by Southy

© January 2006


Jim supposed there was little chance of everything working out smoothly and things ending up the way he had always hoped. But he’d enjoyed the fantasy for a little while.

Blair had been out on the balcony, gazing up at the stars that twinkled through the thin clouds, for over half an hour. Apparently, he was waiting for Jim to go out and join him.

Jim grabbed his cane and limped over to the sliding glass door. Being crippled – however temporarily – thoroughly sucked. He awkwardly pushed it open and felt a cold breeze.

Blair glanced back at him. “You shouldn’t be out here without a coat.”

No shit. “I don’t intend to be long. Just thought I’d check on you.” Once certain of his footing beside Blair, he reached to squeeze his shoulder. “You look as though you have a lot on your mind.”

Blair’s gaze returned to the city lights, his hands clasped together while his elbows rested on the railing. “I liked how my life was. Now everything is different.” More softly, “Everything feels messed up.”

Yeah. For sure.

Blair looked up at him. “I can’t take that badge that Simon gave me.”

Jim released a long sigh, his gaze lowered. “Yeah, well, I guess I figured that. I wanted to make the gesture though. So did Simon.”

“I appreciate it. But I can’t. For a million and one reasons.”

Jim nodded, accepting. His next question was a long time in coming, because he didn’t want to be the first one to say it. “Are you going to move out?”

“I don’t know. I will if you’re ready to have your place back.”

Jim didn’t know how to articulate what was on his mind. “I haven’t thought of it as ‘my place’ for a while now. I’ve thought of it at ours. But I can understand… you know, that you might be ready to branch out on your own.”

Blair snorted. “Branch out to what? I don’t have anything. Everything’s gone.” Yet, he didn’t sound pitiful or complaining.

Jim shifted with discomfort. “I want to be clear on my end. You can stay. As long as you want. I’m just saying I understand if you feel you need some space of your own. If money’s a problem, I’ll loan you some.”

“Thanks,” Blair said softly, his gaze lowered. Then, “Somehow, I don’t think moving to a different location will change anything. Except cost money that I’d have to borrow.”

Jim nodded.

Blair stared at the sky for a long time. “I’m mad at you about some things, Jim. But I’m not ready to talk about it yet. I wouldn’t feel right about it anyway,” he glanced at Jim’s leg, “with you being laid up like you are.”

It was a relief to hear Blair admit to anger. It felt as though they were more even, albeit on different time schedules. “I’m sure I could handle it.”

“I’m sure you could, too. But I don’t think I could. I don’t want to hold anything back when I’m ready to talk to you.”

“Okay,” Jim said. He was going to have to take his medicine at some point. While he felt well justified in his own anger – his feelings of betrayal – he knew that, for starters, he’d been ridiculous in assuming Blair was playing a game of denial in order to up the ante from Sid Graham.

He was humbled by Blair’s capacity for forgiveness.

“I want something else understood too,” Blair said.

Jim waited.

Blair’s voice softened. “No matter what else is going on around us, no matter what else is said,” he looked up, “know that I love you. That’s never changed.”

Damn. Jim hadn’t doubted that – deep down inside – but it was still good to hear. He put his hand on Blair’s shoulder and squeezed a few times. “Me too.” He was aware that he couldn’t look Blair in the eye.

Blair’s attention returned to the skyline. “I might seem distracted or distant for a while. I need to figure things out.” Pause. “Not the least of which is what I’m going to do for an income.”

Follow your heart, was the first thought that came to Jim’s mind. But Blair had already done that. And look where he wound up.

Jim carefully stepped back, lowering himself to a lounger while keeping his leg stretched out in front of him. Damn it was cold, but he didn’t want to lose his train of thought. He was content to be silent, while he considered how to approach what he wanted to say.

Blair glanced back at him. “We probably need to go back in. It’s cold.” But he didn’t look like he really wanted to.


“What?” Blair was still turned toward him.

“Follow me for a moment. We had horses when I was little.”

“Yeah?” Blair said with puzzlement.

“Yeah. They were boarded at some stables just a few miles from our house. When I was a thirteen, my father bought me a young horse, so I could train it on my own. And I did, under the tutoring of a professional. Spent a lot of time on it, but we eventually sold the horse, because by the time he was well-trained I was more interested in other things.”


“So, let’s say that somehow a young, untrained horse falls in your lap. And you need somebody to train it. We’re friends and I offer to train it for you. Don’t you think it would be reasonable for you to pay me for my time? My expertise? I might not be a professional horse trainer, but you couldn’t afford to get the horse trained without me.”

Blair shrugged. “Yeah, that seems reasonable. Even as a friend, I wouldn’t expect you to put in all those hours without some compensation.”

Jim nodded. “How is the sentinel stuff different?”

Blair took a step toward him. “What?”

“You’re the world’s greatest expert on sentinel abilities. I couldn’t handle them without your help.” He swallowed thickly, hating the vulnerability he felt. “I-I still need you. Maybe not as much as before but, based on your research, this sentinel stuff was never intended to be an independent gig. You have every right to be paid.”

Blair looked intrigued. “By whom?”

“Me. I’m the one who’s benefiting. I’m the one who should be paying you.”

Blair quickly waved his hands. “No, no way. Mixing money with friendship… I’ve seen it turn too many long-term relationships sour.” He knelt next to Jim and softened his voice. “I will always, always be someone you can count on for the sentinel stuff. No matter what happens, I would never abandon you to the point where you couldn’t reach me.”

“I know. But our prior agreement was that you would help me with the sentinel stuff in exchange for writing your thesis. Now there isn’t a thesis. So, for starters, you never benefited from your end of the deal. From here on out, what can you get in return that would be fair, if not a paycheck?”

Blair furrowed his brow. “You’re serious about this.”

“Dead serious. I realize it could be awkward, me giving you a paycheck. But we could figure something out. I have a financial advisor; maybe I could have his office issue you a check so that it’s mailed to you on a regular schedule, to take the personal aspect out of it.”

“I don’t know, Jim. I appreciate the thought but I’d have to think about it.”

Jim nodded. “I’m just trying to say that you have a right to earn a living via your passion, like anybody else. You perform a valuable service for me. Why shouldn’t you get paid?”

“But how could you even afford it? If you pay me even just half of what the PD pays you, then your net pay is cut in half. You can’t live on half an income.”

“I might be able to get the PD to reimburse for at least part of it, if Simon can figure out some title to call you. But that would be between me and the Department. Besides, if you’re already getting room and board from me, that would be considered in whatever salary I gave you. We could sign a contract, once we agreed on something, to formalize it, so you don’t ever have to worry about it being taken away from you.”

Blair’s voice was soft, almost scolding. “Your word is enough.”

“I appreciate that. But if we have some kind of major disagreement, I don’t want you worrying that it means you might not get paid. Or what if something happens to me? You’d still deserve to get paid from my estate, at least for a reasonable period of time. If we decide to do it, we need to formalize it.”

Blair was silent as he looked back out at the city. Then he crossed his arms. “It’s damn cold.”

Jim held out his arm. “Give me a hand so we can go back in.”

Jim was in physical therapy and still on disability. It was estimated it would be another month before he would be able to return to desk duty.

He was getting restless with using the cane and having to be careful of the leg.

Blair still didn’t know what he was going to do and that didn’t help his own mood. He wasn’t sure he was ready to talk yet, but on this Tuesday evening he decided that Jim’s sighs and constant shifting was grating on his nerves. He picked up the remote and looked back at the sofa. “Jim, can we talk?”

Jim looked up in surprise. “Sure.”

Blair clicked off the TV. He moved to the sofa to sit beside Jim, facing him, a couple of feet between them.

Blair rested his arm on the back. “I haven’t made any decisions about anything, but I’ve been thinking about… you know, about you paying me.”


“Well… Jim, I mean, I’ve done some calculating. And even if we say the roof over my head is worth $300 a month; well, no matter how I look at it – from what would be reasonable rate of pay for a professional position, down to simply how much I need to pay my bills – I just can’t see any way you could afford it.”

Jim opened his mouth and Blair interrupted, “I know you said the PD might be able to help out, but I don’t see anything it does – and I wouldn’t count on anything being permanent anyway – helping all that much.”

“Chief, I told you before to let me worry about the money.”

“Don’t do this to me. There’s no way I can take money from you and not worry that it’s causing you a hardship. Our friendship would make this an unusual employer/employee relationship, and I think I have a right to know where the money is coming from.”

Jim firmed his jaw and looked away. Then he lowered his gaze and said, “My old man’s loaded, you know.” 

Indignant, Blair demanded, “You’d get money from him to pay me?” 

“No.” Finally, Jim looked over at him. “It’s my money. It has been since I turned twenty-one. I never wanted any part of it. Wanted to make my own way.”

This was sounding more like the Jim he knew. 

Jim lowered his gaze once again and said softly, “No matter where I’d move to, my old man kept changing the address for the bank statements. For years, I’d throw them away without looking at them. The latest one came the other day. I looked at it.” Now, when he faced Blair, his expression was challenging. “There’s plenty of money to pay you a decent salary for a substantial length of time.”

Blair held his breath. Jim was… rich?

“It’s my money,” Jim emphasized with defiance. “You’re the one who always says that everything happens for a reason, that there aren’t any coincidences. If that’s true, then maybe I rejected the money all those years so it would be here for us now.”

Blair blinked, then remembered to breathe. “Jim, are you saying, like, you don’t ever have to work again, if you don’t want to?”

“I haven’t run the figures, but probably.” His voice was carefully neutral. “I’m the type of person who has to work.”

Blair nodded, turning to sit on the sofa, facing the silent TV. He rubbed his hands up and down his thighs, wondering how to express what was on his mind. “You know, I keep thinking that, with all that’s happened lately, the universe is telling me that it’s time to be on my way. But I keep resisting and resisting. I knew it was fear of what I would do instead, so I tried to face my fear and tell myself it was no different than what a million people do every day, in terms of coming to a crossroads in their life. Everything will work out.”

Blair swallowed and was grateful that Jim hadn’t interrupted. “But no matter how much I try to bolster my own confidence, I keep coming back to one simple fact.” He turned his head to look at Jim. “I don’t want to leave. I just… don’t. Call me a coward, but I like being here. With you.” His voice was unsteady on the last.

Jim rubbed at his face and Blair wondered if he had, indeed, sounded like an offensive wuss. Or did Jim think he was eager for his money?

With wry humor – while keeping his eyes shifted away – Jim said, “You think you’re the only one who’s afraid? Wasn’t it you who wrote that all my decisions are fear-based?”

Blair felt guilty about that, even though he still believed it was true.

“Do you have any idea what it’s like for me,” Jim pressed, looking straight ahead, “to know that I can never be independent? That, no matter how much control I think I have, these senses could throw me for a loop at any time and I could end up at the funny farm?” He swallowed. “I have no right to hold you to me. I don’t want you to be here out of obligation. And yet… you leaving has scared the hell out of me for as long as we’ve known each other.”

Blair blinked. Jim’s feelings weren’t a total surprise, but he couldn’t imagine him admitting it to himself… let alone to him.

“I-I can understand that,” Blair said. “I don’t envy it.” He shifted restlessly to face Jim, his arm reclaiming its place on back of the sofa. “Maybe it’s time we just accepted what life has thrown at us. Maybe we should stop thinking in terms of what you’re going to do and what I’m going to do.” He rested his cheek against the sofa. “Maybe we should start thinking of me and you as an Us.” He felt himself grin tightly. “I know that sounds weird.” He snorted. “Almost like we’re married or something.”

Jim rested his head back against the sofa, then turned to look at Blair so that their noses were just inches apart. Sadly, he said, “I don’t want you to feel chained to me.”

“I don’t. I never have. I don’t want to leave you, Jim. I don’t want to.”

Jim stared at the ceiling.

“We don’t have to decide anything right now,” Blair said, though he wished they would. Jim was rich. They could do anything, once his leg was better. “I know what you mean about working, but does it have to be as a cop? You’re in the line of fire so much. I don’t want to lose you.” Man, he sounded like a nagging wife. Still, “It’s hard sometimes. You know, you pull your gun, say ‘Stay behind me’, and I know if either of us is going to get shot, it’s you.”

“I’ll leave the money to you in my will.”

Blair growled. Still, though, was it really possible that he might never again have to worry about money the whole rest of his life? He fell back on a more casual tone. “Jim, man, I can’t believe you’ve had all this money all your life and you’ve been living so frugally.”

Jim shrugged.

“How much is it? I’m going to know eventually.”

Jim’s eyes darted briefly to him. “Three point two million.”

Three million. Jim was a millionaire – three times over.

Blair chuckled. “Okay, I really do want to marry you. We don’t have to have sex or anything. Just no prenuptial.”

Jim grinned. “You dick.”

Blair’s own grin widened. Then, “I don’t suppose we can go out and celebrate with a seafood dinner or something? And discuss things some more?”

Jim glanced at his leg, which indicated he was tired of dealing with it today. “Let’s order pizza.”

“A cop is all I’ve wanted to be,” Jim said, having nodded at Blair to take the last slice of pizza. 

“It’s a natural because of your military background. But, Jim, maybe you should try thinking outside the box. There’s got to be other options that would be appealing to you and put your senses to good use.

“I can’t imagine what.”

“We don’t have to figure it out right now. But don’t you get tired of all the red tape and putting yourself in danger with crazies on the streets? I mean, I know that trying to help people means you’re going to be in danger at times. But dealing with the criminal element of society day in and day out… it just increases the possibility all the more.”

Blair had seemed so passionate. “You know,” Jim said delicately, “I had come to think that you actually liked police work.”

“I like the intellectual part of it. And, yeah, it’s a rush sometimes. But being shot at I can do without. I guess I’ve lost some of my boyish enthusiasm for that aspect of it.”

Smart boy. “Anyway,” Jim folded his hands on the tabletop, “whatever we do, you need to have your own money. I still think you should get some kind of paycheck or allowance that doesn’t tie to anything else. The last thing we need to do is argue about finances.” His voice softened. “You shouldn’t have to justify your expenses to me.”

Blair smiled, having finished off the last slice. “Then you agree that we’re together in this thing for the long haul?”

Jim shrugged, feeling bashful after having earlier revealed his fear. “Yeah. Why not?” Then, more seriously, “I meant what I said about leaving the money for you in my will. After all, there’s no one else to leave it to.”

“I suppose Steven got a trust fund too.”


“What if you fall in love? I doubt many women are going to be okay about all your money going to your best buddy.”

That subject caught Jim off guard. “I guess she and I would have to reach an understanding about it.” It was so difficult to believe that he would ever have another serious relationship. Carolyn had been the only one since returning from Peru. What a joke that had been. Besides, “It could happen to you, too.”

Blair snorted. “Yeah, right.” Then, “Even if it did, she would just get half my money. It’s not like anything would be taken from yours.”

Jim felt that he’d been avoiding another subject for a while now. “When you told me you wanted to talk tonight, I thought it was going to be about the thesis thing.”

Blair grimaced. “I wanted to wait until you’re better.”

“I think we should get it behind us now, while we’re thinking all this through. You said you were angry at me about some things.”

Blair lowered his gaze. After a long moment, he softly said, “I thought it was anger.” He glanced up. “Now I realize it was hurt.”

Damn. Anger was easier to deal with.

Blair’s teeth grit. “Jim, I can understand you being pissed off about the whole thing. And I should have known that Naomi’s meddling would cause a problem. But it really, really hurt that you thought I’d sell you out like that, just so I could have some fame and glory and money.” He looked up defiantly, his eyes hard. “How could you ever think that?”

Jim’s determination to not get defensive was falling apart. His own jaw hardened. “Because as time went on,” he almost yelled, “you were less and less forthcoming about your dissertation. You started withholding things from me. You were so damned secretive. You’d always told me I’d get to read it first, and yet you told me I couldn’t read that introductory chapter. Even now, I think you were lying about that. You didn’t want me to see what you had to say about me.”

He was relieved that Blair nodded, admitting such. “Because I knew you’d take it differently than was intended. And I was right.”

“Dammit, Chief, how was I supposed to take it? You didn’t tell me about Alex. And that night that Sid Graham called you, why the hell didn’t you tell me about it then? Then we could have figured out what to do in terms of damage control. Instead, because you kept what your mother had done from me, it all blew up in our faces. Your sneakiness regarding the diss was becoming a pattern and it was pissing me off big-time.”

Blair’s eyes flared. “Don’t you think I had good reason? You were always so bottled up about your senses, Jim. You were always so damned uncooperative. So, yes, I was tiptoeing around you because I was tired of butting my head against the wall you’d put up.” Blair released a heavy breath. “Remember our initial agreement? I help you with your senses, and I get to write about you.” He snorted harshly. “Yet, as time went on, you became more and more disagreeable about keeping your end of the bargain.”

Jim drew a deep breath of his own. Okay, maybe Blair had a point. More quietly, he said, “For all your study of me, you never seemed to understand what it was like for me. I don’t mean from a senses point of view, but from a human point of view.” He rubbed at his eyes. “You were always such a damned scientist. Some days, I just wanted a friend. You were that too,” he quickly amended, “but some days when I most needed the friend, you were being the research student.”


Jim took his hand away.

Blair was staring at him. Softly, he said, “I want to be the friend now. First and foremost, that’s what I want to be.”

Jim closed his eyes gratefully. Blair got it; he understood.

Feeling exhausted from all the emotion expressed tonight, Jim asked, “Is there anything else?”

“Nothing that’s going to change anything.”

What was that supposed to mean? “Run it by me, anyway.”

Blair looked resigned and drew another breath. “I hate the way you do the hurt, wounded act, Jim. I mean, okay, you were pissed off at me. But do you have any idea how it was for me, hanging around you when you couldn’t even stand to glance at me? Simon orders me down to assist you that night when Zeller shot the dummy, and you treat me like complete and total shit. It was so incredibly childish.” 

Ouch. That hurt.

Blair huffed again. “I wish you’d grow out of that. When you feel someone has been deliberately malicious to you, you go into ‘hurt, wounded Jim’ mode and you’re bound and determined to not get over it.” He looked away. “At least we made up and didn’t stay estranged for fifteen years, like you did with your father and brother.”

Shit, what could he say to that? He was tempted to protest, “you don’t know how it is”, but Blair had lost a whole career over this. Surely, he did know how it was to feel that the world was against him.

“I’ll - I’ll work on it.” Jim cringed at the hesitation in his own voice.

“Thank you,” Blair said, sounding exhausted. “I can promise you right now that I’m going to point it out to you the next time you pull that crap.”

Now he was resorting to threats.

Inwardly, Jim grinned. Had he and Carolyn ever argued like this? So honestly? 

No. They tried to be civil until reaching a boiling point, and then their fights were about stupid things that had nothing to do with the underlying issue.

“Anything else?” Jim asked.

Blair shook his head. 

They both sat silent.

“I’m ready for bed,” Jim decided. “We can talk about things in the morning.” But he wasn’t looking forward to another night on the sofa. The stairs were too difficult going up to his room. Blair had offered the futon – in exchange for Jim’s bed – but Jim had preferred the sofa.

“Jim? Do you think it might be a good idea to get away from here for a while? You could sleep in a real bed in nice hotel with all the amenities. It might give us a fresh perspective on things while we talk about the future.”

Jim wasn’t looking forward to hobbling around in a strange place, but a change in atmosphere sounded nice. “You figure something out.” He reached for his cane. “Give me a hand.”

A few days later, Jim gingerly stretched out his leg on the mattress of the hotel bed. It ached from yesterday’s flight to Tucson, Arizona, despite sitting in a first class aisle seat.

“How does it feel?” Blair asked, while getting up from his own bed. He was dressed in an undershirt and briefs as he moved to the thick curtain that covered the window.

“Stiff,” Jim replied.

“Ready?” Blair asked. Without waiting for answer, he pulled back the curtain to their second story room.

Bright spring sun streamed in.

“That’s nice,” Blair said.

Jim nodded. Tucson had made sense. It was modern without being huge, and the desert promised a peaceful, quiet escape. They were in a four star hotel along Interstate 10.

“How about we order room service?” Blair said, moving over to the table with the menu. “And then maybe soak in a sauna until your leg feels better.”

“Sounds good,” Jim said. As he settled back against his pillow, he had to admit that one benefit of being laid up was that Blair took care of everything.

How refreshing it was, to feel free of responsibility.

The hot tub helped and in late morning they were headed to the desert. They got out at one isolated spot and watched the small lizards that lived among the rocks and the cactus wrens that foraged for the cactus nectar.

Afterwards, they went to a small grocer and bought snacks and reading material to bring back to their room.

At the hotel, they were looking at the brochures for tourist attractions, and a petite woman with a body builder’s figure – and skimpy outfit – struck up a conversation with Blair. Jim pretended to be interested in the brochures as the woman – Tamara – described places that were interesting to visit but less public. She had a map in her room specifically for “off road” attractions.

Jim knew exactly where this conversation was leading between the two of them.

“Hey, Jim,” Blair said, “I’m going to go with Tamara to her room to get the map. It’ll just take a minute.”

Jim nodded and casually said, “I’ll see you back at our room. Got your key?”

Blair felt his pocket. “Yep.”

Jim glanced only briefly at the beautifully-built Tamara. “Nice meeting you.”

“Same here.”

They took off down the hall, casually touching.

As soon as they disappeared to the elevator, Jim limped to the staircase. He cautiously negotiated each step, the increasing self-pity becoming unbearable. 

As he approached their room, it suddenly struck him that it wasn’t self-pity he was feeling.

It was anger. Raw. Pure.

No, not that either.

He opened the door and entered the room. Alone.

It was sheer terror.

He let the minutes go by as he stood staring out the window, knowing his stubbornness was all the harder on the leg. But he couldn’t give himself permission to sit down.

What was it Blair had said the other night? “I want to get married. We don’t have to have sex or anything. But no prenuptial.”

At least marriage would guarantee exclusivity, he thought with a bitter laugh.

And also guarantee no sex.

Ah, hell, it wouldn’t guarantee exclusivity. Married people fooled around all the time.

That would be no way to hold Blair to him.

What a pathetic excuse of a man he was. To want to hold someone to him. Because he was so scared of letting go.

Both legs ached now. The left from the bullet wound, the right from taking so much of his weight for over an hour. He had paced a bit, while looking out the window. But he never sat down.

Finally, the sound of the key in the slot. And then the door was opening.

“Hey,” Blair greeted. “Sorry it took so long.”

No, you aren’t.

“She gave me lots of tips on places to go.”

Though he knew he’d hate the information he received, Jim opened his sense of smell. 

Semen. Vaginal fluids.

“Jim?” Blair said worriedly, stepping closer. “You okay?”

Jim turned. “Fine,” he forced out.

Blair’s eyes narrowed in puzzlement. “No, you aren’t.” Then, “I thought you were okay with me going with her.” Brief grin. “It was like an immediate attraction.”

Jim limped toward his bed. “You going to see her again?”

“Her plane is leaving tonight.”


Blair stood in front of where Jim sat on the bed. “You’re mad. How come?”

“I’m not mad,” Jim said with a lowered voice and gaze.

Blair’s voice hardened. “Don’t lie to me.” He put his hands on his hips. “We’ve already been down the road of non-communication lately. It messed up a lot of things. I thought we’d grown past making those same mistakes.”

Jim closed his eyes and released a slow sigh. He couldn’t rally to meet Blair’s anger. He’d been left alone with his own thoughts for too long. “Don’t you see why this won’t work?” he said as he raised his eyes to meet Blair’s. “We can’t commit to being in this for the long haul. This time she was just a one-hour stand. Next time she might be the one you fall in love with.” Blair opened his mouth but Jim quickly cut him off. “I know you think that won’t happen. But love often happens when you least expect it. You don’t want to be tied to me when that happens.”

“Don’t tell me what I want.” Blair knelt before Jim. “If I thought it would upset you that I went to her room, I wouldn’t have done it. I wish you would have been honest about that.”

Relieved to have an out, Jim said, “I could hardly say anything with her standing there.” He looked away and then admitted, “I wouldn’t have said anything, regardless. You have a right to find your pleasure wherever you can.”

Blair gazed at him for a long time. “Are you jealous of me having sex, or that I got it from her?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

Blair refused to look away. “I think you know.”

Jim stared into Blair’s piercing blue eyes, wondering what Blair was hoping his response would be.

Jim looked away and choked out, “I-I’ve been wondering how I can keep you with me; how I can guarantee it.”

Blair settled back against the opposite bed and wrapped his arms around his drawn-up knees. “There’s no guarantees,” he said softly. “You know that. But I know what I want and we’ve already discussed that. I don’t know what else I can say.”

“I-I know.” Jim was still looking away. “My fear has nothing to do with you. It’s my own weakness.”

Calmly, Blair said, “I have my fears too, you know. I’m excited that you have all this money, but I worry that you think I want to be with you because of the money. After all, you’ve accused me of that before.”

Jim looked at him sharply. “I thought we had that behind us.”

“We do. But my fears are as limiting to me as yours are to you.”

Jim gazed at the floor, not knowing what to say.

Tenderly, Blair said, “I’d like to think that, as long as we’re open and honest about what we’re feeling, we can work through anything.” A tiny smile. “We do have an established history of working things out.”

Jim closed his eyes. Yes they did. He wanted to hang onto that thought.

“With honesty in mind,” Blair said with a soft delicacy, “I’m asking it again: were you jealous of me being with Tamara… or of Tamara being with me?”

Jim slowly opened his eyes and met Blair’s gaze. “I’m afraid that, one day, you’re going to love her more than you love me.”

“Jim,” Blair whispered, his gaze unwavering, “if you and I make love to each other, it’s not going to make you any less afraid of me leaving.”

Make love to each other? Is that what this whole conversation had been about? If so, how could Blair be so calm about it?

Blair continued, still soft, “I don’t want it with you under those terms – proving something.”

Jim wanted to protest that he didn’t know how the conversation had reached this point. But that would be a lie. Since Blair was being so casual about it, he asked, “What terms would suit you?”

“No terms. Only that it was because we love each other.”

Just like that?

Blair suddenly wavered. “I don’t even know if I could. I mean, this was never in the cards, as far as I was concerned. I-I’m not sure I’d even know how… if I could do it in a way that would please you.” Abruptly, he asked “Am I physically appealing to you?”

Finally, insecurity had crept into Blair’s confident tone. 

Honesty, Jim reminded himself. “I don’t think of you, like that. It’s more that I’ve gotten used to you.” He could now look directly at Blair. “You?”

“I’ve always thought of you as handsome. Courageous. Cool. A lot of flattering things. And also a few things that drive me crazy in a not-nice way, but I consider that part of the package.”

That felt good. He was loved. Accepted. By the one who mattered most.

Jim’s gaze returned to the floor. He didn’t know what else to say, for the wrong thing could ruin this moment.

Blair rested his chin on his knees. “What do you want, Jim? What’s your fantasy of our lives together?”

Fantasy? He’d never fantasized about them. 

And yet, he had an answer. He met Blair’s eye. “That you’ll never need anyone else. For anything.”

“I’ve been afraid of needing you. For anything.”

“Don’t be afraid now,” Jim whispered. He backed it up with a courageous question. “What’s your fantasy of our lives together?”

Blair’s eyes darted away to the window. He gazed at it for a long time. “That you’re my everything.” 

Chief…. It was the nicest thing anyone had ever said to him.

Blair swallowed thickly, his gaze darting to the floor. “That I can trust that you love me unconditionally, and not worry that I’ll do something that’ll cause you to boot me out.” He laid his cheek against his upraised knees. “I want this to work, Jim.” He sounded vulnerable.

“So do I.”

“Then we can make it work, can’t we? If we’re both committed to that?”

Jim wanted to commit to that more than he’d ever wanted anything in his life.

He gazed into Blair’s worried eyes.

And then Blair rose to his feet.

Jim thought he should meet him halfway. He took a step between their beds as their eyes locked.

Feeling his belly flutter, he reached out and brushed his thumb across Blair’s tender lips, where another had so recently pleasured him.

Jim wanted to push the memory of that other away. 

He lowered his head, grateful that Blair was looking up at him. 

It was so easy… the way his lips settled on Blair’s. He pushed him back to the bed, began to straddle him…..


Jim gasped and staggered awkwardly to one side, his hand going to the leg that throbbed painfully.

“Easy, easy,” Blair said, reaching to steady him. “Oh, man. Sit down here.”

Jim sat on Blair’s bed, gasping for breath.

“Find the dial,” Blair whispered softly, his hands on Jim’s arms. “Turn it down… down….”

He loved Blair so much.

“Better?” Blair asked a moment later.

Jim nodded.

“I think you need to just take it easy for a while, until it feels better.” Blair knelt before him, looking up into Jim’s face. He held Jim’s hands in a light grip. “Maybe it’s just as well that we have to take a breath.”

Jim nodded, but he wasn’t happy about it.

“Uhm, I think I’m going to take a shower.”

Jim nodded again. Yes, he wanted whatshername’s scent removed. From now on, there would only be his own.

At least, that’s what he wished for. More than anything.

Jim had gotten under the covers of his own bed by the time Blair emerged from the shower, vigorously drying his hair, a towel around his waist.

Then he turned to his suitcase, his back to Jim, and dropped the towel. A moment later, he was dressed in sweatpants.

He turned and indicated Jim’s bed. “Can I…?” he asked softly.

Yes. Jim flipped the covers back and slid over. He was in boxers and an undershirt.

Blair got in bed beside him, and moved close to Jim with the confidence of one who knew he was wanted. He laid his head on Jim’s chest.

Jim put his arm around the broad shoulders. “I never expected us to end up like this,” he said gruffly.

Blair’s hand rested in the middle of Jim’s torso. “I’d like to think it’s a beginning, not an ending.” He looked up. “We’ve been through so much together the past few months. A lot of unpleasant stuff. But we made it through. I’d like to think we’ve earned the right to simply feel good about being together.”

Jim slowly massaged Blair’s shoulders.

Gentle snort. “That sounds weird, doesn’t it? ‘Being together.’”

Jim continued his motion. “You mean corny?”

“Yeah. I guess.” Thick swallow. “I don’t want it to feel corny.”

Jim’s hand moved up to the back of Blair’s head and pressed it more firmly against him.

“How’s your leg?”

“I took some pills. They – you know – depress my whole system.”

Blair snuggled closer, his nose landing near Jim’s chin. “Would you mind if we try kissing again? Just keep it simple? I’ll do all the work so you don’t have to move your leg.”

“I’m so sick of this damn leg.” There. He’d been wanting to vent that for weeks now.

“I know. But you have to stay off it. It seems worse now that it’s been in a while. Maybe we overdid it today.”

Jim swallowed hesitantly, then confessed, “I was standing on it a long time – waiting for you to return. I was mad.”

Blair got up on an elbow. Softly, he said, “I’m so sorry about that. Can we consider it behind us?”

Jim nodded, wanting those bad feelings banished.

Blair lowered his head, and Jim felt the warmth of his breath. And then soft lips were gently pressing against his own.

This was fantastic. He reached to put his arms around Blair, drawing him closer. One hand rubbed along his back. The other settled in Blair’s hair.

Blair slowly broke away, his mouth resting against Jim’s chin. “This feels great.”

Jim didn’t think a reply was necessary. He continued stroking Blair’s hair.

“Mmm,” Blair said, snuggling against his shoulder, his head ending up on Jim’s breast bone. “This is going to be so wonderful. And then we’ll be wondering why we lived together so long without doing anything.”

Jim hugged him. “Everything comes in its own time.”

“I never would have figured you for the philosopher between us.” Blair wriggled even closer. “But I like that thought. That things are just playing out to their natural conclusion.”

Jim closed his eyes, enjoying the feel of Blair against his fingertips.

“You know, it’s funny,” Blair went on in a serious tone. “I’m really looking forward to making love to you. And yet, it’s like I feel I could handle us being together – just the two of us – without adding that aspect to it.”

Jim doubted Blair could handle permanent celibacy. Fortunately, that wasn’t the road they were facing, so they wouldn’t have to find out.

“Am I talking too much?” Blair asked with a soft chuckle.

“You’re just being you,” Jim murmured sleepily. “I like you.”

Blair curled his body so that his head ended up in the middle of Jim’s chest.

They drifted into sleep.

When Blair drifted awake, he noticed the sun setting outside the window. He gazed at it a long moment.

When he snuggled closer against Jim, an arm tightened around him. 

“Jim?” he said quietly.


“I’m so excited right now about the future. And I don’t think I’ve ever been more afraid in my life.”


“It’s like things are so perfect, that it would take nothing at all to mess them up.”

“Then we just need to vow to clean up the mess.”

Blair laughed softly. “Everything is always so simple and basic with you. So black-and-white.”

“Get used to it. You’re stuck with me.”

“Yeah. Like Perma Glue.” Blair shifted and stretched a moment. “How’s your leg?”


“We need to be careful for a few days.”

Jim stretched an arm over his head. “Chief? Remember that case where those bikers came into Tacoma from Texas and got shot up by the Asian mafia?”

Blair furrowed his brow. “Yeah, I remember all the talk about that. Why are you thinking about them?”

“Tacoma didn’t have a large enough department to handle all the evidence. They called some of our guys in.”

“Yeah, I remember. I was sorry we were on another hot case, because I thought you could have been really helpful, with your senses.”


When Jim was quiet Blair got up on an elbow. “What are you thinking?”

“I’m thinking how my senses are most useful when we’re studying a crime scene. Collecting evidence. That’s the part of police work that you like best, too.”

Blair nodded. “Yeah. Stuff like that.”

“I’m thinking maybe we could go into business for ourselves, where we could help out small municipalities when they’re short-handed or don’t have the staff on hand to take care of a major crime.”

“Wouldn’t we need to get some kind of licensing or degree?”

“Not necessarily if we’re freelance. It’s a matter of those small jurisdictions being willing to pay our price. And, you know, we could choose to charge them based on need, or whatever. Maybe even do some things pro bono.”

Blair sat up and leaned against the headboard. “I like the sounds of that. Maybe not just help law enforcement, but maybe individuals with missing relatives – like a PI, only more specialized in possible crime scenes. And it probably wouldn’t be dangerous – at least, not like being on the streets.”

Jim reached over and rubbed the back of Blair’s neck. “We can look into it, while my leg is still healing. Do you think something like that would be challenging enough for you?”

“Yeah,” Blair said with enthusiasm. “Though, you know, helping you with your senses is always going to be what’s most important to me.”

“When we get back, I want to set you up on a salary paid via an independent firm, like we’ve discussed.”

That seemed so much easier to swallow than it had been before. He would be contributing at least equally to their partnership, with his own experience from his years with the PD; plus, being paid for his expertise as the caretaker of Jim’s senses.

“I feel like I’m ready to head back as soon as possible. I’d like to look into seeing how we could get started.”

“It’ll be hard, at first, for small jurisdictions to trust us. We may have to count on people like Simon for references.”

Blair lay back down, his head on Jim’s shoulder. “You sure you’re okay with the idea of giving up the other part of your job? Catching the bad guys? You can still do that, I guess, but it won’t be as direct.”

We’ll be doing it,” Jim corrected. 

Blair grinned. “I like the sound of that. And I won’t even have to carry a gun. You probably won’t either.”

“I will anyway,” Jim said in a ‘case closed’ tone.

Blair supposed a weapon would be hard to give up for a man who was used to carrying one. “Do you want to leave in the morning?”


“If we think we might help out small localities, I wonder if that means we should move from the loft. It’s not like the Cascade PD is going to hire us. They already have a full staff.”

Jim’s hand rubbed up and down Blair’s arm. “Maybe we can get one of those RVs – travel around when we’re needed.”

Blair chuckled softly. It sounded so free and adventurous. “Maybe we could.”

They were silent for a long moment.



“Do you think we could do some kissing again? It doesn’t have to be anything heavy, if you’re not up to it.”

“So to speak?”

Blair nudged him in the ribs. Then he got up on an elbow and whispered, “I’d just like to make us both feel at least a little bit good, while you’re healing.” Funny, how kissable Jim seemed now, when Blair hadn’t ever thought of him in that way before.

Jim gave him a smile and tilted his lips expectantly.

Blair’s lips pressed against Jim’s as the sun disappeared beneath the horizon.


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