Jim and Blair walked into the loft after what had seemed like an endless day, one Jim suspected would be followed by a rather unpleasant night but it couldn't be avoided. They were going to talk whether Blair wanted to or not. Trying to keep up with their nightly routine, and aware that it was his night to cook, Jim asked:
"So what do you want for dinner?"
"Whatever you want is fine by me, I'm not really all that hungry."
"No deal, that makes how many days of you picking at your food?"
"Let it go, Jim."
"Not likely. Something is going on with you, and I'm really getting worried here, Chief."
"I'm fine, just a little tired."
"Could be, seeing how you haven't been sleeping worth shit lately."
"As I said, let it go. I'm really not in the mood to deal with this right now."
"And when will you be in the mood?"
"You asked me what I want for dinner, the answer is Chinese. Now could you please just drop it?"
"Don't you trust me?"
"Of course I trust you, it's just that..."
"Just that what, Chief? What were you going to say?" Jim asked when he realized that his partner wasn't going to say anything else without some encouragement.
"Nothing. This is my problem to deal with, can you respect that?"
"I've respected it for two whole days, but it's not getting better, in fact it's getting worse and I think you know it. You are sinking here, Chief, and I'm not going to stand by while that happens. I'm your friend and I intend to be there for you whether you want me to or not."
"Jim, trust me, there is nothing you can do, you would only be making it worse."
"Don't do this, please."
"Why, Sandburg? Why would me trying to help you make matters worse? What is it that you don't want to tell me?"
"Because sometimes you can help more by not knowing! That's why!" Blair exploded.
"Sorry but you are going to have to explain it a little better than that."
"What's the point?"
"What? Now I'm too dumb to understand?"
"Please stop this." Blair pleaded.
"Because as long as you don't know I can..."
"You can what? Help me out here, please!"
"I can pretend."
Blair nodded, avoiding eye contact and looking as if he had just revealed a lot more than he had intended to.
"What do you pretend?"
"No, Blair, it's not nothing. What do you pretend?"
"That you'd care." He mumbled, almost too softly, even for a Sentinel.
"Wait a minute, are you saying that you don't think I'd care?"
"No, that's not it. I'm sorry, Jim, you have to believe me, that's not what I meant."
"Then explain it to me, 'cause it sure sounded that way."
"I do believe that you care, that's never been the problem. Please try to understand that this is not about you."
"Then what is it about?"
"I believe that you'd care, but sometimes it's just safer this way."
It took a couple of seconds for Jim to figure out what he meant. "Jesus! Even though you believe I'd care you'd rather deal with something like this on your own because you are not entirely sure, so you feel safer not telling me? Is that it? That's why you pretend?"
"I'm sorry... wait a second, you know, don't you?"
Jim nodded, realizing that he had just given himself away.
"How did you find out?"
"Incoming calls are recorded, Chief. I could see that you were hurting and I was worried about you. I know I should have talked to you rather than go behind your back, eavesdropping after the facts and I know I should have told you that I was worried, but I didn't want you to be able to misdirect this conversation. I know what I did was wrong, I just wasn't expecting it to be that kind of news."
"Neither was I. I mean, it never entered my mind when I picked up that phone. I know it's stupid but I can't help but feel that the ring should have sounded different somehow, you know?"
"And you didn't tell me because even though you thought I'd care you were not absolutely certain?" Jim asked, still stuck in trying to make sense of his partner's reaction.
"I knew you'd probably be mad at me for not telling you, but I really couldn't help it. I just figured that as long as I didn't tell you I could always pretend that if you knew I wouldn't have to be alone, and I really needed to feel not alone."
"You are not alone, and if you had told me you would have known it then."
"I know but I couldn't. It was too much and I guess instinct just took over."
"Instinct? That's not instinct! That's a very twisted defense mechanism if I ever saw one. Who didn't care, Blair?"
"What do you mean?"
"How did you learn that sometimes it is safer to pretend?"
"No one... everybody. It doesn't really matter, and it's not like it's their fault or anything. It's just part of who I am."
"So now that I know and that you don't have to pretend any more, do you want to talk about it?"
"There's nothing to say, I mean, it happened and nothing can change that so what's the point? I just have to process it."
"Yes, I know, but I want to hear you say it. You haven't, have you?"
"Don't you think that you should?"
"Know, yes, think, no."
"Could you try explaining that?"
"I know I should but I don't think I can."
"Because saying it would make it real?"
"You don't have to tell me I'm being silly, believe me, I know that too."
"You can do it. I'm here and you are not alone. I promise."
"Please just let it go."
"I can't and neither can you. Tell me what happened."
"Naomi died! There, I said it. Are you happy now?"
"I'll never be happy about that."
"Is this enough talking about it?"
"For now. You are too tired tonight, but this isn't over. You haven't even told her friends, have you?"
"I couldn't, but I don't have to. You see, she was traveling with some of them so I guess the news will eventually work its way back through the vines. I mean, the friends she was traveling with will probably tell their common friends about it when they get back and things will develop from there. Besides, with a couple of exceptions, it's not like I know how to get in touch with most of those people, and it's not like there will be a funeral they can attend now, is there?."
"No, I guess you are right about that. And the news would have eventually made its way back to you too?"
"Maybe. I'm not exactly sure who she was traveling with. They may not have known that Naomi even had a son, and then her older friends, the ones I'm sure know about me, would probably have assumed that I already knew, so I'm not sure they would have called me either."
"And don't you think it's time you told your friends?"