Title: Processing Series: Trial of Life, story 2
Sequel: Tears for Blair
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: Don't own them. No money being made. It was on my Christmas list but Santa said no.
Thanks to listsib Cara Miller for letting me use her poem "You gave me". A big thank you to my wonderful betas Lorri and Lyn.
Warnings: minor character death, heavy angst, smarm.
Summary: Can the Sentinel help his Guide work through grief?
Feedback is definitely encouraged.

Processing

by Slery

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After the funeral, Blair couldn't think about doing anything, it just hurt too much. Jim was trying so hard to be patient with his friend. He fixed meals and made Blair eat as much as his friend could, which wasn't much. Blair just didn't feel like eating. The young man was consumed by his thoughts, What is the point anyway? What did I do to deserve being alive? She didn't deserve to die! Blair felt guilty because Jim was taking care of him when he didn't even care about himself. The most Blair could do was come out of his room to lie on the couch instead of in bed. Blair battled with himself. He really wants me to talk to him but I can't, not yet anyway.

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

The department chair at Rainier kept calling Blair to submit a syllabus for the summer class he was supposed to teach. Apparently, no one had told him why he had a replacement for the rest of the semester. Jim finally called him back and asked for a replacement after finding out it wouldn't go against his friend. The man then graciously extended his condolences and said he hoped to see the grad student back for the fall semester.

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

Jim was making dinner, when he heard his Captain arrive. He hoped a little company would help Sandburg. It had been two months since the funeral and Blair still wasn't talking. If Blair would not open up, then at least the Detective would have someone to talk to. Jim had taken all of his vacation and most of his sick days to try and help his Guide through this and it was beginning to really draw on his patience.

"Sandburg, Simon's here. Can you get the door?" Not receiving an answer, he realized the kid had gone back to sleep. Quickly grabbing a towel to wipe his hands, he walked to the door, but not before Banks had a chance to knock. Opening the door, he was greeted with a worried look.

"Jim, what's wrong?"

"Nothing out of the usual. Why?"

Giving his detective a puzzled look, "You let me knock, that's why." Simon continued, "So, what's wrong?"

"Oh, sorry, Sir." Jim was grinning now, "I was making dinner and asked Sandburg to get the door before I realized he was sleeping again."

Now, it was the Captain's turn, "Again?"

"Yeah, he still sleeps a lot. But, I have gotten him out of his room and he does what I tell him to." Jim knew it really wasn't much of an improvement.

"Jim, that's not normal. The kid rarely does what you tell him." For once, this wasn't meant as a joke and both men knew it.

I know, Simon, it's like he is broken and I don't know how to fix him. Jim, the Sentinel and Protector couldn't bring himself to say that particular thought out loud. "Let me finish the salad and we can eat. Would you mind setting the table?"

"No problem, Jim." The black man had known the detective for years. But, since the arrival of the young observer, Jim had opened up, and he and Simon had become close friends, and now the older man felt comfortable at the loft and helped himself.

The Detective placed the salad on the table and then went over to wake his friend. "Chief? Come on, time to wake up."

Must be time to get up again. I really don't want to get up. Blair really didn't want to open his eyes, the pain seemed much more bearable the more he slept, but he knew his roommate wouldn't give up until he got what he wanted. I wish he would just let me sleep. Okay, gotta open my eyes now. Yep, there's Jim's smiling face, like I just did the most amazing thing. Pulling himself off the couch he headed to the dining table. "Hey, Simon. What are you doing here?"

Jim cut him off, "Remember, I told you this morning he was coming to dinner."

No, Jim, I don't remember, if I did I wouldn't be asking, now would I?! Blair grimaced. Sorry, Jim, you don't deserve that.

Dinner was okay. Jim didn't push Blair to eat while Simon was there. They are really trying to get me to watch the game with them now. Blair mumbled, "No, thanks." Please, don't push Jim, I can't do this right now.

When he turned to shut the door to his room, the hurt look on Jim's face was reflected in the glass of the door. I'm so sorry, Jim, but I never want to hurt like this again.

Jim could see Blair shutting down and shutting him out. The Sentinel knew his Guide would never be the same, but hoped Blair would learn to let him in again.

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

I can't believe I fell asleep again. Guess I better go take a shower before I am out for the night. It sounds like the game is still going. Good, hopefully I won't have to see Jim look at me.

Blair gathered his things and took them to the bathroom without looking at either of the men sitting on the couch. Man, this shower is just what I needed, if only it could wash away the pain. Tears streamed down his face and he quickly wiped them away not wanting to let the pain loose. He was afraid the pain would never go away if he expressed it.

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

Jim looked toward the bathroom as he smelled the light scent of salt that indicated Blair was trying to hide his tears.

Simon saw the look and decided to take this opportunity to talk to his detective about Sandburg. "So, have you decided to get him counseling, yet?"

"I haven't figured out how to bring it up." Ellison let out a sigh.

He seems to be doing a lot of that lately, Simon thought. "The kid has got to get over this, Jim."

At the same time Simon said that, Sandburg stepped out of the bathroom. "You don't know anything, Simon. I'm NEVER going to get over this!" Blair was horrified, the pain he had felt when Naomi died was only getting worse, not better. How can he think I'm going to get over this! I will never get to see her again, never get to hold her, never get to tell her how much I love her, ever again. There is no going back and there is no getting over this.

The Sentinel hated seeing his friend in so much pain, but was glad the dam had finally broken. His gentle Guide was so afraid to let himself be angry that it was eating the young man alive. He placed his hands on his friend's shoulders. "Let it out, Blair. It's okay to be angry. It's okay to cry."

The young man lifted pain filled eyes to meet his partner's, "I can't ... it hurts ... too much. It hurts ... so much ... I can't breathe." With the admission, his knees began to buckle.

The older man reached over and caught his friend before he could fall. Maneuvering over to the couch, they sat down and he cradled the smaller man in his arms and slowly began to rock. It was the only thing he could do, because nothing would take away Blair's pain. Only time would allow him to move on, but he would never get over the loss.

Sensing the turning point, Simon took the opportunity to quietly slip out of the loft. He would call Jim tomorrow to see how Sandburg was doing.

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

As the days passed, Jim and Blair spent a lot of time talking and even more crying. Jim wasn't an emotional person but, he had to help his Guide. He was also able to find some release of his own for all the past hurts, which he had repressed. Blair realized with his friend's help that eventually he would be able to go on with life, because he still had Jim by his side to help him carry on.

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

Sandburg was slowly beginning to go on with life again. So, Ellison started going into the station for a while each day, but still spent much of the day on the phone with Blair. He also went home for lunch to spend time with his grieving friend.

Today, Blair, was going to the U to try to prepare for next semester. Jim wasn't surprised when the phone on his desk rang at half past nine. It meant that Sandburg had actually made it to his office. The Sentinel knew this would be a very rough day for his Guide. Picking up the phone, "Ellison." After hearing the silent tears on the other end of the line, "It's okay, Chief. I'm here, just let it out."

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

Blair skipped breakfast, opting instead to dress quickly and leave before he changed his mind. Well, today is it. I haven't been out of the loft by myself since ... that day. Preparing for next semester's classes shouldn't be too hard. After all, I'll only be teaching two Anthro 101 courses. The dean agreed to let me take a lighter load until I get through this.

The young man slipped his glasses off and rubbed his eyes. Man, this is hard I can't concentrate on this syllabus for anything. It feels so wrong to be doing normal things. He glanced at the clock on his computer. Okay, I've managed to keep the tears at bay for half an hour. I hope Jim doesn't mind me calling so soon.

Blair picked up the receiver and dialed the station, on the other end of the line he heard, "Ellison." I know he can hear me crying. "It's okay, Chief. I'm here, just let it out." That did it and he started sobbing in earnest.

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

It really helped Blair just to be able to hear Jim's voice. Maybe he could do this. A few more changes and this syllabus will be done. This is the first thing I've done since ... she's ... been gone. Man, this hurts so much. He picked up the phone and dialed the station again.

"Ellison. Chief?" The detective sighed, it wasn't even noon yet and Blair was calling again. Maybe he wasn't ready to do this after all.

"Jim." Blair managed in a broken voice.

"Hang on, Blair. I'm gonna tell Simon I'm leaving and then I'll pick you up. Okay?"

"Thanks, Jim." The young man choked back the tears. He didn't want to appear weak in front of his friend.

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

The detective crossed the bullpen to his captain's office and knocked.

"Come in," came the gruff reply.

"Sir, can I have the rest of the day off?"

"What's up, Jim?" Simon could tell it probably had to do with Sandburg.

"It's Sandburg-"

"How did I know? I take it the kid's not doing too well."

"On the whole he is ... but today he went to the university to prepare for his classes." Ellison ran a hand through his hair emphasizing his weariness.

"And-," This was going somewhere, but the captain didn't know where.

"He's already called me twice and ... I really need to go pick him up and take him home."

"Very well, tell the kid we're thinking of him."

"Thanks, Simon."

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

Ellison parked near Hargrove Hall and honed his senses in on his Guide. From the minute squeaks the Sentinel could tell Blair was sitting on the rickety couch in his office. He could also smell the scent of fresh tears. The detective quickly went through the building and down the stairs to his friend's basement office/storage room and tapped lightly before entering.

Blair lay on the couch curled around a pillow. Jim walked over to the desk and turned off the computer while he packed the young man's things into the backpack. He then walked over and sat down next to Blair. The young man sat up and then crumpled into the older man's arms. After an hour the partners got up and went home.

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

The next day, Jim was finishing breakfast when he heard Sandburg get up. Going over to the coffee maker he filled a mug with the coffee and fixed a plate for his friend. Blair stood at the island drinking coffee while Jim put on his leather jacket.

Ellison wasn't a man good with words, so before leaving, he walked over and wrapped his arms around his Guide and whispered, "If you need me, just call."

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

Blair sat in his office once again. Today is going much better than yesterday. I finished up the syllabus for the 101 class before calling Jim.

"Ellison," Jim squawked into the receiver.

"Hey, Jim," hearing his bark made the young man smile.

"You okay, Chief?" The Sentinel could hear the catch in his friend's voice.

"Yeah, um ... sorry, I didn't mean to bother you." Blair hesitated. Now I feel bad for interrupting him. It must be a tough case, or just that he has to do his paperwork without me. His smile returned a little at that thought.

"It's not a problem, Blair. Whatever it is, I'll understand." Jim frowned with worry over his friend.

"I'm okay, really," He took a deep breath before continuing, "I just ... just wanted to hear your voice. I'm sorry for bothering you."

"Not a problem, Chief. If my bark makes you feel better I'm glad I could help." Jim's frown lifted a little, "So, how are you, really?"

"Better now, thanks. I'll let you get back to work." I really do feel better now, Jim.

"Okay, I'm doing paperwork all day, so feel free to call anytime." He could hear that his Guide truly was doing better now and allowed himself to smile again. It was definitely progress.

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

Jim looked up at his phone when it began to ring again He knew it would be Blair. The young man had called every two hours since that first call. Each time, Blair was a little closer to tears. "Hi, Chief."

"Jim-" the tears finally fell.

"It's okay. I'm finishing this report and then I'll head over and pick you up."

"Thanks." Blair whispered.

"See you in about twenty minutes. We'll get Thai on the way home."

Sandburg was doing better, but he still had a ways to go.

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

The end of the week had finally arrived. Ellison was in the kitchen when he heard the Volvo coming down the street. He was glad his partner was home, so they could enjoy a nice dinner and watch a movie together. Following the happy thought, he wondered what kind of day the kid had had. His friend still had more rough days than good, but it was beginning to turn the other way. Sandburg had gone to the University all week to prepare for the next semester. Today, he hadn't called at all, though they did have lunch together.

Honing in on his Guide, he caught the hitch in the young man's breathing as he got on the elevator. Jim turned the oven off and washed his hands, before going to open the door.

Upon exiting the elevator Sandburg found his Sentinel waiting for him. Stepping into the embrace, he let the sobs take over. Today had been a good day, he had managed to get some work done and kept the tears at bay, at least until he got home, where his friend waited to offer support.

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

It had been over two months since the funeral and Blair decided it was time to release Naomi's ashes. He needed to do this before the semester started. The day finally came and Jim packed some sandwiches, water, and a blanket to sit on. Blair carried the urn that contained his mother's ashes. It was about a two-hour drive out to the spot Sandburg had picked out. Ellison insisted they eat first, because Jim knew that if they didn't he wouldn't get anything in Blair otherwise.

"Are you ready to do this, Chief?" This was a major step in the healing process for his partner and the older man was glad they were finally able to make it.

"Yeah, I am. Thanks for not giving up on me, Jim." They walked a little further up the mountain to a little cliff area that looked down into Cascade. Knowing his friend's problems with acrophobia, Jim took Blair's elbow, and supported the younger man as he made his way slowly to the edge. Blair took out a piece of paper and read.

"You gave me."

You gave me...
Unconditional love
Unconditional support
Unconditional freedom
to be me

You showed me...
How to love
How to smile
How to "bounce"

You taught me...
How to fight
How to walk away
And how to forgive

And I will love you and miss you,
Your loving son,
Blair Sandburg

The men stood together and watched as Naomi's ashes drifted away on the wind. The Sentinel used his sight to follow them as far as he could see. It was the last link the Guide would have to the physical remains of his mother.

END

This story is loosely based on my own experiences with grief. Unfortunately, I did not have a Jim in my life to lend the support I needed three years ago. I encourage you to seek the help of others if you are going through grief. And to those who have experienced grief, I encourage you to reach out to someone who needs help getting through those rough days. I have been blessed with the opportunity to be the Jim for someone else.

So, did you like this one? Should I continue with the series or end it here? Please mail me with your comments.