Blair has been in the jungle often enough to know how it’s supposed to sound—it’s not supposed to be silent, that’s for sure, and it’s not supposed to be blue. There should be insect noises, birdsong, something. Instead, the air is still, and the quiet is almost a living thing.
He can feel his heart hammering, panic clawing at his throat, although he can’t say why. There’s just a great sense of foreboding, like he’s waiting for something awful to happen.
The sound of a gunshot breaks the unnatural silence, and Blair takes off running in that direction, knowing somehow that’s where he needs to be. When he skids to a stop in a clearing, his eyes are immediately drawn to a dark shape on the ground.
He approaches slowly, cautiously, knowing he won’t like what he finds.
The jaguar is stretched out on the ground, as though he’d collapsed in the act of running. His breath comes in harsh pants, and Blair drops to his knees beside the big cat.
“No,” he says. “No, please, no.”
The jaguar’s blue eyes blink slowly, and then glaze over in death as the big cat breathes its last, before the body morphs into Jim’s.
He wakes with his heart pounding, his breath coming in quick gasps, the bedclothes tangled around his legs. He tries to bring his breathing and heart rate under control quickly lest Jim sense his panic and wake up.
Not that Jim always knows when Blair has a nightmare, but it’s nearly 5 in the morning, and Jim’s a light enough sleeper that he could hear Blair’s thundering heart.
And this had been a real whopper of a dream all right.
No, he corrects himself. Not a dream. This was a premonition.
Jim had told him about the visions he’d had when Alex had come to town—about shooting a wolf that turned into Blair. And now Blair has a sense of how Jim had felt—sick, scared, and with a strong desire to forget it all—especially knowing how much Jim hates the supernatural.
So, he can tell Jim about his dream, and risk Jim shrugging off the premonition, and probably ignoring it entirely—if he doesn’t laugh it off. And that’s the best case scenario, because the worst case is that Jim will get pissed off and push Blair away, and maybe get himself killed in the process, because that’s how Jim deals with these sorts of things.
And things are really good between them right now, really good, and Blair doesn’t want to risk a breach.
So, that leaves option numero dos—don’t tell Jim about his dream, and do whatever he can to prevent Jim from getting killed. Only, instead of pushing Jim away, Blair will keep Jim close.
“Blair?” Jim calls from the doorway. “You okay?”
Blair forces a smile, knowing Jim can see his expression, even in the dim light. “Great.”
“I’m going for a run. Do you want to want to come along?”
Normally, Blair would probably refuse, but he feels obligated to keep Jim in his sights, and he likes running with Jim when he can. “Yeah, man, give me a sec.”
“Sure,” Jim agrees easily.
Blair rolls out of bed and pulls on a pair of gym shorts, and then pulls a Cascade PD sweatshirt over his head. Socks and running shoes are next. Jim’s stretching in the living room, and Blair takes a moment to appreciate how Jim’s shorts pull across his ass.
“Ready,” he says, clearing his throat.
Jim gives him a warm smile. “Glad to have you along, Chief.”
After the Academy, Blair’s in good shape, even if he doesn’t run as often as Jim, and he keeps pace easily, even as Jim shortens his stride a bit. The predawn air is cool and damp against Blair’s skin, and he’s grateful for the warmth of the sweatshirt. Their route takes them along the harbor, and Blair smells brine and fish and his own sweat
When they jog back up to the loft, Blair’s sweatshirt sticks to his back, and he feels invigorated. Although he doesn’t like getting up early, running with Jim is something he wouldn’t mind doing more often.
And not just because Jim’s damp t-shirt clings to his muscular chest, and his shorts hug his ass; Blair is used to ignoring his attraction—it’s all just white noise at this point, something to note and then set aside.
Blair just likes how companionable it feels to run alongside Jim as the sun rises, the silence between them broken only by the soft pounding of shoes on the pavement and the sounds of the waking city.
They take the stairs back up to the loft, and Blair says, “You’d better take first shower.”
“Thanks,” Jim replies with a warm smile.
The run has helped Blair push aside the panic from the dream, but there’s a lingering anxiety that still has him on edge. He wishes the premonition had contained a little more detail, like when Jim would be shot, so he has a better chance of preventing it.
“Blair!” The tone of Jim’s voice tells Blair that Jim has probably called his name more than once. He’s wearing nothing but a towel around his waist, and his hair is still damp as he stands next to Blair in front of the door to the balcony. “You okay?”
“Fine,” Blair replies absently. “Sorry. I didn’t sleep well.”
Jim frowns. “You gonna be okay for work today?”
Blair waves off his concern. “Sure. It’s no big deal.”
His expression dubious, Jim says, “Well, if you want to talk about it…”
Blair manages to smirk at him. “Seriously?”
“Seriously,” Jim replies, although he cracks a smile. “Get cleaned up, Sandburg. I’ll put the coffee on.”
Blair is grateful for his shorter hair, since it cuts at least ten minutes off his morning routine, and he needs the extra cushion most days. By the time he’s dressed, Jim has two travel mugs filled with coffee and a bagel smeared with cream cheese wrapped in a paper towel.
“Thanks, man,” Blair says gratefully as Jim shoves the items into his hands.
“What would you do without me, huh?” Jim asks with a grin.
Blair swallows around the lump that’s suddenly in his throat. “I don’t know.”
Jim punches him lightly in the arm. “Lighten up, Sandburg. I’m sticking around for a long time.”
Blair blows out a breath and manages to smile brightly. “Good to hear.”
Blair had once asked Jim if all his days were filled with things like having the Sunrise Patriots take the whole building. Jim had laughed, and now—more than ever—Blair understood why.
Sure, there’s the occasional day filled with danger, but most of the time detective work is pretty boring. They read reports and question witnesses and go over evidence. It’s actually not that much different than what Blair did as an anthropologist, just a different focus, and a slightly different purpose.
Today is one of the boring days, and Blair is grateful for it. In fact, the more boring days the better until he’s sure the danger has passed and Jim is safe.
Around midafternoon, he starts digging around in his desk drawer for enough change for the vending machine, and comes up a dime short. “Hey, Jim, you got any spare change?”
“If you’re getting a soda, grab one for me, huh?” Jim replies, depositing a handful of quarters in Blair’s hand. “Dr. Pepper.”
Blair makes a face, but he doesn’t argue since Jim had provided the money. The vending machine on their floor is out of Dr. Pepper, though, so Blair takes the stairs to the sixth floor. He can hear voices from below, and Jim’s name catches his attention.
“I’m just saying, why else would Ellison still be living with him?” The first voice is male, and a little too loud.
Blair freezes, caught halfway down the flight of stairs.
“Maybe they’re sharing expenses.” A second voice, also male, sounding entirely reasonable. “Bet you Ellison will be able to retire a lot sooner than you or me.”
There’s a snort. “You know, I’d believe Sandburg was a fag—”
“Right,” the second man says, drawing out the word. “After going through every pretty girl who works in the building.”
“You’re just jealous that Sandburg got a date with Melody, and she wouldn’t give you the time of day,” the other man responds. “Leave it alone, Kramer. Ellison’s a good cop, and Sandburg’s on the short list to make rookie of the year.”
Blair immediately knows who the two men are—Detective Kramer from homicide and his partner, Detective Santos. Now that he’s got one name, it’s easy to recognize the voices, and he breathes out a sigh of relief when they exit the stairwell at the sixth floor; the last thing he needs is to run into them, since they’re going to know he overheard them.
Blair leans against the wall and takes a deep breath, wondering if this is what gets Jim killed. He’s heard stories about what can happen to gay cops—backup showing up late or not at all, harassment in the locker room, things that might be written off as bad luck but are a lot more serious than that.
What if Blair’s presence is what gets Jim killed?
He heads upstairs, and plops down in the seat across from Jim.
“Forget something?” Jim asks with a raised eyebrow.
“Sandburg, what is with you?” Jim asks, sounding a little exasperated. “You went for sodas, remember?”
Blair glances at his empty hands. “Oh, right.”
Jim holds out his hand. “Here, give me the change.”
“So I can feed the vending machine,” Jim explains patiently. “Because you clearly need the caffeine. You sure you’re okay?”
Blair nods and hands over the money. “Thanks.”
“Don’t mention it,” Jim says. “Good thing we’re just doing paperwork today, Chief. I don’t think I’d be comfortable taking you out in the field.”
The soda doesn’t help much, and Blair’s grateful when Jim declares the day over.
“You’ve been quiet all day,” Jim observes as he drives them home.
Blair shakes his head. “It’s not a big deal.”
“Offer still stands,” Jim says. “If you want to talk about it, you know where to find me.”
Blair turns to look at Jim. “What if I told you I overheard something today?”
“Well, I’d say that eavesdroppers rarely hear anything good,” Jim jokes.
“Hey, man, I couldn’t help it!” Blair protests. “I was going down the stairs, they were coming up, and they were loud.”
Jim smiles. “All right. What did you hear?”
Blair hesitates, uncertain of how to broach this subject.
“What is it?” Jim asks insistently. “Because whatever it is, it’s got you worked up.”
“Kramer thinks we’re sleeping together,” Blair finally says after a minute.
He expects Jim to get defensive, or even angry, but instead he laughs, clearly amused. “So?”
“So?” Blair asks incredulously.
Jim’s blue eyes are crinkled with mirth. “People have been talking about us for years. Plenty of them think we’re sleeping together. It’s no big deal.”
“It doesn’t bother you?”
“Does it bother you?” Jim counters.
“I just don’t want you to get hurt,” Blair mutters. “And you’re straight.”
Jim quirks an eyebrow and sighs. “Blair, this is the 21st century. There will always be assholes, but most cops don’t give a shit who we’re sleeping with, except to gossip about.” He flashes a grin. “And if anybody asks us to our faces, we tell them we’re like Watson and Holmes.”
“Jim, do you know how many people think Watson and Holmes were sleeping together?” Blair demands, although he notices Jim doesn’t exactly respond to the comment that he’s straight.
Jim grins. “My point exactly.”
Blair rolls his eyes, but he has to smile.
Of course, then he has to wonder whether Jim doesn’t care what people think because he’s completely secure in his heterosexuality, or if it’s because he doesn’t mind the idea of sleeping with Blair.
Under the circumstances, Blair doesn’t think he can ask.
“Don’t worry about it,” Jim advises. “People are more likely to be jealous than pissed off at us, you know.”
“I guess,” Blair replies dubiously, but he doesn’t argue further. He probably wouldn’t have been so worried if it hadn’t been for that dream, and while he wants to trust his fellow cops, he’s not ready to rule out any possibility if it means saving Jim’s life.
Jim pulls up in front of their building and says, “That’s not the only thing that’s got you worried.”
Blair shakes his head. “You ever had a dream that was hard to shake?”
Jim glances at him, his expression disbelieving.
“Okay, I know you have,” Blair says, answering his own question.
“And you’re not ready to tell me about it,” Jim guesses.
Blair takes a deep breath. “It’s probably nothing. You know, just a bad dream.”
After an uneventful day like this one, Blair can almost believe it.
Blair has the same dream that night, though, and it’s just as bad the second time around. He wakes with Jim standing over him, gripping his shoulders. Jim has clearly just rolled out of bed, because he’s wearing only a pair of boxers and his hair is mussed.
“Blair!” Jim says sharply. “You with me?”
Blair can’t help himself; he reaches for Jim and pulls him close, feeling Jim’s strong arms come around him.
“Okay, okay,” Jim murmurs. “I’m right here, buddy. I’ve got you.”
Jim rests his chin on the top of Blair’s head as Blair takes a deep breath, pulling himself together before he pulls back.
“I think you’re going to have to tell me what’s going on,” Jim murmurs, leaving an arm across Blair’s shoulders.
“You were shot,” Blair replies, pulling back. “It was the same thing last night.”
“It was a bad dream.”
Blair closes his eyes, not wanting to admit that he’d been dreaming of the blue jungle, not quite trusting that Jim will take him seriously. “You’re right. Hazard of the job, huh? Just—promise me you’ll wear your vest if we go out on any calls.”
Jim frowns. “There’s more to this than you’re telling me, isn’t there?”
Blair shrugs. “Just—be careful, okay?”
“As careful as I always am,” Jim says.
That’s not exactly what Blair wants to hear, but he knows he’s not going to get a better promise out of Jim unless he tells Jim about the blue jungle, and Blair’s not quite ready to go there yet.
Funny, usually Jim’s the reticent one when it comes to things like this, but Blair remembers how Jim had responded the last time Blair had been in the blue jungle—and they’d shared that vision.
“You want to try to go back to sleep?” Jim asks.
Blair glances at the clock, seeing that the time is the same as it had been the previous morning, and he files that information away. “Were you going to run?”
Jim frowns. “We can, if you want to go.”
Blair has to find some way to bleed off the adrenalin from the dream. “Yeah, please.”
“Sure.” Jim sounds puzzled but he goes with it. “Let me pull on some clothes.”
Blair feels stupid as soon as Jim leaves, although he tells himself that Jim had certainly freaked out when he’d dreamed of Blair dying. He’d just responded a little differently.
That morning is a repeat of the one before, right down to the coffee and bagel shoved in his hands as they head for the door.
And Blair can’t help but think of a hundred mornings when Jim has done the same—made sure he has coffee or breakfast, or lunch on some days. The fact of the matter is that while Jim doesn’t say much—and he doesn’t share his feelings—he’s the guy who puts new tires on Blair’s car when they’re bald without saying anything. He’ll pick up the computer software he knows Blair needs, or drives him around when Blair’s car is in the shop. The dream is making him realize all the things Jim does for him—and all the ways Blair’s life would suck if Jim weren’t around.
“You going to be okay today?” Jim asks as they climb into his truck.
“Fine, man,” Blair insists. “I’m good.”
Jim appears dubious, but he nods and lets it go.
Unfortunately, the day is about as eventful as the prior day was boring. They finally catch a break in the major drug trafficking case they’ve been working for the last month due, in part, to one of the dealers getting cold feet and reaching out to Jim.
“You think this guy can be trusted?” Blair asks anxiously when Jim tells him that they’re meeting the informant near the docks.
Jim raises his eyebrows. “Now you’re sounding like a cop, Sandburg.”
“I am a cop,” Blair shoots back.
Jim shrugs. “I arrested him, and he’s a punk, but he’s not a bad guy. He won’t hurt us, and he’s too scared of me to lead us into a trap.”
“You’re going to wear your vest, aren’t you?”
Jim gives Blair a disgruntled look. “No, I’m not. I’m not doing anything to risk spooking him. This is our first break in trying to shut down the pipeline.”
Blair subsides, knowing how much is at stake with this investigation. There’s been a huge influx of ecstasy in Cascade recently, and it’s already been linked to at least three deaths at Rainier, which is why it’s been kicked over to Major Crimes. The problem with E is that it shows up at parties and clubs and gets passed around without anybody seeming to know who supplied it.
Binks meets them as promised, and he’s nervous and jittery. “These are bad dudes, Ellison,” he repeats over and over. “I don’t want nothing to do with them.”
“Just give us an idea where they are,” Jim replies with more patience than Blair would have given him credit for. “We’ll take it from there. You don’t have to be involved.”
Binks bounces from foot to foot and shoves lank, greasy hair out of his eyes. “That’s right. I don’t want to be involved. I can’t be.”
Jim manages to wheedle information from Binks about the next big exchange, which is supposed to happen that night at one of the newer nightclubs in town. “All right, Binks,” Jim says. “Stay home tonight, huh?”
“You got it,” Binks says fervently.
Jim hands him a folded bill, and Binks takes off like the hounds of hell are on his tail. “I doubt that’s going to be enough for a warrant,” Blair observes. “Binks isn’t what I’d call a reliable witness.”
Jim sighs. “True enough, and since it’s in the back room, it’s not like we can just happen by.” He shoots Blair a sideways look. “Too bad you can’t pass for a college student these days.”
Blair smiles grimly. “Don’t I know it?”
Jim rubs his chin. “All right, let’s see if we can’t push a warrant. I’ve known Binks long enough that he might qualify as a CI for those purposes.”
The judge is sympathetic, but won’t give them the warrant. “Now, if you went to the club, and someone offers you the drugs, I’d say you have probable cause,” Judge Moore tells them. “I’ll be happy to sign off immediately, and you can call me at any hour if that happens, but I’m not going to risk these guys walking after a successful motion to suppress.”
Jim and Blair go to Simon with the information. “So, gentlemen, the next step seems to be that you go to the club and catch someone in the act,” Simon summarizes, chewing on the end of a cigar.
Blair clears his throat. “Uh, Captain, neither of us look the part.”
Simon smiles. “Good thing for you two, I’ve heard a few things about this club. It turns out that it serves a varied clientele.”
Blair glances at Jim, who’s staring at the floor. “Varied, how?” Blair asks, since apparently Jim isn’t going to.
“He means it’s gay-friendly,” Jim says quietly.
Blair looks at Jim, then at Simon. “Okay, that helps us how?”
“Jim worked Vice,” Simon replies. “He knows how to blend, and I’m sure you’ll manage.”
Jim shifts uncomfortably. “Simon—”
“Suck it up, Ellison,” Simon advises, not unkindly. “The judge is right; we need that evidence.”
Jim shrugs philosophically. “Then we get the evidence. You’d better put on your dancing clothes, Sandburg.”
Blair frowns. “Jim, I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“Do you have a problem with gay people?” Simon asks in a deceptively mild voice.
“No, sir, but—” Blair stops, knowing that there’s no way he can explain to Simon that he had a dream about Jim getting shot, and Jim can’t wear his vest on a sting operation. “Never mind. “We’ll be fine.”
“Good answer,” Simon says. “I want updates, and we’ll have people outside to back you up.”
“You want to share with the rest of the class?” Jim asks once they’re heading back to the apartment to get cleaned up and changed.
Blair sighs. “You can’t wear your vest.”
“No, but you’ll be there backing me up, so what’s the problem?” Jim asks. “This have something to do with that dream you’ve had two nights running?”
Blair knows he has to tell Jim the whole truth; whatever hope he’d had of avoiding that are gone. “They aren’t just dreams,” Blair says. “I was in the blue jungle.”
Jim’s knuckles turn white as he grips the steering wheel. “I see.”
“Jim—” Blair begins, then stops. “I should have told you.”
“You saw it happen?” Jim asks mildly.
“I saw your body—well, the jaguar’s body,” Blair replies. “Shot.”
“And you didn’t tell me before because?”
“Because I wasn’t sure how you’d respond,” Blair says. “You don’t like talking about that kind of thing.”
“No, I don’t,” Jim admits quietly. “Look, I’m not discounting what you saw, but it was a dream, Blair. Blue jungle or not—we’ve got a job to do. There are lives at stake.”
Blair nods silently.
“I’ll be careful,” Jim promises. “If you do the same.”
“Have you done this before?” Blair asks, his curiosity getting the better of him.
Jim smiles. “A time or two. Just order a drink, sip it, and look like you’re there to have a good time. It’s pretty easy, really.”
The club is hopping when they arrive, although they take pains not to arrive together. Jim drops Blair off near the club so that Blair can go in alone, and Jim can do the same.
Blair bypasses the line by the simple expedient of discreetly flashing a badge and a hundred dollar bill at the bouncer—this time, the money is provided by the police department. He follows Jim’s advice and orders a drink, leaning against the bar and sipping it slowly.
Blair’s wearing a pair of his tightest jeans and a dress shirt that’s untucked and has a couple of buttons undone, and he has his earrings in for the first time in ages. He’s somewhat reassured by the number of guys he sees who are about his age and are dressed in much the same way.
And then he sees Jim enter.
Jim has apparently left his leather jacket in the car, because the only thing he’s wearing is a pair of tight, worn jeans and a black t-shirt. The effect is impressive, since nearly everyone in the club notes Jim’s entrance, judging by the number of eyes that turn in his direction.
Blair had thought for sure that everybody would make Jim for a straight cop, but seeing Jim in this context—
Jim blends. Blair isn’t sure what that says.
Blair knows he’s supposed to be on the job, but he can’t help but watch Jim, partially because he’s worried and partially because it’s Jim, who seems to be defying Blair’s expectations at every turn.
“You look like you could use some help relaxing,” says a voice at Blair’s shoulder.
Blair turns. “What?”
“You need a little help getting over that hump, right?” The man looks to be about Blair’s age, his dark hair slicked back, and his hazel eyes knowing. He’s in all black, from his jeans to his t-shirt to his jacket, and he’s smirking. “Every eye in the place is on that guy, and Dutch courage isn’t enough, right? So, enjoy, with my compliments.”
The man opens his hand with two white pills under Blair’s nose.
“Sorry, I don’t take something when I don’t know what it is,” Blair says.
“Xanax,” the man replies. “Trust me. You’ll feel like you can conquer the world.”
Blair shakes his head. “I don’t think—”
“It’s on the house,” the man insists. “I get paid to make sure people have a good time.”
Blair feigns hesitance as he accepts the pills. “Thanks.” He pretends to swallow them down. “Wish me luck.”
Blair surreptitiously puts the pills in his pocket and goes up to Jim, cutting out his current partner. “We’re being watched,” he murmurs. “I’m told it’s Xanax, but I’m not sure.”
“Then let’s dance,” Jim replies. “And when it’s over, maybe you’ll get something to cure your broken heart.”
“Are you going to break my heart?” Blair counters, unable to resist asking.
Jim looks almost predatory. “Never, I hope,” he says as he pulls Blair out farther onto the dance floor, away from the bar.
There’s a wide range of couples on the floor, enough so that Blair doesn’t feel as though they stick out. Jim settles his hands on Blair’s hips. Blair knows that even if Jim couldn’t smell his arousal, he’d feel it, but he doesn’t care, if only because he can tell Jim is a bit turned on as well.
At the end of the song, Jim leans in close and whispers in Blair’s ear, “You gotta sell it, Chief.”
And then Jim releases him and turns away, moving back into the crowd, and Blair heads back to the bar.
“No luck, huh?” the man who gave him the pills asks.
“I guess he had a better offer,” Blair replies glumly. “Not surprising.” And he believes it, too, because Jim is already dancing with someone else—another hard-body guy in tight jeans and an even tighter t-shirt.
“You give yourself too little credit,” the man responded. “I’ve got something else for you. It’ll take your mind off that guy.”
“Like that’s a possibility,” Blair murmurs.
“This stuff will make you fly,” the man replies. “You won’t give a shit.”
Blair thinks he might be getting to the good stuff, but he hesitates. “Yeah, maybe, but what about the stuff I just took?”
“No problem,” the man assures him. “You’ll just feel really good—for a small fee.”
Blair glances towards Jim, who’s dancing with someone new, just as close as he’d danced with Blair. He knows he sounds legitimately disappointed when he says, “Anything to get me over the hump, man.”
“I got just what you need,” Randolph replies. “You look like you can use loosening up. Trust me, fixating on one guy isn’t going to help. There are plenty of other fish in the sea.”
Not for me, Blair thinks, but what he says is, “Yeah, I’ve learned my lesson about going after guys who are out of my league. What do I owe you?”
“A ten will take care of it,” Randolph insists, holding out a red pill.
Blair slips a bill into Randolph’s hand and palms the pill as he pretends to swallow it. “Thanks,” he says as he slips the pill into his pocket. “This will help.”
He throws himself back into the dance floor, and immediately finds a partner who grinds against Blair’s hips. Blair’s done this with women often enough that he lets it go for a few minutes and then moves on to the next person, and then the next. Eventually, he feels Jim behind him, one strong arm snaking around Blair’s waist, one hand going into Blair’s pocket.
“Good work, Chief,” Jim mutters in Blair’s ear, and then spins away.
Blair dances a while longer, then sees Jim working his way to the back room, and he follows. He pauses in the hallway to pull the gun out of his ankle holster, knowing that Jim will have done the same.
Jim’s standing outside the back office with his weapon drawn when Blair arrives. “Rapid test shows it was positive for E,” Jim confirms in a low voice. “Judge Moore inked the warrant, and Simon’s got a couple of units on the doors.”
It’s the plan they’ve agreed on, and it goes off without a hitch. When Blair and Jim enter the room where Binks had said the deal was going down, the air is thick with cigarette smoke. The four men present—including the one who had provided Blair with the pills—have open bottles of booze in front of them, and there’s a celebratory air that dissipates as soon as Jim shouts, “Cascade PD! We have a warrant to search the premises! Let’s see your hands!”
All hands go up; they’re apparently unwilling to risk getting shot, which just proves they’re smart. They probably have access to the best lawyers in town that they trust to get them off. Blair’s confident that they’ve got solid evidence, though; the charges will stick.
Blair is relieved that they don’t have to shoot it out, and he helps Jim cuff them and read them their rights.
They turn their prisoners over to the uniforms and head back to the station, where they write their reports and stumble home around 4 am. “You know, we’re going to have to talk about this,” Blair says as Jim unlocks the door.
Jim quirks a grin at him. “Yeah, I didn’t think I’d be that lucky.”
“Shut up,” Blair complains good-naturedly. “Just be grateful I’m too tired to deal with this tonight.”
“There are other reasons I’d rather be grateful,” Jim replies, and Blair has no idea how to take that comment. “Good thing we’ve got the day off tomorrow.”
“Yeah, I guess we do. ‘Night, Jim.”
“Good night,” Jim says, and heads for the bathroom.
Blair heads for his room and collapses on the bed, thinking about Jim’s hands on him, and the harsh beat of the music, and wanting of something more, and he drops off between one thought and the next.
He wakes the next morning, having slept deeply and without dreaming—at least that he can remember. The scent of coffee and bacon reaches his nose, and Blair rolls out of bed and reaches for his robe.
Jim wears a pair of gym shorts and a t-shirt as he watches the bacon fry.
“Did you already go for a run?” Blair asks, the question punctuated by a yawn.
“I was going to ask you to come along, but you were sleeping pretty deeply,” Jim replies.
“I guess I was,” Blair agrees. “You made breakfast.”
“I was in the mood,” Jim says. “How many eggs?”
“Two,” Blair replies. He leans against the counter next to Jim, watching Jim’s economical movements as Jim expertly cracks four eggs into the pan, one after another.
“Sunny side up or scrambled?”
“Scrambled,” Blair replies, and watches as Jim does just that with the spatula, mingling the yolk and whites. Blair grabs a cup of coffee. “We going to talk about it?” he asks.
Jim stirs the eggs. “I don’t know. Will we?”
Blair lets out a breath. “You’ve been different these last few days.”
“I don’t know,” Blair admits, unable to explain that Jim had defied his expectations.
Jim smiles as though he knows what Blair is thinking. “What do you want to ask me?”
“You’re not entirely straight, are you?” Blair blurts out as Jim dishes up the eggs and bacon.
Jim busies himself with the plates. “No, not entirely.”
Blair remains silent, sensing there’s more to the story.
“When I was in college, I had this buddy,” Jim begins, sitting down at the table, and Blair joins him.
“We were both in ROTC, and we were close—really close. We spent every moment together we could,” Jim explains after a couple of bites and a really long silence. “We roomed together after our freshman year to save on costs. One night, after we’d been trolling for girls, and were both pretty drunk, we came back to our apartment after we struck out. We were horsing around, wrestling each other for the remote, and—” He shrugs and offers a self-deprecating smile. “I was straighter than he was, but neither of us had the time for a girlfriend, and we knew we’d be shipped off after graduation, so I covered for him, and we both got laid.”
“Win-win, huh?” Blair observes after it seems clear that Jim isn’t going to continue.
“You could say that,” Jim agrees with a wistful smile.
Blair swallows. “So, what happened to him?”
“Caught a stray bullet on a mission,” Jim replies. “And before you ask, I was straight enough not to want to risk it after Tim died.”
“And now?” Blair asks softly.
Jim takes another bite of breakfast. “I always thought you’d leave after you graduated, and then when you stayed, I figured that it didn’t matter, because you were straight.”
“Not totally, it turns out,” Blair replies.
“I think I figured that out after last night. The question is, what do you want to do about it?”
“Why do I have to be the one to decide?” Blair counters.
Jim shrugs. “I’m just asking what you want to do.”
“We won’t be able to tell anybody,” Blair says. “They’ll split us up if they know.”
Jim grins. “That’s the beauty of our relationship, Chief. Who would be able to tell the difference? Half of them already think we’re sleeping together. As long as anybody who comes over still sees your room under the stairs, no one will know anything has changed.”
“Simon might figure it out,” Blair says. “He’s pretty perceptive, and we’re close.”
“And Simon knows about the Sentinel-Guide thing,” Jim counters. “He won’t split us up, and as long as we’re discreet, he’ll cover for us.”
Blair pulls in a breath. “So, we’re actually doing this?”
In response, Jim leans in, and his kiss is tentative, almost chaste, lips brushing lips, before he pulls back and studies Blair.
Blair realizes that this thing between them has been building a long time, and that it’s been a slow unfurling, like a flower just beginning to bloom.
“So?” Jim asks.
“Yeah,” Blair replies. “Just promise me you’ll stay safe.”
“I’ve got every reason, don’t I?” Jim counters, leaning in for another kiss.
This kiss is a little deeper, a little dirtier, and holds the promise of more.
It’s a promise that Blair means for both of them to keep.
Blair sleeps in his own bed that night. He and Jim had made out a lot but hadn’t gone further. Partly, Blair wants to take his time, because this feels important, and partly, he wants to be sure Jim’s out of danger.
It’s probably superstitious, but he feels like if they don’t consummate the relationship now, Jim will be a little more careful, because he’ll have something to look forward to. There will be something left unfinished.
That’s probably stupid, but until Blair is sure the danger has passed, he’s going to cling to any comfort he can find.
When he wakes, it’s to find Jim sitting by the side of his bed, pulling Blair close as soon as Blair manages to claw his way out of the nightmare.
“Maybe you should sleep in my bed,” Jim murmurs into Blair’s hair.
“How did you know?” Blair asks.
“Your heartbeat,” Jim replies. “I’m tuned into you.”
Blair sighs. “Sorry.”
“You want to go for a run?”
“I’d probably better lift today,” Blair replies. “It’s been awhile.”
“We’ll go to the gym at the station,” Jim says.
Blair had never spent much time staying fit before the Academy. He’d stayed active by playing basketball and hiking on the weekends and running from class to class, but police work required something a little more intensive. And there’s a certain amount of bonding that occurs in the gym at the police department.
Although, granted, Blair does most of his bonding with Jim.
Today, Santos is there with Kramer, and Blair suspects that them showing up together probably adds fuel to the fire.
Jim smirks at Blair as soon as he sees Kramer. “You want to show him how it’s done, Sandburg?”
“Yeah, why not?” Blair says.
He surreptitiously watches the others in the room, noting that there’s nothing to set them apart from any of the others who use the room. Plenty of partners work out together; they can hide what they are easily enough.
“You’re testifying in the Rodriguez trial today, aren’t you?” Jim asks as Blair stretches out on the bench press.
“Yeah, I am,” Blair grunts. “So, stay out of trouble.”
“I’ve got that deposition,” Jim replies. “Don’t worry about it.”
“Can’t help it, man,” Blair counters, blowing out a breath as he finishes the set.
Jim grins at Blair as they switch places. “Now you know how I feel.”
Blair brought a suit with him that morning, and he showers and changes in time for court, hoping that Jim manages to stay out of harm’s way.
The defense grills him hard, dancing around the issue of his dissertation but not quite touching on the subject, since it had been ruled irrelevant—and because Blair had been exonerated of any wrongdoing. As a result, Blair’s testimony takes about twice as long as he expects, and he’s not back in the station until late that afternoon.
Jim’s nowhere to be seen, and Blair pulls off his tie and loosens the buttons of his dress shirt, heading for Simon’s office. “Captain?” Blair calls as he enters. “Where’s Jim?”
“He went home,” Simon replies. “You’ve got a stakeout tonight. Sorry, Blair.”
“No problem,” Blair says. “I’ve got time to catch a nap.”
“You do that,” Simon advises.
But Jim’s nowhere to be found when Blair gets home. Instead, Blair finds a note that says, “I went to run a couple of errands. Catch some z’s while you can, Chief. I’ll wake you up before we’re due on the stakeout.”
Blair sends up a silent prayer that Jim doesn’t get himself into trouble and collapses into his bed. He’s exhausted enough that he falls asleep immediately and doesn’t wake up until after 4 am.
When Blair glances at the clock, he mutters, “Fuck. Jim, you bastard.”
The only explanation is that Jim hadn’t woken him up, and that pisses Blair off, although he understands Jim’s decision-making process in this case. Blair hasn’t been sleeping well, so if he’s snoozing, Jim isn’t going to disturb him.
But it’s after 4, and Blair remembers that his nightmares had been waking him close to five, which means that Blair has about an hour to figure out where Jim is.
He feels the same sense of urgency he did in the dreams, and Blair throws on the first clothes that come to hand and prays he arrives in time.
Blair tunes in to the police scanner, then calls Jim on his cell phone. When he doesn’t get a response, he calls Simon. “I need to know where Jim is,” Blair says without preamble. “And I need to know now.”
“What the hell, Blair,” Simon grumbles. “I was sleeping.”
“So was I,” Blair replies. “But I’m supposed to be on a stakeout with Jim. So, where is he?”
“On stakeout,” Simon replies. “I haven’t heard otherwise, so I’m assuming he made it.”
“That jerk,” Blair mutters.
“He said you needed the sleep,” Simon replies. “I kept an extra unit on the scene.”
Since this surveillance is part of the group watching Val Fiorelli, local crime boss, Blair is grateful for Simon’s caution. “Thanks. Give me the address.”
“I’m guessing there’s a reason for you not calling Jim,” Simon replies.
“He hasn’t answered his cell phone,” Blair replies.
Simon rattles off an address. “And if Jim’s not there, I don’t know where he is,” he adds.
Simon’s information jives with what Blair knows, and he says, “Thanks, Captain. I’ll let you know what happens.”
Blair throws on whatever clean clothes come to hand and buckles on his shoulder holster. There had been a point when he’d first started carrying that Blair hadn’t thought he’d ever get used to carrying a weapon, and now he felt naked without one.
Talk about irony.
As Blair approaches the location, he spots Jim’s truck, but no Jim, and he parks and starts looking.
He’s following his gut, moving closer to the location they’re supposed to be watching, when he hears the sounds of gunshots—one, then a pause, then two in close succession. Blair dials 911 on his cell phone and gives his location and badge number, not wanting to risk the ambulance arriving too late.
Blair’s heart is in his throat as he takes off running in the direction of the noise. He nearly trips over a body where the alley and the empty lot meet. He checks for a pulse and finds none.
“Jim!” he calls, catching sight of the body in the middle of the empty lot, where the alley empties out. “JIM!”
There’s no response, and Blair runs over. Jim is still and silent, and Blair rolls him over, fumbling for a pulse as Jim coughs.
“Forgot how much that hurts,” Jim replies, coughing. “Was he shooting a fucking cannon or what?”
Blair glances at the weapon that lies a few feet from the body. “Looks like a Desert Eagle. No wonder it dropped you.”
“It hurts like a motherfucker,” Jim grumbles, sitting up with Blair’s help.
Blair pats down Jim’s chest, feeling the bullet hole in Jim’s jacket and shirt, and the vest underneath. There’s blood staining Jim’s right arm, though. “He got you.”
“Just a crease,” Jim replies. “No big deal. Blair,” he says insistently. “I’m okay.”
“You jerk!” Blair yells, thumping Jim on the chest. “Why didn’t you call for back up?”
“There wasn’t time!” Jim replies hotly. “And before you ask, you were sleeping when I got home. You didn’t even stir when I called your name. I thought you needed the sleep.”
Blair shakes his head and offers Jim a hand up. “Come on. I need to call this in. Who is it?”
“Giovanni Fiorelli,” Jim replies. “With luck, we’ll be able to tie him into his brother’s operation.”
“I suspect we’ve used up our luck,” Blair replies grimly, hearing the ambulance approach with its sirens blaring. “But let’s hope we haven’t.”
“Blair,” Jim says urgently. “I wore the vest because you asked me to. That’s the only reason I’m alive.”
Blair lets out a breath and rests his forehead against Jim’s. “Thank you,” he says before he pulls off his jacket, and then his flannel shirt to press it to Jim’s wound.
“Hey,” Jim says quietly as the ambulance pulls up into the alley. “The future is always malleable, right?”
Blair grins in relief. “That’s a two-dollar word, Ellison.”
“I read, Sandburg,” Jim replies with a grin, and then the paramedics swarm them.
It’s okay, though. Jim’s alive and not seriously injured. He’ll be home in a few hours, and Blair’s grateful for it.
Plus, they’ve got the promise of so much more to come.
If the future is malleable, Blair thinks they might both get what they want.