"Okay, Todd, thanks for letting me know. … No, I don't know right now. … Yeah, I'll call you in a few days. … Goodbye." Jim looked glumly at the phone, then at Blair. "She's dead."
"Presumed dead, you mean?"
"No. Dead dead. They pulled her out of the drink about two hours ago."
"How could that be? She was strong and healthy. I didn't think anything could kill her."
Jim sighed. "Apparently, the sink hole did. There was water in the bottom, not enough to totally submerge her. But when Sweetheart went in nose-first, the whole front end was flooded. I guess the electrical system is destroyed. No way to resuscitate her."
Blair sat down on the coffee table next to where Jim lay out on the couch, his right foot bound tightly with an Ace bandage and propped up on pillows. He patted Jim on the arm. "I'm so sorry, babe. I know how much you loved her. You took good care of her--it was just a freak accident. Thank god you were out chasing that perp, so you didn't end up in the sink hole with her." He looked at Jim's leg. "Well, you're not going anywhere on that ankle for at least a few days. When you're up and around, we'll give her a good sendoff and go truck shopping." Jim glared at him. "C'mon. man, don't look at me like that. It's not like this is your first truck, or even your second."
"But I had her the longest. And she was born the same year you were."
Blair smiled. "I know, and I seem to remember you made some snarky remark about that when you first got her. In any case, there's nothing to be done now. Let's focus on getting you better. I'm going for groceries. How about a ribeye and baked potato with a nice, big salad? You need the protein to heal. Or would you rather have salmon?"
Jim grinned. "This has to be a banner day when you voluntarily offer me red meat. I'll take the steak."
"I'm not that bad and you know it." Jim rolled his eyes but said nothing more. "Okay, okay. Do you need help to get anywhere before I go out? Bio break?"
"Nah, just another beer."
Blair pulled a bottle out of the refrigerator and carried it to Jim. He kissed the top of his head and said, "I'll be back in an hour."
Blair stopped at their favorite market, where the meat and vegetables passed the sentinel-freshness test. Fortunately, it was also five miles from the loft, outside the reach of sentinel ears. Blair pulled out his phone as he wandered the aisles, picking up what they'd need for the next few days. "Robert? Hey, Cuz, how's it going? … I'm fine, but Jim sprained his ankle chasing a perp. … Yeah, I'll tell him. Hey, listen, is your mechanic friend, David, still in business? I tried his phone but it's not in service. … I'm not surprised. But he's still in Cascade, right? … No, the Volvo's running great, thanks to him. It's Jim's truck--too long a story for now. We'll grab a beer later this week and I'll tell you. … Great, lemme get something to write with." Blair pulled out a pen and wrote the number on his hand. "Thanks. Call you soon. Bye."
Blair dialed the number. "David? It's Blair Sandburg. … Are you kidding? The Volvo's never run better. No, this is a little more… challenging." Blair gave David the diagnosis on Jim's truck. By the time he had the groceries loaded in his car, the game plan was in place. Blair would have the truck towed to David's garage and David would give it priority, letting Blair know if it could be resurrected. To prevent Jim from accidentally overhearing their phone conversations and getting his hopes up, David would email Blair. He made two more calls; one to the PD impound yard, letting them know he was having the truck towed and requesting that they not tell Jim and another to the towing company.
Blair dared to hope.
It only took two days until Jim was off the crutches, but a week before he could put his full weight on his foot. He was resigned to go truck shopping and, since he was off from work for another week, decided not to put it off any longer. Since Blair was working, he waited until the following Saturday, so they could go together.
Blair told him he'd found a potential replacement through Robert's connections. "It's comparable, babe. I asked Robert to drive it over to David's to have him inspect it. If he gives it thumbs-up, I think we should take it."
Jim nodded. He'd had more than a week to mourn Sweetheart, for god's sake, and he was determined to get over it. He got in the Volvo. "Hey, this isn't the way to David's," he said, as they turned west on Central.
"No, he's got such a good reputation, he decided to go independent. He's got his own garage and a couple of mechanics working for him."
David came out from one of the bays when they drove up, wiping his hands on a rag. He waved and cocked his thumb. "She's out back," he said. "I hope you like her, 'cause she's in great shape."
They walked around to the back lot, where David kept the finished vehicles. Jim stopped dead. "Babe, it looks identical to Sweetheart, except it's shinier. It looks newly-painted." He walked up for a closer inspection, looking at the hood and front bumper, then stared at the windshield. He turned around in confusion. "I swear it's the same VIN. How…?"
Blair and David had matching grins. "It's Sweetheart, babe. David fixed her."
"But… I thought she was dead. You were right? Todd only presumed she was dead?"
"Well, it was more like Westley in 'The Princess Bride'. She was mostly dead. Just don't ask how much Miracle Max here needed to pull her out of the grave." He came up to Jim and gave him a hug. "I hope you prefer having Sweetheart instead of getting another truck." Jim shocked him by giving him a big kiss, right out in public, causing Blair to flush a little. "I guess that's a yes."
David's grin got wider--this challenge was why he loved what he did. "Jim, if I can separate you two for a minute, I can show you what we've done." He pulled out a folded-up sheaf of papers from his back pocket. It listed everything, from the electrical re-wiring, to replacing the cracked radiator, down to removing the dents caused by the fall (and a few from previous incidents) and getting it painted in Sweetheart's exact shade. He and his staff worked all week to get it done in time. "I'll give you a six-month warranty on our work, in addition to the factory warrantees for the parts." He held out his hand and Jim took it in both of his and shook it warmly.
Blair handed David his MasterCard and followed him into the shop to complete the transaction. "The keys are in the truck," David called over his shoulder.
"Be home before dark," Blair said with a smirk.
Blair was just pulling the roast chicken out of the oven when Jim came through the front door. "Well? Is she running okay?"
Jim smiled that 'everything's right with the world' smile that rocked Blair's universe. "Perfect. She's purring like a kitten. She probably didn't run this good when she was new. David's a genius and you're… incredible." He came up to Blair and pulled the oven mitts off his hands. He backed Blair up against the cabinet, covering him with his body so they were as close as they could be with clothes still on, and gave him a long, consuming kiss, burying his hands in those curls he loved to touch. He could feel Blair's responding heat as he moaned into Jim's mouth.
Blair finally broke the kiss. "We're getting too old for this against-the-wall shit. C'mon, let's take this upstairs."
They lay in bed, sweaty and sated, nuzzling. "Why'd you do it?" Jim asked. "I was ready to let her go."
"And I was, too, if she really was too far gone. But you love that old thing and David was sure he could fix it. Besides, there's a practical aspect to consider. Even as much as it cost, it's still a lot less than buying a vehicle that requires monthly payments and increased insurance. And if we'd gotten an older truck, there's a good chance we'd need to put money into it to make it reliable." Blair stroked his hand up and down Jim's abs, one of the things he loved doing. "She's been a good, steadfast lady; she deserved the chance to live. And I had David fix that miserable heater and put in a stereo system, so she'll be better than ever.
"Besides, the look on your face today was classic, and you know how I feel about classics."
Jim's wicked smile told Blair he knew exactly how Blair felt and was more than ready to perform some of his most classic moves.