In research, anthropologists' paramount responsibility is to those they study. When there is a conflict of interest, these individuals must come first. Anthropologists must do everything in their power to protect the physical, social, and psychological welfare and to honor the dignity and privacy of those studied. Where research involves the acquisition of material and information transferred on the assumption of trust between persons, it is axiomatic that the rights, interests, and sensitivities of those studied must be safeguarded.
--from Statements on Ethics: Principles of Professional Responsibility adopted by the Council of the American Anthropological Association in 1977 and amended through November 1986
Blair pushed the mop around the kitchen vigorously, trying to up his internal energy by forcing the external. Jim was at the gym, again, working on the leg, he said, but he always came back limping even harder, so Blair knew it was too early. Jim was pushing it.
Blair got that. He did. Because here he was, pushing the mop around when all he wanted to do was crawl into bed and sleep for fourteen hours a day, just sleep, sleep the days away until it was time to start at the Police Academy. Everything else was pointless, and the only real work he should be doing he couldn't do himself. He needed Jim for it, for them to figure things out together. But Jim was like a shiny obelisk these days, immutable, inscrutable and, way, way too untouchable.
That was fine, really, because he owed Jim. Jim would have to be the one to decide what would happen next, because Blair had fucked up. Oh, he'd fucked it to high heaven. All for the laziness of not putting a password on his diss. Careless procedures. Violations of his ethics. The lingering danger thanks to naming his informant. Danger to Jim. Blair still felt sick just thinking about it, his stomach turning over like it had when he took that first call from Sid, and all the spit in his mouth had disappeared and he thought he would just puke right there in Simon's office. He felt like his insides had been sucked into a black hole, and there was nothing left but this stammering, pitiful, ineffectual shell.
So he'd fucked up again, unable to deal with the depth of his own idiocy, and he'd hidden it from Jim, thus keeping Jim from flying out to New York and wringing Sid's neck until his illicit copy of Blair's diss fell out of Sid's pocket like a wormy apple from a tree. Hell, Blair had kicked himself after hanging up for not threatening Sid with a lawsuit or anthrax or something if he didn't destroy that email on the spot. But Blair had done nothing but piss his pants like a baby, so the opportunity was lost.
Everything was lost.
He knew from the way Jim had thanked him afterward, voice shaking, unable to meet Blair's eyes, that he thought the press conference had been for him, in the ultimate act of self-sacrifice, but really it had been more along the lines of a kamikaze run, a necessary seppuku. He'd made a vow, as powerful as Jim's oath as an officer of the law. There had been no other option.
Someday he would explain to Jim. So Jim could understand in terms he would use himself:
I was just doing my job.
Informants have a right to remain anonymous. This right should be respected both where it has been promised explicitly and where no clear understanding to the contrary has been reached. These strictures apply to the collection of data by means of cameras, tape recorders, and other data-gathering devices, as well as to data collected in face-to-face interviews or in participant observation.
The boxes from Blair's office were still unpacked in his room, but that wasn't going to be the hard part. The hardest part would be picking through the hours of tape recordings and logs of all his experiments, as well as all his notes and, of course, the diss itself. He'd been careful in physical notes, at least, referring to Jim only by "subject S" or simply 'S', but in his tapes he'd slipped. A lot. Babbling Jim's name while he recorded his findings, his suppositions, his frantic medical notes on Jim's reactions and Blair's relieved follow-ups when he'd found the root cause or the cure.
And then there was the diss. His proudest work, his finest hour, where like a complete asshole he hadn't even bothered to change Jim's name at all. Because deep down, Blair hadn't wanted to. He'd wanted to show off his holy grail. His beautiful, fragile superman.
Who was right now grumping on the couch with his leg propped up and yelling for Blair to quit moping in his room and "Get on out here, Sandburg. You're missing some fine basketball."
"Yeah, yeah. Just taking care of some things." He'd made it through maybe a tenth of the pile, separating out what he could shred and what he absolutely had to keep—locked up, sure, maybe in a safety deposit box where he could go back and reference it when he needed to, but not destroyed, because Jim might need it.
Jim looked a little wary when Blair came out and, God, Blair was so tired of that look. That half-shuttered look, almost like Jim expected Blair to come out swinging, or maybe on the phone to another publisher, who knew?
"All those boxes are getting hard to maneuver around, you know? I'm thinking about torching the whole bunch. Maybe during the next Beltane fire festival."
Jim's frown grew even more pronounced, and he looked away. "That's a lot of work to just chuck away." He took a swig of his beer. "And, you know, Sandburg..." Jim rubbed his jaw, his palm rasping at the stubble, "I'm not going to be a cop forever," he finished quietly.
Blair let the silence speak his shock, because he was pretty much out of words. On the screen, the Jags were decimating the Warriors, flickers of motion that glimmered through Blair's blurring eyes.
"That's. Okay. Well..."
"Just think about it. I know right now it's...shit, Chief. Just don't chuck it, okay?"
"All right, Jim."
And Blair's heart ached, ached, ached.
There should be no exploitation of individual informants for personal gain.
Blair's phone rang at two a.m., and since Jim was upstairs asleep, he knew it was Naomi. She never did care much for translating time zones.
He didn't pick up. She'd call again randomly until it was daylight hours his time, anyway, and there was a hard knot right now in his chest marked 'Naomi-ville'. That place where he dumped all his conflicting feelings whenever she pulled crap like this, blowing into his life and showing how much she loved him in the most bizarre and sometimes damaging way possible, usually by embarrassing him in front of his friends, but sometimes by doing something so amazing, something so graceful and artlessly beautiful that they were all awed by her, including her son.
This was the first time she'd outed his research subject on national television, though, so he was finding it a little hard to forgive her.
The next morning Jim was giving him a look over eggs and toast. "Heard the phone ring."
"You didn't pick up."
Blair rolled his eyes. "Remember when we had that talk about personal privacy, oh Great Sentinel?"
Jim half-smirked. "Hey, a normal person can hear a phone ring."
"Riiiiight. Yeah, it was probably her."
Eyes a little soft, Jim said, "You ever gonna forgive her, sport? I mean, she didn't know—"
The rage flared up so quickly Blair could barely get the words out. "She knew enough to get Simon and Megan shot, Jim. And you—" Blair's fist clenched on the table. "You know you're still vulnerable. We don't know who believed my press conference. Your job—Jesus—your entire existence is at risk. For some fucking money and fame."
Jim's eyes had startled wide, and now he rose from the table and hovered there for a moment, still staring. Finally, he went to get the coffee pot, slowly topping Blair's coffee with a blank look on his face. God, Blair was so tired of that expression. But then Jim's hand came down to rest on Blair's closed fist, thumb pressing in to open Blair's hand. Jim gave Blair's fingers a quick squeeze, then let go.
"She loves you, Chief. So, yeah, she wants to give you the world," Jim said quietly, and hobbled away to start washing the dishes.
There is an obligation to reflect on the foreseeable repercussions of research and publication on the general population being studied.
Blair bit back a groan as pushed open the heavy door to the loft. His arms were shaking with fatigue, and his backpack felt like it was filled with rocks and not just his Cascade P.D. Officer's Training Manual and his stinky gym gear.
Jim looked up and pushed himself off the couch, anxiousness clear under his usual stoic expression. "How'd it go, sport?"
"Stay down, Jim. You know you've been doing way too much with that leg. Doc told you to give it a rest," Blair said, hating the look, the same worried look he'd been getting for a week now, as if Jim thought it was all too much and any second Blair was going to go right out the door.
But Jim got up anyway and limped over, shifting the back pack off Blair's shoulders and giving him a pat on the cheek with the other hand. "You didn't say how it went."
"Aces," Blair said, mustering up a grin. "Seriously. You should have seen crusty old Sergeant Walters' face. Didn't think the 'hippie kid' had it in him."
Jim grinned back, the smile lighting his pale blue eyes so Blair had to suck in a breath and turn away. "What's for dinner? I smell something good."
"Chicken Casserole a lá Ellison."
"Ah, crap. That means you put cheese doodles in it, doesn't it?"
"Hey! It helps with the texture."
They both chuckled, and Jim stumped into the kitchen and tossed him the oven mitts, then leaned back against the counter to watch Blair pull the casserole out. It was nice and warm, and looked crispy on top, perfect.
Jim had made a salad, too—finally Blair's training had paid off—and the casserole was tasty, no cheese doodles, just warm, tender meat and a spicy sauce amid crunchy vegetables. And still it sat like a lump in Blair's stomach. He wanted to tell Jim he didn't have to try so hard; Blair wasn't going anywhere but to the Academy and home, not for the next eight weeks, at least. He had just a couple of classes a week, a breeze for him, Simon had told him, intermixed with physical and paper exams. Then all he had to do was pass trials on the firing range and he'd get his shield for real.
Someday soon, soon, this waiting would be over. There was change in the air.
In the final analysis, anthropological research is a human undertaking, dependent upon choices for which the individual bears ethical as well as scientific responsibility. That responsibility is a human, not superhuman, responsibility. To err is human, to forgive humane.
"You ever coming out of there, Chief? We're gonna be late."
"Late for what?" Blair took a look around at his room. All the boxes were gone; instead, he had his uniforms, his gear, his gun-cleaning equipment, and books on forensics research, law statutes and police procedures stacked in his bookshelves.
It was the room of a cop, and Blair felt both warm satisfaction and the ever-present twinge of loss.
Jim's voice came from outside his door; close, but muffled, as if he were pressing his face there. "We reserved the firing range, remember? Last chance before we start work on Monday, partner."
Right. Jim had promised to show him sniper shooting, something they hadn't covered in basic firearms. "Sure thing. Just give me a minute to get changed."
He threw on his CPD sweats, and then folded up the printed out sheet he'd been meaning to give to Jim ever since his graduation. Been putting off giving to Jim, truth be told, because this was the end of it. Blair was a cop now, and here to stay; Jim couldn't deny it any longer.
Time to put it all to rest.
"Here," Blair said, feeling a little shaky as he passed over the folded sheet. "Something for you to read later when we get back."
"When we get back, Jim. Sheesh."
"All right, all right," Jim said, laughing a little, and he slipped it inside his coat pocket, but couldn't seem to resist cuffing Blair with one gentle palm to the cheek. It was maybe Blair's favorite gesture of affection from Jim, that fond pat, and he ducked his head and felt himself blush a little as they went out the door.
Lying side-by-side on the open shooting range, Blair tried to listen as Jim rattled out instructions about wind direction, lift, the slide, the sight, the way he should breathe as he squeezed off the shot, but it was academic and unreal, the thought he could do this, take another person's life in such a cold, clinical way from five hundred yards. Maybe this wasn't such a great idea.
Especially since all he could really think about was the way Jim's warmth was spreading along his side, his hip—a perfect distraction, the bulk of Jim's body cutting the slight wind on the shooting range.
"This isn't working for you, is it?" Jim said after he took his shot, placing a perfect hole where the 'X' marked the center of the target's skull.
"I think we've reached the limit of my karmaic engagement," Blair said, laughing shakily.
"All right, then," Jim said. He rolled to his feet in one graceful move that left Blair's mouth a little dry—so much contained strength—and offered Blair a hand up. "No big deal. I think S.W.A.T. has enough snipers." Jim grinned, his eyes crinkling.
"We'll stop for some burgers on the way home." Jim knelt and casually broke down the rifle in just a few moves, his hands moving confidently and quickly while Blair watched and thought about the Samoan fire knife dancers.
He bet Jim would be great at it.
The burgers were a little soggy by the time they got home, but the fries were still crisp and just the right amount of salty. Blair hauled out the ketchup they kept in the fridge, the stuff he'd bought that was sweetened with agave instead of high fructose corn syrup. Jim had bitched about it but after a couple of weeks admitted he preferred it.
After he'd mopped up his last fry, Jim wiped off his fingers and went back to the entryway while Blair watched, mildly curious but also a little bit in a food coma. It wasn't until Jim returned with the sheet of paper that he realized what Jim was up to.
Suddenly Blair was wide awake and alert.
"So what is this, anyway?" Jim opened it and scanned the sheet, then looked up at Blair, his eyes immediately narrowing to guarded blue slits. "'Statement on Ethics'?"
"You need to know," Blair said, throat dry. "You keep acting like it was some big sacrifice—"
Jim held up his hand; he was already reading.
Blair sat in silence and watched.
It seemed that was all he ever did, but this time he was watching purely for himself. If this was it, he was going to watch his fill, observe solely for himself, because now Jim would know the depths of Blair's fuck up—how severely Blair had betrayed the principles of his discipline.
So Blair had these last minutes to look at the chiseled planes of Jim's face, the tempting curves of his mouth, the sad, downward turn at the edges of his clear blue eyes. Blair had spent his life never having the need to really touch, to know anyone in the heart of them, to get too close—he'd always felt a slight pity for people who seemed to crave it so much.
Now he understood all too well, and laughed silently at himself. Poor, poor Blair. So slow to the carnival. Now all the rides had been shut down, and empty popcorn bags and cotton candy wrappers littered the fairway.
Jim finished reading and looked up. "Why are you giving me this?" A muscle was ticking in Jim's jaw—never a good sign. "You trying to tell me something, here?"
"What? Well, yeah, Jim." Blair spread his hands.
"About the Academy? You were still paying, is that it?"
"What? No! I—"
Jim crushed the sheet of paper with his fist. "Or just that the press conference was your punishment, and not what it looked like?"
"No, no, no—wait, what?"
But Jim was already spinning away, and he tossed the ball of paper aside with a sound of frustration. "You know—things were getting good. Things were almost starting to get real good, here. And I really thought—God! What a fucking idiot—"
"Jim, just hang on a second. Jesus—" Blair charged forward and grabbed a sleeve, and suddenly they were in a weird sort of tussle, with Jim trying to free himself, and Blair using new-found skills—naturally, without thought, eight weeks of physical training coming to the fore—so without realizing it he suddenly had Jim backed up against the support beam in the kitchen, one arm trapped behind him, the other locked between them in Blair's fist.
"Stop it," Blair said, a little breathless. "Whatever you're thinking. Whatever the hell you're thinking at this second. Just quit it, all right? C'mon, man."
Jim stared over his head, his breath coming a little fast, jaw locked.
"Okay, so—number one: the reason I gave that to you, was I wanted you to understand you don't need to walk around feeling so goddamned guilty all the time. I seriously fucked up, all right? And what I did, the press conference, that was my job. That was my duty. Not your fault."
Something flickered in Jim's eyes, his face shifting infinitesimally—not with relief, as Blair had hoped. But relaxing a little bit. "You know, maybe it's time you cut yourself some slack, too, Chief."
Blair took a deep breath. "I know exactly how much slack I deserve. Okay? And the Academy? That's something I did because I wanted it. If I didn't, I would have said so, like I did about the sniper practice." Blair gave his wrist a shake. "I mean, c'mon, Jim! You know me! When have you ever seen me do shit I didn't want to?"
And now Blair did see some relief in Jim's eyes when they dropped down to meet his, but still Jim's posture was stiff, his body unyielding against Blair's.
Jim's hard, muscular body, trapped against Blair's, not fighting.
Blair swallowed, desire coiling through his belly, warm and lazy and thick. "Oh, wow," he groaned, and then wanted to shoot himself for saying it out loud, because Jim was staring at him now, still not pushing him off, and this was more than a few seconds, more than could be explained away with a hand-wave.
"I thought—" Jim said roughly, then stopped, and at the break in his voice, Blair felt it. He felt it, like pieces of a puzzle he was putting together in the dark, the vague shapes of their blind dance together these past months—Jim's cordial silence not so much guilt and fear, but hope.
Blair loosened his hold on Jim's wrist and guided his hand up, sure now, until Jim took over, curving it to rest on Blair's cheek.
"I thought," Jim started again, "I thought you did it for me."
Blair closed his eyes. "I would have, Jim. In a heartbeat."
He wasn't surprised at all that Jim kissed him then; not surprised, but awed, and blown away by Jim's mouth pressing against his; by how soft Jim's lips were, and how fully Jim's tongue possessed his mouth, sliding in and slipping out again, sensual and demanding and sending shudders of heat into Blair's belly and cock. But still, Blair didn't let go of Jim's other wrist; he kept it trapped behind him, and it gave Blair a sense of control that was more than a little hot, like caging the tiger.
"Blair, Blair," Jim murmured in between kisses. Finally he pulled back. "You gonna let me go, Chief? I'm getting a cramp, here." But he was grinning, a heartbreaking, wide-open grin, and Blair couldn't help grinning back and shoving him against the post for another kiss before letting go.
"I'll release you on your own recognizance, but only if you promise not to pull any more bullshit."
"Oh, yeah?" Jim looked a little punchy. "What kinda bullshit?"
"Bullshit like thinking, Ellison. You leave that to me."
"So you think you're a smart guy, huh?"
Blair saw it coming a mile away, but still Jim was too fast for him—he wondered, as Jim caught him in the headlock and started tugging him across the room, if it was a Sentinel thing, or an experience thing, or maybe it was just an older brother thing.
"You and your fucking noogies!" Blair yelled. But then the hand pawing his head went gentle, and Jim was pulling him down onto the couch on top of him, his hands brushing the curls away from Blair's forehead. When he tugged Blair down to kiss him, Blair went without resisting, down into the warm clasp of Jim's smiling lips, so grateful they still had their friendship, and their stupid roughhousing, and now this—Jim's strong hands stroking down over Blair's back to grip his ass and grind them against each other, groins rolling and pushing until Blair had to stop, had to get up.
"What?" Jim seemed devastated.
"Not doing it like this; I've been waiting years, Jim." Blair already had his sweatshirt off and was tugging at the drawstring on his sweatpants. "Follow me if you want to see the rest," he tossed over his shoulder, and dashed toward his bedroom.
When Jim tackled him onto the bed, Jim was stark naked. Blair didn't ask how he'd accomplished that in the eight point five seconds that had elapsed, he was too busy chanting Jim, Jim, Jim in his head, because this was a whole lot of Jim, warm, tanned skin stretched over firm muscles, all sleekly filling Blair's hands. Everything he'd wanted, close, touching, and Jim's eyes staring down into his, not hiding a damned thing.
Jim kissed him deep and warm, his palm running down Blair's chest to grip his cock, and Blair's yelp was muffled by Jim's tongue, thrusting in so dirty and slick. Then Jim paused and pulled back, giving Blair's cock a squeeze and saying, "What do you have mind, Chief?"
It wasn't what Blair was expecting; somehow he thought Jim would just take over. But then he realized how stupid that was. This was Jim, who had such gentle hands for victims and children, who really was just a big goddamned marshmallow at heart.
Somehow that made it easier, and the apprehension Blair was feeling melted away. He could give Jim what he wanted, because he would never have to worry about asking for what he needed for himself.
Wordlessly, Blair rolled over and dug into his drawer for supplies. It had been a while since he'd let anyone take him; most guys assumed because he was short he just should, so he liked to be ornery just to fuck with them. Also, he liked being on top.
But at the first touch of Jim's sensitive fingers, he thought he might have to reconsider, reevaluate. Rewire his central nervous system, for that matter, because his back was arching, and he was shuddering, and he was pretty sure that gibberish was streaming out of his mouth, and Jim was panting something in his ear while his fingers kept doing that, over and over, until Blair was loose and open, sprawled across Jim's chest, his muscles weak and watery with want.
"Please, please," Blair said, "get—get with it," he gritted his teeth, "before I come already."
Jim chuckled a little, breathlessly, and rolled him over onto his back. It put them both dangerously close to the edge of the futon, so Jim just lifted him up and carried him to the center, a move that had Blair even more helpless with want-want-want. Fortunately, he didn't have to wait much longer, because Jim just hoisted him up and took him.
One slow, long slide of thick cock, spreading him wide, an ache of pleasure until, with a twist of his hips, Jim pushed in that last inch and pressed up warm against Blair's thighs. Blair opened his eyes and, wow, what a picture, Jim above him, holding Blair's knees cradled against him, an expression of pure light on his face. Then he leaned over and rested on his hands, staring straight down into Blair's face, and started to move.
And there was no way Blair was going to survive this—the constant, drugging pleasure of Jim's cock slick-sliding in and out, or the way Jim was looking at him with such love—Jesus, so much love—all right there on display, as if Jim didn't even care that Blair could see it. On and on it went, Jim swaying above him, the cords of his arm muscles tensing and relaxing, and Blair couldn't help moaning high in the back of his throat every time Jim gave that extra little twist of his hips, that sexy swing that pushed the head of his cock hard against Blair's hot spot, making him squirm and arch.
"So gorgeous," Jim said, gasping. "Never thought—never thought—" Jim stopped suddenly, sitting back on his heels and pulling Blair with him so his ass was in Jim's lap.
Blair groaned in disappointment at the loss of rhythm, but then felt the deeper penetration, the way Jim's cock was pressed hard up inside him, and felt his cock jerk, his balls tighten up.
"That's it," Jim whispered, and gripped Blair's cock in his slick hand, beginning to stroke him. "Come on, Chief. Come on," he urged, and it was too fucking much, Jim's big hand on him, and the gentle circling of his hips keeping that pressure rolling inside him.
Blair arched his back and came; he came so hard he whited out, heard Jim groan with him, and tasted his own come on his lips when he licked them, dazed, easing out of it afterward to the sound of Jim murmuring, "Beautiful, so beautiful," as he came.
"Jim. Jesus, Jim."
"Yeah." Jim laughed softly and pulled away to deal with the condom and clean up. "I know just what you mean."
"I mean, what the hell? Tell me again why we haven't been doing this since day one?"
Jim plopped down on his side next to him. "Well, I don't know, but I'm guessing there was this little problem of ethics."
"Oh, yeah, that." Blair shoved over until he could rest his chin on Jim's bicep. "And what about after? What's your big excuse then?"
Jim shrugged a little, his shoulder stiff under Blair's cheek. "Wanted this," Jim said gruffly. "Thought you—I wasn't sure."
"You weren't sure." It seemed impossible, after all they'd been through.
"And even if—you were so in the dumps, Chief. Didn't seem fair, so I thought I should wait."
"That makes no goddamned sense," Blair said, and kissed him in punishment, glad when Jim responded immediately, his hand gentle on Blair's cheek. "You think having you in my bed wouldn't cheer me up just a little? Where are the vaunted detective skills, I have to wonder."
Jim growled a little and nipped at Blair's collarbone, but then gave him a serious look. "You needed to finish. You weren't done with it all."
The words rang a little in Blair's too small room, and he took a moment to give them their weight. "Well, I'm finished now. All done." All done with his failures. He took a deep breath, and felt Jim's hand glance lightly through his short hair to rest on his back. Blair had felt Jim's hand there a thousand times, in protection, in guidance, but never quite like this. And suddenly, even with the weight of it, he felt feather light.
Safe, and free.
"All done now," Blair said, "and ready to start."
And raised his head to meet Jim's brilliant grin.