This is sort of a sequel to "Some Days..." It takes place about a week later. It stands alone, however. I'm afraid the dark muse is bashing me, of late. I hope the other one, Sweetness and Light comes back soon. I don't really like these dreary stories. Must be the weather. It's grey and dismal. Lots of rain. No flooding....yet. Ooohhh! Sweetness and Light just bashed me. I have to hurry and finish this one, so I can follow her (him? it?) on the one that just landed. Snow....hmmm. :D As usual, the standard disclaimers apply. I don't own 'em, I get no money. Please don't sue me, I don't have very much.
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It seemed odd, being the only one in the squad room. Kind of peaceful. He was busy typing up his reports. By himself, for a change. Sandburg was at the university, Simon was at another interminable meeting with the mayor's office, Brown and Ryf had gone out for lunch. He was actually rather pleased to be stuck inside, today. It was snowing heavily and the city was threatening to close down because of it.
He was typing away, when he heard the sound of the elevator coming to a stop on this floor, distracting him. It was too soon for the other detectives to be back from lunch, and Simon's meeting couldn't possibly be over yet. He stood, turning to see who it was.
"What brings you down here in this storm, Daryl?" he asked the Captain's teen-aged son. The young man was still covered with snow, and Jim could see that his lower pant legs were covered in ice.
"It's my weekend to spend with Dad." Daryl replied, setting down his duffel bag and struggling out of his coat.
Jim moved over to him and took the icy coat, hanging it on the coat rack. Using his heightened senses, he realized that Daryl was suffering from hypothermia. The kid was so cold, that he didn't even realize just how cold he was. Not yet dangerously cold, but he definitely needed to get warmed up, and soon.
"How come your clothes are so wet?" he asked, realizing that there was even ice on Daryl's shirt sleeves.
"My mom and I were arguing, this morning. She didn't want me to come over to Dad's tonight. 'Cause of the weather. And I..." he trailed off, unsure of his reception. Jim was a great guy, but he scared him sometimes, he could get so intense. Jim's partner, on the other hand, was probably the teen's closest friend. He could talk about anything with Blair. Jim was too much like his dad. Not that that was a bad thing, just, not always easy to get along with.
"You think you don't get to spend enough time with him as it is." Jim finished for him, much to Daryl's surprise. He grinned at the kid's expression. "Simon has the same complaint." he explained, gently. Reaching out to tousle the kid's hair. Sensing that Daryl's core temperature was only about eighty-nine degrees. Dangerously low. Bending over to pick up the duffel bag, he told the young man, "You can't even tell how cold you are, can you?"
"Huh?" Daryl asked. "I'm not cold." He said, in surprise.
"Then why is there ice on your sleeves and pantlegs?" Jim asked, taking Daryl's arm and leading him back to the elevator.
"Oh. That's from when Mom dropped me off at school. She was pretty mad, and when she pulled away, there was this deep puddle. I got splashed." Daryl explained. "It was a minimum day, and I never got a chance to completely dry off. I'm fine. Honest." He tried to pull away from the detective.
"Uh huh. Come on. We've got to try to get you warmed up." He nearly dragged the kid to the elevator, holding on to him until they reached the locker room in the basement. There, he went to his locker and pulled out a bath sheet, setting it on the bench. Then, "I want you to take a hot shower. Stay there until you thaw out. You got any sweats with you?" Pulling out shampoo, conditioner and soap, adding it to the pile.
"No, sir." Daryl answered. He started to unbutton his shirt, but was surprised when his fingers wouldn't work right.
Jim had added a set of Sandburg's sweats to the pile. Noticing that Daryl was having trouble, he then reached over and unbuttoned his shirt, then the button of his pants Letting Daryl unzip them and finish stripping, he went into the community showers and turned one on, adjusting the temperature, not too warm, or he'd scald, as low as his temperature was. He didn't notice any signs of frostbite, just hypothermia.
He felt embarrassed. It was one thing to undress for a doctor, or even in the locker room of the gym at school. He was glad that Jim wasn't looking at him. He picked up the soap and shampoo, leaving the conditioner, as he didn't use any, and stepped into the warm water.
"You stay there until you get warm." Jim warned, sitting down on the bench, keeping an ear tuned to Daryl's heart and respiration, just to make sure he didn't need medical help.
"How will I know when I'm warm enough?" Daryl asked, the water felt pretty hot to him.
Jim chuckled. "You'll know you're getting there when you start to shiver."
"You got to be kidding. If I'm shivering, that means that I'm cold. Not warm." Had Jim gone nuts? "No. Your core temperature has dropped. You have hypothermia. If your temperature goes too low, you'll pass out, possibly die. Once you start shivering, that means that your core temperature has gone up, and your brain and body are communicating again. You'll start shivering as your body's attempt to warm itself. You're so cold, you don't even realize just how cold you are." He could hear Daryl's teeth begin to chatter.
"Oh, man. I'm freezing. Can I turn on more hot water?" He was shivering so hard, he found he needed to place one hand on the wall to support himself.
"Sure. Just not too much, too fast."
Daryl adjusted the taps, increasing the amount of hot water hitting his body. He still couldn't seem to get any warmer. He was having trouble standing. He crouched down, trying to conserve what heat he had, trembling violently. "J-J-J-Jim?" He couldn't stay up any more, and sat on the cold tile, shivering too much to stay on his feet.
Jim heard Daryl's distress, the elevating heartbeat, the shallow, rapid breathing. He moved quickly, shutting off the water, then taking the towel and gathering the trembling young man up in the bath sheet. He carried him out of the tiled shower area, back to the bench by the lockers. He vigorously toweled him dry, then dressed him in Blair's borrowed sweat pants and shirt. He fished a clean, dry pair of socks from Daryl's duffel, putting them on his feet, there was a spare pair of tennis shoes in the bag, which he placed on the teen's feet. Daryl sat, doubled over, arms wrapped around his stomach, shivering. Jim put the wet towel and Daryl's sodden clothing in his laundry bag, replaced the soap, shampoo and conditioner in his locker, closed the door, and turned to help Daryl stand.
"Come on, Daryl. Let's get you back upstairs. There are some blankets, and Simon's got a little space heater in his office." He had to keep an arm around Daryl, to keep him moving. He carried the duffel and laundry bag in his other hand.
Back in the squad room, Jim dropped the duffel and laundry by his desk, as he led Daryl to his dad's office. He found the space heater and a couple of thick, heavy blankets in the credenza. He set up the heater, turning it on high, then took the blankets, shook them out, and wrapped them around the still frozen teen. He sat in Simon's chair and pulled the boy onto his lap, pulling the blankets around them both, to keep the heat in, using his own body heat to warm Daryl.
The shivering child snuggled into the warmth of the man. Jim's hands rubbed Daryl's back, shoulders, and arms, using friction to create heat. Daryl lay his head on Jim's shoulder, feeling the warmth of the man seeping into his frozen body. Jim pulled the blankets up over Daryl's head to keep the warmth from escaping. They sat together, Jim's hands rubbing welcome heat into Daryl's cold body. Daryl dozing in the warmth of Jim's embrace.
Simon was thoroughly annoyed when he returned from his meeting. The kiddie-porn/snuff film set up Jim had uncovered looked to be turning into a much larger bust than at first thought. So, of course, the feds wanted to take over. The mayor had, at least, insisted that it was their case; but certainly they were welcome to tag along. The agent, some guy named Ford, sent out from Chicago had been a typically charming fed, thus accounting for Simon's vile mood. He didn't notice anything until he saw that his office door was standing open. He always closed the door. Then he noticed Jim, in his chair, holding someone in his lap, under a blanket, a very compromising scene. Then, when Jim looked up and smiled at him, and the blanket slid, and he saw that the person in Jim's lap was his son. He lost it.
"WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING!" he bellowed. Charging across the office and snatching Daryl away from the detective. He stood Daryl up, pushing his son behind him, turning on the surprised Jim. Daryl was still groggy from having fallen asleep. Jim was totally confused, wondering what was wrong. He never reacted. Simon punched him in the face. Jim sprawled out of the chair, hitting the edge of the desk as he went over backwards, slamming his head on the floor, nearly losing consciousness.
He rolled to his feet, confused. What was Simon doing? Why...? The blow to his stomach doubled him over, followed by an uppercut to his face, he felt the blood spurt from his nose. This was not good. He tried putting his hands out to protect himself. "Simon? What's wrong?"
"Wrong? You want to know what's wrong?! You molest my son in my own office and you want to know what's wrong?!!!" Simon was so angry that his voice was barely above a whisper.
"WHAT?" Jim gasped in horror. "You think that I would do anything...UHH" Simon hit him in the stomach again. He then clasped his hands in a double fist, and brought them down on the back of Jim's head, driving him to the floor. He drew back a foot and drove his foot into Jim's groin.
"Dad! No! Stop!" Daryl screamed at his father. "He didn't do anything," he tried to push between his father and the fallen detective. Simon pushed him out of the way, intent on inflicting more damage on the fallen man.
"Please, Dad. Please listen to me." Daryl kept pleading, pulling on his father's sleeve, knocking him off balance, preventing him from kicking Jim again. "Please, Dad. He didn't do anything to me."
He finally heard his son's words. He turned his angry glare to his offspring. "Then what did I just see here? His hands were all over you."
Daryl had placed himself between the two men, giving Jim a chance to crawl away and drag himself up. "I got hypothermia. Jim was just trying to warm me up, Dad. It wasn't what you thought." There were tears running down his face. That his father would think so little of his friend. Daryl felt guilty for the entire thing. If he hadn't...
"Please, Dad. He was just getting me warm. He wasn't molesting me. Honest, Dad. I'm big enough to defend myself against that. If he'd done anything like that I'd have been fighting all the way. You should know that, Please, Dad."
Jim had managed to get to his feet. His nose was bleeding, he couldn't stand up straight. Realizing what Simon had assumed. That his captain, a man he had considered his friend, could think him capable of....
Simon looked at his detective, saw the blood, the pain in his blue eyes; the mask falling in place on his face hiding whatever emotions he was feeling. Jaws clenched. Watched as the man made a supreme effort, pulling himself up to attention, eyes going blank, stoic mask firmly in place, no emotion, showing no physical pain. The perfect soldier, solid, machine-like.
It took everything he had in him to pull off the 'perfect soldier' routine. The pain radiating from the kick to his groin couldn't be dialed down enough. He never said a word. He looked the captain in the eye, turned to leave, not looking at Daryl.
Simon realized his error. "Jim? Jim, I'm sorry..." Jim never acknowledged him.
He stopped by his desk. He pulled his service pistol from his belt and his badge from his pocket. He placed both on the middle of his desk blotter, picked up his laundry bag, and marched out of the room. Never looking back.
Meanwhile, Simon was getting the entire story from his son. He could have kicked himself for jumping to such a wrong conclusion; not allowing Jim to explain. It wasn't until Brown knocked on the office door, that he realized that he had a bigger problem.
"Excuse me, Captain. I was just wondering," Brown began, uncertain.
"Well, why is Jim's gun and badge on his desk? Where'd he go? Why'd he leave them?" He stopped, there were too many questions to ask at once.
"Oh, God." Simon moaned. "Call him. See if you can get a hold of..."
"Captain?" Ryf called out, "It's Sandburg. On the phone. He's asking where Jim is. What do I tell him?"
"I'll take it" Simon called out. Looking up at Brown, he asked "I'll talk to you in a minute. It was all a misunderstanding." Brown nodded, uncertainly, and left the office.
Simon picked up the phone. "Banks."
"Oh, uh, Hi, Simon. Have you seen Jim around there? I was wondering, well, the snow's getting worse, and, well...do you know if he'll be coming home soon?" There was worry in the grad student's voice.
"He's not there? Has he been there? in, say the past half hour? Did he leave a note or anything?" With blizzard warnings in effect, now was not the time to have a distraught Jim out on the streets.
"Uh...Oh! Yeah. Here's a note. It says......."
"Says what, Sandburg?" Simon snapped.
"It says he's going camping. Simon, that doesn't make any sense. There's a blizzard out there. He can't go camping in this. He'll freeze!" What was going on, here? Why would Jim want to go camping in a blizzard? Where could he have gone? Simon placed his hand over the mouthpiece of the phone as he called out to his remaining men. "Put out an APB on Jim and his truck." The detectives rushed to comply. Simon looked at his son, who sat, looking miserable, not meeting his eyes. "Sandburg, Jim and I had.....a misunderstanding. I jumped to the wrong conclusion and he's taken off." He paused, debating whether to tell him any more, deciding... "He left his gun and shield on his desk."
Blair was in shock. It must have been some misunderstanding for Jim to just up and quit. What could have been so terrible to make Jim do such a thing? "Have you tried his cell phone?"
"We're trying now. You stay put, and we'll keep you informed." He hung up the phone, dismayed at the turn of events. He had brought his attitude back from the meeting with the feds and jumped to a conclusion worthy of that Ford guy. Damn. He left his office to arrange the search for his missing man.
Two hours, and no word. Jim's cell phone was turned off, and Blair was seriously worried. He'd also forgotten a stack of essays he needed to grade, in his office. He checked the weather, bad, but not impassable. He decided to just dash down to the university and pick them up. That way, until Jim was found, he would have something to keep him occupied. He checked his cell phone on his way out the door.
The weather was deceptive. It hadn't looked that bad from the balcony of the loft. Driving in it was another matter. Good thing Jim had sprung for snow tires for his Volvo, or he'd have been stuck several times over on his way to the university. The parking lot was empty, when he pulled in, the closest to his office he had ever been able to park.
The power was off in the building and Blair had to use his penlight to guide his way to his office. He was surprised to find his office door open. Cautiously, he entered; shining his light around the office, he discovered...
"Jim?" His cot was set up in the back of the office, Jim curled up on his side in his sleeping bag. His breath frosting in the cold room. Approaching the sleeping man, Blair reached out and gently shook Jim's shoulder. "Jim? You OK?"
Jim groaned, rolled onto his back, knees drawn up, opening his eyes to look at his friend. "What are you doing here?"
Blair was shocked. Jim had a black eye, his nose was swollen, a large dark bruise discoloured one side of his jaw, and there were smears of dried blood on his face, as though he had wiped at his bloody nose, but not bothered to wash.
"What the hell happened to you?" he gasped in shock. "Simon said you guys had a fight, but he didn't say anything about you hitting each other." He reached out to gently touch the bruised cheek and jaw. Trying to access the damage. If Jim looked like this, what must Simon look like? Jim moved away from Blair's hand, struggled out of his sleeping bag, and sat on the edge of the cot. "I didn't hit Simon." Voice cold. Face showing no expression.
Uh oh. "You want to tell me what happened?"
OK. "Where's your truck?"
Serious uh oh. "Why?"
"None of your business, Sandburg."
Still no sign of emotion. This was looking bad. "Then why are you here, in my office?" Not a good idea to push too hard, Blair. He'd gone back to that old stoicism from when they first met, nearly three years earlier.
"Weather too bad to get out of town. I needed to be alone for a while."
"OK. I can relate. How about we go home now?"
Exasperated sigh. This was not going well. "It's freezing here. All the power is out. You might as well be outside. Come on, man. Let's go home."
"Why?" worried. "Is it because I'm there? Do you want me to go?" Oh, pleasepleaseplease.
"No what? No it's not because I'm there? No you don't want me to leave? What?"
Jim sighed, finally turning and looking at his friend. "No. It's not because you're there. No. I don't want you to leave. No. I don't want to go home."
"Why?" What happened between Jim and Simon? "None of your concern, Sandburg."
Sandburg? What happened to 'Chief'? "Yeah, it is my concern. I'm your Guide. What affects you affects me. You don't have to tell me what's going on. You just need to come home, so I know you're safe." Man, what was going on here? If Jim clenched his jaws any tighter, he expected to hear teeth splinter. Jim sighed, giving up. Standing, he turned and packed his sleeping bag, then folded the cot back up and returned it to its storage spot. Turning back to Blair, "OK. Let's go."
Blair noticed how stiffly Jim was moving, wondering what had happened. Shrugging, he turned and led the way out, pausing long enough to lock the office door behind them. It was nearly white out conditions just getting to the Volvo.
"Do you want to stop and get the truck, Jim?"
"No. It can wait until the weather clears. You realize that we're going to be snowed in, once we get back to the loft?"
Still no inflection in his voice. Blair's worry was increasing, instead of decreasing. The good news, was that at least Jim would be safe at home, soon. Jim must have had all his senses turned down, or he'd notice just how cold it was.
"No problem, man. I went shopping yesterday, so we have plenty of food. The stove is gas, and we have the wood stove for extra heat. I may have to move into the living room, though. My room may get too cold for me to stay in there." Jim made no reply, his clenching and unclenching jaw the only sign that he had heard.
The normal fifteen to twenty minute drive took them nearly two and a half hours. Blair could barely see past the hood of the car. If Jim hadn't pointed out the turns, they would never have made it back to the loft. There was no one else on the streets. Blair heaved an enormous sigh of relief when they finally reached home. The power was out there as well. They climbed the stairs to the loft, Jim moving far slower than he normally would. Blair wondered if he was hurt, or just cold. Once inside, He turned to his friend, took one look at him, and said, "Go take a hot shower. You need to warm up. I'll put on some water for tea and get the fire started." He took Jim's sleeping bag and duffel, and placed them at the foot of the stairs leading to Jim's room. For a change, Jim did as he was told, without arguing, causing Blair to worry even more.
Blair was as good as his word, only, instead of making tea, he opted for hot cocoa, thinking that chocolate was more of a comfort food.
When Jim exited the bathroom a few minutes later, Blair was waiting with a steaming mug. He nearly dropped it when he saw the bruises on his friend. Simon did this? Jim didn't hit him back? What could possibly be going on here? There were two wicked looking fist marks on Jim's abdomen, and an even darker bruise ran down from just above the towel Jim had wrapped around his waist. Ow. Blair winced, just thinking about how much those bruises must hurt. What in the world could have caused Simon to do this to a friend? It didn't make any sense.
Jim accepted the cup, wordlessly. Taking a sip, he headed upstairs to dress.
"Jim? I'm going to call the station, let them know you're home, so they can call off the APB, OK?" Maybe Simon would tell him something. Jim certainly wasn't saying anything.
Upon calling the station, Blair discovered that the APB had effectively been canceled, due to the worsening weather. Brown answered the phone. He had no more information than Blair had. Simon and Daryl had left nearly an hour and a half earlier.
So, Daryl had been there. What could have happened? Simon was apparently as reticent as Jim. There had to be something he could do to help, but what? Jim came back down, dressed in sweats. He picked up the discarded bag of laundry from his return home earlier, taking it into the bathroom to sort it into the hampers, hesitating over Daryl' s clothes, then adding them as well. Returning to the living room, he slumped onto the couch, sipping his cocoa. Still silent, brooding, jaws working.
Blair thought he was going to go crazy if his Sentinel didn't let him in on what was going on. He might as well have left him at the office, for all the company he was being. He had no idea how to help. Every time he came close, he could see the older man flinch away from him.
The knock at the door was a shock. Who on earth would be here in this blizzard? Jim got up and went upstairs, never saying a word. Left alone, Blair shrugged and went to answer the door. It was Simon and Daryl.
"Have you heard from Jim, yet?" the captain asked him as Blair let them in. Daryl wouldn't look at him, only at the floor, Simon was looking around, wondering if Jim might have returned.
Daryl knew what the problem was, that much was obvious. Blair closed the door behind them, turning, he glanced up at the loft. No sign of Jim. Damn. He wasn't going to be able to straighten this out unless Jim was willing to talk.
"Yeah. I found him. He was at my office. I talked him into coming home." He looked at Simon, "You want to tell me what's going on here?" unconsciously taking up a belligerent stance between the captain and the stairs, defending his Sentinel. Daryl slouched over to the couch and slumped down on it, still not looking at him.
Simon looked at his son, no response, then glanced up at Jim's room, no help there, either. Looking at Blair, he noticed that there was a glint of anger in the blue eyes, arms folded across his chest, the much smaller man looked surprisingly dangerous. Sighing, he replied, "No. I don't want to tell you what's going on." Daryl grunted, angrily, and turned further away from his father. Simon looked at Blair, beseechingly. No help there. "I jumped to a totally erroneous conclusion. I have no excuse other than the mood I was in after the meeting with the mayor and the feds. I'm sorry." Blair could sense Simon's sincerity.
"I'm not the one you have to convince." He glanced up at Jim's room, wondering how to get him down here and in on this. "I have some hot cocoa, you guys want some?" Daryl looked at him, pain and guilt on his face, nodding yes. Simon nodded as well.
This was going well. No one was talking to him. He couldn't guide unless there was someone to guide. "How long did it take you to get here?" for that matter, why'd you come? "A good two hours. I've never seen weather like this." This was not going well at all. They may be stuck here, due to the weather, and Jim was in hiding. Who could blame him? He was going to have to talk to him. Get through to him. Maybe Blair could intercede? No. Jim would have talked to Sandburg by now if he were going to. Daryl wasn't talking to him, either. He couldn't blame him, either. This was all his fault, and he had no idea how to make it better. Blair reappeared and handed each of them a cup of hot cocoa.
"Do you think it's safe for me to go up there and talk to him?" Simon asked softly.
"No." Jim's voice from upstairs. "I'll come down." Protect his lair. He knew they were going to be stuck here together until the storm cleared and the snow plows could get through. He was careful to keep his mask in place. Don't show anything. He had never imagined how hard it could be to maintain that cold facade, since Sandburg had come into his life, breaking down the barriers. It was, however, the only defense he had in this situation. He had counted Simon a close friend, never imagining that anything could break their trust. He didn't know what to do. He might have talked to Blair about it, eventually. Once the shock had worn off. There was no chance of that now. He came down the stairs, settling in his chair by the fire.
Daryl looked anxiously at Jim. Eyes filling upon seeing the damage to Jim's face. Turning away in guilt and dispair.
Simon winced upon seeing Jim's bruised face. He was still standing. He approached Jim, reaching out a hand to him, shocked when Jim avoided his touch, flinching. Jim was avoiding physical contact with Blair, as well. He had had to circle around the young man to do so. This was worse than when Jim had transferred in from vice. At least then he'd shown arrogance. Now, he was showing nothing. No fear, anger, hatred. Nothing. And it was all on his own head. The man hadn't even defended himself against his attack.
What could Daryl have to do with this? It was obvious that the teen was taking the blame upon himself.........Simon was angry about a meeting with the mayor and the feds. Some case. The kiddie porn/murder case was the only one that the feds would be interested in. Daryl....was wearing a set of his sweats, Blair noticed with surprise. Why would.....Oh, no. He glanced at Simon, then at Jim. Simon couldn't think that Jim could...it was the only thing that made any sense.
"Let me see if I have this figured out correctly. Something happened to Daryl, serious enough to make Jim lend him a set of my sweats. Then Simon jumped to the conclusion that Jim had molested Daryl, and beat him up....Tell me if I'm wrong on this." Please tell me I'm wrong.
Daryl looked at Blair, admiration in his eyes. "I came to the station after school. I'd had a fight with Mom, she didn't want me to go with Dad this weekend. When she pulled away from the school, she hit this really deep puddle and I got splashed. I never got dried off. By the time I got to the station, I guess I'd gotten hypothermia. Jim made me take a hot shower to warm up. I started shivering, and couldn't stand up any more. He dried me off and got me into your sweats. Then he got me back upstairs into Dad's office. He turned on a space heater and wrapped me in some blankets. He was trying to warm me up. It was working, too. When Dad came in, he thought...he thought...." Daryl started crying. Bringing his feet up on the couch, wrapping his arms around his knees and started rocking. "It's all my fault. I'm sorry. I never wanted to cause any trouble. I..." his sobs cut off what he was trying to say.
Blair sat down next to the sobbing boy. Sparing a glare for Simon, he wrapped an arm around Daryl, hugging him. "It is not your fault. You didn't know what was happening. You didn't do anything wrong. It's OK. You are not responsible for anyone else's actions but your own."
He noticed Jim squirm in his seat. Turning toward his friend, "You did the right thing, too. You got Daryl warm. You kept him from having to go to the hospital from hypothermia." he reassured. Finally, turning to Simon. "You blew it." hurt. He had trusted this man, as had Jim. "You made a mistake. You and Jim need to talk. Alone." he urged Daryl to his feet, leading the teen toward his bedroom, changed his mind and steered him to the kitchen, sitting Daryl in one chair, himself in another. Backs to the two older men. Blair continued to comfort Daryl, ignoring what was happening with the others.
Simon sighed. Leave it to Blair to figure out what was wrong. Come to think of it, the kid made a pretty good detective in his own right. He moved over to the couch and sat down, as close to Jim as he could. Jim's walls were high and thick. "I'm sorry. Blair's right. I jumped to the wrong conclusion, and didn't give you a chance to explain. I'm hoping that you can forgive me. I need you to come back. Please." He was never good at pleading, it simply wasn't in his nature; but he also knew that he was responsible for his actions, never more so than now. He had hurt a friend, never giving him a chance to speak; rather, he hadn't listened. Jim had tried. So had Daryl. He reached out to touch the other man.
He couldn't help it. He flinched away. He wasn't afraid, he just didn't, couldn't, trust his captain. He struggled with his feelings, jaw silent testimony to his inner turmoil. His mask was firmly in place. It felt stiff, unnatural. He met Simon's eyes, who lowered his hand, embarrassed. He sighed. Thinking how it might have looked from Simon's point of view. What his frame of mind might have been upon returning from an unsatisfactory meeting on that particular case. Recognizing that the picture he and Daryl presented could be easily misinterpreted. Simon was being conciliatory.
"I can forgive you." he paused, the pain leaking into his eyes as he continued. "I just don't know if I can trust you again." I don't know if I can work for you any more. If I can't trust you....
Simon hung his head. "I understand." Trust was hard won. The loss of it could be deadly, in their business. "I'd like to try to work this out. Will you come back?" He removed Jim's pistol and badge from his jacket pocket. Setting them on the coffee table before Jim. Give me another chance. "I'm sorry."
Jim finally met his captain's eyes. He thought about it. It would be impossible to protect his city without his job. Could he still work with Simon? It was no different than when he was in the Army and had to work with superiors whom he didn't get along with. Just do his job, and let the rest take care of itself.
He reached out and picked up his gun and badge. "I don't know if this will work out or not. But I'm willing to try." He stood and took the items upstairs to put them away.
Dinner was strained, silent. Everyone locked in their own thoughts. There was more than three feet of snow on the ground, already, and showing no signs of letting up. They were stuck with each other's company for the foreseeable future.
Without electricity, they were using candles and Jim's camping lanterns for light. Jim was stoking the fire, preparing to set it to burn through the night. "Simon, you and Daryl sleep in my room. I'll sleep on the couch, keep the fire going." His tone brooked no argument. He was still keeping physical distance from the others. Blair had pulled all his blankets out of his room and started building himself a nest on the smaller couch.
His sleep was disturbed by dreams of betrayal. All the times his father had set him up to fail, all the mean things he and his brother had done to each other in trying to gain his love. It wasn't love. He knew that. It was manipulation. He didn't want to become his father. He'd struggled his entire adult life to escape that fate. Fought to trust, to believe. Learned to accept, depend on others. Well, one other, at least. Blair. If Blair had....but he hadn't....
He awoke, unrested. He rose and added wood to the fire, then sat, brooding. Was he going to let one incident destroy everything he and Simon had built? He looked over at Blair, wishing he would wake up, so he could talk to him. Unwilling to disturb his friend's sleep.
Blair wondered how to heal the breach between his two friends. It was an awful misunderstanding that he desperately wanted to fix. He woke up, unrested, knowing he wasn't going to be able to sleep any time soon. He wasn't surprised to see Jim sitting before the fire, staring into the flames.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Blair asked softly.
Jim looked up, relief washing over his features. "Yes."
Blair sat up, stood and moved over to sit beside his friend. "What do you want to do?" How can I help? "I don't know. I..." he shook his head. "I can't see anything I can do. I..." he lifted pain-filled eyes to his Guide. "What should I do?"
Blair reached over and gripped his shoulder. Glad when Jim didn't avoid the contact. "Wait and see. Simon blew it big time. He knows that. You've been friends for a long time. I don't think you want to give up that friendship. It was a misunderstanding. Think of where he was coming from..."
"I have. I do understand why he jumped to the conclusion he did. I just don't know if I can ever trust him again. Without trust, I won't be able to do my job." he turned pleading eyes to his young friend. "I can't imagine what this is doing to Daryl. What is he thinking?"
Blair was impressed. Jim had accepted an undeserved beating, and was worried about the innocent teen, taking the blame for Simon's actions. "He blames himself."
"Why? He didn't do anything except get cold." puzzled.
"And all you did was warm him up, using perfectly acceptable methods. Simon's really upset about this. He really needs you to forgive him. If you can."
"I already forgave him. I just don't feel I can trust him again." There. He'd admitted his fears.
Blair was nonplused. Jim could forgive. Trust. It was really all about trust. There was only one way Blair knew to trust. You took your fears and insecurities and ignored them, allowing, forcing yourself to accept another's reassurances. He reached out to his Sentinel. "The only way I know, is to practice."
Jim looked at him. Remembering how frequently Blair had thought he was going to throw him out, how he practiced trust, how their friendship built with that practice. He nodded. "It's going to take a lot of time. I hope we have it." he agreed. He hopped he could keep his reactions to himself. He reached out and gently smacked Blair on the back of the head. "Thanks. Why don't you try and go back to sleep? It's still several hours until morning and the snow hasn't let up."
Blair nodded, patting Jim's arm as he rose to return to his nest. He fell asleep quickly, deep and dreamless. Jim watched his Guide, listening to the sound of his heartbeat, allowing that sound to calm and reassure his troubled soul. He restoked the fire and settled himself back down to sleep.
It was another day of snow. The wind still blowing ferociously. Jim was trying his best to pretend that everything was the way it had been before. The only problem was, Daryl wouldn't even look at him. Could Daryl believe what his father had thought? He didn't know what to do. Blair knew he was going to have to talk to Daryl. Every time Jim and Daryl came close, the teen turned away, unconsciously rejecting Jim. Simon noticed, and wondered what to do. Mostly everyone remained silent, only talking when they had to.
Daryl didn't know what to do. He'd gotten Jim hurt for trying to help him. The guilt kept him from even looking at the older man. He needed to talk to Blair. Blair would know what to do. The only problem was that his dad wouldn't let him out of his sight, except to go to the bathroom.
"I've had enough." Blair said, standing in the middle of the living room, glaring around at the other three. "Daryl and Jim need to talk. Neither of you did anything wrong. It was all a mistake. Go somewhere and tell each other that." He looked at Simon, and sighed. "OK. We all know you screwed up. It's time for you to get over it. Jim is trying, so am I. You asked Jim to forgive you. Now it's time for you to forgive yourself." He turned to Daryl, "You, too. Go use my room, Talk to each other. Come back when you have it figured out." He was amazed, here he was being the referee, he was surprised at how hard it was. Simon always made it look so easy.
Reluctantly, Jim and Daryl went into Blair's room. Both noticed just how cold it was in there. "I think I need to see about some more insulation for in here. No wonder Blair sleeps on the couch so much." Not meeting the teen's eyes.
He must hate me, Daryl thought, miserable. Taking his courage in both hands, he said "I'm sorry." in an almost inaudible whisper.
Jim looked perplexed. "Why should you be sorry? You didn't do anything."
Daryl looked up, meeting Jim's gaze, seeing only concern and puzzlement. "You're not mad at me for getting you in trouble?" amazed at the thought.
"You didn't get me in trouble. It was all a misunderstanding." he shrugged, beginning to accept it, himself. "It was happenstance. Your dad made a mistake. It wasn't planned. It just happened." Saying it made it more real. It was an accident. Beginning to understand Sandburg's reasoning. It took practice to trust. He decided to not let one accidental incident destroy his friendship with his superior, to destroy the trust they had built up. It was still going to take some time, but he was willing to work at it. His friends were important enough to do so. He smiled at Daryl, reaching out for the young man, offering a hug.
Daryl didn't try to hold back the tears. Jim wasn't mad at him. He didn't hate him. He still liked him. He threw himself into the offered embrace, hugging hard.
Blair noticed the Sentinel's arm draped around Daryl's shoulders, when they came out of his bedroom. He noticed the hopeful expression on Simon's face. "Everything OK, now?" Blair asked, at their nods, he added "Great. Let's play cards."
It was another two days before the storm finally ended. The batteries had run out on Jim's portable radio. Everyone was sick of playing cards, and the cessation of the storm was a welcome relief. They had to tunnel their way out of the building, as the snow was a good ten feet deep. It would take probably another two to three days before power was restored to the entire city. In spite of the horrible weather, there were no reports of the storm killing anyone; many people had been stranded in places they would rather not be, but no one had died. Remarkable.
Blair was still a little worried about Jim and Simon's relationship. They were still a little stiff around each other, and the forced proximity wasn't helping. There had to be something he could do. There was a firm crust on top of the snow, not quite strong enough to hold up the two larger men; but it held Blair and Daryl, easily. Blair turned to Daryl and whispered in his ear. Daryl smiled broadly, nodding. The two young men bent to scoop up some snow, carefully packing it into snow balls. While the two larger men floundered through the snow, the two youngest ones got ready.
"Hey, Jim, Simon!" Blair called, ready, taking aim, his stack of snow balls at his feet. When the two men turned to see what he wanted, he and Daryl let fly with their missiles. As usual, Blair's aim was perfect. His first ball hit Jim square in the face, his second one got Simon in the face as well. Daryl's aim was a little low, hitting each man in the chest.
The two older men yelled in outrage, floundering in the deep snow. Ducking the next missiles, they scooped up snow themselves, quickly forming their own ammunition, firing back. Jim's snow ball hit Blair in the mouth, sending snow down his collar, Simon's hit Daryl on the back, as his son turned away in self defense.
The war was on. The older, larger men against the younger and smaller. The larger men floundering up to their knees, sometimes deeper, the younger, lighter kids able to run around on the surface, for the most part. It was nearly even, when suddenly, Blair stepped to the side and let fly at Daryl.
"Hey! You're supposed to be on my side!" Daryl yelled. Blair just grinned.
Jim stood, tossing a large fluff ball in the air, looking curiously at Simon, debating with himself. Should he, or shouldn't he. Hmmmm.
"Now, wait a minute there, Jim. What are you thinking? What are you going to do?"
Jim grinned, "Just thinking." He tossed the snow ball up, catching it gently, to prevent it from crumbling. Should he? He frowned, suddenly. 'it's about trust.' Jim glanced over at Blair and Daryl. They were standing, tense, waiting, uncertain. It had been fun, was Jim going to turn it serious? Deciding, He turned and splatted Blair in the face with the oversized fluff ball. He reached over and slapped his captain on the back, laughing. "Come on. It's time to get inside out of this. We don't need the children catching cold." turning and herding the youngsters toward the tunnel back into the building. "Besides. Us old folks have to stick together." Smiling at his companions.
The sun was shining, skies clear. It was cold, and they would be stuck with one another for at least two more days, but the snow ball fight had cleared the air and allowed the healing to begin.
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