Carolyn Plummer regarded the loaves of bread with a critical eye. They all looked fresh but everyone knew store owners instructed their help to put the old bread on top. She dug through until she found one to her liking then added it to her cart. She checked her list, nodding at its completeness then headed for the checkout. It had been along day and she would have liked to just go home, kick off her shoes and soaked in a hot bubble bath, but those things didn't happen in her life anymore. She closed her eyes against the pain, willing it away. With a firm hold on her emotions, she loaded her purchases into her car and headed for - her past.
Jim looked up as the door opened. "Hey, Chief. Let me help you."
"No, it's okay, Jim. I've got it."
Jim nodded and turned his attention back to the TV. He heard Sandburg putting away the groceries and moments later begin the familiar chore of starting supper.
"You want a salad, Jim?" Blair called from the kitchen.
Jim turned to answer and froze. Blair looked different, something flickered across his features, some expression Jim couldn't place. He rose, moving swiftly to his guide's side. "Chief? Are you okay? Did something happen today?" Blair stared up at him, smiling but a sadness seemed to lurk within the blue depths of his eyes. He shook his head.
"No, Jim, I'm okay." He lifted a hand to Jim's face, running his fingers along his cheek. "Go, rest. I'll wake you if you fall asleep."
Jim hesitated, "I - I have to go to work, Chief."
But Blair was shaking his head, the sadness much heavier in his gaze, "no, Jim. You don't have to work anymore, remember?" Jim frowned. It didn't sound right but Blair never lied to him. He let himself be pushed towards the couch, suddenly feeling very tired, weighted down. It all felt wrong, something had happened but he didn't know what. He moved slowly, peering over at his partner and wondering why it seemed as if he were in some strange land where nothing made sense anymore, but the exhaustion in his body fogged his mind and he couldn't think straight. Jim decided resting might be the answer, when he woke he'd make Sandburg explain it all again. He lay down on the couch, tucking one hand beneath his cheek and closed his eyes. He fell asleep and his dreams were all of gunfire and blood and when he woke it was with a scream so painful it felt as if his heart would stop because of it.
"Jim!" Frantic hands touched his cheek, a familiar scent reached his nostrils and he shied away. For just an instant the blurry face before his tear filled eyes was that of Carolyn, his ex-wife, but then the blessed darkness came and when he opened his eyes again it was Blair leaning over him, whispering to him, touching him.
"It was a nightmare, only a nightmare," Jim whispered as he sought comfort in the arms which held him.
Carolyn stroked the bowed head and let her tears fall. "Yes, Jim," she said softly, "it was just a nightmare." He pulled away then, settling back on his pillow and looking up at her with so much love. She wished it was for her - that his love, so palpable in his eyes, was rightfully hers but it belonged to another.
"Thanks, Chief," he whispered, "for being here."
She touched his chest and forced a smile, "always, Jim." She heard those words in her own nightmare, the ravished voice of Jim's partner begging her to stay with Jim, to not let him suffer. And so she had entered his world, one Jim happily still shared with Blair.