sips. His belly rumbled and rebelled as the first drops hit his empty stomach and made a reappearance.

"Sorry...sorry."

Jim held back his hair, wiping his mouth with a cool cloth and the tears surged.

"Shhh..."

Jim hauled him up and Blair was mortified that he couldn't hold his own weight. Jim pulled him close, moving forward, dragging Blair toward the living room.

"Owwww." Pain burned through his chest.

"Sorry, Chief." Next thing he knew, he was being lifted and shifted in his friend's arms.

"Jim...." he pushed weakly at his friend's chest. "...put me down."

"Working on it."

The world shifted again and he felt the soft sofa beneath him. "Sorry."

A cold cloth covered his face and he shivered, feeling his stomach churn. "I need to..." he surged forward and stumbled from the couch, Jim hot on his heels.

"Let me help."

Blair made it to the doorway before he threw up all over himself. Sinking to the floor, he leaned forward, resting his head on shaking knees.

"It's okay..."

Shaking his head, he looked over to Jim, kneeling at his side. "Noooo...not...'kay."

Jim reached forward, looking into his face. "Oh...Blair...your eyes."

********************

He broke his promise.

What a crappy week.

Jim looked across the small room to where his friend lay, sheets tangled and sweat dripping, tiny mumbles escaping as Blair's fever induced dreams disturbed his body, rocking and shaking his limbs.

Jim swept a damp cloth left by the nurse over clammy skin, pulling the sheet and blanket closer to Blair's chin. Machines whirled and whined, but Jim tuned them out, focusing on Blair's spotty breathing and shallow heartbeat.

How could an eye infection land Blair into the hospital?

Conjunctivitis...whatever the hell that was.

He turned back to the window, searching the parking lot below, the leafy trees along the roadway, the dimming light of the sun...but nothing took his mind off his friend, his thoughts turned back to a few nights before, finding Blair sick again, unable to walk, unable to take care of his basic needs and all the while he promised...promised that he wouldn't take Blair to the hospital...but in the end, he did.

He had to...didn't he?

A call to the doctor confirmed his decision. She said that it probably was an infection; that Blair's immunity probably couldn't fight off a simple infection...that if he had a fever he needed to be in the hospital.

He tried to explain, tried to tell his roommate that it was best to be where he could get treatment, antibiotics....

"But I'll have to stop Chemo."

"Maybe not, Chief. You still have five days before your next course..."

But he knew.

If Blair had to set back a course of treatment, that meant that his chance for remission went down, his chance for survival...

Turning from the cool window, Jim slumped into the chair by the bed, looking at his friend. "You still have two days, buddy."

Droopy, red eyes opened a crack. "Jim..."

Jim leaned in, hearing the change in Blair's breathing. He jumped up just catching Blair as he threw the covers and dived out of his bed. Jim grabbed him around the shoulder, making it halfway to the bathroom, holding a basin under Blair's chin, before the heaving started anew.

Was this ever going to get better?

"If I go, I might not come back."

Blair murmured those words in the wee hours of the morning that day; looking at Jim with sad, reddened eyes and a frown.

Of course he denied it, but now he wasn't convinced by his own words, feeling his friend shudder and shake...

Some time later, Jim eased out from under Blair and moved to the small, bright bathroom, pulling the last clean towel from the shelf over the sink. The stench of sickness clung to the bathroom, and he moved faster, holding a hand over his mouth and nose.

They tried a few different kinds of anti nausea meds, but they seemed to stop working after a while, giving Blair a few hours of restless sleep, but never allowing his body a chance to fully rest, to recover.

Jim pressed the call button on his way back to Blair.

He knelt next to his friend. Blair's body moved restlessly, but his eyes were tightly closed.

"Can I help you, Mr. Sandburg?"

Jim called over his shoulder. "Blair got sick again..."

"I'll be right in."

He carefully pulled the soaked gown down and off Blair's shoulders, his thin wavy hair falling forward. Moving the bowl away with his foot, he used the towel to clean his friend's face and neck, careful of the port near Blair's collarbone. A brownish mark ran the length of his chest and Jim ran a soft finger over the area.

"What is this?"

"Huh..." Blair's head lolled to the side, resting on Jim's forearm.

"Nothing, buddy. Let's get you up." With some effort, he got Blair up as the nurse came in, carrying a few more towels and a clean gown. Together they managed to roll his friend under the covers and shimmy him into the thin gown.

"Thirsty."

Patting the nearest shoulder, Jim pulled the covers up to Blair's shivering chin. "Be right back."

The nurse checked Blair over as Jim refilled his cup. When he came back, he nearly tripped on the puke bowl. Bending to pick it up, the nurse stepped closer. "I got it."

He watched her go, not liking her abrupt attitude.

Most of the staff had been more than kind, but she was a bit...anyway, Blair didn't need to be dealing with someone who made him feel like it was his own fault for being sick.

"Jim..."

"Right here, buddy. Right here."

********************

Days morphed into night and night into day. Time held no meaning for him. He would open his eyes to find his room dark and quiet, only to open them again to find it cluttered with people, all speaking and poking, the lights far too bright.

Faceless, nameless people came and went, but Blair knew that Jim was always there, somewhere lurking in the shadows. A gentle pat, a few soft-spoken words took all the sickness away.

But he was getting better.

Jim had told him.

His door was pushed open and his friend came in, a small smile on his face. "How you doing today?"

"Better."

Another small smile and Jim slipped into the seat beside Blair's bed. "I brought you some clean clothes." He held up a paper sack. "Dr. Stokes said it's okay to sleep in your t-shirt and sweats if you want."

Funny how something so small, something so normal could make him feel so much better.

"Sounds good. Nurse Hatchet said she would be back a little later to help me get in the shower. I can't wait."

"Then why wait." Jim surged to his feet, lowering the bed rail and holding out his hand.

After a small hesitation, he reached forward, grasping his friend's hand, allowing Jim to haul him to an upright position. "Thanks, man."

They managed to make it to the bathroom and he sat on the toilet, letting Jim start the shower, feeling the warmth and relaxing steam as the mirror began to fog over. "Let me help you."

His shirt was carefully pulled over his head. "I think I got the rest."

Jim watched as he pulled himself up by the bar near the toilet and shuffled closer to the shower. With a quick flick of the hand, Jim pulled down the shower stool.

He pushed down his sweats, kicking them away as Jim busied himself on the other side of the small room. Stepping into the rimless stall, he sank carefully onto the lowered seat. The water hit his torso and chest, washing away tension and weariness. A small sigh escaped his slightly parted lips and he could hear Jim laugh.

"I'll be right out here when you're ready to get out, just call, 'kay."

He nodded, forgetting that Jim couldn't see him.

He moved the nozzle up and down the pole it was attached to, aiming the spray at sore and tender parts, but soon he became tired and turned off the tape. "Jim?"

After a few minutes, he pulled the curtain back. "Jim?"

A few towels sat perched on the closed toilet seat, so he reached for them, snagging them with the tips of his fingers. He dried off as best as he could, draping a towel over his shoulders and leaning forward to pull himself up.

The mirror over the sink began to clear and Blair leaned heavily against the counter, studying the stranger looking back at him. His skin was drawn and hung loosely, the bones of his ribs and hips protruding...brownish lines crisscrossed his skin near the port, a burn courtesy of his chemo drugs. His face was thinner, his cheeks shallow. His hair hung lifelessly around his pale skinny face and for the first time he noticed that his eyebrows were gone.

Not wanting to linger on his new appearance, he grabbed up a toothbrush. It was still in a package and it took a few times to free it. Feeling more tired than he should; he sank down to the toilet, flipping up the lid.

"Blair?" Jim stuck his head around the partly open door. "Sorry...I was trying to get someone to change the bed. You okay?"

Red flushed his face, but he nodded.

"No burning?"

God...

"Um...no...not today."

Jim smiled, eyes never leaving his face and Blair wondered how his friend could even stand to look at him like this.

"Good...I'm going to go get some more juice. Need any help getting dressed?"

"I'm good."

Jim backed up a bit, but stuck his head back into the room. "I'll be back in a second to help you get in bed. Wait for me, okay."

"I will."

Once Jim was gone, Blair turned, still sitting. He was able to reach the sink and didn't want to stand to brush his teeth. The bristles hurt his mouth and when he spit, pinkish goo washed down the sink.

"Ready?" Jim moved in, quickly pulling him to his feet and helping him get on a clean pair of sleep pants. "Are you bleeding?" a small frown marred his friend's face and Blair could see his nose twitch.

"Umm...my gums were bleeding, a little."

He was helped to a clean bed, the blankets already turned down. It felt great to slip between the clean sheets. "I'll tell Dr. Stokes...I'm sure they can give you something to help."

He only nodded, feeling a slight twinge in his stomach; a wave of heat worked its way up to his face.

"You okay?" Jim moved closer, pulling the safety rail up, a hand lingering on Blair's brow. "You're still a little warm, buddy."

He nodded, feeling sleepy and heavy. "Yeah, but I'm better...I have to be. Tomorrow I can restart my treatment."

********************

"I don't know, Mr. Sandburg." The nurse studied the results of Blair's latest blood test.

Jim watched her, too. Knowing that she was going to have to call the doctor on call to get permission to resume Blair's treatment. They had already had a three day delay, because Blair's blood count was low and then borderline. The latest results were better, but still a little too close for this nurse.

"I'll page the doctor on call and see what they say."

She left them and Jim turned to Blair, wondering about his stillness and silence.

"You okay, Chief?"

Slowly his friend tuned lifeless eyes toward him, a frail smile upturned his shallow cheeks. "Yeah...just a little disappointed, I guess."

"How about we take a little stroll. It'll be a while before she hears back...no use hanging around here when the day is so warm and sunny."

For the last few days Jim had been taking Blair outside to the hospital courtyard, pushing him at first in a wheelchair and then walking beside him slowly, keeping pace with Blair's steps.

"I guess." Blair shifted his legs over the bed and pulled himself up with the rail.

Jim hovered near by, ready to help if needed. He moved with his friend as Blair slipped on his shoes and pulled his robe around him, tying it tight around the waist. Over the weekend, the IV's had been removed and Blair seemed to be resting better, sleeping longer periods as his fever broke and the nausea ended.

They walked quietly through the halls, nodding to the nurse as they left the ward. The elevator was empty and cool, it jerked a little as it passed each floor, making Jim a bit dizzy.

"You okay, man? How's the senses? Need help with a dial?"

Jim took a deep breath and shook his head. "Just not a fan of this elevator." Blair leaned back, resting against the wall. "Do you want me to grab a chair?"

"No...I'm cool." A tired smile reached his friend's eyes and Jim beamed back at him, laughing a little as Blair's stomach rumbled.

"Hungry?" The doors opened on the lobby level and they stepped out as a hoard of people pressed in around them.

"I could eat..."

They passed a few security checkpoints. The security guards checking bags of visitors and handing out passes glanced up to see Jim's pass before going back to examine one flustered women's large tote.

They neared the cafeteria, the halls busy with people moving toward a late lunch. Smells assaulted Jim's nose and he took in a deep breath, realizing that he was pretty hungry himself. He checked Blair out of the corner of his eye, trying to judge his friend's reaction to all the aromas drifting down the hallway.

People moved in and out of the swinging doors, long lines waited to pay the cashier. They found a booth near the exit and Jim hovered as Blair lowered himself onto the padded seat.

"I'm okay, ya know?"

"Yeah..." Jim scooted into the seat across from him. "I know...so what will it be?"

He watched as Blair looked around, taking in the people and noise. After a while he turned back to Jim. "I want something from Subway."

Jim sat up a little and looked to the line of people waiting to order. "You sure?"

"Yup...Chicken club, with just a little bacon, no mayo."

Surprised, he turned back to Blair. "You sure?"

A small chuckle escaped his friend and Blair shook his head. "Is that all you can say today, man?"

Jim rolled his eyes, "Okay...if that's what you want."

The line moved smoothly and Jim returned with a tray of subs and soda. Blair picked at his food, using a fork and knife to cut the bread and meat. He managed most of the chicken and all of the bacon, leaving a good chunk of bread.

"I'll take this with me." Blair scooted to the edge of the bench, holding his soda.

Jim resisted the urge to jump up and help.

Once back in Blair's room, Jim sat, waiting for his friend to emerge from the john.

"You want to sit or lay down?"

"Sit."

Blair lowered himself into the chair, shifting to push a pillow behind him.

"Want to watch TV?"

"Sure."

Jim flipped the TV on and surfed until he found an old western. They sat in silence, faces upturned to watch the TV mounted on the wall. Time passed, the nurse came in to say that they should be able to resume treatment later that day.

Blair's face remained impassive as the nurse left them.

"You okay?"

God, he really could only utter a few select phrases today.

Blair looked up and smiled. "Yeah...just thinking."

His friend got up slowly and shuffled to the bed. It took him a few minutes, but Blair finally found a comfortable position and turned back to watch TV.

The western ended and with a few more flips, Jim found a do it yourself show.

"You don't have to stay."

Jim nodded, sighing. "I know...you don't want me to?"

Blair shifted to his side, pulling the covers closer to his chin. "I didn't say that. I just meant that if you wanted to, you don't have to hang around here and watch me sleep."

"I know..."

"It's okay, Jim." Blair pulled his legs up, shoving a hand under his pillow. "I'm going to get some sleep before they come back with my treatment. Go home when you want...but I'll be alright, 'kay."

********************

The sun was setting over the harbor. Boats taxied into their slips for the evening. One large ship moved gracefully across the soft waves, its white sails billowing in the breeze. A cool wind blew up from the water and Blair sank back further into his lounge chair, pulling a thermal blanket closer around him, a mug of coffee held in one hand.

This was...nice.

This was...normal.

Jim came out onto the balcony, carrying a box of pizza and a few plates. He sat next to Blair, opening the box and handing him a slice of meat lovers.

"Thanks, man."

"No problem, Chief."

Night came quickly, the lights of the city shined beyond the water, casting images of the high rises across the surface.

"So..." Jim began, shifting a little in his seat, setting his beer on the side table near his leg.

Blair didn't answer right away, looking out into the night, wondering if Jim could tell what the people on the deck of the sailboat were talking about.

"I'm okay, Jim."

His friend nodded, nibbling on his pizza.

It had been two weeks since his last treatment. A week since he left the hospital. A lifetime since his life seemed normal...

He had seen his oncologist this morning. Endured a battery of tests and had his port removed. She seemed hopeful. The scans looked good, but it would be a while before they knew if he was clear, if they could say he was in remission.

He sat the pizza aside, sliding his tongue over his teeth.

"Mouth bothering you?" Jim pulled another slice from the box, picking the sausage off.

"A little." A swig from the warm mug helped.

"So..." Jim tried again.

"So," Blair said, looking to his friend. "So...I don't know. I don't know what to tell you, man."

"But she seemed hopeful." Jim encouraged, dropping his pizza back to his plate.

"Yup...she was very hopeful, but..."

"But..."

"I just, I don't know, man. I can't think too far ahead."

Because what if he wasn't going to be okay?

"I hear that." Jim laughed, rubbing a hand through Blair's short hair. "I can't believe you went through your whole treatment and then get your hair cut."

He fingered his short curls. "You don't like it."

Jim stood, picking up the box and the plates. "I didn't say that. It's just different, but it looks a lot fuller...healthier."

"Yeah, I think so too. Thanks."

The fridge opened and closed, dished clinked and clanked as Jim gave them a quick rinse. "You going to call back your mom?"

Was he? Could he handle her at this point, when it was still all so close?

"She thinks you're avoiding her." Jim called, coming back to sit, handing him a fresh cup of coffee.

"I'm not...I just don't want to get her hopes up is all."

Jim raised his eyebrows in question.

"I just don't think I'm up to going anywhere and I really don't need her to mother me...I already have enough of that." It was a joke, but Jim's eyes closed and he nodded.

Damn.

"Well I..."

"I didn't mean it like that...I'm sorry, man." Blair pulled the covers close and stood up.

Jim followed and soon they sat on the sofa. "Really, man. Thanks for being there for me. You went above and beyond the call." He chuckled a nervous hollow laugh. "Did a much better job than Naomi ever could."

Jim relaxed, settling back into the cushions. "You think?"

"Sure." Blair flicked on the TV and turned to the game. He had been looking forward to watching the playoffs all week, even if the Jags didn't make it this year. "You'll make someone a lovely wife someday."

A pillow grazed the side of his head, but he didn't retaliate...

For now...

The game started and Jim propped his feet onto the coffee table. Engrossed in the game, he didn't notice as Blair picked up the pillow near his lap, a small smirk on his lips.

And as the pillow thudded solidly against Jim's head Blair knew...

He was going to be just fine.

End

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