Missing Spare Parts

Jim watched as Naomi put the photo albums away. He still wasn't sure why she had brought them -- she'd said something about taking everything important with her when she traveled, but it wasn't like she wouldn't be heading home soon. But he wasn't complaining -- seeing baby and childhood photos of Blair was worth anything -- even tasting the tongue she'd prepared.

He closed the last book and looked up at her. "This was great, Naomi. I really appreciate this."

"You're welcome, Jim. I figured you'd want to know what Blair was like as a child. If you want copies of any of these I'm happy to lend them to you."

Jim grinned. "That'd be great! I'll go through them later, and pick out the ones I want." He thought about sneaking the photos into an album here... then grinned. No reason why he couldn't get a couple enlarged and framed. Displayed prominently around the apartment. That one where Blair had smeared himself with mud and was holding a doll by the hair...

Naomi interrupted his thoughts. "I'm so glad he found you, Jim. I've never seen him so happy. So... content."

Jim ducked his head, embarrassed. "Well he's a great kid. You did a wonderful job."

"Thank you," she tilted her head graciously.

"You're welcome. I'm just... I'm glad I found him, too." He couldn't quite explain how it felt, how *he* felt, having Blair in his life. He didn't know if he could explain himself to Blair's mother or not. Something told him that she knew, already. He shook his head, thinking about how much his life had changed since the young, energetic, *amasing* young man had entered his life. And his heart.

He suddenly realised Naomi was watching him. She grinned again, and placed a hand on his. "You love him. I knew you would, but it's still nice to see."

"I don't know how I could have avoided it."

"I know. He's... wonderful."

"Speaking as an objective observer?"

She laughed. "Never! You aren't either, so don't try pretending with me."

He laughed as well, shaking his head in surrender. "Yeah... I guess I'll never be objective about Blair. God... I never thought, you know? Never imagined this would happen. I love him so much, I can't believe I survived this long without him." He gave her a very direct look. "I'm not letting him go. I think I'd die if I lost him now."

Naomi gave his hand a gentle squeeze. "Jim, you don't have to let him go. Once he has you in his heart, he never lets go. He may go away for a while, or you might have to leave -- but you'll never lose him. Never."

He wouldn't have thought hearing those words was so necessary, but once she'd said them, he felt something inside start to relax. She should know -- she'd known Blair all his life, and for a moment he had to fight down unreasonable jealousy. He trusted her, if she said Blair wouldn't let him go... then it was true. He *knew* it was true, he could feel it. He cocked his head, and asked, "Do you think he cares about me that much?"

Surprised, she leaned back. "Of course! Can't you tell?"

"Well, I'm not... sometimes I think he does. I know he does, and then other times it's like... I just wonder how much I mean to him. How long it will be before... he goes off in another direction. His life, his research, it won't let him stay here forever. Once he goes... I'm afraid he won't come back."

"He will. He has to."

Jim shook his head. "I hope so. But once he finishes his degree there won't be anything keeping him here."

"There will still be you." She gave him a fond smile.

"I don't know. I don't think...."

"Jim, haven't you told him?" He slowly shook his head. "Jim! Why not?"

"How can I? Naomi, how am I supposed to tell him? After all this time... how can I just blurt it out?"

"Just tell him."

"Naomi... I can't. It would change too much. I.. might ruin everything. He might hate me."

"He won't -- he couldn't! He *loves* you, Jim."

"But not... as long as he doesn't know, he's free to love me as much as he wants to. If I ever tell him it will change everything. He might not be able to handle it."

"Jim," Naomi gave him a stare, and her no-nonsense tone reminded Jim of years ago. "He can handle it. I think he deserves to know. I think *you* deserve for him to know."

"I can't." It was barely a whisper.

"Jim," she leaned forward, took both his hands in hers. "I once promised never to tell. And I won't break that promise. But I will say this -- Blair has a right to know. Before he met you it didn't matter. But now that you're a part of each others' lives, he *needs* to know. You can't steal this from him. You can't deny him this. You can't deny yourself."

He looked at her, feeling tears in his eyes. "But what if he hates me? I can't bear that, Naomi. I can't... and he'd be right."

"Right to hate you for the time the two of you lost?" Jim nodded. "But what about the time you're losing now? Jim, he'll understand the time before. But now... now you're doing it simply out of fear. And that will be much harder to forgive. Don't get me wrong -- he will. Eventually. But you'll cause so much more pain if you wait any longer. Jim, think about it. If you tell him right now, today, you'll be able to explain why you never told him before. If you tell him next week, next year -- what will you say? You'll have to tell him you waited, that you forbid him this relationship because you were *afraid*. How do you think he'll feel, then?"

Jim hung his head. She was right, he knew it. But it didn't make it any easier. "How do I tell him?"

"Start with the beginning. Tell him the truth. Tell him everything."

"You think that'll work?"

"It's the only way."

Jim listened as Blair said goodbye to his mother, down on the street. He'd been waiting for this, like a man waiting for a tax audit. Naomi had agreed to let him tell Blair after she'd gone but she'd promised to call the following day and make sure. He still didn't know what to say, but he knew there was no way out of it now. He couldn't stand to lose Blair, lose his love -- the love of a friend, a partner -- but they stood to gain so much if he told. He'd finally realised that. He'd finally realised that what they stood to gain outweighed the risk of a few days, weeks, maybe months of anger and resentment and whatever else. At least he hoped so.

He heard the front door open, and turned slowly. Blair was grinning, bouncing; Jim prayed he wouldn't ruin the young man's good humour completely.

"Hey-- Jim? What's wrong?"

"Blair... can I talk to you?"

"Sure, man." Blair gave him a curious look, and Jim could see the gears turning as Blair became 'helpful Guide' and supportive friend. Blair came into the living room and stood just a few feet away, waiting.

Jim sighed, looked away, and then began. "Blair... what I have to say is going to be... hard. I don't know how to warn you. So just listen. I... I promise to answer all your questions. And I promise that I won't ever leave you."

"Leave me?" Blair had been about to nod, letting him know how serious he understood this to be. Then he stopped, confused. "Jim, why--"

"Please. Let me..."

"Okay, Jim. I'm listening."

Jim watched Blair for a moment, and knew -- Naomi was right. He had to know. He deserved this -- and in the end, Blair would forgive him. He moved away, looking directly at Blair, and began.

"Blair... you know how old your mother was when she had you?"

"Yeah, man. She was seventeen. Her parents didn't want her to keep me but she did."

Jim heard the pride in Blair's voice and smiled to himself. "She told you about that."

"Yeah." Blair was still looking at him quizzically, but patiently.

Jim's voice dropped, and he had to force the next words out. "She never told you that your father was a fourteen year old boy -- or that had he stayed home, helped raise you, his parents would have kicked him out. Her parents wouldn't have taken him in, and he'd have to have dropped out of school. He wanted to... god he wanted to so bad. But Naomi wouldn't hear of it." The next words were no easier, but had to be said. "Blair I'm sorry. I know you said you didn't care that you never knew your father. But I am... I'm so sorry."

"I love you, Blair. It was never because I didn't want you."