All I Want

"Dammit!" Blair's fist slammed down onto the tabletop - lightly, but the sound startled Jim all the same. He turned to look at his friend, his once-Guide, and waited. It wasn't long before Blair looked up and shook his head. "I can't get them to do it, man. You'd think they would. You'd think they'd... ah hell. I don't want to think about this anymore tonight." He shoved the notebook away from him, scattering loose-leaf pages across the table.

Jim walked over, tossing aside the towel he'd been using to dry dishes. Not that dishes needing much help drying in the desert climate, especially in early summer, but it gave him something to do. Some reason to go into another room and pretend not to be focusing his entire being on Blair Sandburg. Now, though, he stood and stared. "What's happened now?"

"Oh, more of the same. I can't even get Mitchells on the phone. His secretary's stonewalling me and I can't even get her to admit he knows I'm trying to get in touch with him." Blair looked up, and Jim was shocked to see his face - thin, hollow, blue-eyes nearly faded to grey. He wanted to reach out and shake the apparition and demand where it had taken the real Blair.

He hadn't looked this bad two hours ago, had he? Or was he just getting too used to the sight? Jim sat down beside Blair. "Do you want me to go down there again and try to talk to him in person?"

After a moment during which Jim was afraid the other man would say yes, Blair finally shook his head. "You won't get anywhere. Let's face it, the answer is 'no' and the answer is going to remain 'no'."

"Isn't there anyone else you can call?" He asked, knowing the answer but hoping there would be something new. He knew before Blair even shook his head that there wouldn't be. If there had been the slightest chance of finding someone who could convince the Park Manager to accede to Blair's request Jim would have known about it already. Hell, he would have ensured the man's agreement by now, if there were any chance at all.

Blair had decided that he wanted his ashes scattered into the Grand Canyon. He and Jim had driven up there one week when the bulk of the tourists believed the weather was too miserable to contemplate a journey. Blair had been doing well, and had had the strength to spend much of the days walking or sitting along the North Rim, staring out at the incomprehensible vista. Jim had indulged him, focusing his Sentinel senses on the far canyon edge, describing everything he'd seen, including the crowds of visitors crammed in along the popular South Rim. He'd even described some of the more ridiculous of the sights - usually the Hawaiian shorts and idiotic complaining about the lack of "civilised development" ie, parking nearby. Blair had laughed with him and the sound had - to Sentinel ears - echoed into the canyon until it had seemed to fill the man's entire being.

The trip had been wonderful. When they'd arrived back in Phoenix after a quiet drive back, Blair had told Jim of his decision. Jim had been supportive, offered to help find the phone numbers Blair would need to make his request official but Blair had been excited about the prospect of doing the project himself. Arranging everything to his own whims, his own desires. "How many people get the chance to make sure their memorial service goes exactly the way they want it to?"

Jim had only smiled and offered whatever helped Blair decided he needed. He'd waited until Blair had fallen asleep that night to let himself cry.

Two weeks later Blair was still running into walls. Quoting park policy, Blair's request was denied. No matter who he spoke with, no matter how eloquently or persuasively -- and not even illness had tapped Blair's ability to cajole, persuade and bullshit. Unfortunately someone at the park was even more stubborn than Blair and the answer remained 'no'.

Jim looked at his friend, sitting dejected and angry, staring at the phone as if Mitchells would feel the glare and squirm. He reached over and tapped Blair on the shoulder. "Come on, Chief. Let it go for now. It's nearly five, you aren't going to get anywhere today anyhow."

Blair let himself be encouraged to leave the table and follow Jim into the living room, flopping down in the easy chair beside the window. The evening sun was streaming in at an angle, just enough to let Blair feel its warmth. "It isn't fair, man. One simple request, it isn't like I'm asking to let a helicopter fly over during the peak of the season and dump ashes on everyone's heads." He looked up at Jim, eyes wide with a lack of understanding. "It's my only request - hell, it's my last request. Aren't they supposed to honour that sort of thing?"

"I guess they don't see it that way," Jim began awkwardly. He hated talking about it. Hated thinking about it.

"Well they could at least have the decency to talk to me, tell me why instead of quoting some obscure park policy which doesn't even apply to this case." Blair had, after the first denial, obtained a copy of the park's policies, rules, and regulations and researched the entire thing. He had spent much of his waking time - little of it though there was, nowadays - wading through official policy and past precedent. He'd gathered phone numbers for local and state congresspersons, even Barry Goldwater's number asking for someone to intervene on his behalf. So far everyone had either ignored the petition or politely declined to get involved.

"Why don't you give it a break for a day or two. Maybe if you give them a chance to relax you can sneak up on them and trick someone into saying 'yes'." Jim leaned back in his own chair, a feeling of exhaustion creeping over him. They had this same conversation every night. Every night he made this same request.

"I can't, Jim. I want to get this settled. If I have to I'll get a lawyer -- they don't have a legal right to deny me, I mean they don't have any good reasons for refusing me even if it isn't exactly a common practice."

Jim sighed, and rubbed a hand over his face. He didn't want to be having this conversation. "Look, Blair, tomorrow's Friday. Nobody wants to make important decisions on Friday. Why not leave it-"

"No, tomorrow I'll call around and see if I can find a lawyer. Someone who'll take a nice pro bono case, maybe the GLB center has some names..."

"Blair-" Jim stopped as he saw Blair struggle to his feet, then walk almost steadily to the Pink Pages, the gay and lesbian community phone book. "Blair, would you listen to me for a second?"

"Hmm?" The absent-minded response came as Blair began flipping through the book.

Jim couldn't take it anymore. He was standing and taking the book out of Blair's hands before he had even decided on what to say. As Blair looked up, astonished, he found himself faltering. "Blair, please...."

"Jim? What's with you, man?"

The tone of disbelief somehow injected a tone of normalcy. It could have been a thousand conversations they'd had, back home before any of this happened; Jim wanted to grab on and refuse to see those tired, sinking eyes before him. "Blair, can you just forget it for one day?"

"If I don't call tomorrow, I'll have to wait until Monday. Jim, I want-"

"Then let it wait!" Jim found himself yelling, felt the phone book flying from his hands away from them both, smacking into the far wall. Blair's eyes went wide and he took a step back. Jim reached out and grabbed him gently, and pleaded. "Blair please, I want to just let this go for one day, one weekend. Can't you give me that?"

For a moment there was no answer. Then Blair shook his head slowly, surprise replaced by a look of deep sympathy. "Jim, man, I'm sorry. I know this is rough. But this is all I want -- the only thing I really want, now. It's important to me, can't you see that?"

Jim couldn't see very well at all -- tears flowing obscured even sentinel vision and he homed in on his best friend with every other sense. "No, Blair, I can't see it. I know it is important to you to arrange your memorial. But-" his voice caught and he tried again, shocked at how strangled his voice sounded. "Blair, you're spending all your time on this, and I-- I just want whatever time we have left. God, I know that sounds trite but Blair, you want to give your friends something to remember, someplace they can go and remember you. But I want to remember you here, like this - in my arms safe and alive. I'm losing someone I love, Blair. I'm never going to be able to hold you after you die. Never going to be able to tell you I love you, never hear your voice. Let me have something more than just a canyon to remember you by. Let me have you."

Blair didn't move. Jim blinked several times, trying to clear the tears from his eyes so he could see, wanted to see that face even if it wasn't quite the one he remembered in his dreams. Finally he saw Blair, looking up at him, red eyes and tears streaming down his cheeks. "I'm sorry," Blair whispered.

"Don't be," Jim shook his head. "Just let me... please...."

Blair's arms went around his neck, and a warm body pressed itself tightly against him. Jim hung on tightly. "Anything you want, Jim. Anything at all."

Jim buried his head in Blair's hair, and cried.

Two months later on a hot summer morning, a sleek, black chopper flew through the sky. Rotor blades chopped air viciously, as if angered by its mission. Inside three camo- suited figures sat, their uniform patches identifying them as members of Special Forces but not, as they were, members of Black Ops. The pilot and co-pilot communicated with code words, radioing their base occasionally with updates on what was officially down as a maintenance flight.

A third figure sat, stiffly immobile, holding a small vase in his hands.

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