Moonlight flowed over the balcony, creating mysterious shadows. Overhead, a beam of light arrowed slantways through the skylight. Below, the lone occupant of the apartment slumbered undisturbed. It had been a long day, and Detective Jim Ellison was bone-tired and sound asleep. So it was understandable that even his hyper-sensitive ears registered neither the opening of the front door lock, nor the jingle of keys in the basket or even footsteps on the stairs. Gradually, drowsily, he became aware of a presence standing by the bed. Without opening his eyes, he checked the heartbeat. Yes, it was Sandburg, not an unknown intruder. Good--about time. Muzzily, he muttered, "Welcome home, Chief. What time is it, anyway?"
"Shh. It's late. I'm late. Sorry." Blinking, Jim saw the red lights informing him it was 12:01 A.M. He smiled gratefully. "I'm glad you're back, Chief. I don't like it when you go undercover alone. I mean, I know you're a cop, a professional, you can handle it. It's just my Blessed Protector gene in overdrive, okay? I just don't . . . like it."
Blair smiled, just a little, and shook his head. "I don't like it either, Big Guy. But . . . tonight is the last. I won't go on undercovers alone anymore."
Jim beamed. Simon would never agree to it, of course--but they'd think of something. They always did. But Blair was still standing there in his flannels and jeans. Not that Jim had a problem with that, but—
"Uh, Sandburg? Why aren't you tucked snug in your little bed, while visions of paperwork dance in your head?"
Blair sat on the edge of the mattress. "Jim, let me ask you something. You remember a long time ago, when you said that, uh, you were interested, and I should let you know if I ever was? Well, I mean, I'm interested, I have been for a long time, but between Alex Barnes and the dissertation fiasco, and we've been having all kinds of relationship issues, and the time was never right, and, I didn't want you to think it was a pity fuck or curiosity or something, 'cause I'm not into men, I just--" He stopped and took a deep breath. "--I do love you. And I had to tell you; I needed to let you know. So, um, my question is, are you still interested? In me."
Coming, as this did, out of the blue, left field, and Jim Ellison's wildest fantasies, it took him a minute to process what Sandburg was saying, and that it was FOR REAL. At 12:03 in the morning.
The answer to the question was emphatically YES, but . . . . "Chi--Blair? You don't have to. You don't have to do anything. You know that. I'm not interested, I lo-" //why was it so hard to say, but so easy to do?// "--I love you, and I want you to be happy, with . . . whomever." His pale blue eyes burned in the dark.
But Blair smiled that easy, brilliant, megawatt smile and reached out, stroking the back of his hand along Jim's cheek. "Jim, I want you. Tonight. I love you, Jim. For me, please. Now."
The word 'no' was no longer in Jim Ellison's vocabulary.
Then it was easy, so easy, like the song, "You'd Be So Easy to Love", which Blair was, of course, but making love to him was easy too; he made it that way. Lips and tongues and hands and cocks and asses just naturally fell into alignment, and there was no wrong place to put anything, or a wrong way to do it; it was sweet and easy and everything they tried was good. When they finally collapsed, they rested, and that was good, too, laying their heads down and lying together, Sentinel and Guide, partners, finally lovers.
Jim lay his head on Blair's chest, listening to that beautiful, wonderful heartbeat, feeling the curling chest hairs against his cheek, smelling their mingled sweat and cum and reveling in it all. Then Blair put his hands on either side of Jim's head and drew him fiercely upwards for a quick kiss, then pulled back and looked at him hard. "Jim, I missed you tonight. But you have to know, if you'd been there, it wouldn't have made any difference. With your senses or without them, it would have gone down the same--and I was glad that you're safe."
He leaned in again for an ardent, burning kiss that re-ignited passion, and they began the dance again, in new, familiar ways, and it went on forever, for a moment of time. Finally, as false dawn turned black to shadow, they slept.
Jim awakened to the sound of heavy knocking on the door. He reached out, but the crumpled sheets were empty. He smiled. Guppy must have gotten up early for the first shower. Or had he gone back downstairs to his own room--No. Jim shook his head decisively. Not that, ever again. Sandburg didn't need that room anymore! He automatically listened, confused by the silence. No shower. No--no heartbeat. He leaped downstairs, ignoring the pounding on the door. The french doors swung open. No Guide. Through the balcony doors, dawn barely lit the sky. Breakfast! Of course! He'd gone out for coffee and fresh doughnuts. Probably forgotten his key--no, that was Simon. At this hour? He hurried to unlock the door.
But when he opened the door, Banks just stood there, with that terrible look on his face Jim knew only too well. It said that something calamitous and catastrophic had occurred, something that never should have happened but could never be undone, and someone they loved was no more.
Jim braced himself. It had to be one of the Major Crimes detectives. Blair would be devastated, he thought--and then Simon said, "Jim, I'm so sorry."
What? What did he mean?
"Simon, who--? What happened?"
But the tough police captain talked around the thing that was too terrible to put into words. "The arms dealers were dealing with two groups of terrorists--we only knew about one, and I guess they didn't know about one another, either. Anyway, by the time the SWAT team moved into position, the first gang had come and gone, and, and . . . we didn't know anything was wrong, Jim, I swear. We made the bust and . . . Sandburg wasn't there."
Ellison vainly tried to interrupt, "No, Simon, he was right here; he was here all night."
--but Simon went on, "By the time we found his--found Sandburg--" His voice broke at that, and he couldn't go on.
"NO! Dammit, Simon, you're not listening to me! San--Blair was here, in my be--in the loft!" Ellison could feel his heart pounding, his vision fading in and out. This didn't make any sense!
The big man with the booming voice was now whispering. "The coroner said it, it was a clean hit to the heart."
Blair? Heart? This was NOT possible! "Blair was here with me--"
"It must have happened around, just about midnight."
Jim stopped cold. Midnight. He'd looked, 12:01, he remembered. He remembered everything. Blair standing there, saying, "It's late. I'm late." Saying, "Jim, I want you. Now. Tonight." Making love, God, YES. Saying, "If you'd been there, it wouldn't have made any difference. I was glad that you're safe."
He sank down ungracefully, hitting the floor hard. Simon kept talking, but it was just noise. And Sandburg had taught him how to tune out noise. Sandburg had taught him . . . everything. How to love, how to laugh and cry, when to keep control and when to throw it to the winds. How to make someone else be more important than yourself and never count the cost, because there wasn't any, that was just the way it was. How to be a mensch--a human being.
But not how to live without him. Never that.
So he turned his mind inward, seeing Blair's bright smile and tousled curls, feeling his gentle touch, smelling the essence of Blair, tasting his skin. Hearing his Guide, Partner, Lover say, "Let go, Jim. I've got you," and knowing that this was the one thing in the universe he could count on, always--Blair would catch him.
He let go. He let go, and Blair caught him; they were together and safe, and the night went on forever.
Outside, if anyone had been watching, two shades or shadows might have been dimly seen on the balcony, one a fuzzy gray, with a smoother, blacker silhouette beside it. They lay together unmoving until the dawn broke, when they disappeared in the first sharp gold rays of the morning sun.
Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber, nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love cannot fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with Death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution's power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.
--Edna St. Vincent Millay