Note:  There´s probably not much point in reading this if you´re unfamiliar with the episode “Dead Drop” (the elevator one).

Most heartfelt thanks to my betas:  Trish, ADM, Kimberly FDR, and Sue Roush.  I was the last one to read the final version, so any mistakes are mine.


© July 2002 by Charlotte Frost


Finally, the giddiness was wearing off.

As Jim drove out of the police garage, he glanced over at his partner.  Blair had now gone a full twenty seconds without speaking.

They had spent the last two hours cleaning up the paperwork from Galileo´s little “diversionary” tactic with elevator #4 at the Wilkenson Tower.  As far as Jim was concerned, Blair´s behavior and actions throughout had been courageous and heroic.  He was bursting with pride for his partner and Blair himself had been a nonstop chatterbox of relief – as had Joel and Brown and even Simon to a degree – while they filled out the paperwork at the station.  Now, they were headed home.

“The adrenaline wearing off there, Chief?”  Jim asked as he pulled into traffic.

Blair raised his hands in front of his face.  They were trembling.  “Yeah, I guess,” he sighed.

“We´ll get you home and get some decent food into you and then you can crash.”

Blair released another sigh, his cheeks billowing.  He let his arms rest around his backpack.  “I don´t know, man.  I don´t see sleep in my future anytime soon.”

“Maybe there´s a game on and we can plant you on the couch.”  Jim glanced over to see Blair nod.

“Think food might help?” Jim offered a moment later.  He really wasn´t looking forward to a wired roommate for the rest of the afternoon and evening.  He pointed, “Egg Roll King is right up there.”

“No, food is definitely not a good idea.” 

“You keep your fruit drink down?” Jim hadn´t noticed Blair making any sudden trips to the men´s room and he´d kept liquids in front of his partner – always a good idea after a traumatic experience – which Blair had downed one after the other.

“Yeah.”  Blair held up a hand.  “But solid food – no way.  When I´m this wired, it´ll be like Montezuma´s revenge.”

Jim chuckled.  He really wanted to take care of Blair.  His partner, despite being such an innocent in the situation, had made Jim feel so proud in front of the asshole building owner and all those other cops and security people.  Even Simon had to be impressed.

I´ll make a cop out of you yet, Jim vowed.  All of Naomi´s teachings be damned.

Jim glanced at Blair again.  Well, maybe the cop thing wasn´t Blair´s true destiny.  Who was he to put Blair purposely into situations that messed with his partner´s delicate constitution – albeit a constitution that turned to rock when it was necessary?  So amazingly adaptable, Blair was.

They drove in silence for a couple of minutes, Blair slouching down in his seat.  “Jim?”

Jim looked over at him as he stopped at a light.

“You know what I´d really like to do?”


Blair faced him fully.  “I´d like to get falling down, stinking drunk.”

Jim chuckled.  “I bet you would.”

“No, I mean it.”  Blair toyed with the straps on his backpack.  Then he glanced up hopefully.  “Can we?”

Jim started the truck forward when the light turned green.  “You´re serious about this,” he realized, not sure how he felt about it.

“I just can´t see calming down enough to sleep or anything.  And I have my notes done for class the day after tomorrow.  Finished them while I was waiting to see the appraiser at the Tower.  So, it´s okay if I have a hangover tomorrow.”

“If you get falling down, stinking drunk, I guarantee you´ll have a hangover.  And hate yourself.”

“I don´t care,” Blair said after a moment.  “I want to.”

“Okay.”  Jim wasn´t sure why he was agreeing to such self-destructive behavior.  But then, he´d never seen Blair drunk.  Buzzed, but not outright drunk.  He´d always assumed that Blair drank as much as any college student. But now that he thought about it, maybe that wasn´t really true.  Blair had a small frame and it wouldn´t take much to get him sloshed, which was probably why he rarely indulged in more than one beer.

Jim said, “We´ll stop at the liquor store near home.”

Blair shifted.  “Uh, I´d really rather not do it at home.  I can´t drink like that, one bottle after another.  I don´t even like alcohol that much.  I need music and chips to munch on.”  Then, “It might take a while.”

“You want to go to a bar?” Jim asked with puzzlement. 

“Yeah.”  Pause.  “If you´re okay with it.  A place with music and a dark corner or something.”

“You got any place in mind?”  Jim wondered if he should change lanes, since a major intersection was coming up.

Blair shook his head. “You probably know more of them than I do around here, being a cop and all.”

Jim furrowed his brow, finding this conversation more and more interesting.  “When was the last time you got smashed, Chief?”

It was a moment before Blair answered.  “Years, I guess.  Long time.”  He straightened in his seat and was looking out the side window.  “I´ve wanted to before, but I´ve always had so many responsibilities.  Classes and lectures and homework and notes for teaching and study groups.  Then, working with you – well,” he shifted again, “you´re so straight-laced that I thought you´d be disappointed in me if I ever came home drunk sometime.”

It never failed to amaze Jim when he was reminded how important he was in Blair´s eyes, beyond being a sentinel.  I´m just a balding, aging cop with no future worth speaking of.  You need to be hanging out with more of your own kind, Junior.  But he didn´t want Blair to do that.

As Jim turned left at the intersection, Blair continued, “I never wanted any of my students seeing me get more than a little buzzed.  Some teaching fellows don´t mind, but I do.  I remember the one time I saw a professor I respected get drunk over spring break.  Even though I could rationalize that he was only human, it was hard to look at him in the same way after that.”  Pause.  “And I knew another professor who got accused of sexual harassment during a drinking binge.  Since he was thoroughly bombed, he couldn´t remember what he did or didn´t do that night.  He ended up not being charged because of lack of evidence, but I´ve always tried to be careful about putting myself in those situations.”

Damn.  Jim´s hand tightened on the wheel.  What´s wrong with our society today that young people like Sandburg have to feel so much pressure?  He can´t even get smashed like any normal college kid as a release valve.  And he can´t come home and get safely, quietly drunk because he´s afraid I´ll think less of him.  Well, okay, maybe there was some truth to that.  At least, it would have been true a few months ago.  Jim didn´t like seeing people out of control.  But now he knew Blair well enough that he wouldn´t feel threatened by an inebriated roommate.

Matter of fact, Jim reflected as he smiled inwardly, he was sort of looking forward to this.  What would a sloshed Blair be like?  Giggly and hysterical?  Quiet and intense?  Quiet and sleepy?  Loud and obnoxious?  Talkative to the point of revealing deep, dark secrets?  If the latter, he wouldn´t remind Blair of those secrets later, he vowed.  That wouldn´t be fair.

Blair looked over at him as they turned into a parking lot.  “You going to drink with me?”

“A little,” Jim replied.  He could hear the music from inside.  This was a place that was fairly clean, as far as trouble with the law.  It was also modern, and it was still early enough that they should be able to find a dark, quiet corner.  “If you´re serious about getting smashed, I need to be sober to take care of you.”  Jim parked the truck and turned off the motor.

“Thanks, Jim,” Blair said beneath his breath.

Jim felt he should be thanking Blair instead, for being smart about getting drunk with a sober friend.

He squeezed Blair´s shoulder.  “Anything you need, Hero.”  He got out of the truck. 

Blair got out more slowly, obviously digesting the “hero” label.  Blair always took compliments so much to heart.  Especially when they were from Jim.

Why does my opinion mean so much to him? Jim marveled.

Blair hoisted up his backpack and Jim said, “Why don´t you leave that in the truck?  You aren´t going to need your wallet or anything.  This is on me.”

Blair dropped it to the floorboard of the truck, then pushed down the lock and slammed the door shut.  As he walked around the truck to Jim´s side, Jim draped an arm around his shoulders.  “I want you to agree to something.”

Blair looked up at him.  “What?”

“That you won´t fight me if I make you throw up and take some aspirin before bed.  It´ll be better for your hangover in the morning.”

“All right.” 

They moved toward the entrance.

They had been there an hour and a half, sitting at a small table in a dark corner.  Blair´s attention had been riveted to the stage, where a band played some loud country music that Jim had tuned out upon entering.  Blair´s hand tapped the table, and his knee vibrated next to Jim´s leg.  He´d eaten a few chips and a small bite of cheeseburger that Jim had offered him.  Blair was halfway through yet another mixed drink, having switched from frozen margaritas to a Harvey Wallbanger.  He was relaxed back in his chair, which was next to Jim´s chair – so they both could see the stage – and he´d said very little once the drinks were brought.

For his part, Jim had just started on his second beer.  He´d gone through three bowls of chips and the cheeseburger.  He was sitting back in his chair with his legs stretched out in front of him, one arm draped along the back of Blair´s chair.  He couldn´t tell precisely at what level of inebriation Blair was at, since his partner had said very little and had kept his eyes on the musicians and the few couples who danced before the stage.  However, Jim could detect a mellow respiration and heart rate.  Blair had to be at least very buzzed, if not outright smashed.

He´s turning out to be a quiet drunk, Jim decided, feeling disappointed.

Fifteen minutes later, Blair braced the flat of his hand against the table, as though preparing to stand.

Jim´s hand moved from the chair to Blair´s shoulder and squeezed.  “What´s up, Chief?”

Blair turned his head and looked at Jim.  His eyes were large and watery, and the pupils weren´t very reactive.  But his voice was steady.  “Men´s room.”

They each had already taken an independent trip to the men´s room.  But Jim wasn´t going to let Blair go alone this time, judging by his eyes.  He stood and took Blair by the upper arm.  “All right, let´s go.”

Carefully, Blair stood.  He took one tentative step forward. “Whoaaaa!”

Jim put his other hand on Blair.  “Room spinning on you there, Junior?”

Another tentative step, then Blair hunched over, sputtering and laughing.

Jim paused, grinning.  “Yep.  I think it´s gone to your head.”

Blair´s hands clawed weakly at Jim, as though seeking a grip.  He laughed harder.

Jim took each of Blair´s hands and placed them on his jacket.  “Hold on to me.  I´ll get you to your destination.  One step at a time.”

Jim realized that his subconscious had picked a table near the restrooms.  That was good, because it was wobbly going.  Blair swayed within his grip as they held onto each other.  The giggles dried up as Blair focused on walking.

They reached the narrow hall and thankfully it was the first door that said “Gents”.  Jim pushed it open.  It led to a small, dirty-smelling room with two urinals and two doorless stalls.  One man stood before a urinal.

Blair was incapable of standing on his own, so Jim turned him to the first stall.  “Over here, Chief.”

“Why?” Blair giggled

“So you can sit down, so you don´t fall down.”

Blair went very still, resisting Jim´s attempt to encourage him forward.  Suddenly, Blair burst out laughing and swayed, causing Jim to tightened his grip.

“Youuuu want-w-want me pee like girlll?”  Blair cackled.

Jim´s smile was starting to fade.  His mouth ached from where he´d been grinning so much.  He urged and got a couple of more steps out of Blair.  “What´s the matter?” he asked, wondering why he was trying to reason with a severely inebriated man.  “Don´t you ever sit down to pee?  Like when you´re too tired to stand your lazy ass up?”

They were at the stall.  Jim shoved Blair in front of him, keeping a firm grip.  “Drop the pants.”  He reached around to loosen the button above the fly.

“S-St-Ssssstand UP,” Blair insisted, batting at Jim´s hands.

Jim easily avoided the hands and pulled down Blair´s zipper.  “All right, but if you can´t aim straight, I´m going to have to help you hold onto it, so you don´t piss all over the walls.”

Blair laughed again as his right hand disappeared inside the slit of his underwear. 

Jim was glad the other occupant had left.

“Hol´ my dick?” Blair chortled.  He was still fishing around his clothing and would have been on the floor if Jim weren´t holding him up.

“Come on, Chief.  At this rate, you´re going to piss your pants.”  How hard can it be to find it?

Blair´s whole body shook as he was overcome by another round of giggles.

“Chief,” Jim said as firmly as he could, “I´m counting to three, and if you haven´t found it by then, I´m pulling down your pants and sitting you on the pot.”

“You ladies having fun in there?”

Jim had been so focused on Blair that he hadn´t realized someone else had entered.  Someone who sounded at least half as drunk as Blair.  His senses instinctively reached out to assess the danger and found it to be minimal.  The other occupant was doing his own pissing.

“A blast,” Jim replied sarcastically.  He returned his attention to Blair.  “I´m counting to three.  One—“

“No,” Blair whined sharply.  He produced the errant flesh and aimed it straight ahead.  Urine shot out onto the toilet tank.

“Dammit, Chief,” Jim growled, putting his right hand on top of Blair´s right hand, which meant his left had to grip all the harder around Blair´s waist to keep him standing up.  Now in control, he pointed lower.  “Hurry up.”

A satisfying noise resulted as a generous volume poured into the bowl´s water.

“Izzz white!” Blair screeched in delight.

Jim rolled his eyes, wishing he were recording this.  Blair would be appalled at himself.  His urine wasn´t white, but it was almost clear, indicating his kidneys were already well flushed.

“Coooool,” Blair continued.  “Whi´e peeee.”

The door closed with a soft thud, indicating they were alone once again.

Jim teasingly threatened, “If you dare tell anybody I was holding your dick….”  Well, maybe it wasn´t quite teasing.

Blair´s body shook with another fit of giggles.  The stream was down to hesitant dribbles. 

“All right, you´re done,” Jim decided, releasing Blair´s hand and putting his own right hand on Blair´s waist.  “Put it away.”

No giggles this time, because Blair seemed to be concentrating very hard on folding himself back inside his underwear.

It was all Jim could do to be patient enough to insure he wasn´t going to cause injury when he reached around Blair and pulled up his zipper.

“Hey,” Blair said.  But that was the extent of his protest as Jim did the button.

Jim gripped Blair´s arm and pushed him to one side, so he could reach the toilet paper, Whipping off a foot, he reached to dab at the mess Blair had made on the front of the tank.

“Jan-jan,” Blair started.  He stopped, took a deep breath, then managed, “J-jan-i-tor.”

Jim muttered, “It´s not a nice mess to leave for the janitor.”  He threw the tissue into the bowl and flushed.  “All right, we´re out of here.”

His bladder empty, Blair seemed to move a little easier.  But he was still swaying when Jim stood him before the sink and ran Blair´s hands under the water, since Blair looked incapable of figuring out the mechanics himself.  Jim washed his own hands, then, with a sigh of relief, pushed open the door.

Guiding Blair back to their table with just a grip on his upper arm, he said, “You ready to head home?”

“No,” Blair said quietly.  “More.”

Jim furrowed his brow.  Blair was smashed, but apparently had enough awareness to realize it wasn´t enough.

Enough for what? he wondered.

Very carefully, he sat Blair down.  “Finish your drink, then we´ll go.”  The glass still looked half full.

Blair, after having to focus for an extended time to grasp his straw, sipped some more and once again became mesmerized by the music.

Another fifteen minutes passed. 

The waitress came up.  “Can I get you anything else?”

“The tab,” Jim said.  Blair hadn´t moved, even though the band had taken a break and now no one was on the dance floor.

The tab was placed in front of Jim a few minutes later.  The waitress put her hand on Blair´s glass.  “Should I take this?”

“Yes,” Jim told her.  Blair was just starting to turn his head – the glass now disappearing – and Jim said, “We´re leaving.”  He opened his wallet and left the payment and tip on top of the bill.

Blair looked glassy-eyed and not at all with the program. 

Jim stood and went around to Blair.  He gripped his arm.  “Come on, Darwin.  Easy does it.  We´re going home so you can puke your guts out.  Please, God, not in the truck.

Blair placed a shaky hand on the tabletop and leaned his weight on it.  Jim pulled on the arm he held.  As soon as Blair was standing, hunched over like an old man, Jim put his other arm around the younger man´s waist.

“Ready?” Jim said cheerfully.  Blair didn´t answer, and Jim suspected that he was feeling pretty sick.  But at least he was cooperating.

They made slow hesitant steps.  As they passed the hostess station, the woman there smiled at them.  “Have a good evening.”

“Thanks,” Jim replied, pushing open the door that led to the fresh night air.

“Th-th-th´s,” Blair giggled from his hunched over position.

They took a few steps down the sidewalk.  Blair collapsed to his knees, causing Jim to lose his grip.  The younger man´s arms were lax at his sides and he started laughing hysterically.

“You´re a riot,” Jim said patiently, kneeling to grip Blair´s shoulder.

”Laugh aa-aaa--,” Blair´s voice faded out as he laughed even harder.  Then, “Laugh aaa min—“

Abruptly, Blair hunched over as he made a gurgling noise.  Vomit splattered onto the sidewalk.

“Whoa there!” Jim said as his free hand grabbed Blair by the collar of his jacket to keep him from falling into the mess.  Blair´s hair was fanned out around his head, and Jim reached at it with his other hand to pull it back.

More splatters hit the sidewalk.

Jim was relieved that the stench was more one of alcohol than bile.   Still, he worked on turning down the dial as he said, “That a boy.  You just made my job a whole lot easier.”

He wished Blair could have shifted a few inches to the left and vomited onto the grass instead of the cement.  Jim would have preferred not to leave such a mess behind, but he assumed the bar´s janitors were used to this type of thing.  He didn´t mind cleaning up after Blair in the john, but the sidewalk would require supplies he didn´t have readily available.

Besides, he just wanted to get Blair home.

He grabbed his partner around the waist.  “Come on, buddy.”  It was like heaving a rag doll until Blair got his feet under him.  Even then, Jim was supporting most of his weight as they made the slow journey to the truck.

Jim managed to find some mints in the glove compartment that had been left by a former date.  He encouraged Blair to chew a couple while wiping his mouth with a handkerchief.  Blair was mostly quiet on the ride home, though he would burst into laughter for no apparent reason.

Blair was fading fast as the elevator carried them up to the third floor.  More slow, weary steps, and finally they were home.

Jim intended to take Blair into his bedroom, but Blair came to life and staggered to the nearest sofa.  He collapsed on his back with his hand on his forehead.

Jim stood over him while removing his jacket.  “Headache?” he ventured.

“A doozy,” Blair mumbled.

“Aspirin coming right up.” 

Jim went into the bathroom to retrieve the aspirin.  Then he took a bottle of water from the refrigerator and returned to the couch.  He knelt by the sofa and shook out a couple of pills.  “All right, kid, you need to raise up to take this.”

Blair´s eyes were squinting as he staggered up onto an elbow.  Jim handed him one pill, helped him hold the bottle to drink, then gave him the other tablet.

When the bottle was pulled away a second time, Jim gripped Blair´s upper arm.  “Let´s get your jacket off while we´re at it.”

Blair didn´t object, but he wasn´t helpful.

When the jacket was finally free, Blair collapsed back to the sofa.  Jim grabbed a sofa pillow and put it behind Blair´s head.  Then he sat down next to him and placed a hand on his chest.  “Feeling lousy?”

“Just the headache,” Blair whispered.

“Stay real still and maybe you´ll drift off.”

Jim knelt at Blair´s feet.  He untied the laces, then slipped each shoe off.  When he turned back, Blair was watching him, his eyes not so squinted.

Aspirin must be working.

He reached to the snap of Blair´s jeans and undid it.

“Hey,” Blair protested half-heartedly.

Jim pulled the snap apart.  “I just want to make sure you can breathe okay.”  He glanced at Blair´s face.  “But maybe we should just get them off, huh?  You´ll sleep more comfortably.”  He was already resigned to the fact that Blair wasn´t moving from the sofa.

Blair didn´t reply.

Jim pulled the fly down, then took one of Blair´s hands and curled the fingers around the waistband of his underwear.  “You hang onto that.”  He stood and moved to Blair´s feet again, taking the ends of the jeans and pulling.  “Lift your ass up.”

Blair managed a little wriggle motion while his fingers tightened on the boxers.

After some tugging, Jim had the jeans pulled free.  He took the blanket from the back of the sofa and settled it over his charge.  “Better?” he asked.

Blair nodded.

Jim sat on the coffee table, noting that Blair looked more alert than he had when they´d arrived home.  Maybe sleep isn´t going to happen, after all.  Poor kid.  Isn´t sleep the reason he went through this in the first place? 

Jim furrowed his brow while watching Blair gaze at nothing in particular.  Blair´s eyes looked as though there was intelligence active behind them.

Sometimes people drank to feel more comfortable talking.  Jim wondered if maybe that had been Blair´s motivation, as much as the need to crash.

But when has Sandburg ever needed a reason to loosen his tongue?

Nevertheless, Jim leaned forward and placed his hand on Blair´s chest.  “Chief?” he said, his voice as gentle as he could make it.

Large blue eyes darted to him.

“Is there something you want to tell me about today?  Something that happened in the elevator?”

How long ago that incident now seemed.

Blair´s glazed eyes looked at Jim for a long time.  Then he whispered, “I was scared.” 

Ah, Chief.  “I was, too,” Jim admitted.

Another long gaze.  “Really?”

Jim nodded.  “Of course.   Then when Galileo pushed the detonator….”  Jim found his throat suddenly constricted, and he was stunned at the emotion that washed through him.

Dear God.  I put it behind me right away, like I always have.  Why is it coming back up now? 

Blair´s eyes narrowed as he studied Jim, as though pleading for him to continue.

Jim swallowed, finding his throat dry.  He grabbed the water bottle and took a few gulps.

He felt better, but there was still an enormous weight on his chest, leading up to his throat.

Blair deserved this.  No matter how uncomfortable it might be to talk about, Blair deserved to know Jim´s side of the incident.

“I was trying to get him to give me the detonator,” Jim said.  “His brother was also trying to bring Galileo down, but he kept getting away from us.”  Jim swallowed again.  “And then he pushed the button.”  His throat was closing up.

Blair stared at him.

Jim lowered his gaze.  He took a couple of deep breaths.  “I heard the bomb go off.  It was like I was outside myself, observing myself.  I grabbed Galileo and said something – I don´t know – something about dropping him down all those floors.  But I was calm, in control, while I cuffed him.”  He looked up at Blair.  “Doing the job.”  His voice was getting gruffer.  He looked away again.  “But the loss of life….”

He´s gone, he´s gone, he´s gone, he had thought then.  Such a sweet, innocent life.  What do I do now?  What will become of me? 

“And then,” Jim swallowed again, fighting the quaver in his voice, “Simon was on the radio, asking my status.  I thought he was such a good soldier, not sounding at all bothered about losing all of you.”

Jim clasped his hands between his knees and gazed at Blair´s chest.  “I told him I had the suspect in custody.  He said, ‘Good job.´  He was so calm and pleased, and I couldn´t equate it with being the good soldier anymore.  I said, ‘The others….´   He said,” Jim closed his eyes, remembering the emotion that had seared through his body… and how he had quickly mastered it and boxed it away. 

He opened his eyes.  “He said, ‘They´re fine.  They dropped the bomb down the elevator shaft before it went off.´”  Then Simon had made his deep chuckling noise.  “Heh, heh, Jim.  That Sandburg is a damn fine welder.”

Blair´s hand flopped to rest on Jim´s knee.  “You thought I was dead?”

It was easier to talk now.  “It was the worst seconds of my life, from when Galileo set off the detonator, to when Simon said you were okay.” 

Jim took a deep breath, amazed at himself for admitting that. 

He gazed into Blair´s worried eyes.  “So you see, Chief, I was scared, too.”  He meant to smile, but only his mouth corner twitched.

Blair blinked a moment.  Then he said, “It meant a lot to me, that you were trying to get us free.  It gave me the confidence to be calm and try to figure something out.”

Jim snorted.  “When it got down to it, I didn´t do anything.  Galileo still pushed the detonator.  You saved yourself.  And the others.”

“You stopped us from dropping those five stories the last time.  I know from the report it was your idea to solder the cables on top of the elevator.”

Jim shrugged.  It seemed such a small thing now.

Blair swallowed thickly.  “I´ve never had anyone I could count on before.”  His eyes were so watery.  “Not for something as big as life or death.  Not ever.”

Jim wondered if Blair would see the other side of the argument in a sober state.  “If it weren´t for hanging out with me, you probably wouldn´t be facing life or death situations in the first place.”

Blair snorted, sounding amazingly coherent.  “You had nothing to do with me going into that building to get that figurine appraised.”  He placed a hand on his forehead, closing his eyes.  “If I´d been just a regular civilian, and didn´t know anyone on the police force.…  Even though I´d know they were doing everything they could to help us, I would have been in a state of panic.  I wouldn´t have been able to think to figure out about welding through the floor.  Me and the others would be gone right now.”

“You don´t know that,” Jim said simply.

“You don´t either,” Blair countered.

Jim let it drop.  Blair still hadn´t opened his eyes or removed his hand.  “Your headache back?”

“No.  Just tired.” 

Jim squeezed his arm.  “Go to sleep then.  After all, that´s why you put yourself through this, isn´t it?”

“Yeah,” Blair murmured around a soft yawn.  He pulled his hand away, but kept his eyes closed.  “Thanks for letting me do this.”

Jim stood.  “You don´t hate me yet?  You will in the morning.”  He turned toward the kitchen.

“No, I won´t.”  Such determination for such soft-spoken words.

Being as quiet as he could, Jim tended to the breakfast dishes still in the sink, refreshing the water so they could soak over night.  He went through an abridged version of his nightly routine in the bathroom, and then turned out the lights, except the one over the kitchen sink.

He moved to the empty sofa.  If Blair woke in the middle of the night, he would no doubt have to use the john, and Jim didn´t want to risk him falling and injuring himself.  So, he would sleep near Blair, ready to assist if the need arose.  Tomorrow, he didn´t need to go into work until noon.  He´d be available in the morning to baby-sit Blair through the worst of his hangover.

Jim undressed in the silence, save Blair´s breathing.  He thought of the emotion that had hit him when he´d talked to Blair a little while ago.  He didn´t like surprises, especially those that originated from within.  Years of combat training had taught him how to box up his emotions – never mind that he had already been good at it before he joined the army.

But so much of his life – of himself – had been changing since Sandburg moved in. Jim folded his clothes, remembering how disappointed he had been when it looked as though Blair was going to miss their lunch date earlier in the day.  How relieved he´d been when Simon, his spur-of-the-moment alternate “date”, had encouraged him to get Sandburg to join them.

When had having lunch with another person ever meant so much?  Especially when that person was someone he saw every day?

Now in his boxers and undershirt, Jim sat down and rested his arms on his knees.

Maybe I´m too fond of him.  Maybe I love him a little too much.

He looked up, watching Sandburg lie so still.

Maybe I´m in love with him.

Funny, that thought didn´t bother him.

So, there was such a thing as being in love with someone with whom you didn´t feel any need or desire to physically consummate.

Wonder what Sandburg would think of that. 

He´d never know what Blair thought because he had no intention of telling him.  There would be no point.  Having identified the emotion, Jim was going to keep it for himself.  And enjoy loving Blair in silence.

This sofa didn´t have a blanket, so Jim moved into Blair´s room and pulled the top quilt off the bed.  He dragged it back to the couch and lay down, spreading it over himself.  He reached back to adjust the pillow, then lay there and stared at the ceiling.

His mind filled with images from the video camera in the elevator.  Blair standing up, talking into the camera, demanding that the building owner pay attention to what was happening and realize that his stubbornness was going to get some innocent people hurt, including his unborn grandchild.

Jim´s heart swelled with affection.  When you were short and slight and carried an aura about you that said “peace, man,” words were your only effective weapon.  Sandburg used them so well.

Jim had heard Simon talking to Mr. Wilkenson when Jim had left to do the soldering.  “That's his friend in there and if you cared half as much for your daughter, maybe this whole thing would be over.”

Jim hadn´t thought it a statement about his and Blair´s relationship, as much as it was an attempt on Simon´s part to taunt the building owner into yielding.

But maybe what Simon had said was true.

Jim´s eyes darted to the other sofa.  Blair hadn´t moved.  Do I care more about you than most people care about one another? Even their own blood?

He´d cared greatly for Carolyn, but more as a friend and co-worker than as a wife.  He´d cared greatly for his younger brother, Stephen, before things went so wrong between them in adolescence.  

There were other people, especially women he would have liked to have started a relationship with, whom he´d wished he´d cared for more than he had.  But he couldn´t express intimacy in a way that satisfied them enough to stay interested.

He´d once reached the conclusion that he was incapable of caring deeply about other human beings.  He gave his all for the greater good of the citizens of the city – what Blair now called his “tribe”.  But he was incapable of letting anyone else in, even when he had wanted to.

His eyes moved to Blair´s sleeping form.

Until now.

He was capable.  Could feel.  Could even admit his caring.  He fretted about Blair at times, worried about Blair.  He wanted to spend time with Blair.  He wanted Blair to have reasons to be happy and smile.

Jim closed his eyes, shifting on the narrow sofa as he attempted to settle into sleep.

Yes, this thing between he and Blair was good. 

He suspected that it was only going to get better.



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