Minor warning - mentions of domestic abuse, and insufficient disapproval.
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When the world returned from the abyss where Blair's words had taken me, I was alone in his office. After a few minutes of faded colours, the world returned in full bloom, the cool air from an open window making my skin prickle. It hadn't been open before – Blair had obviously left it open to bring me slowly out of my zone. Just another reminder of what he does for me.
My knees ached – I had fallen to the floor at some point, and had knocked them on the hard wood. I used the table to haul myself upright, feeling twice my age.
I staggered to the door, as my legs slowly came back to life. Pulling it open, I peered down the corridor. No one. No students, no teachers. No Sandburg.
Not that I was expecting him to be there.
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Back at the loft, I collapsed onto the couch. Something was up with Sandburg, and it wasn't just what I'd done, I was sure of that. At least, I hadn't been the original cause. I had seen something in his eyes that went deeper than the fear of me hitting him again. As if that wasn't bad enough.
I let my head drop down onto the back of the chair. The sun was going down, sending a shaft of light through the window. Dust motes caught in the light danced in the air, swirling and eddying and moving…
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I blinked as the sound of a door shutting drew me from my zone. Dammit! Not only was today a bad day for zones, but Blair wasn't exactly being helpful. That was perfectly understandable, but still.
Stiffened muscles complained as I hauled myself upright. The dust motes that had so distracted me previously were now telling me that Sandburg had just entered his room, but I ignored that for the time being and immersed myself in cooking. Homemade lasagne for two – with a side dish of grovelling, hopefully Sandburg would forgive me.
Forty minutes later, I shoved the meal in the oven and wiped my hands on my apron. Ok, the guy in an apron thing, cliché or what, but I hate knowing there's flour or sauce or whatever on my clothes. I can see it.
Shoving various bowls and implements into the sink to soak, I took off the apron – complete with a splodge of cheese sauce – and placed it over the back of a chair. After I had spent several minutes trying to get it flat, I realised I was procrastinating and pointedly scrumpled it up and threw it on the table.
Outside Sandburg's door, I waited for a few seconds, calming myself much as I had done outside his office. I knocked twice, gently, before slowly pushing the door open.
There was an open bag on the floor – my stomach lurched as my first thought was that Blair was leaving. I scanned the room in an instant, checking for more signs of departure, but there were none, and my gaze finally settled on the man himself.
He was sat on the end of his futon, with a handful of photographs. He seemed to be immersed in them, but something about his body language told me he had heard me knock and enter.
Inside the suitcase, among the debris, was a small box, one lone photograph still in the bottom. It was of Naomi and a handsome man, with a small, blue eyed, curly haired boy between them.
There was a small red sweet in the boy's hand, and another in his mouth. He was holding it in his teeth and showing it to the camera with a broad grin. In the picture, Blair could have been no more than six years old, but the energy was the same as the bouncy, enthusiastic man I usually knew.
"There were three."
"What?" Sandburg's voice startled me out of my reverie.
"There were three men that hit Naomi. There were two others that only hit me." He still hadn't looked up from the photographs in his hand.
"Each time, when whoever it was hit her, we would just leave, like that. She always told me, that however often they say they're sorry and however often they say they won't do it again, they're not sorry enough to stop." A sigh, and he let the pictures drop to the ground one by one.
Big blue eyes looked up at me, pleading and hard all at the same time. "I can't leave you, Jim. I had to make you sorry enough to never do it again. Please understand."
I nodded mutely, then slowly sat down beside him. His head was hanging again, and he was staring at the pictures where they lay on the floor. Several of them had landed the wrong way up, and I could see the names and dates scrawled on the back. Some didn't have names, others didn't even have dates.
"I made lasagne."
Blair snorted softly. "Guess that's as close to an apology as I'm gonna get."
"I'd apologise, but you know me and words." I slid one arm round his shoulders, holding him close to my side. "Words is your bit."
He snorted again. "Apparently so is grammar."
"You know, that snorting thing really isn't attractive."
This time, he laughed properly. It was only a short bark, but it was there. He sobered again. "Jim… seriously…"
"Yeah, I know. I won't. Ever. You scared me a little, you know that? What with leaving me in your office and all that."
"Hey, man, I left the window open! I knew it'd bring you out of it eventually." Blair tried to pull away, affronted, but I kept my arm around him.
"I didn't mean it like that. I just…" Shaking my head as the words eluded me, I squeezed him tightly to my side before letting go and abruptly standing. "I just didn't realise how much you mean to me. Not the sentinel thing, well that too, but with everything."
I held out a hand and hauled him to his feet. "Now come on, you can help me make salad."
"You seriously made lasagne?"
"Yup." I sniffed deeply. "But if we don't hurry up it's going to be takeaway anyway."
Blair dashed through the door before I could. "I can make the salad if you can do the table."
"I don't like how you make salad. You cut the lettuce wrong."
"Tell me, man, tell me you did not just comment on how I cut lettuce." Blair brandished a cucumber at me.
"Hey, if you'd do it right…" A tomato hit me in the forehead. "I refuse to have a food fight." I sniffed. "It's very childish."
I caught the next tomato neatly in my mouth.
Blair pulled a face. "You cheat."
I held it between my teeth and bit into it. The juice I had so carefully aimed at him instead went all over my cheek.
He laughed now, properly. "Serves you right."
There's a pip on my eyelash. Eew.
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