Not So Similar (Blair, Sentinel & Riley, BtVS)
Disclaimer: PetFly owns Sentinel and Joss Whedon created the Buffy characters
Summary: This is a sequel to If I Know Not Love (http://www.litgal.org/Standalone/Knownot.htm)
Long and short of it... Blair is gay, Jim is not, and after Blair has a terrible accident, they come to terms with the fact that is never going to change.
"So, you're moving over to anthropology? It looks like you have an impressive background in psychology, why the move?" Blair asked his latest advisee. The man was handsome, and he moved quietly, kind of like Jim. When the guy had first shown up in his Anthro 301 class, a little part of Blair searched the man for signs of Sentinel senses, and he kept one hand on the phone he kept hidden in the side of his wheelchair. Oh yeah, no way was he making that mistake again. However, by the end of class, he'd decided the guy was a soldier, which accounted for him pinging Blair's Jim radar. Well, that and he was cute. Cute and military always pinged Blair's radar.
The guy shrugged and dropped into a chair as the last of the undergrads cleared out of the room before getting stuck talking to the professor. "I just don't think I can deal with psychology anymore."
"Oh man, anthropology has just as much psychology, so don't think you're going to get away from the ethical standards or the deviant personalities." Blair smiled encouragingly, even as he tried to get this guy to see that changing fields wasn't going to fix whatever screw he had loose in his life. It would, however, force him to take a bunch of undergrad classes that he was probably not going to enjoy.
"I just want to study societies, not individuals." He leaned back and watched Blair with caution in his gaze. Oh yeah, he was waiting for Blair to make an argument so he could counter it. Man, maybe it was built into soldiers to turn every conversation into a fucking contest of wills, but this guy was enough like Jim to drive Blair right up a wall. He rolled his wheelchair forward an inch.
This guy, Riley Finn, blinked in surprise. Yep, just like Jim, he acted surprised when someone wanted to truly listen to his ideas. And if he was really like Jim, he was about to totally shut down and demand that Blair just sign the paperwork where it required an advisor's signature. Thankfully, the wheelchair was a great defense against getting bullied, so Blair didn't expect this one to slam him up against a wall the way Jim had.
Riley leaned back in his chair and studied Blair for several long seconds. "Why are you in a wheelchair?" he asked. Okay, that was a surprise, but a non sequitur was just as much of a non-answer as Jim's favorite—the clenched jaw. Although, to be fair, Jim had mellowed in his middle age.
"A woman on a cell phone hit some ice and slammed into me in the middle of an intersection." Blair wasn't bothered by the details of that accident. If anything, he was grateful that his injury had helped to repair the damage between him and Jim. He could live with Jim's lack of lust, but the idea that Jim didn't love him as a brother, as a human being, that had been slowly killing him. The fact that Jim was not gay was an open sore, but at least it wasn't a fatal one. "So, most people avoid that topic, I assume you're going for a point."
Riley leaned forward. "I am. Why does our society value convenience so much that someone would be on a cellphone when driving? I can't believe the woman was evil. I can't believe that an individual carries all the blame when an entire society forms a set of rules, and that individual lives by them without questioning the ultimate consequences. So what I want to know is how does one culture decide to value tradition, and another progress?"
"Gemeinschaft and gesellschaft," Blair echoed softly, shocked at the flow of words. Clearly Riley and Jim were not the same. Riley nodded his head, not even shielding the confusion and pain for one second before he looked away and shook his head and a wry expression replaced the raw emotion.
"Exactly. I see things going wrong. I see good men and women getting caught up in something so big that they can't seem to disengage long enough to really evaluate their own action. What I want to know is why a culture allows that to happen."
"Oh man, figure that out, and they're going to be throwing Nobel Prizes at you," Blair pointed out. Riley smiled and gave a half shrug.
"I know. I know it's impossible to understand..." His voice faded, and Blair understood that Riley wasn't searching for some esoteric truth; he wanted to understand something that had gone horribly wrong in his own life. It wasn't the best reason to get into an academic field, but it wasn't the worst, either.
"Hey, buy me a cup of coffee, and we can talk about specializations and see if we can minimize your time in with the undergrads," Blair offered.
Riley looked up, and for a half-second, Blair could again see pain etched deep. However, Riley covered that with a boyish smile. "You bet, prof. One cup of coffee coming up."
He picked up his bag and slung it over his shoulder before heading for the door. Pushing his chair after the other man, Blair wondered if all soldiers came out with such deeply hidden damage or if the damaged ones just somehow gravitated to him. Either way, he should call Jim and let him know he was going to be late getting to the station—Blair had a feeling that this one wasn't going to be rushed into telling his stories, and Blair had an equally strong feeling that he really wanted to know what Riley was hiding behind his smile.