by Southy

© February 2005


Jim looked up when Blair entered the loft. “What the hell happened to you?” he demanded, taking in Blair’s bruised and swollen face.

Blair held up a hand. “Don’t start,” he said wearily and headed for the sofa.

Jim followed him. “Who did this?” He waited while Blair plopped down, groaned, and rested his head back.

Blair closed his eyes. “Two students who didn’t mean to.”

“How could they not mean to?” Jim turned to the kitchen and retrieved two packages of frozen vegetables.

Blair opened his eyes, which remained squinted in pain. “They were arguing and I stepped between them. Only, they were both throwing a punch right at the time I interfered.” He released a heavy breath. “One guy nailed me on the right cheek.” His eyes closed again. “The other on the left.”

Jim winced in sympathy as he put both packages in one hand. “Down you go,” he said, pushing on Blair’s shoulder.

Blair collapsed onto his back and let Jim put a pillow behind his head. 

Jim placed the frozen peas along the right side of Blair’s face, and the frozen corn on the left side. “Let those sit there a while and hopefully you won’t be looking like a chipmunk for the next few days.” He sat down on the coffee table.

Blair groaned. “Thanks for the mental image.”

Jim was glad Blair’s sense of humor was intact. “How’s your teeth?”

Blair jaw moved for a few seconds. “Okay. It was more my cheekbones that got hit. They both hit me square. Rung my bell, for sure.” He managed a small grin. “At least it stopped the fight. They felt awful.”

As they should. “How did you get home?”

“One of the guys gave me a ride. Since your truck was in the lot, I told him he didn’t need to come up with me.”

“Did you lose consciousness?”

“No. One minute I was stepping between them, the next I got plastered from both sides, and next thing I know I’m on my ass on the ground, wondering how I got there. And then my face hurt like shit.”

Jim grinned at him. “Being a peacemaker is a bitch, huh?” He couldn’t help but feel a swell of pride, even though he could also make an argument that Blair should have known better than to get between two people in a fistfight. At least the two guys must not have been any taller than Blair, since they nailed him square.

Blair managed a small chuckle. “Yeah.”

Jim looked down at the pile of mail beside him. He’d already opened his. He held out a few envelopes. “Here’s your mail.”

Blair accepted them, holding the envelopes above his head. “Oh, great. Cell phone bill.” He shifted to the next one. “Tuition bill.” Then the next. “Credit card bill.” He let his arms drop and rested the envelopes on his stomach. “Way to make me feel better.”

“I do my best.” Jim picked up his pile. The greeting card he’d received, and the enclosed photograph, was on top. 

He started to rise, but Blair said, “Whoa, wait a minute. Who’s that a picture of?”

Not anybody Blair needed to know about. But, heck, the poor kid had done a brave thing and gotten nailed for it, and was probably going to be in pain for a while.

Jim handed him the photo of the young girl and was determined to be casual. “Allison Grey.”

Blair studied it. “Pretty thing. Maybe four?”

Jim glanced at the greeting card. “Yeah.”

“How do you know her?”

“I helped deliver her.”

Blair’s eyes widened and he looked like he was going to rise. “Delivered her?”

“Settle down,” Jim said firmly, prepared to press Blair back to the sofa if he didn’t obey.

Blair did. “You delivered a baby?” he asked in amazement.

Jim shrugged, taking the picture back. “It’s not like I did anything. I’d just checked out an abandoned building, and I came out to see the mother on the sidewalk, going into labor.”

“How did you know what to do?”

Jim had to admit that being the center of Blair’s attention was a wonderful thing. “We’re taught childbirth at the academy. I really didn’t do anything except hold her hand – you know, keep reassuring her – while Allison came into the world.”

Blair’s eyes met his. “If you didn’t do anything, then how come her mother is sending you her photo?”

“She always sends me a card and picture at Allison’s birthday. You know, I guess she considers me an important part of Allison’s birth.” He wondered if he sounded defensive.

“You ever visit her?”

“Naw. It’s nice to get a photo every year, but I thought it best not to get involved.”

Blair was silent a moment, then he slowly grinned. “You mean how they say some women fall in love with their obstetricians? She’s not married, huh?”

Jim shrugged, refusing to rise to the bait. “I don’t really know. She wasn’t at the time. Her cards never say much.” He gathered up the mail, tossed some of it onto the table by the door, disposed of the envelopes in the trash, and moved over to a bureau behind the sofa. He opened a drawer and tossed the photo into it.

“You keep those?” Blair asked from the sofa.

Jim wondered if that made him strange. “Yeah,” he answered with discomfort. “They don’t take up much room.” In fact.... He opened the drawer wider. “Maybe I ought to go through some of these and throw them out.”

“No. No way,” Blair said. “Not until I see them.”

Jim was touched but he said, “They’re personal, Chief.”

“Jim, I’m lying here on the sofa with frozen vegetables on my face. Have a heart, man.”

Jim made a point of sighing dramatically. Then he grabbed a handful of photos from the drawer and brought them over to the coffee table, sitting down. He quickly thumbed through some of Stephen’s children in their younger years and placed them in the “discard” pile. The same fate befell photos of relatives of his old army buddies.

“Jim!” Blair protested.

“Relax,” Jim said. “These wouldn’t interest you.”

But this one would. Jim studied it for a moment, amused, and then handed it to Blair. “Who do you think that is?”

Blair held the photo over his head. “It looks like you as a teenager but it can’t be, because of the cigarette. Maybe a cousin?”

“That’s me,” Jim said, waiting for the explosion while he sorted more photos into piles.

“You smoked?”

“Yep.” Jim grinned. “For about two months.”

“That’s unbelievable,” Blair said, still studying the photo. “Why?”

Jim shrugged. “To piss off my old man. I think I was seventeen then. He really couldn’t tell me what to do by that point, other than shake his head at me in disgust – which was the reaction I was looking for.”

Blair’s voice was more subdued. “Just two months? What made you quit?”

“My aunt visited.” Jim put a hand to his chest and did an imitation of a severe, congested, hacking cough.

Blair started to laugh, then winced.

“She’d been a chain smoker all her life. She couldn’t hardly even breathe, let alone talk. It was important to me to have a strong body. I didn’t want to end up like her. So I thought ‘fuck this’ and quit.”

Blair looked at him. “Was it difficult?”

“Not that I remember. I stayed active so it wasn’t like I put myself in a lot of situations where I had an urge to light up. I’d never smoked that many a day, anyway, when I was doing it. Just one or two.”

Blair handed the photo back to him. “What other surprises do you have for me?” 

Jim placed the last photo in the discard pile. “I think you’ve had enough for one day. Besides,” he grinned inwardly at his own manipulation, “I think I lost a little of your respect with the last one.”

“No way! I wouldn’t judge you for a thing like that. I’m amazed! I mean, I even find it kind of funny that you would do something just to piss off your dad.” He lowered his voice. “You rebel you.”

Jim stood, taking the discard pile with him. “Yeah, that’s me. A real rebel.” He dumped the pile in the trash. On his return he grabbed the second pile and moved to the drawer. He tossed the remaining photos in, and then shut it.


Jim came back around to the sofa so Blair could see him.

“Can we have a session some evening where you tell me everything you can remember about your past?”

It was hardly the first time Blair had asked. The sense of flattery was there, as it always was, but Jim couldn’t imagine what else he could offer that Blair didn’t already know. “What’s the big deal? I really don’t think my past is that much more interesting than anyone else’s, save my time in Peru, and you already know all about that.”

“Does anybody ever think their past is interesting?”

“Do you think yours is?” Jim challenged, not having intended to answer with a question.

“No, not really,” Blair said after a moment. “Some of the expeditions and things, yeah. But as far as growing up…” he shrugged. “I haven’t been an adult for as long as you have, so I don’t have that much interesting to reflect back on, except my time with you and you of course already know about that.”

He slowly removed the package of corn. “It’s time to return the frozen vegetables to their rightful place.”

“You sure?” Jim asked, taking the corn. He placed it on the table and accepted the peas. Blair’s red cheeks didn’t look as swollen, but there was going to be colorful bruising.

Blair gingerly felt around his face. “Ouch, it hurts but it’s going to hurt anyway for a while.”

“That’s going to attract some attention.” Jim could imagine everyone in the bullpen wondering what had happened.

Blair snorted. “Yeah, and I can say, ‘You ought to see how the other guy looks.’”

Jim grinned while Blair slowly hoisted himself into a sitting position.

“Now the headache starts,” Blair said gloomily.

Jim stood. “Want some aspirin?” 


Jim retrieved tablets and a glass of water, then returned to sitting on the coffee table. 

After Blair downed them, he mused, “So, what was it like watching little Allison come into the world?”

Jim shrugged. “A little scary. A little amazing. Completely natural.”

“Wow. I’ve always wondered what it might feel like to give birth.”

Of course Blair would. “After watching that, I’m not sure I’d want to know. I’m not sure how women go through having a baby pass out of their body like that.”

Blair seemed thoughtful a moment. “When I was maybe eight or nine, and I found out what a gynecologist was, I decided I wanted to be one.”

Uh-huh. “What stopped you?”

Blair slowly grinned. “Being a doctor, it just wasn’t in the cards. Besides, as I got older I realized I wanted to ‘play doctor’ in a way the medical profession wouldn’t approve of.” He laughed briefly, then was thoughtful again. “I did think, though, that I’d have a good bedside manner. I’d be understanding and all that.” He shrugged. “Of course, I think most women these days would prefer a woman doctor for those sorts of things. Can’t say I blame them.”

“Where would I be now?” Jim said with feigned seriousness. “If you’d become Dr. Sandburg, OB-GYN, I don’t think you would have been checking out my chart at the hospital that day.”    

Blair grunted as he grinned again. “Yeah.” He met Jim’s eye. “I guess everything turned out like it was supposed to, huh?”

Jim tilted his head, realizing that maybe his seriousness hadn’t been truly feigned. He reached to squeeze Blair’s shoulder. “Yeah, I guess it did.”


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