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Transformation

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Transformation
By PattRose

Summary: Jim is settled into a boring routine, but two people come into his life and turn it upside down.
Warnings: AU, Kid Fic, Mild Language
Rating: Mature
Genre: Slash
Word Count: 36,165
Beta:Bluewolf
Notes: This was a story written in 2011. It’s 21,088 words reworked and the second part is 15,251 words. Thank you Sheila for all you do for me. I had fun with this and hope everyone enjoys it.
Notes: Bluewolf gave me the ideas to write this sequel. She is a gem, not only my beta but my idea gal. I honestly don’t believe that her mind ever stops. She always has ideas. Thank you, Sheila.



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Jim and Rafe were going at it pretty hot and heavy. They had been so busy at Baker Enterprises that they didn’t have time for eating, let alone sex. Jim was busy fucking Brian Rafe and having a very good time until Brian started talking about business in the middle of it. Who does that? So Jim finished what he had started and then cleaned them both off and they lay in bed, getting their laptops out and working on clients wish lists again. As far as Jim knew, Brian didn’t even have a good time. Yes, he came, but didn’t seem to care if he came. Jim sure wanted to change a few things in their lives, but who had time? He was as busy as Brian was and didn’t want to make waves.

Jim got his paper out that had the Apple Orchard house in Washington and circled it in magic marker.

“What are you doing with that?” Rafe asked.

“I’d like to buy an apple orchard for vacation purposes. This place looks beautiful. It’s outside of Cascade Washington, so yes, it’s a smaller town, but not completely away from everything and everyone. I thought it looked like a nice place to vacation.”

“Jim, you don’t go on vacations,” Brian reminded him.

“I might if I had a place to go to. This property has 20 acres of land, house and orchards. It even has a barn on the property,” Jim said happily.

“Whatever. I know you’ll never do anything with it anyway.”

Jim knew Brian was probably right and put the paper in his night stand with others he had saved. He really did want a place to call his own, other than this condo. But it didn’t look too promising to him either. The real reason he was interested was because he would be closer to his father and brother. Not that they tried to get in touch with Jim, but Jim had dreams of someday mending fences and working things out.

When Jim finished his reports for two clients, he closed his laptop, took off his shirt and shut off the light next to his bed. “Goodnight, Brian. See you in the morning.”

Brian was so into the report he was doing, he didn’t even hear what Jim said. Jim fluffed his pillow and tried to go to sleep. He was hearing things more magnified these days, so the click, click, click of the laptop was driving him to drink.

“Why don’t you put that up and we’ll get some sleep?” Jim asked.

Brian looked over at his tired partner and said, “Okay. I get the hint.”

Before long, both men were sleeping soundly until the phone rang at 3:00 in the morning. Jim answered it and said, “Ellison.”

“Mr. James Ellison?” A woman’s voice asked.

“Yes, who are you and what are you calling me at three in the morning for?”

“I’m Mrs. Bridges and I’m calling from London to tell you about your cousins, Rob and Marie Wilder who were recently killed in a car accident. The reading of the will was yesterday and you have been named in the will. I was hoping I could meet you at the airport in Cascade, Washington and you could pick up your package. My flight comes in at 10:00 this morning and I leave right after that. It won’t take long to deliver the package.”

“I haven’t talked or seen Rob or Marie for four years, Mrs. Bridges. I find it hard to believe that they left me something in their will,” Jim said carefully.

“It is something of great value. Will you meet me at ten or not?” Mrs. Bridges asked, anxiously.

“I’ll be there. What is your flight number and what airline?”

Mrs. Bridges gave Jim all of the info and then Jim hung up the phone.

“Who was that?” Brian asked.

“My cousins in London died and they left something to me. I have to meet the woman at the airport tomorrow to pick it up. She said it’s very valuable.”

“I’m sorry about your cousins, but a nice wad of cash wouldn’t hurt our bank account, would it?” Brian asked.

Jim snuggled up close to Brian and fell back to sleep. Both men were exhausted.

*

That morning, Jim was at the gate exactly at ten and a tired looking woman holding a baby walked up to Jim and said, “Are you James Ellison?”

“Yes, are you Mrs. Bridges?”

“Yes, it’s good to meet you. I need you to sign these papers as quickly as you can and I’ll hand over your inheritance.”

Jim didn’t even look at the papers. He just signed all three sets of documents and said, “I really have to get back to the office now.” He did notice that it was something called Maggie.

“Could you hold Maggie, please?” Mrs. Bridges said as she handed the ten month old child to Jim.

Jim held her, but barely. He didn’t have a clue at what you do with a baby. He just wished the woman would hurry with the papers and get on with it. He had tons of things to do at his office.

“Okay, here is Maggie’s baby bag. She’s all yours now. Your cousins felt it was the only thing they could do. They didn’t have anyone else, other than your brother Steven, and they didn’t care for him.”

Jim was totally confused and asked, “What do you mean, Maggie’s bag? This baby is Maggie? I thought it was a race horse or something.”

“No. I must check in for my flight back to London. There are papers in the bag to tell you what to do if you don’t want to keep Maggie,” Mrs. Bridges said as she walked away.

Jim was in shock, to say the least. Who in their right mind drops a baby off to someone who doesn’t even know the baby?

Jim tried to get a better hold on the diapered child and realized what he was going to have to deal with. This wasn’t going to go over well with Brian at all. Brian didn’t like kids. Hell, Jim didn’t like kids. Especially children that looked like they were going to cry, as this one did at that moment.

Jim had two meetings that day at the office and one luncheon meeting. What in the hell was he going to do with a baby?

*

Jim got to the office, half carrying and looking like he was going to drop the baby at any moment. His boss Bill Baker walked up to him in the hallway and said, “Does this have something to do with trying to land the Spenser Baby Food account?”

“It’s a long story, Bill. She was left to me by my cousins who were killed in a car accident. I don’t know what I’m going to do about her yet. I’m sure they can’t expect me to keep her. I know nothing about babies,” Jim explained.

“It might help land that account, though. It’s worth a lot of money, Jim. You’ve got an appointment with Mr. Spenser this afternoon. Lunch to be exact. Land the account and then find a home for the child because Lord knows you can’t look after a child and do your job properly,” Bill said as he started to walk away.

Jim walked up to his secretary, filled her in on what was going on and asked her, “Could you keep an eye on Maggie while I go to my meetings today?”

“No-I’m sorry, but I can’t. I have twenty other things on my plate, Jim. You’re going to have to cancel your meetings and find a sitter,” Barb answered.

“I’m new to this, Barb, how does one find a sitter?” Jim asked, looking as confused as he felt.

“Like I would know? I haven’t a clue. Ask Marcia in records, she had a baby a year ago or so. She might know of someone that would keep an eye on her for you-it’s a girl, right?” Barb asked.

“I would imagine it’s a girl, since her hair is longer then what you would think a little boy would have. And her name is Maggie,” Jim replied. “I’ll go and see if Marcia has any ideas.”

Jim was silently wishing that Barb would have handled it. He didn’t know what to do with this baby and he knew he couldn’t just leave it with someone he didn’t know. He was at least thinking that much about the baby. Who would leave him a baby? It was insane. His cousins must have been crazy-it was as simple as that. Now he had to get a lawyer to figure out what he was going to do with Maggie. Sighing, Jim shifted the baby in his arms again and headed for Marcia’s desk.

*

When Jim arrived at Marcia’s desk, Marcia smiled at the baby and then frowned at the way Jim was carrying her. “What are you doing to that baby?” she asked. She came around the desk and took Maggie from Jim and held her correctly for a moment and said, “This is how you hold a baby. You were carrying her almost upside down. Why do you have a baby, Mr. Ellison?”

“Good question, it would seem, anyway. I lost some family and they left their baby to me in their will,” Jim explained.

“And you’re standing in front of my desk, why?” Marcia asked.

“I heard you had a baby and I thought maybe you could tell me who I could get to stay with her until I figure out what I’m going to do with her.”

“No, I don’t have any ideas. Just because I have a baby, doesn’t mean that I know everything about babies. I had to find a nanny, you’ll have to advertise for one. I would suggest doing it now. Maybe you could take off a week and post an ad in the paper and get things taken care of in the next week.”

“Marcia, I can’t take a week off work. I can’t take a fucking hour off work. What am I supposed to do with her?”

“You’ll have to figure it out on your own, Mr. Ellison. I’m not the keeper of small children. I’m an assistant to Mr. Avery. Now if you don’t mind, I need to get back to work,” Marcia barked.

Jim took the baby back from Marcia and sighed. Marcia was of no help what-so-ever. As he started walking down the hall, Marcia said, “And watch your language around babies, they repeat everything they hear once they start to talk.”

“Whatever…” Jim growled as he walked down the hallway, trying to carry the baby just as Marcia had showed him to do. It wasn’t as easy as it looked.

Jim walked back up to Barb and said, “I’ll give you all day Saturday off if you watch her while I go into the meeting in ten minutes.”

Barb thought it over for a moment and smiled. “Okay, hand her and her bag over. Don’t think this is going to become a habit, though. I know nothing about children either.”

Jim handed the baby to her and then her bag. It never occurred to him that the baby might cry. Nothing had occurred to him when it came to this baby. Jim straightened up his suit and walked towards the conference room, listening to her wailing as he left. He half-expected Barb to follow him and tell him the deal was off. Now what was he going to do on Saturday when he needed her help? Again, Jim Ellison never gave the crying baby another thought. He walked into the conference room feeling like a new man. A free man. Jim knew that he was going to have to see a lawyer and soon.

Jim sat down at the table and a girl-Jim didn’t remember her name-brought him a hot cup of java and she was his new best friend for all of two seconds. “Thank you.”

The girl said, “You’re welcome.” As she walked away, she wondered if he knew anyone’s name besides the boss. He had to know his name because Jim was better at kissing ass then anyone at this company. Yes, she might not know much about what they did there, but she knew human nature. Everyone knew it was in Jim’s nature to claw his way to the top and take no prisoners.

*

Jim walked out of the meeting feeling great, and forgetting for a moment that he had a wailing baby waiting for him, until he heard that baby wailing down the hall. He could see Barb trying to quiet her, but it wasn’t working.

Jim walked up to her and said, “Can’t you shut it up?”

“It’s a she. And no, I can’t shut her up. She won’t stop crying,” Barb growled. Barb actually felt sort of sorry for this little baby. Poor thing, to be stuck with Jim Ellison.

Jim’s head felt like it was going to explode. His ears were ringing and he had an instant headache from this small child. Why did his senses have to act up now?

Jim grabbed the baby from Barb and the baby quickly quieted down. He had no idea why she had stopped crying, he was just glad she did. “Barb, how would you like next Saturday off as well?”

“No… I’m not watching her while you go to lunch with Mr. Spenser for the Spenser Baby Food account. Take her with you.” Barb started doing work at her desk, ignoring Jim and making him quite angry at the same time.

Jim sighed and took the baby into his office. He set her on the floor and she crawled over to the coffee table and stood up and walked around it. She picked up an expensive piece of art and tried to lift it up. Jim grabbed it faster than she and put it on his desk. “No, you can’t play with Jim’s things.”

She just ignored him and went for the next thing on the table. Jim took everything off of the table and then checked to see if there were any toys in her bag. He looked through it and found some rattles and chewing type toys, so he set them on the table instead of his artwork. The baby seemed very pleased and Jim was hoping he could get a few things done while she played. It wasn’t his fault that having a baby wasn’t his idea.

She started to cry and rubbed her eyes. She looked up at Jim and held her arms out to be picked up.

“I haven’t got time to play, Maggie. I have to get a client’s file up to date before lunch. You’re going to have to behave.”

Of course she ignored him and continued to cry and rub her eyes. Then Jim looked in and saw there was a bottle made up and he handed it to her. She took it and tried to drink it, but she was standing up and couldn’t handle the bottle and standing at the same time. So she kept dropping it. Finally Jim picked her up and sat down on his sofa and fed her the bottle. Before she was half-way done, she was sound asleep. Jim laid her on the sofa, pushed the table over to the edge of the sofa and sat at his desk and began to work.

Then he realized he still didn’t know what he was going to do with her at lunch. He was going to have to pay a stranger to watch her while he tried to talk Spenser into coming on board Baker Enterprises.

Jim looked over at the sleeping baby and realized that there would be tons of people that would want to adopt her. Yes, he was going to seek out legal help as soon as he found someone to watch her during the day.

He went back to work on the file he had started and before long he was ready to present his pitch to Mr. Spenser. He glanced at the baby and wondered if he could just leave her there until he got back. But then he thought better of it, because he couldn’t afford to piss Barb off any more than he had already. She was too valuable. The baby wasn’t staying around, Barb was. Life was quite simple in Jim Ellison’s eyes.

*

When Jim arrived at the restaurant, he asked the coat check girl if she could watch the baby while he took his meeting. He offered her a hundred bucks and she took it. Jim was quite pleased with how this was turning out. It wasn’t so bad. He was making it to his lunch meeting and that baby hadn’t caused that much trouble.

Mr. Spenser was sitting at the table waiting on Jim to arrive. Jim walked up and said, “Hello, Mr. Spenser.”

Spenser stood up and shook hands with Jim and said, “Call me Tom. We’re going to be doing a lot of meetings in the next few weeks, so you might as well call me Tom.”

“I’m Jim. Now, how does one get a drink ordered around here?” Jim asked no one in particular and looked for a waiter. When he walked up, Jim gave him his drink order.

“Do you always drink this early in the day?” Spenser asked.

“You know what, Tom? I’ve had the day from hell today. I deserve a drink or two. Now what are you looking for in our company?” Jim asked, trying not to listen to the screaming Maggie in the coat room.

They talked for the next twenty minutes, while having lunch until the baby started screaming so loud, it was impossible to ignore her screams and everyone in the place was wondering who had the kid.

Tom Spenser was trying to talk, but kept getting interrupted by the wails of the baby. “Wouldn’t you think they would leave their child at home in a place like this?”

“I agree,” Jim said and took a swig of his drink that the waiter had just brought.

Tom began to tell Jim exactly what they were looking for in an advertising company when the coat check girl walked up to the table with the screaming child and said, “One hundred dollars isn’t enough for this crap.” She handed the baby to Jim and Maggie immediately calmed down and stopped crying.

Tom looked at Jim with his eyebrow rising. “You have a baby?”

“My cousins just died and they left me this baby. I didn’t have anywhere to leave her during the meeting, so I brought her along. I’m so sorry, Tom.”

“Don’t apologize, Jim. First of all, I’m sorry about your family loss and secondly I love children and she seems to love you,” Tom said, smiling.

“I don’t know why. I know nothing about babies or how to take care of them,” Jim answered.

“First of all, she’s wet and that’s probably why she was crying. Do you have a diaper bag?”

“Yes, right here.” Jim picked it up off the floor and looked inside to see what was in there.

“I have to be at another meeting in ten minutes, Jim. It was very nice talking to you and I’ll stop by your office in three days. I need to look this paperwork over and see what you have to offer. Good luck with the baby. She’s very sweet looking,” Spenser said as he stood up and shook Jim’s free hand.

Maggie cooed the moment that Tom Spenser left and Jim said quietly, “Don’t get too comfortable. You’re not staying.”

*

Jim took the rest of the day off and headed home in a cab. He stopped at the drug store and bought baby formula that the store advised him to get and disposable diapers. He never felt so tired in his life and he still had to make dinner when he got home. Maybe he would pick something up for him and Rafe. Jim realized he had forgotten to call Rafe and tell him about the bundle of joy that was now in their life. Oh well, Rafe would find out later on.

*
Once Jim got inside the condo, he laid Maggie on the floor and took the wet diaper off of her. Jim’s sense of smell about knocked him out. The urine smell was very strong and causing him to almost gag. What would he do if she did more than pee? Jim read the directions on the back of the diaper package and realized, he thought he could handle this. He ended up using four diapers trying to do it right. But, he finally got it on and she was smiling and happy. Once he finished that, Jim took her into the kitchen to help him make dinner. Jim wasn’t very good at multi-tasking at all. He should have known better than to think he could cook and watch the baby at the same time. Hell, he forgot all about the baby within moments.

*
Rafe got home at 8:00 and shut the door softly. He had a headache that wouldn’t quit. He set his briefcase down and walked over and sat down in the chair in the living room. He pulled the newspaper out to start reading, not even realizing that Jim was home and suddenly a baby came between his legs, smashing the newspaper and cooing loudly. Rafe was surprised to say the least and yelled like a girl. He wasn’t prepared to have a baby in his living room-that was for sure.

Maggie was crying very loudly and Jim came rushing into the living room. “I see you met Maggie.”

“Jim, who the hell is Maggie and what is she doing here? We don’t have children,” Rafe asked angrily.

“This is what my cousins left me in their will,” Jim explained quickly.

“You’re joking, right? A baby? Jim, we don’t want a baby,” Rafe reminded him.

“I know. I’ve got the next two days off to find a lawyer and get adoption papers started for someone, anyone,” Jim said miserably.

“Well, I’m going to Kansas for the next two days, she had better be gone by the time I get back,” Rafe stated.

“I’ll take care of it, don’t worry. I don’t want a baby in my life either. Now, let’s feed her dinner.” Jim decided that spaghetti would be good. Maggie had other ideas about it. The men had no idea that babies ate baby food and not spaghetti. She tossed the spaghetti all over the room and on to Brian Rafe and Jim Ellison. The two men weren’t happy campers. Jim cleaned Maggie up first and then set her down, where she started to get into things all over the room. Then he started cleaning up the walls and the table.

Rafe said, “It would be easier to just move, I think.”

“Ha ha ha.”

“I wasn’t joking. She better be gone when I get back,” Rafe snarled as he continued to clean the mess up.

“Stop telling me what to do. I’ll finish this mess by myself. Go get ready for bed and do some work. It’ll take your mind off of the baby,” Jim suggested.

“That’s a good idea. I’ll go do some of my work for tomorrow and get caught up before I leave.” Rafe went in, undressed and slid onto the bed to get comfortable. He started work on his files and was really getting into it when Jim came in about two hours later.

“Can Maggie sit on the bed with you while I shower?” Jim asked.

“Yeah, I guess,” Rafe answered.

“Thanks, man.” Jim started undressing all the way into the bathroom and Rafe was appreciating what he saw. Maybe with any luck, that baby would sleep and he could get some before his trip. Maggie was looking at a magazine and behaving herself, so Rafe took off his reading glasses and set them on the bed as he stretched and rested his eyes for a moment.

Maggie saw the glasses and thought what fun it would be to play with them and did just that. She bent them in several different directions and then set them back on the bed. She went back to reading her book.

Jim was listening in the shower and heard Rafe’s heartbeat speed up. Jim didn’t know what was wrong with himself, but suddenly he was able to hear people’s voices from other rooms, hear their heartbeats and sense if someone was upset or not. Right now, his lover was plenty upset. Jim got out of the shower and dried off and put his robe on. When he walked into the room, Rafe was holding bent rims for his glasses and Jim almost laughed. Keyword being almost. Rafe would have probably killed him and the baby if he had laughed.

“I’m sorry, Brian. I’ll pay for your new ones to get made,” Jim offered.

“You’re damn right you’re going to pay for them. This baby is a menace. Let’s just go to sleep,” Rafe said as he shut his light out and rolled on his side. Jim knew Rafe was angry and there was nothing he could do about it right then.

Jim knew he needed to change the baby again and give her formula, so he changed into his sleep attire and picked Maggie up for what should have been an easy task. He laid her on the floor and took her wet diaper off and took out the new one from the package and tried to figure out how he did the last one. He tried one and she crawled right out of it. The next one, he helped close with duct tape. Maggie didn’t like that one bit. So Jim took that off and tried to remember what he did the last time. If mothers and fathers everywhere knew how to do it, then he could surely figure it out. Finally after using six diapers, this time, he got it right. He was so proud of himself, it wasn’t even funny. Jim then picked Maggie up and they went into the kitchen to make her a bottle for bedtime.

Jim set her down on the floor to watch while he worked. She watched Jim like a hawk. For some reason, she liked Jim a lot. She didn’t seem to like anyone else, but she liked Jim. Jim made her formula, got the bottle made and took her into the bedroom to get her to sleep. Maggie slept in between Jim and Brian so she wouldn’t fall out of the bed. Once she was asleep, Jim nudged Brian and said, “Want to have a quickie?”

Brian rolled over, glared and Jim and whispered, “I’m so not in the mood. She had better be gone when I get back.”

“It might take more than two days, Brian.”

“Then I’ll be moving,” Rafe answered. Brian Rafe was a very stubborn man and didn’t want this child in their life at all. He didn’t want to share Jim with anyone.

“I’ll try my best, but I can’t promise anything,” Jim replied as he rolled on his side and tried to go to sleep, angry and hungry. He never did have anything to eat for dinner. Sighing loudly, he started to fall into a deep sleep.

*

Jim heard Rafe leave at 4:30 in the morning, but he didn’t even bother to talk to him. He knew that Brian was mad and didn’t feel like dealing with it that early in the morning.

Jim got up and made some breakfast. He scrambled eggs, because he knew that a baby could probably eat those. He was starving from the night before and couldn’t wait to eat. He listened for noises and heard Maggie starting to stir. He walked into the bedroom and she was sitting on the bed, wide awake and smiling. Jim wondered why this baby was always smiling at him. Surely she must know that he was a grump, right?

He changed her diaper, which was disgusting and Jim gagged the entire time, and washed her up for breakfast. He fed her the eggs and she ate them well. Then he made her a bottle and she gladly took that from him.

Jim got busy and called an adoption agency that wasn’t too far from his home.

Once Maggie was done with her bottle, Jim gave her a bath, dressed her and himself for the day and they took off to the adoption agency.

When he arrived, Jim had to fill out a ton of paperwork for them and they kept Maggie out of his hair so he could get it done. Helen Morgan was the one helping him fill out all the papers. Once he was done, he began to ramble.

“I really don’t have the time for a child right now. It isn’t that she’s not an agreeable child, because she is, but I just don’t have a place for her right now in my life. I think she’d be much happier with a mom and a dad somewhere. Don’t you agree?”

“Mr. Ellison, you don’t have to feel guilty about this at all. A lot of people choose this option to put their child up for adoption,” Helen said.

Jim sighed. “I’m not feeling guilty, Helen. I’m just explaining why I’m doing it. Guilt is not a word in my vocabulary. I have no time for a baby. I have no place for a baby. Basically, I don’t want a baby. So this is the best step for me and Maggie. No, there is no guilt.”

Helen almost smiled. She knew guilt when she saw it and he felt guilty. “You have all of the papers done, so I’ll call you as soon as I find a prospective couple to adopt Maggie. It shouldn’t take too long. There are people on the list that we can call today. It might be in just a couple of days. Is that all right with you?”

 

“Oh, that’s perfect for me. I can’t keep this baby and I’m missing work having her around, so that would be ideal.”

 

Helen held her hand out and shook Jim’s hand firmly. “It was very nice meeting you and Maggie today. You will hear from us shortly.”

Jim collected Maggie from the outer office and walked out the door, feeling very guilty.

*

What does a man do when he feels guilty about something or someone? He buys someone something. Jim went shopping to a very expensive baby store and bought tons of baby clothes, shoes, socks, diapers, toys and stuffed animals. As he was taking it all out of the store, the man helping him said, “You’re making the right decision in giving her up for adoption. And spending a little time and money on her before she leaves is perfect. Thank you for your business.”

Jim couldn’t believe he had told the stocker all about his problems. He really needed to shut the fuck up.

Once everything was in the cab, they took off for the condo. Jim was determined to make her last couple of days nice.

Once they arrived, he unpacked everything and got things ready for dinner. This time he had bought baby food, so he was prepared. She ate a little bit but seemed almost fussy, which wasn’t like her, so Jim worried about that. Then he looked over at her on the bed and saw her cheeks were all red and he felt her forehead for a fever. She was burning up. Jim called the pharmacist and asked him what to do. He told Jim what he would need for the night and Jim knew he would follow directions to a tee. He was always a team player if nothing else. He knew how to follow orders well.

The doorbell rang and the delivery person said, “I have a delivery from Nathan’s Pharmacy. Are you Jim Ellison?”

Jim smiled and opened the door wider. “Come in. Let me get my money clip.”

“You have a warm air steamer, a cool air vaporizer, cough syrup, baby Tylenol and Valium.” The delivery man said as he looked up when he said ‘Valium’.

“Oh, that’s for me,” Jim answered.

Jim handed him the money due and a nice tip and closed the door. He began the long night of taking care of Maggie while she was sick. Her fever continued off and on all night long, so Jim walked the floors with her and put her in his bed when he was so exhausted he couldn’t stay awake any longer. Finally her fever broke and they were both able to sleep for a few hours.

At 9:00, the phone rang, making both Maggie and Jim jump. Jim picked it up quickly. “Ellison.”

“Mr. Ellison, this is Helen Morgan from the adoption agency and we have a home for Maggie. If you could bring her in, they’re coming in at ten.”

“Oh…Okay, I’ll be there in about an hour,” Jim said regretfully. Jim knew he wasn’t a good parent for Maggie, but he would still wonder how she was from time to time. Sighing, he got up to get ready to go.

*

Jim arrived at the adoption agency within an hour as he had said and took a seat until they called them in. It was almost as if Maggie knew something was happening, she started to fuss a little bit as they walked into Helen’s office to meet her new parents.

The prospective parents looked older than Jim had expected - he guessed they were well into their forties, and he couldn’t believe the agency was considering giving a baby to them; he'd have thought an older child would be better. But what did he have to say about it? Not a thing.

“Now, father just wants to be sure that there isn’t a chance for a boy, before we take this little girl off your hands,” Sally Short said.

Helen looked at Jim and rolled her eyes. Jim didn’t think that was a good sign, either. “No, there are no little boys to be had.”

“Well, then I guess we’ll take er’,” Sally said.

Sally walked over and grabbed Maggie from Jim and went and sat down by her husband, who still hadn’t said a word. Maggie started crying, obviously very unhappy, when this stranger pulled her away from him. He wanted to go knock that woman upside the head and take Maggie back in his arms, but knew he had no right.

“Can I ask you where you’ll be going?” Jim wondered.

“We’re moving back to Nebraska where all of father’s family is. She’ll be surrounded by a big family there,” Sally said.

“I guess it’s time we take er’ and go,” Mr. Short said.

“I have her clothing and her toys in the waiting room. They are all boxed up and ready to go,” Jim said.

“Oh, we won’t be needing any clothes or toys where we’re going. We have everything Fern will need,” Sally added.

“Fern?” Jim asked.

“That’s what we’re calling her is Fern. It’s after my mother, right, mother?” Mr. Short inquired.

“Yes, sir,” Sally answered.

They stood up and Jim stood up and he didn’t know what to do. Helen said, “Jim, you’re free to go now. Have a good day. We’ll see that everything is fine before they leave.”

Jim walked out of the office and down the hallway, about half-way and then turned around hearing Maggie crying for him. He stormed back into the office and said, “I can’t leave her with them, I’m sorry.” He yanked Maggie out of Sally’s arms and she immediately calmed down.

Helen smiled and said, “Would you like to interview the next couple that comes up?”

“No, she’s going to stay with me,” Jim said happily and walked out the door.

He smiled at Maggie and said, “Well, you’re stuck with me now, so you had better get ready for a lifetime of disappointment.”

She cooed and snuggled in closer to his body. Jim felt like he had made the right move, but there still was Rafe to contend with.

*
Jim went shopping for baby furniture for the spare bedroom that had always been empty. They had never had time to do up a room. He also called a nanny service and hired a nanny for the time being. That would help with dealing with Rafe. The nanny was going to start the next day, leaving Jim to take her for a ride to pick up Rafe.

*

When the train rolled up and stopped Jim and Maggie were waiting for Rafe. He got off the train and said, “I thought she would be gone.”

“There was a slight change in plan, Brian. I’ve decided to keep her and raise her.”

“Even though you know that’s not what I want?”

“I was hoping you would give it a second chance. She’s got her own room now, with a crib in it. I’ve got a new nanny and our lives wouldn’t change that much,” Jim explained.

“Sorry, Jim. I’ll leave tonight. It was fun while it lasted, but I didn’t sign on for this. I wish you all the luck in the world, but you’ll have to do it alone.”

“I understand, totally, Brian. But I just couldn’t give her to a woman that called her husband, ‘sir’. They were going to name her Fern.”

“And I understand why you feel the way you do, Jim. But it’s not going to work for me. I’ll be out in no time flat. It was nice being with you while it lasted.”

“I’ll help you pack when we get home.”

“Thanks, Jim.”

And sure enough, Brian Rafe moved out of the condo that night. He didn’t waste any time in leaving. Jim didn’t blame him for his decision. But at the same time he wondered why Brian couldn’t have given Maggie a chance to grow on him. Because she had a way of doing that.

Jim lifted Maggie off the floor and said, “We’ll be just fine all by ourselves.” He then kissed her cheek and went into her room to rock her to sleep for the night. Jim was finally getting the hang of this. Well, at least he thought he was. He had no idea the work that was involved.

*

For the next four weeks, Jim tried like crazy to keep up with work and home, but he was failing and failing miserably. He had the new nanny that was very good, but that still didn’t answer all of his problems.

He walked into the meeting, late and said, “I’m sorry, I couldn’t get a cab this morning.”

Bill Baker smiled. “It’s all right, Jim. Your assistant filled us in on everything you two had been working on and gave us a list of the numbers that we needed. I want to talk to you.”

Jim followed Bill into his office and glared at his assistant, Stan, on the way. Jim hated him at that moment. It was almost like he had been trying to take over the account from the start. Jim walked in and stood in front of Bill’s desk. “What did you need to see me for, Bill?”

“Jim, there is no easy way to tell you this, so I’ll just tell you outright. I’ve placed Stan Miller in charge of the Spenser Baby Food account and instead you will be in charge of the Byer Dog Food account. I’m sorry, but you couldn’t keep up the speed or the energy to keep this job and run it the way it should have been.”

“Bill, there is no way I’m going out there and saying I got the dog food account instead of Spenser’s account.”

“You do what you have to do, Jim. I’m sorry that this had to happen, but I told you from the beginning that it doesn’t work when you become a single parent,” Bill said.

“Fuck you, Bill,” Jim said angrily as he walked out of the office. He grabbed all of his things and left the building. He had a lot in savings, so they would be all right, but he needed to make some plans and soon.

*

When Jim got home, he pulled the page from the newspaper out and called the number for the Washington apple orchard. It was still for sale, so he bought it. Just like that, he paid cash for the property and was going to buy a new SUV. Things were going to be just fine. He would find something to do close by this small town and they would make things work.

*

In the next three weeks, he got the keys to the house in Washington and started loading up the U-Haul. He wasn’t taking that much with him, because the house came furnished and he had a feeling his stuff wouldn’t have worked there anyway. After all, it was a country house. Jim’s condo had been done very modern, not country at all.

On the drive to Kirkland, Jim was busy telling Maggie all about their new house and apple orchard. Jim realized that it was almost Maggie’s birthday and he wanted to have something small for her, but he didn’t know anyone there. So he would just have her help him make cupcakes and they would celebrate, just the two of them, together.

When Jim drove up to the acres of land, he was in awe. It was beautiful. What a beautiful time of year to move, he thought. It seemed like it went on for miles and miles and then Jim realized, it did. He was now the proud owner of lots and lots of land.

They got moved into the house and everything was going well. Jim had made cupcakes for Maggie and they did celebrate her birthday, just the two of them.

Time was going by rather quickly and Jim knew he was going to have to find a job soon enough, but for right now, it was perfect. He milked the cows in the morning, they picked apples every day and just walked around getting fresh air and exercise.

To have something to do, Jim started making Maggie’s baby food every day. Then slowly he started making more and more of it. He put cute labels on them and fancy lids and took them into town for the shopkeeper at the general store to sell to tourists. Jim hoped that would bring in a little money.

His senses were getting worse and worse. He now could see almost a mile from the house, hear a ways from the house, smell anything out of the ordinary and his taste buds were going crazy. He was reduced to eating Maggie’s baby food for the time being, because everything else upset his stomach or burned his tongue. He loved the baby food also. Jim had started to make food from peaches, plums, green beans, peas and carrots, all made from scratch. Everything was all natural, so it would be good for all babies.

He went to turn the heat on one evening as the weather got colder-and there was no heat. He called the repairman, the only one in town, and the man came out to fix his heater.

“So do you know what’s wrong with it, yet?” Jim asked.

“Yup,” Mike answered.

“Do you want to tell me what it is?” Jim asked again.

“You need a new heating element, so that’ll run ya around five thousand dollars. It would be cheaper to just get a new furnace installed. We could put an entirely new system in here for about eight thousand. What do you think?” Mike inquired.

“I think that’s highway robbery. Is there any other maintenance men in town?”

“Nope.”

“Then I guess I’ll write you a check. How soon can you do this?” Jim wondered.

“I’ll have it all in tomorrow. Don’t worry about a thing,” Mike answered.

“Thanks for everything, Mike.”

“You are welcome. See you tomorrow.” Mike drove off and Jim moved the baby play yard into the living room so they would be warm by the fire.

Everything went well with the heater. Now the house was warm as could be. The next time he walked down the stairs, he saw snow coming from the ceiling. What the fuck?

And of course he had to call Mike, the repairman.

Jim called out while Mike was up on the roof, “Do you see the problem?”

“Yup,” Mike replied.

“Is it just a small patch job?” Jim asked.

“Nope.”

“I need a whole roof?” Jim bellowed.

“Yup.”

“When can you do it?” Jim asked getting his check book out.

“We can start tomorrow. I think we should roof the barn too, it’s not looking that safe and you said you wanted to use the barn for something. You better do both.”

“How much are we talking?” Jim asked.

“About twenty thousand dollars,” Mike said as he got down off the ladder.

Jim wrote him a check and said, “Please tell me there isn’t much that can go wrong, left to do.”

“That’s like tempting fate, Jim. You don’t want to say that at all,” Mike answered.

A week later, Jim had a new roof on his house and his barn. His savings account was showing the low funds. Jim was going to have to see about a job somewhere. He would have to look in the next month or so.

Jim was making baby food the next day and the water stopped running. He called Mike right out and Mike showed up within twenty minutes. He climbed out of the square in the dirt and said, “Your well is dried up.”

“Oh thank God, it’s something easy. We just fill it up, right?” Jim asked.

Mike burst out laughing and said, “Not even close. We’ll need to take it down to the water line from town which is down by your mailbox. It’s quite a ways and it’s going to cost a bit.”

“How much are we talking?” Jim asked fretfully.

“About another twenty thousand.”

“Twenty Thousand. Twenty Thousand. That’s all I have left in savings. Do you know how much money I’ve spent since I’ve been here? I feel like I’m in the official money pit. Twenty Thousand?” And just like that, Jim fainted.

*

When Jim came to, he was lying on a table in an exam room and there was a nice looking man holding his hand. “Jim Ellison?”

“Who are you?”

“I’m Doctor Blair Sandburg. How are you feeling right now? You fainted and gave everyone quite a scare,” Blair answered.

Jim started to sit up quickly and got a little dizzy.

“Slowly, get up. Don’t move so fast. You hit your head on something when you fell. You have quite a lump on your head,” Blair said.

“Where is my baby?” Jim asked, suddenly turning pale as he felt the huge lump on his head.

“Calm down, Jim. She’s with my receptionist. No need to worry. Martha has about ten grandchildren. She’s really good with kids and babies. Now let’s see if you can sit up slowly,” Blair advised.

Jim did sit up slowly and felt a lot better this time. “I’m so embarrassed about this. How often have you had men faint?”

“Mike said you were extremely upset about something. Do you care to talk with me about it?”

“I’m so fucking lonely. I’ve been in this town for six months and I don’t know anyone except for Mike. I haven’t had sex either and I’m tired of being alone and horny. Do you understand? I’m just lonely,” Jim said sadly.

“Well, you need to start coming into town and meeting folks. They’re not going to come out to you without being invited. So come into town for Bingo on Tuesdays and maybe volunteer somewhere a couple of times a week. I hear you’re making baby food. Why not hire some people to help you do it?” Blair suggested.

“What do you do for the loneliness?” Jim asked.

“That’s what God gave you hands for, Jim.”

Jim turned beet red and was glad this man was a doctor. “I’m also having troubles with my senses. They are all heightened.”

“All five of them?”

“Yes, all five of them,” Jim answered.

“When I was in college I studied Anthropology as my minor and one of the things we studied was heightened senses given to certain tribe members to help the tribe deal with problems. They were called Watchmen or Guardians. I met one in Peru while I was there and it’s quite fascinating. We could do some tests on you later this week if you want to learn more about it. You have to be careful of the zone-out factor. You pay too much attention to one sense and you zone out on it and then you’re in trouble. That’s why most Watchmen had Guides to help them. They talked them out of the zones.”

“I’ve been thinking I was insane and it could be this? You are a miracle worker, doctor. I can’t thank you enough,” Jim said smiling.

Right then a horse stuck its head through the curtain and Jim said, “What the fuck is going on?”

“I’m a Vet for the town. They don’t have a doctor as yet. So they all just bring problems to me.”

“Oh my God. I was sitting here pouring my heart out to you because I thought you were my doctor. And you’re a fucking Vet?”

“I’ll have you know, I went to school as long as a doctor did, so I’m not a complete fool, you know?” Blair said, sounding irritated.

“Don’t you get snippy with me, Sandburg. I’m not the one that let a patient believe he was a medical doctor. I’m getting out of here,” Jim said as he jumped off the table and walked through the curtain to see a pig lying on a table. It oinked a couple of times and Jim said, “And you wonder why I fainted?” Jim rushed out of the room, grabbed his baby and asked Mike to take him back home. He was so embarrassed. And did Sandburg have to be so fucking good looking?

*

For the next two weeks, Jim was disgusted with himself, because he kept having sexual dreams of Blair Sandburg and himself. What in the hell was going on? Jim didn’t even want to go back to town if he didn’t have to. But he had to, because they called from the town store and said they were out of baby food and people were asking for more. Jim decided that he was going to have to make money this way. He was good at it and it would work. He took cases of the food to country stores all around Cascade. He came home empty handed that night. He found out that his product was moving and moving well. Now he just needed to do some research.

He drove into town after getting the neighbor to watch Maggie, and stopped at the library. He started looking up demographics for moving baby food and how to do it. Before long, he had a stack of papers copied to take home and study. While he was there in walked Doctor Sandburg and Jim immediately blushed. He was never going to be able to face the man again.

“Hi Jim, how are you feeling?” Blair asked.

“I’m fine. I’ve got to go,” Jim stood up with all of his papers and dropped all onto the floor. He blushed again and started to pick them up.

“What are you doing Thursday?” Blair asked.

“Why?”

“There is a dance in town and I’d love to see you go. You’ll meet people from town, you’ll see people your own age and mine and last but not least, it’s fun. Mike plays the music and sings every week. It’s always on Thursday. Always remember that Tuesday is Bingo and Thursday is dancing. It’s something to do. It wouldn’t kill you, Jim,” Blair advised.

“Can I bring my little girl?” Jim asked, looking at the floor.

“Yes and eventually you can look me in the eyes. I’m not a bad person and I’m a nice guy that would like to get to know you better,” Blair said.

If Jim didn’t know better, he would say he smelled Blair’s desire for him in the air. But surely he couldn’t do that right? “I’ll see about going on Thursday. See you later,” Jim said as he walked out of the library.

Blair smiled after him and his receptionist walked up to him and said, “I don’t like that look in your eyes. He’s in trouble, isn’t he?”

“Martha, when have I ever given anyone any trouble?” Blair asked, laughing.

“Just be careful, because he seems like a nice enough man, but we don’t know him well yet,” Martha answered.

“I promise, I’ll be careful, but this man is in love.” Blair walked out of the library smiling and whistling.

*

On Tuesday, Jim made a point to go into town for Bingo. He figured if other people did it, he could try it. Bingo wasn’t usually his thing, but he could at least try. When he got there, four women grabbed him and took him to table where there was a spare chair. He sat down, hoping that someone would tell him the rules. Blair walked in and smiled at the grumpy looking Jim Ellison sitting with the women. He walked over to the table and said, “Room for one more?”

“Always for you, Blair. Sit, sit, sit,” The blonde girl said.

Blair figured that they hadn’t introduced themselves yet, so he did it. “Jim, this blonde woman to your right is Sandra, to the left of her is Sue, this girl over on my side if Cathy and her sister Corinne. Did you get your cards yet?”

“No, I don’t even know what I’m doing here yet and these four women attacked me as soon as I came in the door,” Jim complained.

“Well, I never,” Sue said and walked away from the table. Sandra followed close behind her, giving Jim a good glare. Cathy and Corinne both got up and moved to a different table, not even saying goodbye.

“Man, you know how to clear a room, don’t you?” Blair asked, laughing.

“I didn’t mean to, but I’m not interested in them. I don’t go for women,” Jim admitted.

“I figured as much. They’re probably trying to figure out why you’re sitting with me. I’m gay, so they’re probably worried about you,” Blair explained.

Jim nodded his head and said, “I’m not worried.”

“Where is Maggie?”

“The neighbor’s girl is watching her. They’re determined that I’m going to find a nice girl and settle down. I don’t have the heart to break it to them yet,” Jim said, wearing a fuck me smile.

“Have you eaten?” Blair asked.

“No, I was hoping there would be something open in town, but they close down everything for Bingo, I would say,” Jim observed.

“Yes, they do. Would you like to go to my place for a sandwich?” Blair asked.

“I’m not that easy, Chief.”

“I didn’t say anything about easy, I’m hungry,” Blair said.

“In that case, yes, I would like a sandwich.” Jim watched the other people getting cards and taking them back to their seats. “Why don’t you go and make them, I’ll get our cards and a beer for each of us and save our table?”

“Sounds good to me. I’ll be right back,” Blair rushed home to make the sandwiches and smiled the entire time. He was so tickled about Jim accepting the sandwich offer. Jim looked like he was going to bend a little bit. Blair couldn’t have been happier.

Jim got their beers, cards, ink blot markers and some chips. He sat at the table and realized everyone was looking at him. He wondered if he had done something wrong and then he realized he just looked happy. He felt happy. The people in this town weren’t used to seeing that. This made Jim smile all the more.

Blair came walking into the room carrying two bags and Jim smiled at him. Blair melted at the smile. Oh yeah, this is going to be good, Blair thought.

“Why so happy?” Blair asked as he sat down with the bags.

“I can’t believe I didn’t come to town sooner. I like being around people. The sounds of people are a nice sound. This town has good sounds. I’m just happy,” Jim said.

“I’m glad. Now let’s eat before they start Bingo,” Blair suggested.

Jim opened up his bag and saw a ham and cheese sandwich made on whole wheat bread that looked homemade. “Is this bread homemade?”

“Yeah, Jim, it is. I make my own bread because I don’t like store bought bread. By the way, I eat your applesauce baby food for desert sometimes. It’s super good. It’s no wonder the babies love it. Are you going to be selling more of it from now on? I noticed there is a bigger section of it in town every time I go into the country store. Tourists love the stuff,” Blair said.

“Yes, I’m selling quite a bit more than I used to be, so I have to make more for the next orders. It’s exciting that people are enjoying my product.”

They both ate in silence and then the caller told them to get ready for Bingo. Jim said, “I bought us all of the games for the night.”

“Why thank you. Is this like a date?” Blair asked, seriously.

“I’d like to think we’re working towards a real date, soon.”

“Good. Now let’s pay attention and win some money,” Blair teased.

Jim ended up winning four games and was very happy. He hadn’t had such a good time in ages. While he was around Blair, his senses seemed almost calm. Maybe Blair was that Guide that he had talked about. At any rate, Jim was willing to try this out for a while.

When they were done, Jim said, “I’ve got to get home. Tara is waiting for me. I told her I wouldn’t be late. Thanks for the sandwiches, Blair. I had a really good time.”

“Goodnight, Jim. See you on Thursday?”

“Yeah, I’ll be here. Everyone was telling me about it. They said it’s fun. I’m not much on dancing, but I could learn.”

Blair walked Jim to his SUV and watching him get in. Blair noticed what a fine ass Jim Ellison had when he stretched into the SUV.

“Night, Blair.”

“Night, Jim.”

Blair walked home happier then he’d been in ages. There hadn’t been anyone gay in town in forever. And when one did live there, he was a creep. It looked like Blair’s luck was looking up.

*

Wednesday, Jim was in a fantastic mood, so he and Maggie delivered baby food to all of the surrounding areas. It was time. This time, Jim had printed out a catalog of items they could order and a fax number too. Yes, Jim Ellison was coming up in the world. Now he was going to find about six women or men, it didn’t matter, to work in the barn that Jim had renovated for the baby food factory. Everything in the new building had passed code inspections for the health department. Jim was leaving nothing to chance this time. He was also very careful about getting his business license before he started.

He got home, made up a flyer and posted them in town for his job openings. Jim only thought he was busy until that night. Everyone was calling and wanted to work at the Orchard Gourmet Baby Food factory. Jim told everyone to come out the next day and he would see them for interviews. Once that was done they would be part of Jim’s dream from that day on, they would be making Orchard Baby products and be proud of it.

That night, Jim was exhausted and got Maggie in bed early, so he could take a shower and go to sleep. But first he had to take care of some personal business. He had thoughts of Blair Sandburg naked in his head and came into his hands almost instantly. I hope I don’t pop that soon when we’re dating.

*

The next day, all day long, Jim had interviews and hired six women to work with him in the barn/factory. He showed them all what they would be doing and how it was done and before long, they were all excited, not just Jim.

That night, he didn’t hire Tara to watch Maggie, instead he took her to the dance. He figured it would be good for her to get out too. He wasn’t the only one bored. She had been antsy for some time now.

When Jim saw Blair, he was excited and nervous at the same time. He walked up to him and said, “Hey Chief, how are you doing tonight?”

“I’m not complaining, but what’s with the Chief name?”

“I wanted a nickname for you and that came to mind right away. So it stuck. I hope you don’t mind,” Jim said.

“I love it, Jim.”

The music started and Blair said, “Maggie, would you care to join me for this dance?”

She held her arms out to Blair and Jim felt good about that, because she didn’t like just anyone else holding her usually when Jim was around. Blair liked kids, Jim liked Blair. This might work.

As the night wore on, Jim finally asked Blair to dance. Everyone was watching them and smiling. Jim never saw such acceptance in his entire life. This town was the best town in the world. Jim was so happy that he had come there. It was the best move he ever could have made.

Once the dance was over, Jim asked Blair to come over to his house. Blair accepted and met him over there. He wanted to take his own vehicle in case there were any emergencies.

As Jim drove home, he wondered if everyone was this happy. He knew that he was happier than he had ever been in his life and never wanted to change that.

*

When Jim put Maggie to bed, Blair insisted on reading the storybook to her. Jim was pleased. They would never be fighting over the baby and that was good news indeed.

Blair walked out of Maggie’s room and said, “She’s sound asleep. Now it’s our turn.”

Jim couldn’t wait. He began kissing Blair and he half dragged him into the bedroom. Jim let go long enough to pull down the sheets, blanket and spread and then threw Blair on top of the covers.

“Wow, it’s been a long time for you, hasn’t it?” Blair asked teasingly.

“How about you? Has it been a while?” Jim asked in between kisses.

“Yeah, it’s been about a year since Trevor lived in town. He was the town creep, so everyone will be watching to see if you’re nice to me.”

“Why wouldn’t I be nice to you?”

“I mean, now and then we might argue. But always smile while we argue. They panic easily. You can’t blame them. Trevor beat me up pretty badly. They all drove him out of town with baseball bats. Well, that’s what I heard anyhow.”

Jim held Blair tightly and kissed him hard. “I promise to never physically hurt you, but I’m a jerk, so I might say something now and then that pisses you off.”

Blair pushed him over and kissed him just as hard and said, “I want you so bad.”

“Good, because I want you too.”

Before long they were both naked and kissing again, except that this time, Jim was kissing Blair’s cock. “You have a beautiful cock, Blair.”

“Why thank you, it came with the body,” Blair joked.

Jim ran his hands all over Blair’s body, rubbing and touching and making Blair moan with need. Jim reached over, got the lube out and started to stretch Blair out for the loving of his life. Blair was very receptive.

After a while, Jim pulled Blair’s legs up around his waist and started to gain entry into Blair Sandburg, with his sheathed cock. Blair was so tight that Jim was afraid he would come right then, so he thought of Trevor who had hurt his love and that cooled him down some.

“I think I’m in love with you, Jim.”

Jim looked down at Blair and said, “Crummy timing, Chief.” Just like that, Jim thrust four times into that sweet, sweet ass and came, throwing his head back and shouting, ‘Chief’.

“Can I do you, Jim?” Blair asked panting.

“You betcha.”

Jim pulled out of Blair’s ass and cleaned them up and then handed the lube to Blair. Blair was almost afraid to ask if he could fuck Jim, because some men don’t like that. They only top. Jim looked like a top. Looks can be deceiving.

Blair got busy and got Jim stretched and said, “Okay, this is going to do because I’m ready to pop.”

Jim snickered and put his legs around Blair’s waist and pulled Blair’s sheathed cock right inside him. Blair moaned with happiness and need as he entered Jim’s tight channel. “I love how you did that,” Blair said as he began to thrust harder and harder.

“I’m in love with you, Blair.”

That was all she wrote. Blair came very quickly and growled ‘Jim’ as he came. He stayed inside of Jim until Jim’s body wouldn’t let him stay there anymore. Then he pulled out and cleaned them both off.

“Who knew that telling someone you love them, makes them come so hard, their head almost explodes?” Blair kidded.

“I do now,” Jim answered.

“Are we on for every Tuesday and Thursday from now on, Jim?”

“I don’t see why not, Chief.”

“Are we exclusive?”

“I would hope so, because I was never much on sharing. I have to tell you that this is so different then I’ve even felt. Is it different for you?” Jim asked.

“Why do you mean it’s different?” Blair wondered.

“The last guy I was with didn’t even know I was there half the time. And I mean while we were making love. With you, I knew exactly where I was and where you were. I do love you, Blair.”

“You had a messed up relationship, Jim. It’s not going to be like that for us. We’ll make time for each other and if one of us doesn’t feel like it, then we wait until the other one does. How does that sound?”

“Sounds like a deal, Chief.”

“I noticed that some men from town make you nervous. Do all men make you nervous, Jim?”

“All men make me nervous, except for you. You make me feel like I belong somewhere and it’s a good feeling.”

“Can I spend the night?” Blair asked shyly.

“Like I would let you out of the bed ever again,” Jim joked.

Blair went into Jim’s arms and said, “What are you doing this week?”

“I and six others are starting my new expanded business this week. So that’s going to keep us really busy. We’re going to work five days a week and work our fingers to the bone, when we are at work. So don’t feel neglected right away. This is going to take some time getting used to. I’ve been out of the work force for too long.”

“I would like to do some tests on you over the weekend and we’ll go over some of the things you need to do to keep from zoning. I want to be on top of that.”

“Okay, Blair. I’m on board, no matter what you say.”

“Night, Jim.”

“Goodnight, Blair.”

Before long all that could be heard in the house were soft snores coming from Jim and Blair.

*

Jim opened up his eyes and saw Blair sitting up and staring at him. Jim smiled. “What ‘cha doing, Chief?”

“Dying to ask you a question, Jim.”

“Ask away.”

“Is it true that you gave away six milk cows to your neighbor when you decided to use the barn for other things?”

“Yeah, why?” Jim asked, suddenly interested in this.

“I’m just wondering if you have good business sense. Do you know how much milk cows are worth?”

Jim smiled as he stood up beside the bed. “Interested in taking a shower with me? Or would you prefer to go over my bad business sense?”

“I just don’t want to come home some day and have Maggie gone,” Blair teased.

“I adore Maggie, she’s not going anywhere, except college. At least we live close enough to a great college, right?” Jim asked.

“She’s one, Jim. I think you have time to plan her college years.”

“Rainier is supposed to be a fantastic college. Did you go there?”

“Yes, I went there. Where did you go?” Blair asked.

“I went to Yale, on a scholarship. Why do you look so surprised? I’m no dummy,” Jim said, almost angrily.

“It’s just expensive, is all. I know you’re no dummy, Jim. I pick my men wisely and I chose you for a good reason.”

Jim finally smiled again and said, “I get upset sometimes because people don’t think you can actually get a scholarship to Harvard or Yale. I not only had to work hard in classes, but I had to work to make ends meet. My father didn’t like the road I chose because of liking men, so he disowned me. I haven’t seen him since I was twenty.”

Blair hugged Jim and then pulled him down for a kiss. “Jim, if he got to know you and your little girl, he would change his tune.”

“You really think people can change?” Jim really wanted to know.

“Jim, eight months ago, you didn’t want to have a baby in your life and look at you now. I’m so proud of you and the choices you’ve made-I can’t even begin to tell you.”

“Do you think someone like my dad could change?” Jim asked.

“I believe he can. Especially when you tell him about Maggie and how your life is changing for the better. I think that once things calm down, you should really call him or write to him. We’ll concentrate on your father once you get things moving here. You can only tackle so much at a time, babe.”

“Babe? I like that,” Jim confessed.

“You do? Good, because you’re my babe from now on. Let’s take a shower, big guy.”

The two men go into the shower and began to fool around right away. Blair liked this, having Jim so close that he could do things whenever he wanted to. He hoped that Jim would ask him to move in. But Blair didn’t feel good enough about the relationship to ask Jim any questions yet.

Jim got down on his knees in the shower and sucked Blair off in no time flat. Blair felt like he was drowning in happiness and contentment. God, most people go their entire lives without getting blown in the shower. Blair was getting it his first day as Jim’s boyfriend.

Blair did the same thing for Jim and sucked him off in record time. Jim put his fist in his mouth to keep from shouting out and waking Maggie up.

They both got clean in the shower and dried each other off, laughing and talking. Jim said, “Maggie is stirring.”

“You can hear her waking up?”

“Yes, I can hear her anywhere in the house or around the house. These senses are a pain in the butt sometimes, but other times it’s really nice knowing where she is and what she is doing.”

“I love you, Jim.”

“I love you, Blair.”

They both got dressed and while Jim got Maggie bathed and changed Blair decided to make breakfast. While they were sitting there eating, the doorbell rang.

“Oh shit, it’s my fellow employees. I forgot I told them to be here at eight. I don’t even have a sitter lined up for Maggie yet,” Jim said, looking nervous.

“I’ll take Maggie to work with me. She’ll love the animals and Martha will love having her to watch when I’m with patients. Seriously, get busy and get your new life started. I’m going to look for a pre-school/day-care- in town. I’ve never looked for one before, but I’m sure there is one,” Blair said.

“Thanks, Chief.”

“Go answer the door, before they think they’re fired.”

Jim went and answered the door. He walked out to the revamped barn and they all looked in awe when they saw how nice the kitchen was. Jim showed them the recipes for all of the baby food and showed them where everything was kept. So they all started cooking, cleaning up and packaging the products as they finished them.

Jim looked at the clock at 2:00 and realized they hadn’t stopped for lunch. “Come on, everyone, let’s stop for now and go have a sandwich at my house.”

“That’s all right, we all brought our lunches. They’re in the car,” Beth said.

They all went to get their lunches and Jana brought one to Jim. “I figured you wouldn’t have one packed, so I brought one for you.”

“Thank you, Jana. You girls are the best in the world to work with. I can’t believe we’re almost ready to ship out those products to the shops where I received orders from. It’s going extremely well.”

They all ate lunch, talking about the new job and how happy they were. Then they talked about their families and they asked Jim how Blair was. Jim blushed, which made all of them snicker. Diane said, “We think he’s the greatest thing since sliced bread, so we love him to death. Where is Maggie today?”

“Blair took her to work with him because I haven’t found a sitter yet. Is there a pre-school in town?” Jim wondered.

“I know one. There is a pre-school and day-care all rolled into one. The building is two blocks away from Blair’s office. He could take her every day when he leaves here,” Paula stated.

“He won’t be here every day, girls. Let’s not get carried away,” Jim said.

“Oh, you’re not going to ask him to move in with you?” Fran asked.

“Geeze, Fran, we’ve only dated a short time. I think we need to let things quiet down a little bit before we move in together.”

The girls got quiet and Hope said, “I think we should get back to work. We’ve bugged Jim enough about his private life. It is, after all, just that. Private.”

“Thank you, Hope.”

*

Blair was having a perfect day. In between patients he got Maggie signed up for pre-school and day-care. She was set now. If Jim invited Blair to move in with him, Blair could drop her off every day at the sitter. I’m getting ahead of myself. I need to give Jim time. But Blair couldn’t help himself from planning. He was a planner.

After his last patient, he was humming, ‘This Diamond Ring’ to himself and heard Martha welcoming Jim into the building. Blair had to really watch himself so he didn’t scare Jim away.

Blair walked into the waiting room as casually as a man could that had just hummed ‘This Diamond Ring’, and said, “Hi Jim, how is it going?”

“Martha was just telling me that you got Maggie enrolled at the Day Program already. That’s wonderful. That way I can bring her every morning and have a cup of coffee with you,” Jim said happily.

Blair frowned. So much for moving his things into Jim’s house. He sighed quietly, forgetting that Jim was a Sentinel, and said, “Sounds good to me.”

“Can I talk with you for a moment, in private?” Jim asked.

Blair motioned for him to join him in the examination room. “What’s going on?”

“Do you not want me to stop by every morning for coffee? I heard the sigh out there and figured that I was pushing myself on you.”

“No, Jim. It’s me that’s pushing myself on you. I figured that I would be out at your house a lot and bring her in when I went to work. I shouldn’t have assumed that until I had talked to you. I don’t even know that you want to see me again,” Blair said, nervously.

“See you again? Really? You’re asking that after the night we had? I thought we were going to be an exclusive couple. Am I wrong?” Jim inquired.

Blair smiled big time and said, “No, you weren’t wrong. I was just nervous. I’m sorry. When do I get to come out again?” Blair asked happy once more and bouncing in place.

Jim smiled too. “Is tonight too soon? I’m already sort of used to that nice Blair Blanket in my bed from last night and this morning.”

Blair walked over to Jim, pulled Jim’s face down to his and kissed his lips with much passion.

“Oh, no you don’t. You get my motor running, way too fast, buster.”

Blair was pleased with that statement and said as much. “Good.”

Jim said, “I’m getting Maggie and going home. Would you like to come for dinner and spend the night?”

“Oh yeah, that sounds great. See you around six, if that’s all right with you.”

“Perfect, Blair. See you tonight.”

Jim walked out of the room and Martha watched Blair checking Jim’s ass out, making her laugh. Jim turned around and said, “Something I did?”

“No, Blair needs to watch what he’s got his eyes on,” Martha said, laughing.

Jim smiled at Blair and went on his way. Blair had the decency to blush.

*

Maggie was very happy to see her daddy pick her up and said as much. “Daddy, daddy, daddy.”

Jim was so thrilled with this, he could hardly stand it. He had to go and tell Blair. No, it could wait until that night. Jim didn’t want to appear too needy.

Jim got Maggie in the SUV and took off for home. He was never so happy in his life. He had a new love and his daughter had just called him daddy for the first time. Things were going well.

*

Blair got the exam rooms ready for the next day and told Martha to take the rest of the day off. It was only four, but it seemed like a long day to Blair. He needed sex with Jim. He knew he wasn’t going to get it right away because of Maggie being awake and all, but he couldn’t wait until she was down for the night. Blair was going to rock Jim’s world again.

He got everything he needed and decided that he could drive out to Jim’s early. If Jim wasn’t done with dinner, Blair could help with it. He grabbed his keys and walked out to his SUV and took off with a smile on his face. And don’t think everyone in town, didn’t notice, because they did.

*

Jim looked in his rear-view mirror and said, “Maggie, Blair is coming over tonight for dinner, isn’t that good news?”

“Bare,” Maggie said softly and happily.

“Yes, Bare is coming over to play with you and me,” Jim said and then started to laugh big time at what he had said. Thank goodness she was just a baby and didn’t understand what was going on. “Do you like Bare, Maggie?

Maggie clapped her hands and said, “Bare, Bare, Bare.”

“I guess that answers my question about how you feel about him being over all of the time. I love you, pumpkin. What should we make for dinner?”

Maggie continued clapping and this made Jim smile even bigger. She was doing so well at the house and in town. Small town life was good for both of them. Jim was thinking of all of the shipping he was going to be doing this week and smiled again. Yes, his business was taking off and he couldn’t have been happier about it. Secretly, he hoped that Bill Baker would come begging for Jim to come back to the fold. It would take a while for Jim to make a name for himself. But would Jim be willing to give up the possibility of returning to New York for Blair in Kirkland? This worried Jim a little, because he honestly couldn’t see Blair moving to New York for anything. Not even Jim. Maybe he would bring it up some day, not right now. They were still too new to discuss things of this matter.

Jim had no clue about how Blair felt, because he hadn’t asked him last night. If he had, Blair would have told him he wanted to move in. Jim probably didn’t really want to know that yet.

Now, what should he make for dinner?

*

Blair drove up at ten minutes after five and wondered if he might be making a mistake. He didn’t want to drive Jim nutso, unless it was in the bedroom. Blair smiled at his sex joke and walked to the front door and rang the doorbell.

Jim opened the door and frowned for a moment. “Am I late?”

“No, I’m early,” Blair said.

“Oh, in that case, come on in. I thought I made a date for the wrong time,” Jim said casually.

He does think of this as our second date. Cool.

Blair followed Jim in and picked Maggie up out of her playpen. “Hello beautiful. I heard you had a good day today.”

Jim laughed and said, “It’s true about small towns, isn’t it? They know everything that goes on. Nothing is a secret.”

“No one knows that I spent the night last night. I mean, I didn’t tell anyone,” Blair said.

“The girls that work with me all knew that you spent the night, so that means the entire town knows, now. It’s not a big deal, Blair. I don’t mind that they know about us. Small towns are like that,” Jim said walking into the kitchen.

“Oh man, it smells good, what are you making?” Blair asked.

“Chicken and Dumplings. I love them and hoped you would too.”

“To tell you the truth, I’ve never had Chicken and Dumplings. So, this is sort of exciting. Our first dinner together. Woo Hoo.”

“Woo Hoo yourself, Blair. We had dinner at Bingo Tuesday night, did you forget already?” Jim teased.

“I did forget. Okay, our second dinner date. I like that too.”

Blair sat down at the table holding Maggie and watching Jim do his thing. Jim was busy as could be and wasn’t really talking much. That bothered Blair a little bit, so he decided to talk to the other Ellison. “So, Maggie, how was your day today? Tell me all about it.”

Jim laughed while stirring the food and said, “I’m sorry, I get so into cooking sometimes. I forget there are other people in the room. Maggie had an excellent day today and they seem to like her a great deal. I like that, a lot.”

“Who wouldn’t love her? She’s precious and she is one of the most beautiful children I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen quite a few.”

Jim beamed with happiness at Blair’s comment. “Thank you, I sort of like her myself.”

“Guess what, Jim?”

“What?”

“You know that nice new complex they were building down the street from me? It’s going to be a medical center with six doctors and nurses. Isn’t that great. We’re still close enough to Cascade to go for hospital visits, but for a doctor’s visit, this is a big, big step. Isn’t that great news? And one of the doctors is a Pediatrician. So Maggie will have her own doctor soon.”

“This is good news, Blair. The town seems to be growing, even since I moved here. Your library is as nice as the one near my place in New York.”

“Jim, you never did tell me all about your job in New York and what happened. Do you want to talk about it?”

“You know what? I don’t think it helps to talk about something that can’t be fixed. My boss, Mr. Baker, was stuck on the idea that you can’t have a life in our company and have a family at the same time. He called me a mom more or less. Not that it’s a bad word or anything, but it was insulting to me and to moms everywhere. I got so angry, I told him to go fuck himself.”

“Watch your language around the little one. She might repeat it,” Blair warned.

“Sorry, I forget sometimes that she is already talking. She called me daddy today when I picked her up.”

“Oh how exciting for you. Now all we need her to do is say, Blair.”

“She calls you Bare.”

“Really? She called me by my name? I’m impressed. She must have really liked me.” Blair gave Maggie a big hug and kissed her cheek.

Maggie slapped his cheeks and said, “Bare, Bare, Bare.”

“Like the furry kind?” Blair asked.

“I like to think she’s talking about the naked kind.”

Blair burst out laughing and began to teach Maggie how to blow kisses to daddy. She was getting into it big time when Jim said, “I’m going to set the table for dinner.”

“It’s done?”

“No, I just thought I would tease you and Maggie,” Jim joked.

Blair put Maggie down in her high chair and strapped her in. Then he washed up and began to help set the table. Before long, they were all sitting down and eating a delicious meal.

“Jim, do you always cook this well?”

“I would hope so. I would hate to think that my food sucked sometimes.”

Blair smiled. “This would be so good as a baby food, wouldn’t it?”

“I’m going to add it to the list tomorrow. It’s something new to make and experiment with. Thanks for the idea, Blair.”

Once dinner was over with, Blair helped clean up and put things away. When that was done, Jim took Maggie upstairs to get her ready for bed. She was already yawning while they were eating dinner. Jim couldn’t wait for her to go to sleep, he wanted Blair that badly.

He put Maggie down into her crib and started her mobile and read to her until she fell asleep. It didn’t take long at all, so before Blair knew it, Jim was back downstairs again.

“I was just going to come up to say goodnight to Maggie,” Blair said.

“She’s sleeping already. You’ll see her in the morning, right?” Jim asked.

“Is this a subtle way of asking if I’m spending the night?”

“Yeah, I guess it is. Would you like to stay?” Jim asked, hopefully.

“On one condition.”

“You name it, I’ll do it,” Jim replied.

Blair smiled. “I really liked dancing with you last night and was hoping to get a dance before we retire to the bedroom.”

Jim picked a CD out and put it in the player and turned the music down low, as not to wake Maggie up. Blair liked what Jim picked out. It was Brian Adams. Not everyone felt comfortable enough to listen to Brian Adams in front of someone. But Jim seemed to be comfortable all the time.

Jim walked over and pulled Blair into his arms and started dancing to ‘Do I Have To Say The Words’ and they were off. Before long, Jim was kissing Blair’s neck and Blair was grinding his pelvis into Jim’s body. So much for fucking dancing. Blair pulled away from Jim and said, “Upstairs, now.”

Jim didn’t waste any time locking up, shutting the stereo off and shutting all of the lights off. Before long he was upstairs and found a naked and hard Blair Sandburg waiting in his bed. Jim started stripping as he walked and pounced onto the bed and took Blair’s cock into his mouth and began to suck like there was no tomorrow. Blair knew he wasn’t going to last long, so he pulled Jim off of his cock and moved him up to his lips. Jim whined a little, but moved anyway.

“I love how you taste,” Jim said as he kissed Blair soundly.

“Yeah? What do I taste like?”

“I can taste your raisin muffins you had for breakfast, what you had for lunch and what we ate for dinner tonight. It’s you. They all have the Blair taste with them. I love your taste.”

“You are such a good cock sucker and sweet talker. I adore you,” Blair said before he started kissing Jim some more.

“Show me how much, Blair.”

Blair got the lube out, knowing where it was from the night before. He started loosening up Jim’s anus and before long had three fingers in. Jim was so tight and so ready at the same time. Blair got ready and put his condom on and slipped into Jim’s hot, tight, center. Jim moaned out in happiness and contentment. Blair had never heard that sound from Jim before. Hell, he had never heard that sound, ever. Jim was a great lover and Blair was fucking lucky to have him.

“Harder, babe,” Jim begged.

Blair could do no less. He began to pound into Jim’s ass like crazy. Before long he was so close, he was ready to go. He fisted Jim’s cock until Jim grunted as he came and Blair let loose and shot his come inside the condom and Jim’s tightening ass. Blair hoped he didn’t wake Maggie up with the shout that he had sent through the house, when he came.

Blair pulled out of Jim and cleaned them both off. He was amazed at how great their sex life was.

Jim pulled Blair into his arms and said, “I love you.”

“Did you tell everyone you’ve been with that you loved them?” Blair asked.

“No, quite the opposite. I don’t tell people that I love them, even if I do. But I’m very relaxed and comfortable with you and it just slides right out. I love spending time with you.”

“Thank you, Jim. You’re the best lover I’ve ever had. I’m crazy about you, big man.”

“I’m glad. I would sure hate to think you weren’t crazy about me, because I’m wild about you,” Jim confessed.

“Do you think that in a few months you might be ready to have a house partner?” Blair asked, sounding as nervous as he felt.

“I think I would like to discuss it, yes. But first of all, I have to say some things that might make you change your mind. If I ever did well enough with the baby food products, I would move back to New York very quickly. I just want you to know that up front, okay? I love it here in Kirkland, but I think I would like to be back in New York again. I miss the hustle and the bustle of the big city. Do you understand, Chief?”

Blair looked somewhat upset, but answered, “I totally understand. So we’ll just take this slow and see if you’re staying. I appreciate how you’re feeling, even if it doesn’t include me.”

“Chief, it would always include you in the plans, but they might not be in Kirkland. It might be in New York. How would you feel about that?” Jim asked.

“I would have to give it a lot of thought, Jim. Big cities and me don’t get along that great. I would hate you leaving me, but I can’t stand the idea of us being apart forever. So, I guess I would move, no matter what.”

“Even if you didn’t like the move? Blair, that’s unfair for you. You have to think about your Vet practice. You’ve built up quite a following and they would hate it if you left.”

“So now you’re talking me out of moving with you. So I guess it’s safe to say you don’t want me with you,” Blair said as he started getting out of bed.

Jim grabbed him quickly and pulled him back into his arms. “No, that’s not what I meant at all. I just mean, we need to discuss it if it ever comes up. Your opinion counts, babe.”

“Thanks.”

Jim could tell that Blair was still upset, so he kissed him and asked, “Would you like to move in this weekend?”

“You’re just asking me that to make me feel better,” Blair answered.

“No, I really want you in my bed every single night of the week. And I would take you up on the offer about taking Maggie to the day program every day and picking her up. I think it could work out well. What do you think?” Jim asked.

Blair kissed Jim. “Yes, I would love to move in this weekend. I’m going to keep my little house in Kirkland for emergencies, though, and I’ll just move my clothes out here. How does that sound?”

Jim looked troubled. “What do you mean emergencies?”

“I mean, if you come into town and we want to fool around we can. We’ll have both places to do it in,” Blair said.

“God, I love you.” Jim pulled him in for a long sensual kiss.

“I love you, too, but don’t call me God.”

Both men laughed and began to talk about the upcoming move. There were a lot of things to discuss and Jim liked that they were actually discussing them.

*

Two weeks later, Blair was all moved in to Jim’s house and they were getting into a daily routine. Maggie was in heaven having both men in the house and at her constant beck and call. The men spoiled her rotten, which was all right, because she was missing out on a lot of things in life-like having real parents, although Jim and Blair liked to think of themselves as real parents.

Blair picked up Maggie from day care and drove the long drive home. Maggie said, “Poppy.”

Blair said, “What is poppy?”

She held out her little arms and cried, “Poppy, poppy, poppy.”

“Am I poppy?” Blair was thrilled. Jim had been trying to get her to call him papa, but poppy would do. Blair couldn’t wait to get home and tell Jim. He would be as excited as Blair was, because this would make them more of a family.

Blair hoped that Bill Baker would never call Jim for a job again, because Blair couldn’t stand the idea of leaving Kirkland. It was home to all of them now, and Blair hoped that Jim felt the same way.

Now Blair had to figure out a way to tell William Ellison he had a grand-daughter. Jim kept telling Blair it wasn’t important, but Blair knew that it was. Especially to one little girl named Maggie. She was missing out on a grandpa and that just wasn’t right.

He drove into the long driveway and saw Jim waiting at the end of it. It must be so nice to be able to hear anything and everything.

Jim got Maggie out of the back seat and smiled at Blair. “Hi honey.”

“Are you talking to Maggie or to me?” Blair teased.

“As a matter of fact, I was talking to you,” Jim joked back.

“Guess what?” Blair almost shouted with joy.

“What?”

“She called me poppy on the way home. So now I have a name, daddy. My name is now poppy.”

“Welcome home, poppy,” Jim said as he pulled Blair in for a much needed kiss and hug.

They both smiled all the way into the house. Maggie was smiling too. But then again, she was almost always happy.

“I’m making something good for dinner tonight,” Jim said.

“I can smell it. I love your meatloaf. Are we having mashed potatoes and gravy to go along with it?” Blair wondered.

Jim smiled. He loved when Blair made a big deal about his cooking for them. Jim loved to cook, but he really loved to cook for them. “Of course, I made gravy and potatoes. It’s one of Maggie’s favorites. Now wash up, the two of you and we’ll sit down to dinner.”

Blair took Maggie into the bathroom on the first floor and washed them both up. “We’re going to have a yummy dinner that daddy made, Maggie.”

“Yummy,” she answered.

Blair was thrilled at how much she was talking these days. She was growing up way too fast for his liking.

As Blair put her in her high chair he said, “Guess who says, ‘yummy’ now?”

“Well, I knew you knew how to say it, so I would guess, Maggie.” Jim beamed with joy.

“Is it just me, or is she growing up way too fast?” Blair asked.

“It’s not just you. I’ve been thinking the very same thing. She’s getting to be quite the big girl these days.”

They all sat down to dinner and talked, laughed and ate. Maggie started getting tired right after dinner was done and was getting fussy.

“Blair, I’ll get the dishes if you want to put Maggie down for the night.”

Blair jumped up and grabbed their little girl happily and said, “Say night to daddy.”

“Nite, daddy.”

“Goodnight, sweetheart. You sleep well and we’ll see you in the morning,” Jim said kissing her cheek.

Then Maggie slapped Jim’s cheeks and laughed.

“We’ve got to break her of that habit,” Jim said.

“I think it’s cute,” Blair replied.

“You would. Now get her ready for bed and we can watch some television before we go to bed.”

“Okay, I’m dying to see Stargate SG-1. We’ve missed the last three that were on.”

“Hurry up then,” Jim joked. He then headed into the kitchen to get all of the dishes loaded into the dishwasher. Once he was done, he wiped the table and high chair off and the place looked like new again. Jim had come to really like this house. At first it was a total money pit, but now that everything was repaired, he felt good about the investment. Even if he did move back to New York, they could still come to Kirkland for vacations.

Blair was upstairs reading Maggie a book, thinking something on the same lines as Jim, except that he was thinking about staying here in this wonderful old house forever. Everything was fixed now, just like new. Blair loved this house. It was beautiful, warm and cozy. He couldn’t imagine moving to New York and finding something like this, anywhere. It would be impossible to do. Yes, Blair prayed nightly that they would never have to move.

When Maggie was asleep, Blair went downstairs. Jim had made popcorn for the two of them and Stargate was just starting. The two men munched on the popcorn and watched the television show happily, sitting so close together; Blair was almost on top of Jim.

Jim wiped his hands off and took Blair onto his lap and began to make out with him.

“Hey, I thought we were going to watch the tube tonight and relax?” Blair said.

“Okay, if you would rather watch Teal’c and Jack, then you go ahead. I’m going to get ready for bed.” Jim took the bowls and napkins and walked into the kitchen. Blair followed him in and said, “You’re not mad, are you?”

“Nah, just tired. I’ll see you upstairs.” Jim walked over to the stairs and smiled when he heard the television being shut off and Blair locking up for the night.

Jim got into bed and waited for Blair. It wasn’t long before a naked Blair was in the bed with him.

“Let’s just sleep tonight. I think we’re both tired. Okay?” Jim asked.

“You’re joking, right?”

“No, I was serious. But if you want to fool around, we can,” Jim said.

“I guess we don’t have to fuck every night, do we? You’re not mad at me, right?” Blair asked.

“Chief, I don’t have to sleep with you to show you how much I love you. I just love sharing my bed with you, even if it’s for sleeping purposes. Now, come lie in my arms and let’s get some sleep.”

“I love you, man.”

Jim kissed Blair deeply and pulled him into his arms for a night of sleep. Jim really was tired. He had worked really hard that day and was suddenly feeling his age. That was one thing bad about being with someone nine years younger than yourself. He didn’t get as tired as Jim did. Jim sighed and started to fall asleep.

Blair scooted back further into Jim’s body and his ass was right up against Jim’s cock. Then he rubbed them together for a little while until Jim was starting to get hard. Then the demon said, “Night, Jim.”

“I’ll show you goodnight!” Jim said as he began to make love to Blair once again. He didn’t care how tired he was. The older man needed to show Blair that he loved him that night and that’s just what Jim did.

*

The following morning, Jim was up making breakfast while Blair was getting Maggie ready for a bath and the phone rang. Jim picked it up as Blair came walking into the room. Blair pinched Jim on the ass as he listened to the phone call.

“Hello Jim, this is Bill Baker. We’ve been hearing all about your product and your company and how well you’re doing and Spenser Baby Food would like to make you an offer you can’t refuse. Do you think you could be here tomorrow morning?”

“Yeah, I think I could. What time is the meeting tomorrow morning?” Jim asked, excitedly.

“Mr. Spenser is going to be here at around 9:00, so we’d like you here by then,” Bill said.

“Okay, I’ll get an early flight and rush right to the office. I’ll see you at nine.”

“Goodbye, Jim. I knew you would be interested in this,” Bill said before he hung up.

Jim turned to Blair and said, “Did you hear what he asked? They want to buy my baby food company. Do you believe it?”

“I didn’t know that Orchard Baby Company was for sale,” Blair said simply.

“Chief, this is an opportunity of a life-time. I can’t just pass it up. We could make big money from this. Not to mention, a new job for me in New York City.”

“So you’re moving?” Blair asked, as he looked like he was going to faint.

“I don’t know yet. I haven’t even been to the meeting yet, Chief. Let’s do one thing at a time. I want to see how much they’ll offer me and see if it comes with a job too. They called me, Chief. They want us.”

“They want you, Jim. Not us.”

“Blair, are you trying to tell me you wouldn’t move if it came to it?”

“No, Jim. I’m not trying to tell you anything. I just wish you’d slow down a little bit and put more thought into it before you go and sell something you’ve worked so hard in building. Just promise you’ll think about it.”

“I promise. I’m going to think long and hard before I make any decisions. Not to mention, I would talk it over with you first,” Jim said.

“You would?” Blair acted surprised.

“Well, yeah, it’s our life, Blair, not just mine. The three of us are a family now. We can’t just up and move because I want to. We have to think about it.”

“Thank you, Jim. When are you going?” Blair asked.

“I’m going to take a flight this afternoon or tonight and be there for the meeting as early as I can. I want to make a good impression.”

“Call and get the flight and then I’ll help you pack,” Blair suggested.

Jim called and got an afternoon flight, which bothered Blair. He didn’t know why Jim had to go so early. Didn’t he know that Blair and Maggie would miss him?

“I’ve got a flight at one, Chief. So I’ll have all evening long at the hotel to get my papers in order. I’ve got to call and reserve a room at the Ritz-Carlton for two days. It’s expensive, but close to the office. I want to make a good impression by staying somewhere great.”

“Doesn’t the Ritz-Carlton cost like six hundred bucks a night?” Blair wondered.

“About nine fifty a night. But I want to make a good impression.”

“Yes, you mentioned that before,” Blair said.

“Blair, I really need to do this. Please don’t make me feel guilty,” Jim pleaded.

“Go, do your thing. I’ll be here with Maggie. Tomorrow night is the dance, are we still on?”

“Blair, I’ll call you from New York, all right? I might have to stay a few days to wrap things up.”

“Wow, it sounds like you’ve made up your mind already. Should I put my business up for sale?” Blair asked.

“Don’t be silly. I haven’t made up my mind about anything yet. I’m just going to hear them out. I won’t make any decisions without you. Why don’t you go ahead and go to the dance tomorrow night without me?”

“Yeah, that sounds fun. I’ll be upstairs with Maggie, getting her ready for day-care.” Blair walked away slowly and sadly and Jim knew that there were going to be problems.

Didn’t he tell Blair from the beginning that he might someday move back to New York City? Didn’t he warn him up front? Why was Blair being such a drama queen, now? He needed Blair by his side, not on the other side.

Jim was only thinking about New York City and what was best for him. He wasn’t thinking about Blair at all. He wasn’t even thinking about Maggie at that very moment. He just kept thinking about being back on top where he belonged from the start.

When he got upstairs, Blair was just starting down. “I’ll take Maggie and drop her off and pick her up tonight. You have a safe trip.”

Blair kissed Jim, but it wasn’t with much feeling and Jim felt it. “Oh, no you don’t. You’re not doing this to me today. I need to do this, Blair. You’ve known from the start that I needed to do this and that I was looking for a way to get back on top. You knew that, right?”

“Yes, I knew that and I do know that, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. We’ve grown into a pretty good family and I don’t know if we would be in New York City.”

“You’re fucking leaving me?” Jim ranted.

“No, I’m just saying…”

“Blair, I have to pack and get ready to go. I’ll talk to you tonight, all right?”

“Yes, that’ll be fine. I’ll be used to the idea by tonight anyhow. Have a safe trip, Jim. I love you.”

“Good, I’m glad you said that. I was worried.”

“Were you, Jim?”

“Yeah, I was. Now have a good day and I’ll talk to you tonight from the hotel. I love you, babe. Take good care of our little girl.”

Jim leaned in and kissed Blair and then kissed Maggie. Blair still didn’t have the love and passion in his kiss and that bothered Jim somewhat. But he had other things to worry about right then.

He walked into the bedroom and pulled out his suitcase and garment bag for his suits. He was going to take two of them with him, just in case. He heard Blair down in the yard telling the girls that he was going to be gone for a couple of days. They said they would run things just fine and Jim knew that they were right. They knew everything that Jim did about the business and sometimes more. Jim wasn’t worried about his little company one bit. He would go down and talk to the girls before he left. He trusted them completely. Now, he had to get back to packing and get a cab to the airport.

Blair walked into the bedroom and Jim hadn’t even heard him walk in. “Jim, I’m going to take Maggie to day care and then I’ll come back out to pick you up and take you to the airport.”

Jim pulled Blair into his arms and said, “God, I love you so much. You’re the best. Thank you.”

“See you in a little while,” Blair said as he flew down the stairs to take Maggie.

*

On the way into town, Blair couldn’t get his mind off leaving Kirkland. He loved this small town. And having Cascade close by made it even nicer. If he needed a bigger town, it wasn’t far away. But Blair loved the small town life and so did Maggie. He thought Jim did too, but Blair realized he didn’t know Jim as well as he thought he did.

Maggie had begun to fit in well in Kirkland. She had her little friends in town and out of town. She was doing well and very happy. Blair was always pleased to see how happy she was. When he first met her, she had cried a lot, but she didn’t do that anymore. She was far too strong a personality to cry now. Unless her daddy was mad at her. She was definitely a daddy’s girl.

Would Blair move to New York City? Did he love Jim enough to move his practice to another state? God, Blair didn’t know the answer to that and hoped that Jim would give him some fair warning before he made his decision. But Jim had said he was going to talk to Blair first, so maybe that would work out all right. Blair would have to see how it all worked.

Blair dropped Maggie off at day care and then went to his office. Martha was already there and he said, “I have to have the day off, so could you cancel all of my appointments?”

“Is it true? Is Jim going to New York City?” Martha asked.

Blair wasn’t shocked that Martha already knew about the New York trip. “Yes, he’s going today and staying a couple of days. They’re interested in his business. How did you know about Jim, already?”

“Oh, Beth just called as soon as you left. She said you looked sad. I see it in your eyes. You are sad. We all knew that someday he would want to move back, but we were hoping he wouldn’t.”

“There is nothing I can do but stand behind his decisions. If he decides to go, then he goes. If he decides to stay, then we’ll all be happy won’t we?” Blair joked, but wasn’t really smiling.

“Blair, honey, he’s not going to leave you.”

“If they give him a proper offer, he will leave me. He’ll ask me to go with him, but can I leave Kirkland? I don’t think so. So I would have to give Jim up. I wish the phone had been broken today,” Blair said sadly.

“I’m going to cancel all of your appointments, so you go home and take care of some business,” Martha said almost laughing.

“Thank you, Martha. You’re the best.”

She hugged him tight and told him to not worry so much. Blair wished it was that easy.

*

Jim heard Blair’s SUV drive up and he instantly smiled and then got hard. Jesus, the things that man can do to me, without even trying.

Blair walked up the stairs and found Jim lying on the bed, naked. It was only 9:30 and they had time for a quickie. But did Blair feel like one? Yes, there was little he wouldn’t do for Jim. He realized at that moment that he would move to New York City, if he was going to be with Jim. He started undressing and smiled at Jim. Jim knew that Blair was over whatever he was going through earlier and now they were on track again.

Blair moved over Jim and started to suck his dick. Jim leaned his head back and relaxed and gave in to the feelings. God, he loved Blair. He loved him more than he had ever loved anyone. “Blair, I love you.”

Blair stopped sucking and got the lube and started loosening himself up. Before long he sat on Jim’s cock and started lowering himself a little at a time. This was driving Jim insane with need, but at the same time, he loved it. “Ride me, babe, ride me.”

Blair started going up and down on Jim’s cock and Jim was helping him do it. Before long, Jim said, “Babe, I’m going to come.”

Blair kissed Jim’s lips and Jim came into Blair’s hot tight hole and moaned into Blair’s mouth.

Without even thinking about it, Blair then got Jim ready to be fucked and Blair pushed his cock into Jim’s tight channel, feeling really good about it. Jim moaned and groaned until he couldn’t stand it any longer, and then Jim came once again without even being touched. Blair came explosively into Jim’s center at the same time.

They both lay there breathing hard and neither said a word. Jim didn’t want to ruin it. He had a feeling this might be their last time in this house making love and he wasn’t sure how he felt about that.

“Jim, I love you so much. No matter what you decide, I’ll be there with you.”

Jim almost cried. Blair moved him to tears more then he cared to count. Jim needed Blair more then he wanted to admit to.

“Thank you, Blair.”

“You’ve got time to shower and dress before your flight. Get the lead out,” Blair said, smacking Jim’s butt.

Jim took a shower by himself and thought of little else but Blair and Maggie. They were the two most important things in his life. Did he really want to sell the baby food company? He would have to think about it in New York City because nothing was coming to him here.

*

Once Blair had dropped Jim off at the Cascade airport, Blair drove home sadly. He knew that Jim would sell the company and that they would have to move. He also knew that he was in love with Jim and would move anywhere to be near him. Admitting this to himself helped him cope. He suddenly realized it didn’t matter where they lived as long as they were together.

Blair smiled at his reflection in the rear view mirror. He saw a happy man, finally. Blair was going to do whatever made their life work. And Maggie would be just fine too.

*

Jim sat at the hotel in New York, missing Blair already. He was such a sap these days. He needed Blair more then he cared to admit to himself or anyone else. But one of these days, he was going to tell Blair.

Would Blair move to New York if the job was good enough? Jim had no doubt that they were in love and Jim felt that Blair would follow him anywhere, but then again, he wasn’t the most perceptive at reading his partners actions or words.

Would Jim give up this opportunity to stay in Kirkland with Blair? He didn’t think so. He had told Blair all along that his plan was to get back to New York City. So he didn’t think he could pass this opportunity up. Then again, he was going to have to hear the offer first.

Jim went to dinner by himself and remembered how lonely he had been while he lived in New York. He didn’t have time to date much and when he did they sure didn’t have time to go out and eat. They would order in. Jim thought about Rafe and if he missed him at all and realized he didn’t. He had never told Rafe he loved him that he could remember. That was sort of sad in itself. He lived with the man for three years and they didn’t love each other.

As he ate, he watched the people walk by the window and he had forgotten how many people were in this town. His senses were acting up ever since he got on the plane that day. Now, he was hearing anything and everything from tables next to him and he didn’t want to hear what they were saying. His eyes hurt from the sun and his sense of taste was shot. Dinner tasted like shit. His dials were off the chart. He was going to have to call Blair and ask for help. God, Jim hated that. He hated being a Sentinel a lot of the time.

He got back to his room and dialed their home number. “Sandburg.”

“Hey Chief,” Jim whispered.

“Oh shit, are you senses acting up?”

“Yes, I can’t see well, I can hear everything I don’t want to hear and I can’t eat. Help me.”

Blair talked him through the dials again and got them all set back where they should have been. “When you get ready to come home, I’ll fly there and fly back with you. That way you won’t be by yourself and we can take care of the dials together.”

“You’re a life saver, Blair.”

“Glad to be of service, Jim. I have something to tell you. If you want to sell the company really badly, do it. I’m behind you, babe, all the way.”

Jim felt like he was going to cry or something. He cleared his voice and said, “Thank you, Chief. Like I said, you’re a life saver.”

The two men talked for about two hours, including the time that Jim spent talking to his daughter. She was carrying on about something and he didn’t understand a word she was saying, but it was precious all the same. Jim finally hung up about 9:00 because he wanted to go over the papers for the big day.

*

The next morning, Jim walked into Baker Enterprises and smiled at everyone he came in contact with. People were looking at him oddly, because they weren’t used to a smiling Jim Ellison. Not at all.

Barb was the first one to see him. “Jim, you look so happy and healthy. Things must be going well for you.”

“They are, Barb. I have a great life. Just don’t know if I’m comfortable in a small town yet.”

She smiled as he started walking towards Bill Baker.

“Jim, how good to see you,” Bill Baker said holding out his hand to shake.

“It’s good to see you too, sir. It’s been a while,” Jim answered.

“Come on, everyone is in the conference room already. Let’s get this show on the road.”

Jim followed Bill into the room and was shocked at how different everyone looked. They looked tired and unhappy. Jim had forgotten about that part of this job.

Stan Miller stood up and said, “It’s great to see you, Jim.”

Jim didn’t answer him and said, “Should we get started?”

Mr. Spenser noticed the coolness between the two men and wondered if it was going to work at all. Spenser had been led to believe that Baker had complete control of the situation.

Jim opened up the first page of the proposal and Spenser said, “We will offer you three million dollars for Orchard Gourmet Baby Food Enterprise. You will then be asked to look over the entire business for which you will be paid $450,000.00 a year. You’ll receive a house of your choosing in the city of your choosing, a vehicle of choice every year, and Orchard Baby will be moved to Minnesota. How does this sound to you?”

“No, I don’t see it anywhere but Washington. It will stay in Kirkland, Washington,” Jim said, without taking a breath.

“Okay, we can work with that,” Spenser said quickly. “How did everything else sound to you?”

“It sounds like I need to think for a few minutes before I make any decisions. I’ll be right back,” Jim said as he walked out of the room.

Spenser said, “So how do you think we’re doing with him so far?”

Baker smiled. “I think he’s chomping at the bit, but he wants you to think he’s in charge.”

“He is in charge,” Spenser reminded him.

The men in the conference room all started talking while they waited for Jim Ellison to come back.

*

Jim went to the bathroom and smiled at his reflection in the mirror. We did it, Ellison. We’re back. Jim pulled his cell out to call Blair. He didn’t answer and Jim wondered where he was. He hoped nothing was wrong with Maggie. He had had his phone on vibrate and it was in his briefcase, so he wouldn’t have known even if Blair had called. Jim felt horrible. He opened up his phone again and saw that no one had called. He felt somewhat better then and thought about what he’d like to do, but he couldn’t make those types of decisions without talking to Blair first.

As he walked slowly back to the conference room, he realized something. He didn’t want to sell his baby food company. He didn’t want to leave Kirkland. He didn’t want to move Maggie or Blair away from their home. He was in love and didn’t want anything else but Blair and Maggie. He walked into the conference room and sat down.

He cleared his throat and said, “Gentlemen, I thank you for this offer, but I have to pass.”

Baker said, “You have to pass on what? Tell us which part you don’t like.”

“All of it. I realize I don’t want to sell my baby food company. I’m doing really well by myself, and if I can do it by myself, why would I need you? I have a crib in my office, I have a mobile on my desk and I like it that way. Bill, do you remember telling me that you couldn’t have both? Well, it’s not true. You can have both and I’m living proof. I have a date tonight to go dancing with my lover and I can’t wait to see him and my little girl. I have a good life and I’m happy. No, I’m not going to sell Orchard Baby today or any day. I’m sorry for wasting your time.” Jim stood up to leave.

Tom Spenser said, “Maybe there are still some bad feelings here after all and it isn’t water under the bridge.”

“Maybe so, Tom, but it doesn’t matter. Orchard Baby is not for sale. Thank you for your time,” Jim said as he walked out the door. He could hear everyone trying to figure out what to do. This amused Jim to no end.

Barb stopped him in the hall and asked, “Are you all right, Jim?”

“I’m more than all right, Barb. I’m not selling my company and I’m not moving back to New York. Maggie is so happy in our new life and I want it to stay that way. It was good seeing you.”

“Good luck, Jim. Hug that baby for me.”

He went right to the hotel and got a flight to Cascade. He packed and was in the air within two hours.

When he got to Cascade, he took a cab to Kirkland, knowing that would cost a fortune, but didn’t care. Jim couldn’t believe he was almost home. And that worked out perfectly, because tonight was dancing night at the town hall. Jim was really looking forward to seeing his town, his home, his Blair and his baby. Yes, everything was where it should be.

When Jim walked through the front door, Blair looked up surprised and said, “What are you doing home already?”

“We had a date for tonight and I didn’t want to miss it.”

“A date?” Blair asked, looking confused.

“Town hall, dancing, Mike singing, does this ring a bell?”

Blair walked over to Jim and kissed him soundly. “Yes, it does ring a bell. Now tell me what happened in New York City.”

“The offer wasn’t nearly as good as the offer I have here. So, Orchard Baby is staying open and we’re still in business. We’re staying here, babe. I turned them down. I told them I have a baby mobile on my desk and I liked it and they looked at me like I had two heads. They don’t get it. It’s because they’ve never left before. None of them have ever had to take care of a baby. You should be able to do both. They made it impossible to do, but here we do it every day. I love you, Blair. Oh, and I told them about our date and how I was looking forward to it.”

“Honestly, Jim, I was getting ready to see about selling my practice. I can’t believe you chose us.”

“Blair, I can’t believe I even considered selling Orchard Baby. You should have smacked me upside the head right then.”

“Maggie is still in town at the day-care, do you want to go pick her up and go to dinner before we go dancing?”

“Blair, you know nothing is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Let’s make sandwiches to take into town and then we’ll go and get our little girl. We’ll take some baby food for Maggie. I’m so glad to be home.”

“I’m glad you’re home, Jim. I love you so much.”

“And I love you.”

Part two: Transfigurations

Jim Ellison couldn’t quite believe how much his life had changed. He went from a cold, heartless business man to a man that cared about people. Jim really did care about the people in Kirkland, a small town not far from Cascade, Washington. He was once alone and lonely. Now his life was filled with joy, happiness and love. In the past year, since he began his new business, he made friends with all the people in the small town, he fell in love with the small town Vet but probably the biggest change of all was the fact that he had received a gift from his cousins in England and her name was Maggie. His cousins had died in a car accident and left their beloved child to Jim. She was now 24 months old and Jim was in heaven raising this child. And to think he almost gave her up for adoption when he felt he couldn’t be a good enough father and role model for this little one.

It was the best day in his life when he decided to take Maggie and give her a great home. She was the happiest and most well-adjusted child Jim had ever come in contact with. Not that he knew that many.

When Jim had moved from New York to Kirkland, Washington, he chose to make homemade baby food and it was so popular that Jim had a hard time keeping up with the supply and demand. Jim now was building a new plant on his acreage that would employ 150 people. He had also spent a fortune on equipment to make their lives easier so there would be less of the really hard work to do. The machines would do most of the work. It was going to be assembly work now. But Jim and his crew would still make all of the baby food from scratch. It was delicious. Anyone could eat it.

The next thing that happened to Jim was meeting Blair Sandburg, the town vet. Jim was in love. They lived together and it looked like happily ever after to Jim. Blair was the best friend and lover in the world. Jim had never had anyone like that before. And he sure wasn’t going to complain about it either.
Blair took Maggie every morning into town for the day. Blair had found a terrific day-care program for Maggie to go to. That left Jim plenty of time and energy for running his business. He believed in overseeing the entire thing.

Jim and Blair had barbecues now and then for some of their friends in town. Jim had really come to love these people who accepted him without question. But there was one thing that still lay heavily on Jim’s mind. He wanted to see if he could mend fences with his brother and his father. For some reason, Jim really wanted Maggie to have a grandparent. Jim knew what he was going to do, he just needed time to think of the wording. He was going to write them both a letter. Jim knew that his dad still lived in Cascade, Washington. As far as he knew, his brother did too. He would have to check to be sure. Jim had been thinking about the letters for about four months and had still done nothing with it. Jim realized that he was going to have to do one or the other. Either forget about them or write the damn letters. Jim sighed in disgust at his lack of enthusiasm about writing the letter. Today was going to be the day.

*

Blair took Maggie to day-care as usual and went to his office. And again, as usual, there were around ten people waiting already. Blair never had to worry about lack of patients. He was a busy vet. And he kept his prices reasonable so that everyone could bring the animals in without worrying about it costing an arm and a leg.

Blair had a wonderful office with all of his x-ray equipment in the back. His office was one of the bigger places in town. Maggie loved to come to work with him because she got to see all of the animals. Maggie called him Poppy. She loved Poppy and let him know it every single minute of the day.

Blair also felt quite lucky for meeting a Sentinel. He never thought he would but he had given up too soon. Jim was a full blown Sentinel and Blair realized in no time at all that he was Jim’s Guide. Together the two of them had worked on handling Jim’s senses, instead of them handling Jim. Jim rarely zoned anymore and Blair was proud of the work they had done together to get to this place.

The one thing Blair was most surprised about was the fact that big Jim Ellison let Blair make love to him. Blair almost didn’t ask because Jim didn’t seem the type to be a bottom. Now he was glad he did. Not only did he bottom but Jim was a fantastic bottom. Blair loved making love to Jim. Not that he didn’t love Jim making love to him. It was fun taking turns. Yes, Blair was very content and very happy in his new life.

Blair loved Maggie and this worked out great because Maggie was Jim’s life. Blair found it odd that Jim said he almost gave Maggie up for adoption. But then again, Blair didn’t know the old Jim Ellison. Blair was thrilled that he met the new one instead.

Every Tuesday night in town, Jim and Blair went to Bingo at the town hall. It was good clean fun and Blair found out that Jim liked doing it. Another thing that surprised Blair. Then on Thursday night, he, Jim and Maggie went to the town hall for the dance. It was again good, clean fun. Fridays, Blair closed early and picked up Maggie and that was their day for the library. Blair thought it was never too soon to get children hooked on books. And every week he and Maggie chose some books for the weekend. Jim and Blair both took turns reading to her all weekend long. Now that she was talking quite a bit, Blair wanted to introduce her to reading.

Blair was concerned about Jim these days. He knew that Jim wanted to mend fences with his father, but was having a hard time ‘writing to him’. Maybe Blair would help him. Then perhaps Jim’s mind would be back on important things, like sex. Blair smiled at that thought and finished up for the afternoon.

*

Jim would usually oversee everything that happened at the plant, but today he put Sylvia in charge. He needed time to work on the letters to his brother and his dad. He decided he would start with his brother, Steven, and then graduate to writing to his dad. Jim sat down at the computer, pulled up the word program and began his letter.

Dear Steven,

I know it’s been ages since we have talked or seen each other, but I felt the need to tell you a few things and see if you wanted to talk to me. I know you still live in Cascade and I now live in Kirkland. So we aren’t too far away from each other.

In the last two years, I was left a child by our cousins that lived in England, when they were tragically killed in a car accident. Her name is Maggie. She is 24 months old now and such a darling child. She reminds me a little of you when you were young. She definitely looks like an Ellison. I would love to have an uncle in her life.

I don’t know how close you are to dad, but he probably told you I was gay. I’ve met someone that is very special. His name is Blair Sandburg. He’s a Vet in our small town. Everyone likes Blair. He’s great and would love to meet you. So I’m hoping that this letter finds you well and open to meeting with us. I’d really like to see you again. And Maggie needs her uncle. Oh, Blair lives with me on a farm outside of town and I own my own business. I make baby food. Have you ever heard of Orchard Gourmet Baby Food? That’s my company. I live on a farm with twenty acres of land and the new plant is being built on my land, so it’s nice and close and I’ll be able to keep an eye on business and family.

My address is 20 Cloverdale, Kirkland, Washington-98101. My phone number is 206-555-1236. We would love to hear from you either in person or on the phone. I wouldn’t even mind a letter. Please let me know how you’re doing, Steven. I’ve missed you and would like to be in your life again.

Love,

Jimmy

*

Jim finished, printed it up, addressed the envelope and put a stamp on it. Now, the dreaded dad letter.

Jim glanced at his watch and realized it had taken him an hour and a half to write that letter. How long would it take for Jim to write to his dad?

Jim addressed William’s letter and got it ready to go. Then he cracked his knuckles and stretched and began to type the letter.

Dear Dad,

I know I’m probably the last person you would like to hear from, but I’ve been thinking about you a lot and wanted to share some news with you. I don’t know how you’ll take any of it, so don’t feel badly if you want to throw this in the trash. I don’t want to cause any guilt or anything else .

First of all, I’m still gay, which I know you don’t approve of, but I’ve met someone wonderful and would like to tell you all about him. But first let me tell you what’s going on with me.

Over a year ago I was making tons of money in New York City, never having any time to myself or for anyone else for that matter, when I got a call in the middle of the night. This woman told me that I had inherited something from my Ellison cousins who lived in England. They had been in a freak car accident and they both perished. She said the inheritance was priceless. She asked me to meet her at the airport for my package and I of course went, excited at getting something expensive and wonderful. I met her and she asked me to hold her child while she dug out the papers. Then she asked me to sign the papers saying I accepted Maggie. I figured it was a race horse or something. Never once did it occur to me that the child I had in my arms was the priceless package she spoke of. She informed me that I didn’t have to keep her, I could give her up for adoption if I didn’t want to mess with her. Boy, did she know me well. I took Maggie to my apartment and it was a nightmare. I called an adoption agency and made an appointment. I couldn’t get rid of this baby soon enough. But in the next few days I realized I liked Maggie and Maggie liked me. They found a home for her, but the woman that would be the mother called her husband, sir. I couldn’t have Maggie raised by someone like that, am I right? So I told Maggie to get ready for a lifetime of disappointment being raised by me. She cooed at me and smacked my face and laughed.

As time went on it was getting harder and harder to keep up with my 16 hour a day work load while caring for a baby. Even a nanny can’t be there every moment. So the biggest account of my life got taken away from me because I was a ‘mom’. The man that owned the place, Bill Baker, told me you couldn’t have both. I took all my savings and bought a place in Kirkland, Washington, not far from Cascade, hoping that someday I would be able to see my dad and my brother again.

Maggie and I bought a farm house on twenty acres. I began to make baby food in my spare time and sold it at the shops in town. I turned my barn into a small processing plant where I began a small business called Orchard Gourmet Baby Food. That kept me busy working with Maggie and the people I hired from town. But a short time before this happened, I met the man of my dreams. He’s a Vet in Kirkland and owns his own business. His name is Doctor Blair Sandburg. He’s wonderful, Dad. I think you just might like him. He’s the one that saw something in me and talked me into opening my own business. He’s great with Maggie and we’ve been together for some time. We even live together now.

Baker Enterprises in New York called me for a meeting and I went of course, thinking of all the money I could make if they wanted to buy my business. But a funny thing happened while I was there. I realized I didn’t want New York anymore. I had the life I wanted. I had a wonderful life partner, a beautiful child and a business that I worked hard at making. Why would I sell it to them? So I turned them down and came back to Kirkland and started work on a new baby food plant. It takes up almost an acre. There will be 150 people working for me and it’s a great business. I’m my own boss. I can take off when I feel like it or I can work tons of hours if I feel like doing that.

As you can tell, nothing has really changed. I’m still stubborn, still gay and still the man you weren’t too proud of in my early years. Oh, I almost forgot something. Blair studied something called Sentinels and told me that’s what I am. That’s why I zone out sometimes and can hear things that no one else can hear or see things that no one else can see. He’s taught me to control it so I’m not the freak that I used to be. He’s my Guide. We are a matched set, that’s for sure.

I hope to hear from you, Dad. My address is 20 Cloverdale, Kirkland, WA-98101 and my cell phone number is 209-555-1236. I would truly like to meet with you. I understand if you don’t wish to, but I’m hoping that you do contact me. Maggie needs a grandfather. Please think about it. I hope this letter finds you well.

Love,

Jimmy

*

Jim printed that letter out and hoped it would be enough to make his dad think about meeting up with them. Jim got both letters and headed off to town so he could get them to the mailbox before the mail went out for the night.

*

Jim stopped by Guardian Veterinarian when he finished at the post office. He walked in and smiled at Martha, Blair’s receptionist. “Is Blair with a patient?”

“As a matter of fact, he’s in his office doing some paperwork. His office calls are done for today unless someone walks in now.”

“How have you been, Martha?”

“Oh Jim, you are the nicest man. Most people don’t bother to ask anyone how they are. But I hear you treat everyone at your business this same way. You’re a good man. And as to how I am, I am doing great. Blair said we’re taking a week off next week, though he’ll still be on call for emergencies, so I’ve got some time to work in my garden.”

“Blair loves his garden too, Martha. I’m going to sneak back to see Blair for just a few moments before I head back to the farm.”

“You know where his office is. Have fun…”

Jim smiled all the way to the door and knocked.

“Come in.”

Jim poked his head in the door and a grumpy Blair suddenly smiled and jumped out of his chair. “What a nice surprise. What brings you into town, Jim?”

“I finished the letters to my brother and my dad and before I lost all my nerve I knew I had to mail them off. And don’t think I wasn’t thinking about sticking my hand into the mail box itself to get the letters back out.”

Blair threw back his head and laughed. “Boy, you know how to cheer a person up. I hate paperwork sometimes and today is one of those sometimes.”

“I was thinking about making stuffed cabbage rolls for dinner, what do you think of that?”

“Man, I would think I had gone to heaven. I love stuffed cabbage rolls. Do you make them from scratch, Jim?”

“Yes, so I need to go to the grocery store before I head home. I’ll pick Maggie up at day-care on the way back from the store. See you later, babe.” Jim pulled Blair in for a much needed kiss and Blair was only more than happy to get that kiss.

“Drive carefully and I’ll see you tonight. It’s nice to see you taking a little time off work. Good for you, man.” Blair was still smiling like crazy.

Jim left and stopped at the store before he picked Maggie up. He had also stopped at a liquor store so he could make them a cocktail to go with dinner that night. Everything was set. Now he just needed to cook it all.

*

Once dinner was done, he told Maggie, “Poppy is going to be home in just a few minutes and it’ll be time to eat.”

Maggie smiled and said, “Yum. Love Poppy. Love Daddy.”

Jim was constantly amazed at how quickly she picked up talking. But it also meant that they had to really watch what they said in front of Maggie. Jim heard Blair’s SUV coming down the drive, so he decided to make up the cocktail before Blair even got in the door.

The drink was called All Plucked Up and it sounded good. So Jim decided that they would try it out that night. He took four ounces of rum, two ounces of coconut rum, one ounce of grenadine syrup, two ounces of lime juice, four ounces of orange juice, six ounces of pineapple juice and ten ice cubes. He put all of the ingredients into the blender and began to blend them. When it was very cold and smooth, he poured the mixture into a cocktail glass just as Blair walked in the front door.

Maggie ran to him and said, “Up,” with her hands held out to be picked up by Blair.

“Hello there, little one. Someone looks happy. Did you have a good day?”

Maggie shook her head yes and then started to wiggle out of Blair’s arms to get down.

Blair set her down and walked into the dining room and Jim handed him his cocktail and gave him a kiss.

“What is this? It smells really fruity and good. I can’t wait to try it,” Blair said as he took the first sip. “Oh wow, I wasn’t wrong. It is good. Tell me the name of this one, Jim.”

Jim smiled. “All Plucked Up. I thought it sounded good and the name was cool too.”

Blair snickered. “Dinner smells divine. I can’t wait to eat. I love being with a man that cooks as well as you do.”

Jim kissed him once more and said, “Let me refill this drink for you.”

Blair had had a horrible afternoon after Jim left. He ended up putting down the pets from three separate families. He needed these fucking drinks more than anyone would know.

Jim saw the sadness on Blair’s face and said, “Sit down and tell me all about it. You know I can hear you from the kitchen. Tell me what happened.” Jim left the kitchen door open so that Blair could talk to him.

“Just a normal, typical day of a vet. I had to put down the pets from three separate families. Then I had to hold on to their owners afterwards. It was draining.” Blair knew he didn’t have to say it loud because Jim would hear him just fine.

Jim walked out with a refreshed drink and handed it to Blair. He leaned in and got another kiss and said, “I’m sorry, Chief. What happened to the pets?”

“The first one was a cat that was 18 years old. She had developed some kidney problems and she was going downhill quite fast. I talked with them two days ago and they decided to do what I suggested. The next pet was a dog that had myasthenia gravis and had become very ill.”

“Mya… what? Jim looked puzzled.

"It's a muscular weakness. In this case, the throat muscles were affected and the poor dog couldn't swallow. The food was as likely to go into his lungs as his stomach. He'd developed pneumonia, too, because of that. The owner didn't realize how ill the dog was and really waited too long to bring him in. He was in a really bad way, so we did the right thing.”

“And the third one was also a dog that had just come to the end of his life span. He was blind and deaf and the quality of life just wasn’t what it should be. All in all, it was an exhausting day. It’s hard when you have to do this to someone’s pet. But it was great knowing I had you and Maggie to come home to, tonight.”

“I wish there was something I could do to help you. You look so sad.”

“I’ll be fine. I just need to unwind and hear about your day instead of mine. Tell me what’s new with you.”

“I had a good day, cooking and baking and making mixed drinks for you.” Jim knew that Blair was still upset but also knew that he didn’t want to dwell on it. So Jim was letting him have his way.

Blair smiled and asked, “Is it almost time to eat? I’m starving.”

“Everything is ready, Chief. Come on, let’s wash up for dinner.” While Blair washed Maggie’s hands and his own, Jim put everything on the kitchen table. They ate in the kitchen when it was just the three of them. They didn’t have to impress anyone with the huge dining room.

Blair put Maggie in the high chair and buckled her in. Then he sat down and looked at the wonderful meal. “Wow, Jim, this looks delicious. I can’t wait to try it.”

“Dig in, Chief. I have to cut Maggie’s up and let it cool down. Go ahead and fill your plate up.”

Blair put the rice on his plate, topped with two stuffed cabbage rolls. God, it smelled so good that Blair thought he was in heaven.

Once dinner was done with, Blair helped Jim clean up Maggie before he tackled the dishes. Blair put her in her playpen in the dining room where they could see her from the kitchen. She sat down and played while her two daddies were cleaning up.

Blair said, “I’ll take Maggie up and give her a bath. You just sit down and watch television. Relax, I’ll get her taken care of in nothing flat.”

“Thanks, Chief. Let me give her a kiss now.” Jim proceeded to kiss and hug his little girl and then handed her over to Blair. Jim smiled as he listened to Maggie and Poppy talking upstairs while she was in the bathtub. She was telling Blair she wanted bubbles and she said it like a four year old. They never talked baby talk to Maggie and it showed. She had very good speech patterns and quite the vocabulary for a 24 month old child.

Jim was sitting there listening to the two of them, laughing and smiling, when his cell phone went off. He answered it in case it was his dad calling, even though he had just mailed the letter that morning. Jim wasn’t thinking quite right.

“Ellison.”

“Jim, it’s Bill Baker from New York. I wanted to see if we could set up another meeting for discussion of your baby food account. This time we’ll be better prepared. Tom Spenser from the Spenser Baby Food account knows you don’t like Stan Miller, so he isn’t in the equation at all. And there would be more money involved, you could still choose the place for the plant and you would receive a fantastic salary. Do you think you have time this week for a meeting?”

Jim was in shock. But he also already knew what the answer was. “No, I can’t meet you this week. I can’t meet you ever. I’m happy with my business and I won’t be selling it any time soon.”

“Tom is here with me, Jim and wants to talk to you about Orchard Gourmet Baby Food. Would you at least talk to him?” Bill asked.

“There is no need to talk to him. I’m not interested. I don’t know any other way to put it. We’re happy here and we’re doing very well. My business has grown by leaps and bounds. So I think it’s best that you just leave me alone. Thank you for the offer, but I’m totally not interested.”

“We’ll see about that Jim. Don’t say we didn’t warn you,” Bill threatened.

“Are you threatening me, Bill? What are you going to do? You can’t take something away from someone that owns their own company. You’re barking up the wrong tree,” Jim said before he hung up the phone.

Blair was standing there looking scared. “What are they going to do?”

“It doesn’t matter, Chief. They can’t take my business away. I own 70% of the stock, so it’s not like they would be able to buy me out. I have no idea what they think they could do, but let them. They’ll get nowhere. They were just trying to scare me.”

“I’m worried, Jim. These men are rich. A lot richer than us. They’ve been around the business world for a long, long while. They might be able to hurt us in some way.”

“Enough talk about them. Sit down and watch the news with me. I’ll tell you what. If my dad contacts me I’ll ask for his help. He owns his own business and has for years, so he would know what to do.”

“Okay, I’ll try to not worry.” Blair sat next to Jim and held his hand a little too tight. Jim knew that poor Blair was freaking out.

Jim started kissing Blair and before long, Blair let go with his vice grip on Jim and kissed back.

Jim pulled away for a moment and asked, “Do you want to make love?”

“You betcha,” Blair answered.

They shut the television off, locked up the house and walked upstairs to make love. Jim loved making love to Blair and tonight he would have to make it extra special. And he did just that.

*

Six weeks later:

Jim was in a bad mood and Blair was a little tired of it. It wasn’t Blair’s fault that Jim’s father hadn’t written or called him. Jim was not in the mood for discussion of this even though Blair thought it might help if they talked. Jim disagreed. And when Jim was like this, Blair usually agreed with Jim.

Blair opened his laptop and began looking at headline news and his jaw dropped when he saw what was on the news. Oh my God, this is what they had planned all along.

Blair walked over to the bottom of the staircase and softly said, “Jim, you might want to check out what Baker had up his sleeve. You’re not going to like it.”

Jim came down the stairs, carrying Maggie all dressed and ready for day-care. “What are you talking about?”

“Put her in the playpen and we’ll look at it together. Don’t yell or anything because it will scare her,” Blair advised.

Jim set Maggie in the playpen and walked over to the computer and sat down and started to read the news flash that was the top story of the hour.

Kirkland, Washington owner of Orchard Gourmet Baby Food is a homosexual. Jim Ellison lives with another man, making his life anything but wholesome. But yet, that’s what their slogan says. They are a wholesome family baby food company. Someone has been lied to and finally it’s coming to light. Leave your comments and let us know how you feel about being lied to.

Jim was in shock. Now everyone in the world would know about something that was fairly private. And what did their private life have to do with making baby food? This was what Jim wanted to know.

“Jim, I’m so sorry. I never dreamed that Baker would stoop to that. You know it was Baker that did it, right? It was the only way to discredit you and make you lose money. Hell, you might lose the company for all we know. This is horrible news. I don’t even know what to do.”

“Blair, go to work. That’s what you’ll be doing. And I’m going to work as usual and will talk to everyone and warn them, if they haven’t already seen this. Take Maggie, please and let me get to work too.”

Blair hugged Jim in the chair at the computer desk and said, “I’m so, so sorry, man.”

“Chief, it’s part of life. If we lose everything, we’ll start something else. I’m not throwing in the towel quite yet.”

Blair grabbed Maggie and let her kiss her daddy goodbye and then Blair did. Jim watched them drive down the driveway and breathed a sigh of relief. He was ready to freak out and didn’t want to do it with Blair or Maggie in the house. It would have scared them both.

Jim started pacing and wondered what in the fuck he was going to do with this mess. He no sooner had worked himself into a big tizzy when his cell phone rang. Oh great, now the mean calls will start.

Jim opened his cell phone and said, “Ellison.”

“Jimmy, it’s your dad. I wanted to talk to you.”

“Dad, this might not be the best time in the world to talk. I’m in the middle of a full blown anxiety attack and I’m not doing real well.”

“Jimmy, I’m in town and I wondered if I can come to your house and talk to you about what was online today.”

“Jesus, are you going to yell at me, Dad? Because I have to tell you I’m not in the mood for it.”

“Steven and I are both here to give our support, Jimmy. We had no idea you lived here in Kirkland and were surprised when we got the letters this week.”

“You just got the letters this week?” Jim asked, horrified.

“When did you mail them, Jimmy?”

“About six weeks ago. I figured you didn’t want to talk to me or see me. I have to tell you this probably isn’t a good day, Dad.”

“Jimmy, this is a perfect day, because you need some help and we’re here to give it to you.”

Jim felt like he wanted to cry. He didn’t know why, but he did. “Do you know where we live?”

“Yes, we have a map and directions from the gas station. We’ll be there in about ten minutes.”

Jim closed his cell and freaked out even more. Fuck, I haven’t seen them in years and they are coming on the worst day of my life.

Ten minutes later, Jim saw them pull into his driveway. He was shaking, he was so nervous. He met them in the driveway as they were getting out of the car and William said, “You look wonderful, Jimmy. May I hug you?”

Jim went right into William’s arms. It was just what Jim needed. Then Steven hugged him. Jim suddenly felt like the world wasn’t as bad a place as he thought it was.

Jim couldn’t get over how much his dad had changed. He looked so old and frail. This made Jim angry at himself for never trying sooner. Look at all the years he had wasted. Steven still looked like himself, so he wasn’t such a shock.

Jim asked them into the house and once inside, they all sat down in the living room.

“Would you like anything to drink? Coffee, tea, soda?” Jim asked.

“I could go for a strong cup of coffee,” William answered.

“I’ll be right back. While I’m getting the coffee there is a photo album on the coffee table. You might want to see your granddaughter. Her name is Maggie.” Jim walked into the kitchen and put a pot of coffee on and could hear his dad telling Steven that Maggie looked a little like him when he was little.

Then Steven said, “And this must be Blair.” They must have been looking at pictures taken in the house of a man holding Maggie and it wasn’t Jim.

“I would say so, yes. I can almost understand why your brother is interested in him. He has a look about him,” William said.

“Dad, I think you’re trying too hard. Let’s just drink the coffee when he brings it and see what we can do to help him.”

“That’s true, I don’t want to scare Jimmy off.”

Jim came into the living room carrying a tray with three coffee mugs. He set it on the table and asked, “Do you still drink it black, Dad?”

“Yes, Jimmy, both of us do.” William took a sip and said, “This is excellent coffee. Where do you get it?”

“I grind my own beans that I buy at the store. I like them good and fresh. The coffee has a completely different taste, I believe.”

“Enough of this beating around the bush, Jimmy. Dad wants to know what you’re going to do about these people that did the smear campaign. Do you have any idea who it is?”

“Yes, it’s the man I worked for in New York. His name is Bill Baker and he and perhaps Tom Spenser are ganging up on me because I won’t sell the business to them. Tom Spenser owns Spenser Baby Food. He’s used to getting what he wants, so I don’t imagine there is anything I can do to them.”

“Oh, you are so wrong, son. First of all they have no idea whether your family life is wholesome or not. They had no right in judging you just because you have a man in your life. It’s not fair and we’ll come up with something. I happen to know a reporter, named Beth Marshall, that said she would love to do a piece on you and get your take on it. She wants to do it this week. She’s afraid that this is going to go viral so fast and she wants to kick them back where it hurts. Is there anything about them at all that is a little off?”

“Other than them being back stabbers? The only thing I noticed about Bill Baker is when I first got Maggie he told me that you can’t be a single parent and work for that company at the same time. There isn’t enough time in a day for both things. You have to choose and I did choose-to leave. Then they tried to buy my company later, but I realized I didn’t want to sell it for any amount of money. So I turned them down and I think Baker has been plotting something ever since. He doesn’t take no for an answer. Not to mention most people would never dream of turning him down. He is not a good loser.”

“I’m going to do some research on people that work for Spenser food and see how many are single parents. Then we’ll do the same thing with Baker’s business. How wholesome is the fact that he told you that you had to choose between the job and Maggie? We’re talking about family here. You’re going to tell the reporter during the interview all about your time with Baker and Spenser and make sure that everyone knows that they are the ones that spread the stories. Then you’ll need to come to terms with telling everyone how many people work for you and how many know about you and Blair. Do you think you can do that, Jimmy?” William asked.

“Dad, everyone that works for me already knows about me and Blair. This is a small town. He’s the town Vet, so yeah, we’re both well known. I’m interviewing to hire 150 people for jobs in this town when they usually have to go all the way to Cascade. I would actually call this a family job. We will be like a big family. I’d like you to go and see the new plant and meet the people in my old plant that work there. I can take the reporter, too. She might be interested in talking to them also and seeing how my business is growing. She might be interested in talking to the people in town.”

Steven had been quiet up until then. But it was time he said something. “Jimmy, did you read the comments after the article?”

“No, I didn’t think we needed that negativity. I’d rather do what Dad has told me to do.”

“The reason I asked is because at least half of them are for you, not against you. It’s sort of weird that people that don’t know you are sticking up for you. People said they would buy your product anyhow.”

“I might have to go and read some, then. I figured they would all be against us.” Jim was actually looking forward to taking Spenser and Baker on. He never thought about any of this stuff, but his Dad owned a business and knew just what to do.

William said, “I need to start working on these things we talked about. Do you have a computer I can use and do you have rooms we can sleep in for tonight?”

“Dad, we have two spare rooms upstairs, so that’s not a problem. There is a computer on the desk and while you do some of your work, I’m going to call in a few favors. I was friends with a few people at Baker Enterprises and they might talk to me. They might answer my questions.”

“Maybe we should let you ask people first before we do any checking around. If they find out we’re checking on them, that might alert them and it might backfire on us.”

“I’ll ask my old secretary for help and no one else. She knew everything that went on there. I swear she knew more than any of us did,” Jim confessed.

“Good, get on the phone and ask your questions. Then we can make our plans on what we’re going to do.” Steven loved bossing his big brother around for a change. No one was going to do this to an Ellison and get away with it.

William pulled his phone out and said, “I’m going to call the reporter and set it up for tomorrow. It would be good if Blair was here too. And of course, we’ll be here backing you all the way. And before I forget, we bought most of your extra shares in stock, so that they couldn’t try a takeover. That would be their next move, I would guess.”

“Thank you both. I’m going to go in the kitchen and call Barb and see if she can talk to me.” Jim walked into the kitchen and shut the door so William would have privacy to make his call and Jim would have the same luxury.

Jim sat down at the kitchen table with a legal tablet and called his old office number and sure enough, Barb answered the phone.

“Barb, this is Jim Ellison. I was wondering if we could talk. Privately. I know you can’t talk at your desk, but you could give me your number and I could call you at home tonight, if you trusted me with the number, that is. What do you think?”

“I think I can talk to you right now. Everyone is in a huge meeting. They are discussing taking over your company when the shit hits the fan. I take it Baker’s playing a game with you. You know how he doesn’t like to lose. So what can I do to help, Jim?”

“Barb, I need to know how many single parents work for the company. Women or men that have children weren’t commonplace when I was there and I wondered if it’s still that way.”

Barb was quiet for a moment and said, “We only have one woman that works for this company that has children. And she’s the janitor. We have no others.”

“I’m getting ready to hire on 150 people for the new processing plant. It’s going to be just what I needed. I can take Maggie to work with me if I want to because my new company has child care provided. She’s comfortable with everyone that works for me. We’re like a big family. You would like it Barb. Life is much slower here, but still an exciting workplace. If you ever need or want another job, I have one for you. I could use a good assistant.”

“Thank you, Jim. Good luck with the ugliness that was on the web today. I’m not supposed to say anything, but I know it was them that spread the lies.”

“It’s not really a lie, Barb. I am a homosexual and do live with my lover. So that part is true.”

“But that doesn’t mean you’re not wholesome. They have a lot of fucking nerve, Jim. Oh, I have to go. My number is 718-555-2625. Call me later tonight and we’ll talk. Bye.”

Jim got off the phone and realized he forgot to get the name of the janitor. Jim would have to call Barb back. But then Jim realized he didn’t want to put her name all over the internet or television because then he would be as bad as they were.

When Jim walked out of the kitchen William was smiling. “What’s up, Dad. You look like the cat that swallowed the canary.”

“Jimmy, Beth Marshall is coming tonight. She wants to start filming this tomorrow. She got the okay for a five day segment. She plans on touring your plant, meeting you, Blair, Maggie and us, talking about your old job in New York and why you had to leave it, meeting the people in town and just getting an overall feel of the area where you live. She wondered if we could get her a hotel room. Do you think we could, Jimmy?”

“Let me call Blair really fast.” Jim opened his cell again and dialed Blair’s number.

“Sandburg.”

“Hi Chief, it’s me. Do you happen to know of any place in town that someone could stay at? I know we have some hotels, but I don’t know which ones are good or not. How about bed and breakfast and things like that? A reporter is doing a piece on us in a five segment series. She wants to get to know everyone and needs to stay in town to do that. What can you do for me?”

Blair let out a bark of laughter. “You’re in a much better mood than you were this morning. What’s going on, Jim?”

“My dad and brother are here. They’re going to be staying with us for the entire week. Now, what do you know about hotels or motels in the area?”

“There is a gorgeous Bed and Breakfast not too far from our farm. We’ll get her a room there. How about her cameramen?”

“Dad, do you know how many cameramen she’s bringing?”

“There will be five total, she said.” William smiled at his son’s happy demeanor just talking to his lover on the phone.

“Five total, Blair. If you could get five rooms that would be awesome.”

“Okay, I’ll take care of that right away and then I’ll take off, pick Maggie up and meet you at home in an hour or so. I love you, Jim.”

“I love you, too, Blair.” Jim closed his phone and smiled. He was one lucky son-of-a-bitch.

“Dad and Steven did you bring your luggage?” Jim asked.

“They are out in the trunk, why?” Steven wondered.

“We’ll bring them in and upstairs so you can rest if you want,” Jim suggested.

William laughed outright and said, “I’ll rest when I’m dead, Jimmy.”

Jim had forgotten that his dad had a morbid sense of humor. Hell, he had forgotten a lot of things about them. They walked out and got their luggage and took it upstairs to get settled. Then they had more coffee and just caught up with each other.

“We can’t wait to meet Maggie, Jimmy. And I must say I’m anxious to meet, Blair too,” William admitted.

“Same here, Jimmy. I’m really excited to meet the rest of your family.” Steven was thrilled and it showed.

“I missed you Dad. I should have written or called years ago. I’m not one of the smartest men in the world. And I missed you too, Steven.”

“Jimmy, none of us were at our best the last 17 years. But we’re going to make up for it now,” William promised.

They continued talking and Jim felt better each and every minute they were there.

*

Jim looked away from Steven as he was talking and smiled. “You’re both in for a treat. Blair is here with Maggie. You’re going to love both of them.”

Jim opened up the door and took Maggie into his arms and kissed Blair hello. Blair was surprised. Actually, so was Jim. He decided that they weren’t a dirty secret, so why not kiss, if Jim wanted to.

Jim set Maggie down and she walked up to Steven and asked, “Gampa?”

“No, that’s Gampa over there, Maggie. I’m Uncle Steven.”

She hugged Steven’s leg and said, “My Unca.”

Then she rushed over and hugged William’s leg and said, “Hi Gampa.”

“Hello, Maggie, may I pick you up and hug you?” William asked.

Maggie held her chubby little arms out for William to pick her up. He hugged her close and said, “I’ve always wanted a grandbaby, Maggie. That’s what you are. You’re my grandbaby.”

Maggie tapped William face and said, “Smile, Gampa.”

William not only smiled, he laughed.

“Dad and Steven this is my better half, Blair Sandburg. Blair, this is William and Steven Ellison.”

Blair shook hands with both men and smiled the entire time. Blair knew this was going extremely well. Much better than he had dreamed about it going.

Blair was practically bouncing in place as he asked, “How does Filet Mignon sound for dinner tonight?”

William looked troubled for a moment and asked, “But what will Maggie eat for dinner?”

“Dad, I own a baby food company. We have a few jars in our pantry,” Jim said happily.

William’s phone went off and he answered, “Ellison.”

“Mr. Ellison, this is Beth Marshall, we were wondering where we’re going to be staying. There are five of us and we’re tired from carrying all of our equipment all over the place. I need to know where we’re staying.”

“I’m going to hand you over to the man that made the reservations for you. This is Blair Sandburg, Beth.”

William handed his phone to Blair.

“Hi, Beth. Why don’t you tell me where you are, I’ll come and find you and take you to where you need to go. It’s not far from our farm, so you should be able to find it easily in the morning.”

“That’s a great idea,” Beth answered. “We’re at the Triple T gas station, do you know where that is?”

“Oh yeah, you’re not far from us at all. I’ll be there in about five minutes. See you soon,” Blair replied and handed the phone back to William.

Jim asked, “Did she sound nice?”

“She sounded rushed, I think they’ve been looking for us for a while and got lost. People do that sometimes, you know?”

Steven smiled at Blair’s reasoning. “You remind me of a person that finds good in everyone.”

Blair smiled back. “Well, I try. I have to go and find them. Jim, you can start dinner if you’d like. I’ll be back shortly.”

Jim kissed him goodbye and out the door he went.

“Thank you, Dad,” Jim said, quietly.

“Jimmy, I haven’t done anything yet. Hold off on thanking me until you’re sure I’m worthy.”

“No, I meant thank you for coming here. Thank you for making that first step when I should have made it years ago. I’m so glad you’re both here.”

William got up, set Maggie down and walked over to Jim and pulled him into his arms, hugging him very hard. “Jimmy, we’re so glad that you wrote to us. It was just what we needed to give us that push.”

“Jimmy, can I help with getting dinner ready? Maggie is probably hungry, don’t you think?”

“Carry her into the kitchen, Steven, and we’ll get her fed and I’ll get baked potatoes ready to go into the oven. We have all the makings for a nice salad to go with Filet Mignon. Is that good for both of you?”

Steven picked Maggie up and put her in her chair in the kitchen. “I love steak, so it’s good for me and if I remember correctly, Dad is the one that got us hooked on steak.”

“Guilty as charged. Jimmy, can I make the salad?”

“Sure, let me show you where everything is at.”

Jim couldn’t believe what was happening. He went from never seeing them to seeing them and making dinner with them in one day. Jim was happier than he’d ever been in his life. And Jim was usually pretty darned happy. So this was saying a lot.

*

When Blair came home he found Jim in the kitchen getting dinner ready.

“Where are your dad and brother, babe?”

“They gave Maggie a bath upstairs and are reading her a book. They’re on their third book and I think she’s almost asleep now. She was pretty wired after her dinner. Steven gave her an awful lot of food. I think she had to burn some of it off. Here they come now. Want to set the table for me?”

“Dining room or kitchen?” Blair asked.

“Kitchen, it’s just the four of us and we don’t need to impress them. They’re pretty darn accepting, I would say,” Jim pointed out.

William and Steven walked into the kitchen and sat down at the table. They both seemed to be very comfortable at the house, which made Blair very happy.

“It’s good to see you again, Blair,” William said.

“I’m glad to be here, William.”

Steven started sniffing the air and said, “Something sure smells good.”

“Jim, are the steaks already on the grill?”

“Yeah, you could check them if you wanted to, Blair. I’m getting the potatoes out and putting them on the table. The steaks should be almost done. Does everyone like them medium rare?” Jim asked.

Steven laughed and said, “We haven’t changed at all, Jimmy. We both eat them like that.”

Blair went out on the patio and got the steaks off the grill. They looked and smelled wonderful. He walked in and set them in the middle of the table and Jim brought out the salad to join them and the potatoes were already on the table.

“Dig in, everyone,” Blair said.

They all began to eat. They started with some of the salad and ended by eating every single bite of their steaks and potatoes. Jim was quite pleased with dinner. It had turned out better than he ever expected it to turn out. Food wise and company.

Steven helped Blair do the dishes and Jim made mixed drinks for all of them to drink while relaxing in the living room.

Jim went in and mixed up all the ingredients and blended them in the blender and poured them into small glasses because the drink itself was pretty stout. It had ice cream in it, but it also had Bailey’s Irish Cream, vodka and chocolate syrup. When he brought the tray out and set it down, Blair said, “Oh you’re in for a treat. This drink is called Bitching Bailey’s and it’s so delicious. More like a dessert than a cocktail. But it’s still considered a cocktail.”

“I only want a small one, Jimmy. I’d like to make it up the stairs tonight without you having to carry me,” William teased.

Jim and Steven laughed very hard. It felt good to both of them. Blair could see it on their faces.

They sipped their drinks and asked more questions about Spenser and Baker and finally William yawned. “I guess this old man needs to get to bed. Thank you for putting up with Jimmy’s family, Blair.”

“You have no idea how happy I am that you’re here. Sleep well, William. Everything you need for bedtime is in the bathroom. Goodnight.”

William bent over and kissed Steven on the top of the head and did the same thing with Jim. “Night, boys.”

Both men said at once, “Night, Dad.”

Blair said, “Well, I’m going to bed too, because it’s going to be a long day tomorrow. Beth has a lot of plans for us.”

“That’s what you made it sound like during dinner. I hope everything goes as planned,” Steven said.

Blair leaned down and kissed Jim on the lips and Jim pulled him into his lap. “Thanks for everything you did tonight, Chief. See you in the morning.”

“Not if I see you first,” Blair joked.

Steven burst out laughing as Blair walked up the stairs.

“Steven, do you mind if I take a moment to call Barb, my old secretary?”

“Go ahead, I’ll watch the news or something while you talk. In fact, why don’t you call her in the kitchen where it’s quiet and when you’re done we’ll talk until we’re exhausted.”

“Thank you, Steven. I shouldn’t be too long,” Jim said as he grabbed his cell phone and walked into the kitchen.

He dialed the number she had given him and she answered, sleepily, “Hello?”

“Barb, this is Jim. I’m sorry, I forgot about the time change. I’ll call you on another day.”

Barb instantly woke up and sat up. “No, we’ll talk now.”

“I was wondering if you have any idea why Baker would be doing this. I find it hard to believe that he would try to ruin my life just because he didn’t win.”

"Jim, you've been gone for over a year, and you've done a lot in that time. Have you ever given a thought to Mr. Baker during that year, except when he and Spencer tried to take over your business? You must have forgotten who we’re talking about. He doesn’t let anyone else win, ever. Mr. Spenser is not in on this, Jim. Just Baker. I heard he’s lost a lot of money with the stock prices going down. Your new business is putting Spenser Baby Food at risk. In answer to your question I think it all boils down to money. Baker wants more of it and I’ve also heard that Mr. Spenser is considering leaving our firm. He’s one of our biggest clients, so this wouldn’t fly with Baker either. Does any of this help, Jim?”

“All of this helps. It’s good to know that Mr. Spenser isn’t in on this. I was worried that he was.”

“Now, what could I do to help you? There must be someone I could talk to or something. And remember when you told me there would always be a job in Kirkland for me? Well, I’m going to need a new job soon. When Baker finds out that someone talked, heads will roll. I’d rather resign after I talk to whomever you want me to.”

“How would you like to be my assistant, Barb?”

“I think I might like that. It might be a culture shock moving from here to there, but if I have a decent job, decent salary and friends already, that would make it much better.”

“There is a reporter doing a five part segment or series if you will and I would like her to talk to you. But only if you’re comfortable with that.”

“That would be wonderful. I think I would feel less guilty if I helped in some small way.”

“Barb, it’s not a small way, this would be a huge way. And why would you feel guilty?”

“I knew all along that this was coming on. I heard about it from the other secretaries and I never gave you fair warning. I’m very sorry about that, Jim.”

“No need to be sorry. We’ll work everything out, Barb. Thank you for everything you’ve done.”

“Should I give my notice now?”

“That would be great. The new plant is due to open in three weeks. That would give you time to get things settled before you leave. Are you certain that you want to move to such a small town? The closest city is Cascade and it’s about an hour away.”

“I’m certain Jim. I know this sounds very strange, but ever since you brought Maggie into the office, my biological clock is ticking big time. The chances of finding someone and settling down here is a long shot. I’ll give my notice and be in Kirkland in a month. Thank you for talking with me.”

“No, thank you. I can’t do this without you.”

“I’d better get to sleep, Jim. Kiss that baby for me and I’ll see you soon. Just tell the reporter that she needs to call my cell phone to speak with me. If she leaves a message I’ll get back to her as quickly as I can.”

“Thanks again, Barb. See you soon.” Jim closed his cell and felt like he had someone important in his corner.

Jim walked out and found Steven looking at the photo album. Jim sat down beside him and said, “If you come across one that you wonder about tell me so I can tell you all about it. We’ve missed so much of each other’s lives.”

“Who is this woman here holding Maggie?”

“That’s Martha, Blair’s assistant at the pet hospital. She loves Maggie.”

“What’s not to love? She’s a cutie pie.”

“Thank you, Steven. Are you running dad’s business now?”

“Yeah, I’ve been doing it for some time. I make my own hours and it’s pretty good pay,” Steven said as he chuckled. “Dad retired about two years ago, so it’s just me now. And Dad is bored out of his mind. Don’t even ask him what he does in his spare time. Because he will whine.”

Jim laughed and this in turn made Steven laugh and it felt like old times to both of them.

For the next hour Jim and Steven discussed everything about their lives that the other one missed out on. Jim told him how he met Blair. How he reacted to Maggie at first and how he came to make baby food. He explained that he had a great sense of smell and taste which helped a great deal with making the baby food.

Steven told Jim that he had a girlfriend whom he loved very much. Her name was Olivia and Steven gushed when he talked about her. Jim got the impression that he might have a sister-in-law soon. Maybe Jim could look forward to a cousin for Maggie.

They both discussed missing each other and how sorry they were for not keeping in touch. Jim learned more about Steven in one hour than he had learned in years living with him. They discussed likes and dislikes and how much different their dad was now.

Jim had to agree about the dad comments because William was like a new person. Jim couldn’t seem to get enough of being around Steven. It was such an awesome feeling. And Jim felt like Steven was feeling the very same thing.

Finally at 1:30 in the morning Jim said, “I’m exhausted. I’d better get to bed.”

“See you in the morning, big brother. Sleep well.”

“If you need anything, just yell.”

Steven headed up the stairs and Jim locked up and shut all the lights out. But there was a nice night light in the hallway if his dad or brother had to leave their room.

Jim got ready for bed in their bathroom, slid into bed and pulled Blair into his arms. “Thanks for making yourself scarce so my brother and I could talk, Chief.”

“I read for most of the evening. You figured it out, huh?”

“Yeah, you don’t usually go to bed at 9:30 at night. It was nice of you. Thank you. We had a good long talk.”

“I am tired now, Jim. See you in the morning, babe. I love you.”

“I love you too, Chief. Sweet dreams.”

They cuddled together and were asleep in minutes. Jim didn’t hear anything or anyone all night long. It was perhaps one of the most relaxing nights of his life.

*

The following morning, Beth Marshall arrived at 8:30 in the morning and was raring to go. She met Jim, Steven, William and Maggie. She thanked Blair again for getting them such nice lodgings. They were all very comfortable in their rooms. She then introduced all of her cameramen and helpers. Before long, she was ready to go.

 

“Jim, I’d like to interview you alone, first. Then I will interview Blair and the family as the day goes on. I have to ask these questions, so please just answer them as well and truthfully as you can. Don’t even think, just answer. And whatever you do, don’t get angry. Because most of this is going to be in the programs.”

Jim suddenly felt odd about this entire thing. Why would he get mad at Beth?

“Sit here, Jim and get ready to roll,” Beth bossed and Jim didn’t like it. Blair just smiled at him and winked. That wink did wonders for Jim. He didn’t want to kill her anymore.

“Jim Ellison, I’m here to ask you some very personal questions. Some of them you might not like, but they have to be answered. Shall we start?”

Jim saw and heard the camera already running, so why was she asking that? “Sure, what is your first question?”

“Are you a homosexual?” she asked.

Jim didn’t pause at all. “Of course I am.”

“And you’re not ashamed of it?”

“No, I’m not.”

“Did everyone at your old job in New York know you were a homosexual?”

“Anyone I knew well, knew. The others never asked me.”

“So you might have been embarrassed if they found out?”

“Quite the opposite. When I went back to New York to talk to my old employer about selling my company I told them all during the meeting that I was gay. I didn’t hide it at all. Actually, no one seemed that surprised. After all, I never dated a woman. People put two and two together and came up with the answer.”

“What was their opinion of you?”

“I have no idea, you would have to ask them. No one was mean to me, if this is what you were getting at.”

“So no one ever mistreated you even after they knew you were gay? Am I right?”

“No, I was not mistreated. I don’t understand what these questions have to do with anything.”

“Did you ever try to bring charges against your former boss?”

“No, he didn’t do anything to me. Why would I bring charges?”

“You don’t think that he pressured you to leave the company?”

“I don’t know where you got your information from, but that isn’t what happened. He explained that I couldn’t keep up like I was because I had a little girl and working all those hours on top of it. He told me that single parents can’t do that type of thing. There isn’t enough time in a day.”

“So he didn’t fire you?”

“Where are you getting your information from? I wasn’t fired, I terminated my job myself. I left of my own accord.”

“I don’t understand, then why are you so angry at him?”

“I’m not. Where are you getting your information? It seems to be quite wrong.”

“And you’re not going to hold a press conference to talk about what Mr. Baker has said today?”

“I don’t even know what Mr. Baker said today. I was feeding my family and haven’t checked anything online.”

“Have you watched the news today?”

“No, I’ve been busy getting ready for you to come. Why?” Jim sounded leery.

“Mr. Baker from Baker Enterprises is accusing you of trying to ruin his company’s good name. He said he had to fire you for good reasons and there was no need for such hatred from you. He said he had nothing to do with the comment that was put on the news board online. But he said that you’re going after him. He just wanted everyone to be aware of how manipulative you are.”

“Well, he made it all up. I would never try to ruin someone’s good name. And I wasn’t fired for any reason. I chose to leave my job because I couldn’t take care of Maggie and work the hours.”

“That’s what I find very odd about all of this, Jim.”

“Are you trying to say I’m lying?”

“No, I’m trying to figure out what he’s doing. Why would he say this about you if you didn’t get fired?”

“I think you should be interviewing him. I think you have the wrong person in the hot seat, Beth.”

“I’m beginning to wonder what any of this is about. Let’s start the interview over again with what I was going to ask.”

“That would be great, Beth.”

Jim was staying quite calm, but Blair could see his jaw clenching and knew he wasn’t far from biting someone’s head off.

“Jim, what do you think of when you hear the word wholesome?”

“Good. Something quite good.”

“You’ve been told that you’re not wholesome, am I right?”

“Well, yes, but can we really listen to anyone that doesn’t sign their name to the complaint? That person is a coward and that’s not wholesome. And now you’re telling me I’m being attacked for being fired, when I wasn’t fired. That is the work of a coward, also. Something is going on, I just don’t know what yet. I think I need to put out a press release of my own.”

“We can do it right now, if you want to, Jim.”

“I would like to challenge whoever said I wasn’t wholesome to say these things to my face and explain why it is ruining their lives, when it isn’t. My father told me today that stock has risen since this has started, so people aren’t listening to whoever said it.”

“Do you have an idea of who said and why?”

“Of course I do. But I’m not dragging anyone through the mud for my kicks. It’s not my style.”

“I think perhaps you’re a much bigger man than the one that made these comments online.”

“I don’t want to think that the person is bad, I think the person is just upset that he didn’t get his way.”

“Would you care to elaborate on that, Jim?”

“No, I sure wouldn’t. I have a company that will eventually take care of many of the unemployed in our town. We all work together, play together and have meals together. This to me is wholesome. It’s family, no matter who is in it and it’s love, no matter who you love. I think that’s all I have to say for today. I was really upset about this but it’s not turning out like I had thought it would. I was worried about my friends, my family and our town. Now, I’m not. The man that did this is weak and a coward, so he won’t come after us with anything legal or true. It’s time to move on.”

“I really like you, Jim Ellison. And I would easily buy your baby food. I think you’re a good and thoughtful man. One that anyone would be proud to know.”

“Thank you for your time, Beth.”

“Jim, one last question. Are you going to go after this man that is trying to hurt your family?”

“No…He’s damaged enough as it is.”

“Thank you. This will air next week, so watch for it, Jim.”

Jim got up off the chair and walked towards Blair and leaned in for a kiss. He didn’t care if the film crew got it on tape. It didn’t matter. Jim realized that he had what he always needed. Family and happiness. He was surrounded by all of them today.

Beth had everyone get their equipment and get ready to go. She walked up to Jim and asked, “Do you have anyone I could talk to at your former place of work? And if so, would it be all right if I interview them, too?”

“There is only one person I respect and trust to tell the truth. I’ll give you her name and phone number when you have a moment.”

“Write it down for me, please? Blair, I need to interview you, Jim’s dad and Jim’s brother. When would be a good time?”

Blair thought a moment and said, “Well, we have Maggie at the moment, and I don’t want her dragged into this, but now would be a good time for the interview. And then, if you wanted to, you could interview the plant workers next and end with our nice little town of Kirkland.”

“Okay, that’s a good idea, Blair. We’ll get four segments taped in one day. I will only have to get the one in New York. Then I will have enough time to edit them before next week. Monday sounds like a good day. My boss said I could air one segment each day. So it’s going to be perfect. I’m not promising the actual date yet.”

Beth told all of her crew to unload again and set up for the next interview. Beth was ready in no time at all.

“Blair, William and Steven, I would like you to sit on the sofa. That way we have all of you in one shot. Maybe Jim could keep an eye on Maggie. She doesn’t really need to be dragged into this, as Blair said. It’ll make it easier for my camera crew. Sit down and get ready to roll.”

The three men sat down and smiled at each other. Blair hoped they knew how much he appreciated all of this.

“I’m interviewing William Ellison, father of Jim Ellison, Steven Ellison, brother to Jim Ellison and Blair Sandburg, life mate to Jim Ellison. Good morning, gentlemen. I’m going to ask some questions and whoever wants to answer is fine by me. What is your opinion of wholesome?

William answered first. “Jim is wholesome. He took in his cousin’s child when they tragically died and is raising her as his own. In fact, he considers her his own. He questioned whether he would make a good father and thought of giving her up for adoption but thought better of it. She was after all his responsibility and he didn’t take that lightly. This to me proves what a good man he is and continues to be. He’s a wonderful father, life mate, boss and friend to everyone in this town.”

“Thank you, William. He sounds like a pretty nice guy. Why do you think anyone would have chosen him to pick on, online?”

Steven cleared his throat and said, “Because whoever did it, is a coward. They couldn’t tell Jim how they felt to his face so they took the coward’s way out. They chose Jim to pick on because he has done so well. He’s right in the middle of hiring more people, opening a bigger plant and doing more for this town then they ever would have hoped for. He’s dangerous to someone like that person. They can’t fight back because they aren’t as good a person.”

“I like that answer, Steven. Are you and your brother close?”

“We weren’t for the longest time, but he wrote me and my dad a letter to ask us to be in his life again. He didn’t want to do all this alone. He wanted to share with family. He’s big on family.”

“Now, Blair, how do you feel about sharing Jim with everyone involved with his business?”

“First of all, he’s not mine to share. He’s his own man and will spend time with anyone he wants. He’s a good man and knows right and wrong and everyone in this town knows this to be true. You’ll find out when you interview all of them. He always finds time for his family, so I have no complaints at all.”

“Blair, I haven’t got time to interview the entire town, so maybe you could tell me who would be a good person to talk to.”

“I can’t give you just one person’s name. There are too many people that count in this town. I would start with all of the shop owners and go from there.”

“That’s a good idea, I’ll do that. Now a hard question, William. How do you feel about your son being a homosexual?”

“I wasn’t happy with Jimmy’s choice in life, but I lost many years because of that. I’m not about to lose any more. I had to come to my senses and realize that he’s a good man, nothing more, nothing less.”

“And how about you, Steven? Did it bother you?”

“The only thing that bothers me is the fact that we didn’t talk for so many years. Wasted years. We lost so much and now it’s time to make up for it.”

“Blair, do you see yourself with Jim Ellison ten years from now?”

“I see myself with Jim 50 years from now.”

“Well, that’s all I have to ask you for now. If anything comes up, I can ask you later. Thank you all for helping me with the series.”

“You are most welcome,” William said.

“What he said,” Steven agreed.

“Thank you for everything you’re doing, Beth,” Blair said.

“Tomorrow we’ll see his baby food plant and talk with some of his employees. We’ll see if he’s as golden as everyone here seems to think.”

They stopped recording and started packing up their equipment once again. “Jim, do you think I could go with you down to the plant and ask questions? And then maybe we could view the new plant and talk about how many people will be employed.”

“That would be great. Follow me.” Jim handed Maggie to Blair, then started out the front door and down the stairs while Beth was still saying goodbye to everyone inside.

Beth joined Jim and they walked side by side to the small plant. She already knew that everyone would give glowing reviews of Jim Ellison, so it was just something she needed to follow up for her five part series.

“Here we are, this is my original plant and we have to drive to the new one.”

Jim and Beth went inside and Beth was right. No one said anything but wonderful things about Jim and the company. It went very well and very fast. They walked outside and Beth asked, “Could we see the new plant today?”

“Sure, just follow me, we have to drive. It’s quite far from this one.”

They all got into the van and Beth got into Jim’s car and they were off. Beth found herself excited about seeing what Orchard Baby had grown into. It was all interesting to her. This man had gone from making baby food in his kitchen, to a small plant and now a large plant was getting ready to be opened. Beth was impressed.

They arrived and she was astonished at how big it was. And the parking lot was huge also. Jim led them in with the cameras rolling and Beth asked, “What is this room here? It seems to look like a nursery, or something similar.”

“It is a nursery. A lot of people don’t have day-care, so we will have three people that work for my company that will care for the children. If they want to pay something towards it they can, but I’m not looking for payment. But we’ll only have room for about 30 children. I didn’t plan that out too well.”

“So, you have a day-care center right in the business?”

“Yes, it’s separate from the line work. So they won’t hear the noises and the commotion to interfere with being babysat.”

“Would you bring Maggie here?”

“Yes, Maggie is going to come here. And I will pay for her care. Just like everyone else who wants to. The three people I have for taking charge of the children are all certified for this job. I believe it will help the workers quite considerably."

“All right, Jim, where are we heading?”

“Where we cook the baby food. The section we can only see through the windows because it’s a sterile environment. There isn’t too much to see because of that. I’m sorry about that.”

“That’s totally understandable. Wow, this next place is huge. What are you doing in this room?”

“This is the assembly room. The food will come and farther down they will put lids on them and then there will be the closing of the lids, where all air is suctioned out, we will put labels on them and they will stay fresh to the end of the shelf life.”

“How many people will you be hiring, Jim?”

“Around 150 for the plant, not including the three for babysitting.”

“Do you have to live in Kirkland for the job?”

“Of course not. We’re accepting applications for all entries at this time. As long as you can make it to work, you can have the job. I have great benefits, including health and dental insurance, sick pay and vacation pay. I want this to be recognized as a good company to work for.”

When they were all done filming, they walked back to the van. Beth smiled at Jim and said, “I need to call Barb today and see her tomorrow. Hopefully, she won’t get fired because of it.”

Jim smiled. “She gave her notice today. So I think she’ll be safe. Besides I offered her a job and she’s going to take it.”

“You’re kidding? She’s leaving New York for Kirkland? That’s so odd.”

“She wants to settle down, meet someone nice and have children. She wasn’t having any luck in New York and thought it might be better here or in Cascade.”

“Well, I will finish up asking her questions, then the town itself and then I’m done with the segments.”

Jim drove back to his house, said goodbye to Beth and all the camera crew. He thanked them for their professional behavior and wished them luck with the series. Then Jim walked into the house.

Jim said, “Someone evidently got the word that I was doing this and they panicked. What he thought he was doing is beyond me. But now that he says he fired me, maybe I’ll sue him,” Jim said as he began to laugh.

Blair hugged him and said, “You were in complete control at all times, Jim. I was never so proud of you.”

“Thanks, babe.”

William hugged his son and asked, “Can I ask you something?”

“Sure, Dad, ask away.”

“Would you mind if I sold our family house and moved closer to you, Blair and Maggie?”

Blair began to bounce in place. “This is a wonderful idea, William. Maggie needs her Grandpa close to her. Jim, what do you say?”

Steven was smiling as much as Blair was.

Jim began to smile too and said, “The more the merrier. We could make this a family business. But you have to be wholesome.”

Everyone burst out laughing and began to talk about William’s move. Even Maggie seemed excited about the move. Blair already had ideas for a house for William in town.

Blair wasn’t stupid, he didn’t want William next door.

*

Two weeks later:

Jim and Blair were set to watch the programs. Beth had told them it was taking longer than she thought because of all the editing she had to do. It had been advertised all weekend long. They sat holding hands, waiting for the segment to begin, basking in the love that they both had for each other. They knew things were going to go nowhere but uphill from then on.

They watched the first segment and it seemed to go over well. Now they just needed to wait for answers in either phone calls or emails. And there were always the boards for the television station itself. Jim and Blair both were looking forward to their hate mail so they could ignore it.

Jim could tell that Blair had something on his mind so he sat back and waited for Blair to open up to him. He didn’t have long to wait.

“Jim, if I asked you for something special, would you consider it and give it deep thought?”

“Sure, what’s going on, Chief?”

“One of my clients has to move out of the country and they can’t take the dog with them and they asked me to rehome her. She’s a Boxer/Lab cross and is very sweet. Her name is Lily. I thought it would be nice to have a dog around here for Maggie and for us too. What do you think of that idea?”

“How big is the dog, Chief?”

“She weighs about 80 pounds and she’s not overweight. She’s just a good sized dog. She’s much bigger than some breeds when they are purebreds. She’s very gentle and sweet. She’s already house broken and is almost two years old. I'd like to tell them that we'll take her. They're heartbroken at having to leave her, and knowing we had her would make leaving her here easier for them."

“Blair, I think it would be a good idea to introduce an animal to Maggie. She plays with those darn stray cats that hang out here and I’m not wild about that, but a nice family dog would be a good idea. My answer is yes, let’s do it.”

Blair sat on Jim’s lap and kissed him soundly. “Now I won’t be teased by all of my clients when they bring in their pets and ask what kind of dog or cat we have. Thanks, man.”

“You are most welcome. Can you bring her home tomorrow? Maggie is going to be in heaven sharing the house with someone other than us.”

“I will bring her home tomorrow. I’m so glad we had this talk. I almost didn’t ask you.”

“I can’t believe you didn’t talk to me when you first moved in. I was surprised that a Vet wouldn’t have an animal of his own. I figured you had your reasons.”

“I didn’t want to burden you with too much at one time. But Lily can run free when we’re sitting on the porch at night. She’s going to love it. She’s always been an apartment dog, so this is going to be new for her too.”

“I’m sort of excited, Blair. Between that and the idea of my dad moving closer to us will keep me busy for some time.”

“I have a house in mind for your dad. It’s smaller than this one but very nice. It was built in the 1940s but has been completely redone inside and out. It still has three bedrooms-one would be good for an office and he’d have a bedroom and a spare room. That way if he wants to take Maggie when she gets older he’ll have room.”

“We have all the time in the world to help him find a place. Besides he has to sell his house first.”

“Right… Our life is just going to get better and better, Jim.”

“I couldn’t agree with you more.”

*

Once the segments were aired and the negative attention died down Blair’s mom called.

“Hi, Sweetie. I’ve been trying to get a hold of you with no luck. I hate to leave messages on your cell phone. I would like to come for a visit. I’d like to see this new little grand-daughter I have. And I would like to hear what Jim’s dad thinks about him being gay?”

“If you don’t leave me a message on my cell, I don’t know you called, Mom. From now on just leave a short message. Okay? Jim’s dad is fine with Jim being gay. He’s a really nice man and loves his grandbaby. I’m anxious for you to meet everyone. Now, when are you coming?’’

“I thought about next week sometime. I’ll take a cab from the airport since I’m not sure when I’m getting in.”

“Don’t be silly, it would cost a fortune. I’ll pick you up, just call and tell me when you have the dates chosen.”

“All right, sweetie, I will.”

“We have a new dog, mom. Her name is Lily. You have a lot of new things to look at and the sights around here are beautiful. I’ve missed you so much.”

“Blair honey, just count on me for next week. I’ll call with the dates. I miss you too.”

Blair got off the telephone and said, “Jim, you’re finally going to meet my mother.”

“Should I start the panic attacks now or later?”

Blair snickered and smiled. “I even told her about Lily.”

“Good. I can’t wait to meet her.”

“She’s great but has to have her room dark for sleeping and plenty of room for meditation. She’s going to love the house.”

The two men talked about funny stories that Naomi had told Blair from years ago. Blair told Jim that his mom might make beef tongue while she was there and Jim made a gagging noise, making Blair crack up.

“You have to try it, it’s really much better than it sounds. I really like it.”

“I’ll try anything if it makes you happy, Chief.”

“Aww, shucks…”

In Cascade

Steven Ellison was busier than ever running his business, but found time to go to Kirkland almost every weekend. Olivia loved Jim, Blair and Maggie. That worked out well for Steven since he loved them all too. Steven decided to ask Olivia to marry him and she said yes. They were going to Kirkland that weekend to share the good news. Steven had never been this happy in his life. Between his father being happy again, seeing and hanging out with Jim once more and having a niece to adore, Steven was happier than a person had a right to be. Steven and Olivia decided that they wanted to start a family right away because they wanted Maggie and their baby to grow up together. Steven was so excited to tell Jim.

In New York

Brian Rafe watched the week-long series about Jim Ellison and felt something he hadn’t felt before. Was it jealousy? Was it regret? No, it wasn’t regret, Rafe still didn’t want a child in his life. All he regretted was that that long haired dude was getting everything that Rafe had wanted in life. Somehow it didn’t seem quite fair. He took another drink of his beer and decided to shut the television off. There was only so much torment he could take in a week. Fuck him, anyhow. Jim Ellison wasn’t all that wonderful. That little dude would get tired of Jim one day and perhaps I would have a chance at the moneymaker. Nah.

Elsewhere in New York:

Bill Baker was watching the fourth night of the series on Jim Ellison. How things got so bad, he didn’t have a clue. The first night the segment aired, Tom Spenser had called him and told him that he was finding another company to handle his account. Bill was happy that he at least had the decency to call him and tell him before he announced it somewhere else. Bill Baker wished there was something he could do to hurt Jim Ellison. But Ellison had been sure to never mention any names or places. Yes, Jim Ellison was a very smart man. And Bill Baker hated him with a passion. Now Bill had lost one of his largest accounts and Bill knew there would be others that followed suit. He would be lucky to keep his business alive. Damn that Jim Ellison.

*

Spenser’s Home

Tom Spenser finished watching the five part series on Jim Ellison. Boy, he hadn’t handled any of that well. But he did try to buy the company, twice. Jim was a stubborn man and Tom liked that about him. There were many things that Tom liked about Jim. Spenser Baby Food was going downhill fast and he needed to take some hints from Jim Ellison. He was going to make his product better and give Jim a run for his money. That’s all he could do. He hadn’t done as good a job as Jim had. And it showed. Now it was time to better the business and see if he could keep up with Ellison’s. He was still in shock when he heard how Bill Baker had tried to ruin Jim. It was only a rumor, but that was enough for him. Yes, Spenser wanted to own Jim’s company so he could suppress it, but Spenser knew that the best thing to do for all parties would be to better his product and be proud of his company like Jim Ellison was of his own. At least he learned something through all this. He was afraid that Bill Baker learned nothing but revenge and hatred. Spenser hoped that Baker didn’t actually do anything to the Ellison household. Jim Ellison shouldn’t be punished for having such good business sense. Instead he should be praised. And some day, Tom Spenser would have that same feeling. After all, Tom Spenser had it in the beginning of his career. He just let it get out of control. It was time to take control back and better himself and his company.

The end