Blair looked up from his desk where he was sifting through the bank records of a recently-deceased citizen of Cascade. If he could find enough evidence, the assistant DA would sanction a forensic auditor to review them. Until then, however, he would have to continue trying to understand the many accounts and their frequent activities as best he could. He sighed and looked up, almost pleased at Simon's bellow. Blair had a checking account, a small savings account, a brand-new 401(k), and nothing else. In five years, he'd be vested and would start working on a pension, but he tried not to think about that. He hadn't been raised that way.
Simon didn't look angry or upset when Blair reached his office. Sipping coffee, as always, he gestured for Blair to be seated. After a few seconds, he asked, "How are you?"
Blair nodded; he knew what Simon was asking. "I'm fine, Captain. Jim calls every night."
"How's the conference going?"
"He's going to about four sessions a day and says maybe one of them is worth his time."
"Well, that's better than average. Maybe he'll bring something useful back." Simon dropped his eyes for a moment, unusual behavior for him. Blair watched him closely. "Blair," and that usually meant trouble, the use of Blair's first name, "I'm sure you heard that Detective Jorgensen in Homicide has, uh, taken a leave of absence."
"I heard he had a nervous breakdown a few weeks ago, whatever that means."
"Yeah." Simon scratched his neck. "Well, you'd know better than I would. Anyway, Captain Fuscaldo has asked for some help."
"You're going to assign me to Homicide?" Blair hoped his voice hadn't really squeaked.
"No, not really *assigned*, per se. But we'd like you to clean out Jorgensen's office."
Blair stared at his captain, genuinely puzzled. He shook his head slightly, and Simon sighed.
"You know Fuscaldo's new?" At Blair's nod, he continued. "He thinks, or more accurately, has a feeling that something was going on, something internal, that caused Jorgensen's breakdown. He doesn't have enough to warrant going to IA, since they've already done a review of the situation. But he'd feel better with someone trusted going through Jorgensen's stuff. Since he's new, out of Tacoma, he doesn't really know anyone here in Cascade. I'm not sure why he turned to me, except he's probably heard about your solve rate."
"Jim's," Blair corrected automatically.
"Take some credit, Sandburg. We both know that, as good as Jim is, he's better with you." That was, without a doubt, one of the nicest things Simon had ever said to Blair, so he was taken aback and silent with pleased shock.
"Tomorrow I want you to report to Captain Fuscaldo. He's expecting you. Seems like a nice enough guy. Keep your mouth shut, which I know you can do, and keep your eyes open. Got me?"
"Yes, sir," Blair responded automatically and started to rise. Simon pointed at his chair and he obediently sat again.
"I'm going to tell you some confidential stuff, here Sandburg. Don't tell Fuscaldo I told you this, okay? The last captain in Homicide, Jon Dunn, he was a pistol. Ran his own fiefdom. He didn't have a lot of loyal folks, but the ones who were are fanatical, know what I mean? These are homicide detectives, Detective, so they know what they're doing. They know where to bury the bodies." Simon stared at him and Blair felt his eyes widen.
"You're sending me in undercover," he interpreted, and Simon nodded.
"Report in to me daily. Keep me posted on everything. You and I will *together* decide what you tell Fuscaldo, got it?" Blair nodded, feeling his heart rate elevate a bit. Undercover. Without Jim. Whoa.
"Can I tell Jim?"
Simon smiled. "If I said no, what would you do?" Blair blushed a little and Simon laughed, then waved his hand dismissively. "Yeah, tell him when he calls tonight. He'll kick my ass, but I knew that beforehand. Tell him I'll keep an eye on you until he gets back."
"Yes, sir." Blair escaped to his desk, smiling a little himself. Jim would not be pleased that he was going in alone, even in something this innocuous. At least he hoped it was innocuous. He decided to get more coffee before returning to the bank statements. Maybe make a bagel run, get some fresh air.
Jim shifted in the aluminum folding chair; the seat was too low to the ground, too hard, and too small for his frame. He crossed and re-crossed his legs, stretched them under the chair ahead of him, then crossed them again. God, why did these things have to be so uncomfortable?
He checked his watch -- another twenty minutes. He decided to blow this session off. Too boring. Why couldn't the presenters stick to the point? And more importantly, why didn't they deliver what they said they were going to?
This was the last session of the day; there was supposed to be a free dinner this evening given by the vendors, but he knew what that meant: bad hors d'oeuvres and inexpensive chardonnay surrounded by salesmen. He decided to go for a walk and then back to his room. Room service sounded pretty good tonight.
He missed Blair as he walked out the immense glass doors into the gas fumes and asphalt-scented air. Who the hell decided to hold the conference in Dallas? And at this awful hotel? Well, honestly, the hotel was pretty nice, but the location sucked. As Blair would say. Jim didn't have a good enough sense of the city to know where he was: downtown, uptown, or in the burbs. But there was nothing around him but a few other hotels, parking garages, and empty storefronts. He had read in the hotel brochure that the very first Niemann-Marcus was around the corner, and the very first hotel with the name Hilton just up the street. But he didn't really care much about those things.
What he cared about was getting home. He missed his routine: waking up to breakfast with Blair; working with Blair; coming home with Blair; spending free time with Blair. Playing some hoops, maybe, or taking a drive somewhere for some bogus reason. To buy a pot at a nursery outside town. Pick up some specialty tea available only a shop high in the Cascade range. Walking the beach.
In short, he thought, as he strode down the empty boulevard, I miss Blair.
He had two more days of this thing and then he could go home. He could visualize the program for the next two days: information about new federal laws. What having a consent decree imposed on a city agency meant. What was happening with the LAPD. The implications of the recent Miranda rulings in the southern states.
Boring as hell. Simon might think being sent to these things was a perk, but not Jim. Jesus, no way.
If Sandburg were here, Jim thought, we would go see the first Niemann-Marcus. A cultural artifact of the twentieth century. An example of conspicuous consumption. And of course, they'd have to eat the million dollar chocolate chip cookie. Hey, that's what he should do: buy a cookie for Blair. He'd get a kick out of that. Tell him I spent a million on him. So Jim paused to check his bearings, and then headed off to the department store.
Captain Fuscaldo was a thin, tall white man, clearly of Italian descent. He shook hands firmly as he greeted Blair, having him sit in a much nicer chair than Simon had in his office. In fact, Blair thought, looking around him with interest, Homicide seemed a nicer place than Major Crimes. They must get a bigger chunk of the budget.
"I really don't know what you'll be looking for," Fuscaldo said once he'd shut his office door. "I'm hoping you won't find a thing. But I'm concerned about Jorgensen. I don't know him well, but I've studied his record. A good closure rate. Several commendations. Not a lot of friends, though, and his office is a fucking mess. Excuse me," and Blair raised his eyebrows. A homicide captain apologizing for his language? Didn't he watch NYPD Blue?
"When you say clean out his office, what exactly would you like me to do?"
"You'll know when you see it," Fuscaldo said, somewhat grimly. "Paper everywhere. Stacks of paper, towers of paper, skyscrapers of paper. I guess just sort it out. I've made arrangements for a dozen of those cardboard file boxes to be delivered. Put all his personal belongings in one and then just use whatever filing system makes sense to you for the others.
"But Detective Sandburg, if you happen across anything, ah, curious, I hope you'll set it aside, in a safe place, of course, and discuss it with me. Rather than simply filing it." Blair nodded. "I can't give you any ideas of what to look for. If only because I don't want to prejudice you. But you should listen, too."
"Listen for what?"
Fuscaldo studied him. At last he said, "I know a little of your background, Detective. I don't believe Rainier grad school accepts fools." Blair didn't know how to respond to that, so he simply nodded. Fuscaldo nodded, too, as if they'd agreed on something, and then showed him to Jorgensen's office.
Well, Blair thought, hands on his hips, this must be paper heaven. Even his office at Rainier, back when he'd had one, hadn't looked like this. The file boxes were collapsed, so he set about opening them first. Then he began collecting what were obviously personal effects: two coffee mugs, one with the word Daddy written on it; pictures of two little boys and an overweight woman with a sweet smile; a bowling trophy that upon closer examination proved to be a joke.
The pictures on the wall seemed to be originals; in the lower right corner of each he read "Lois Sills Jorgensen." His wife painted these, Blair realized, and studied them curiously. Nocturnal landscapes: a full moon sailing over iced lakes in one and what might be Lake Washington with Seattle's skyline in the background in another. Ducks in a vee-formation flying over a dark forest. All rather mysterious yet soothing. Blair went downstairs and bought a couple newspapers to wrap the pictures in before packing them away.
Occasionally, someone would come by and watch Blair. He'd always jump up and hold out his hand, introduce himself. He knew most of the homicide cops, by sight if nothing else; this might be a good way to get to know them better. The ones who stopped by seemed friendly and curious; a couple openly asked why he was doing this. Blair just shrugged and said, "I do what my boss tells me."
"I hear that," grinned a man about Blair's own age with vivid red hair, almost orange, and pale orange freckles. McKnight, Blair remembered. Orris McKnight.
Blair also noticed a few others, mostly older men, who didn't stop by but watched him from their desks or standing in the doors of their offices. When they passed by Jorgensen's office, they'd peer in but not speak. Blair smiled at each and said hi, trying not to feel slighted by their silence. These were no doubt Captain Dunn's cronies. Their presence made Blair think Simon was right; something was up in Homicide.
It wasn't until that afternoon that Blair finally began to sort through the papers on Jorgensen's desk and credenza. His file cabinet was a nightmare, stuff just wadded up and thrown in there. Blair remembered cleaning out his office at Rainier, late one evening when no one else was around. Jim had come, of course, as if Jim would have let him out of his sight in those bad days. He'd thrown pounds and pounds of paper away, not wanting to know what he was discarding. Jim had finally put his arms around Blair, slowing him down. Blair had wanted nothing more than to put his own arms around Jim and weep with the enormity of the loss, but of course, guys didn't do that. He permitted himself to be held a few minutes and then had said, "I need another trash can or two," and Jim had brought back six. He must've stolen one from every open office on the floor.
But that was then. These weren't his papers, they were homicide's. And they might tell him what, if anything, was going on down here.
By four, his back and eyes were killing him; he had several paper cuts; his hands were dirty. Jesus, what a task. They'd probably given it to him because he was the most junior detective in the entire precinct. He went to the bathroom down the corner and tried to wash up a bit; while he was rinsing his face, one of the older guys came in and watched him.
"Hey," he said politely, but the guy just stared at him. Tired, Blair wasn't in a mood to be very accepting of this behavior. "What?" he said crossly. "You wanna do this? 'Cause I sure don't."
The man, probably in his fifties, a little overweight, white with a tidy grey mustache, just stared at him. Blair leaned forward a bit to see his ID. "Detective Murray, is there something I can do for you?"
"What are you lookin' for?" he finally asked.
Blair looked at him in some puzzlement. "I'm not looking for anything. My partner's out of town and I'm the rookie. They gave me the shit job. That's all. Why? Should I be looking for something?"
Murray uncrossed his arms and opened the bathroom door, then looked back at him. "You find anything, you see me, okay, rookie?"
Blair kept his face puzzled, bland. "Yeah, sure, Detective." Murray nodded and left. Blair looked in the mirror and wondered how believable his obfuscation had been.
Simon was less than thrilled with the news. "Yeah, I know Murray. He's an asshole. Doesn't like blacks, Jews, or gays. Real equal opportunity bigot."
"Was Jorgensen a bigot?"
Simon's eyes slid away from Blair for a instant, as if looking into the past. "He had his moments, but, hell, you're Jewish. You know how it works." Blair nodded. Yeah. A lotta nice people said things without thinking.
"So nothing too overt, not part of the Aryan Brotherhood, but just more comfortable around his white Christian bros."
Simon smiled a bit. "I don't think white folks call each other 'bro,' Blair," he said.
"Oh, you goyim," Blair said, and they both laughed. Not very funny, really. Just how the world divided itself up.
"Niemann-Marcus? You're shitting me; I just can't see you there."
"Yeah, it was weird. Seven floors of really expensive shit. I saw some shoes I liked -- three hundred dollars. Like leather loafers, you know, that's all."
"You buy 'em?"
"Oh, yeah," Jim laughed, "and I got you a pair, too. Size eights, right?"
"So is this a total waste of the taxpayers' money?"
Jim sighed. "Pretty much. Couple of the sessions have been good. I learned some stuff, and I'm bringing home some packets of information about new federal laws that Simon might find useful. Saw a cool gun, they call it a smart gun. But mostly I sit in really uncomfortable chairs and wish I were home."
"Me, too, Jim."
There was a bit of silence at that. Blair took a sip of the decaf coffee he'd brewed and listened to Jim breathe, three thousand miles away.
"What's Simon got you doing?"
Hmm. Blair had managed to avoid telling Jim about it last night, but there was no way around the frontal approach. "I'm cleaning out a guy's office in Homicide."
"Homicide? What, they don't have anybody capable of that?"
"Maybe." Blair told him the story, playing down Simon's suspicions as much as he could, but Jim was too good a detective and too used to Blair to miss the implications.
"Jesus Christ, Sandburg. You're not IA," Blair rolled his eyes at this, "and this could be dangerous. Jesus Christ, *Homicide*."
"You never worked there." It was a question.
"Naw. Vice was bad enough."
"Vice was better than Homicide? What? How?"
Jim sighed and Blair settled back into the yellow chair for a long story. "I'm sure everyone and his brother has told you what a sullen asshole I turned into in Vice. It was a bad place for me, Chief. I." Jim stopped for a few seconds, marshalling his thoughts; Blair remained silent and attentive.
"I was pretty successful there, in spite of my deteriorating behavior. I needed a kick in the butt, and when I got to Major Crimes, Jack Pendergrast was there to do the kicking. But I had an offer from Homicide. I was a sullen, angry bastard, too self-absorbed to understand what was going on. But looking back on it, I can see that Jon Dunn was offering me a, a chance to join his team."
Join his team? "What do you mean? More than just joining Homicide, right?"
"Right. I mean, he was a smart man, he didn't come out and said, Hey, Jimbo, let's practice a little graft together, but he made it clear that there were opportunities in Homicide that were not available in Major Crimes."
"Jesus, James," Blair blurted out, genuinely shocked, and annoyed at his own shock. How long would he remain naive? "What did you do?"
Jim laughed ruefully. "I was such a jerk, Chief. I told him to bite me." Blair laughed, too. "I didn't really understand what he was offering until later, but even as big an asshole as I was in those days, I knew I wanted to do a good job. I was a little too, ah, *enthusiastic* about some things, but I wanted real busts, real credit."
"That's you, Jimbo," Blair said dryly, and Jim said, "Hey, what have I told you about calling me 'Jimbo'?" making Blair laugh even harder. "Blair-bo," Jim finally gasped out.
"Ah, shit, I miss you," Blair said when he'd caught his breath.
"Yeah. Me, too, Chief," Jim said fondly, and Blair could hear the affection in his voice. "Jesus, I wish I were home."
"Two more days. Well, one more of the conference, and then one to get home."
"Yeah, who'd ever think it would take four hours to fly from Dallas to Cascade? It takes that long to get to Chicago." And then they were off on other, safer topics, until they were ready to hang up.
"Listen, Blair," Jim said seriously. "Be careful. I know that Murray guy. He's got a gut on him, but he still has a fifty pounds of muscle on you. You're going to have to be smart to go up against him. Don't let these guys get behind you. Stay out of the stairwells, stay out of empty elevators, and use the can on MC's floor, okay?"
"Shit, Jim, what are you saying, man?"
"I'm saying be careful. Simon won't be there to watch your back. You get hurt, I'll kick your ass."
"I told Simon you'd kick his for giving me the assignment."
"I'll kick his right after I kick yours."
"I knew I could count on you."
"You bet you can, Chief. Take care of yourself, okay?"
"Okay, Jim. I will." There was a strained moment, in which Blair wasn't sure what to say. Finally, he just repeated, "I miss you."
"Yeah. I miss my partner," and Jim's voice was so sad that Blair felt his heart turn over in sympathy.
"Come home soon."
"I will. Talk to you tomorrow."
And they hung up. Blair sat with the phone pressed against his chest, wondering yet again what he was going to do.
Jim could barely focus on the session he was attending. For one thing, it turned out to be presented by some vendors, and those were always bullshit. Had some pretty girl in a very short skirt doing the talking; as if she knew anything. He watched her legs as they flashed back and forth across the front of the break-out room, idly wondering how women stood those high heels.
Even if it had been interesting and useful, though, he knew he'd be puzzling about what was going on in Cascade. Why was Blair working in Homicide? What had happened to Jorgensen, that he'd had a nervous breakdown? What did that mean, anyway: nervous breakdown? He'd ask Blair tonight. Thank god Jon Dunn was retired; Jim would have reamed Simon a new one if he'd put Blair in under his command. Jim unconsciously shook his head, remembering Captain Dunn. A tall man, as tall as Simon, very imposing, dressed in suits Jim couldn't dream of affording to buy. Silent and superior. He and Dunn had worked out at the same gym when he'd been in Vice and Jim knew exactly what he packed under those silk and wool suits. Dunn had been cut like a professional bodybuilder, with the political sense of a piranha. A formidable opponent.
And now Simon and this new guy, Fuscaldo, were going up against his men, his empire? And using Sandburg to do so? Jim didn't like this one bit. Sudden laughter from the crowd around him pulled him from his thoughts in time to see the pretty girl blushing; she'd dropped her laser pointer and her skirt was too short to let her pick it up. Some donut-eater was gallantly leaping to her assistance. Jim took this opportunity to escape
Simon was less than pleased to hear from Jim. "Just what do you think is going to happen, Ellison?" he growled. Jim could tell he had a cigar stuffed in his mouth. "Are you questioning my judgment? Or your partner's abilities?"
"Neither, sir," Jim tried to appease him. He really had started out a bit too fiercely; well, unlike Jon Dunn, no one had ever called Jim Ellison a politician. "Simon," he said in a softer voice, trying to invoke their friendship, "you know I think Blair's the best partner I've ever worked with. I'll have that engraved on a plaque if you want. But he's still a rookie, less than a year on the job --"
"Less than a year as a cop, yes, but Jim, he's been doing a hell of a job for four years now. He's smart, he's savvy, he's quick-thinking. He's doing a good job. Let it go. You'll be back, when, Thursday? I'll assign you to help him when you get back, okay?"
And Jim understood this was the sop Simon would throw him, nothing more. "Okay," he said. "Thanks," he added, not as sincerely as he should have, and Simon snorted.
On an impulse, he dialed Blair's cell phone and was relieved when he heard his distracted voice. "Hey, Chief, what's up?"
"What's up with you? What are you learning about, uh, how to strip-search transgendered people?"
"Ha ha. Anyway, I already know. What're you doing?"
"What'ya think I'm doing? Going through reams and reams of paper, trying to sort out this guy's work. Jesus, he hasn't filed a piece of paper since the year I was born. Okay, slight exaggeration, but really, Jim, I'll never complain about your obsession with neatness again."
"Well, that's something," Jim said dryly, smiling into the phone. "Any more threatening visits?"
"Naw," but something in Blair's voice set Jim's warning systems pinging.
"Well," he sighed. "Hang on." There were some shuffling noises and then he was back. "Closed the door, which probably alerted one and all to my generally suspicious behavior. Kidding, Jim. That Murray guy dropped by a couple times to leer threateningly at me. But I did find some notes from Jorgensen's doctor to Captain Dunn. Apparently he had a psychotic break and is suffering from paranoia."
"Just because you're paranoid --"
"Doesn't mean they aren't out to get you," Blair finished in unison, but neither laughed. "I don't know, Jim. I think Fuscaldo might have something, but I haven't found anything concrete yet."
"Shit." Jim rolled his head back, trying to relax his suddenly tense neck muscles. "Shit. Listen, you tell Simon? About the notes and about Murray?"
"Of course I told Simon. Goddammit, Jim, I'm not a little hippy anthropology student cop-wannabe anymore," and when he took a breath, Jim interrupted him.
"I know, I know," he soothed. "I'm sorry, Chief. It's just hard being so far away from you. Just watch your six, okay?"
"Did you watch Top Gun again?" Blair asked suspiciously.
"Well, it was on the free cable station," Jim apologized.
And so they were okay, but Jim was still worried.
Murray was waiting for Blair in the parking garage, lounging against a silver Nissan. Sorry about your penis, Blair thought, slightly hysterical at the sight of the heavy guy in that low-slung silver phallic symbol. "Hey, rookie," he said, and Blair nodded politely.
He was driving the pickup in Jim's absence and was profoundly grateful that he'd done so. Somehow his battered Volvo didn't offer the psychological protection of the F-150. But as he passed by Murray, the older man put a gentle hand on Blair's elbow.
Blair stared back at Murray, hoping he was wearing Jim's game face, the placid calm of someone so confident that he didn't need to bluster or threaten. "What are you looking for, Murray?" he finally asked. To his surprise, Murray dropped his hand and took a step back to lounge against his car again.
"Nothin', kid. There's nothin' to look *for*."
Feeling bold, Blair asked, "Then why do you keep checking in with me?"
"I know you're a rookie and all," Murray said wryly, "but evidence can be manufactured. Sorry to break it to you."
Blair didn't find it difficult to summon righteous indignation. "Are you accusing me of something? Just say it, Detective Murray. Do you think I was sent in to manufacture evidence or not?"
Murray grinned at him and raised his hands in surrender. "Hell, no way, rookie. I can see by your honest face you'd never falsify documents."
Oh shit. His fucking dissertation. Oh shit. Surely Simon wouldn't have set him up. He swallowed. "I said the stuff the publisher had was fraudulent. He wasn't supposed to get it; it was private material mistakenly sent out and inappropriately released. Simon Banks knows the story; Jim Ellison knows the story. You think they'd keep a *fraud* around?"
Murray studied him carefully, crossing his arms over his belly, sports coat falling away to reveal a large silver buckle on his belt. "I don't know either of those men very well, so I can't say. But I do think it's fucking strange that someone like you would be sent in to clean up after Jorgensen. You know him?" Blair shook his head. "Maybe you oughta go see him in the funny farm before you do too much more."
With that advice, Murray turned and unlocked his car, sliding with difficulty behind the steering wheel. Blair observed with pleasure that he had to release the wheel and lift it up before he could get in, then adjust it back down. He watched Murray drive away before he climbed into the pickup and headed home.
He really needed to talk to Simon. And Jim.
"Fuck," Simon said. Blair didn't think he'd ever heard Simon say that before. "Okay, you're off the case."
"Hey, no, wait. I think Murray had a good idea. I want to meet with Jorgensen, see what's up."
"Sandburg, Jorgensen is locked up."
"Voluntarily, right?" The silence at Simon's end of the line told Blair he was right. "At least let me talk to his wife. I'm a new face, not from Homicide, not from IA. Maybe she'll tell me something."
"Don't go back to Homicide," Simon finally said. "I'll tell Fuscaldo you're needed back in Major Crimes for a couple days. When Jim gets back we'll regroup."
"I don't need Jim to do my job," Blair began hotly, but Simon cut him off.
"No," he said flatly, and Blair knew him well enough to recognize the finality of his decision. "You still work for me, Sandburg?"
"Yes, sir," he said, only a little sullenly. He sighed. "Okay, Simon. I do see your point."
"Good boy," Simon said dryly. "Call Jim."
And he did and got his ass kicked even though Jim was in Dallas.
"I cannot believe you wrangled with that asshole, after what I told you, Blair," he said indignantly. "You see him again, you fucking *walk* *away*, you hear me, Sandburg?"
"Yes, dad," he sighed.
"Blair. I'm not your dad. I'm your partner. Your older, more experienced partner. Your mentor, okay? Please."
"I said okay, Jim. I won't go near Homicide. I won't talk to Murray. It's just I get, I don't know. I feel that you don't trust me."
"I do." This was very earnest, and Blair smiled. "You know I trust you above all people. More than my own family, more than Simon. But it's my job to worry about you, you know?"
"Yeah." Blair listened to the miles between them hiss softly on the phone line. "What'ya do today?"
"Jesus, you don't even want to know. I went to four sessions and not even one was worth my time. I'm all packed and ready to bail. The shuttle leaves the hotel at five thirty tomorrow morning; my flight leaves at eight. I should be in Cascade by nine."
"Supposed to rain."
"Oh, like that's news. Well, I'll get in when I get in. I'll call you as soon as I do. You'll meet me?"
"I got the keys to the Ford."
As both Jim and Blair had known it would be, Cascade Airport was socked in, so Blair had time to visit Lois Sills Jorgensen before Jim arrived. The Jorgensens lived in a handsome two-story home in a nicer subdivision of east Cascade. Blair gave a moment's thought to the phenomenon that, throughout history, the better homes were on the east side of settlements and wondered about that, but then he was knocking on their handsome double-door with a brass cupid's head knocker. "Mrs. Jorgensen?" he asked the woman who answered. She was heavier than in her pictures, and her sweet face lined and exhausted. "My name is Blair Sandburg; I'm a detective in Major Crimes with the Cascade PD. May I ask you some questions about your husband?"
To Blair's dismay, she began to cry. "Please, Mrs. Jorgensen, can we go in? Let me fix you some tea or something." Still crying wordlessly, she backed up and he entered. The house was handsomely decorated but messy; clothes were draped over the stair railing, toys were underfoot, and a basket of unfolded laundry sat on a small end table near the front door. He put his hand on Mrs. Jorgensen's shoulder and led her to the kitchen, guessing correctly that the way was through the white, fingerprint-smudged swinging doors.
The kitchen was even messier: the sink mounded with dirty dishes and the dishwasher door open, revealing more dirty dishes. The trash was overflowing and aromatic with banana peels and coffee grounds. He sat her at a table, pushing the plates and silverware back until she had room to rest her arms, and then set about finding something soothing to drink. He found the coffeemaker and a can of coffee first, so he began hunting for filters. Finally, he ripped off a paper towel and lined the filter with it, scooping in enough coffee for four cups.
Blair heard her blow her nose and sniff in a way that signaled she was calming down, so once the coffee was brewing he turned to face her. "I'm sorry it's such a mess," she whispered, blushing.
"It's okay," he answered honestly. "When you're depressed and afraid and lonely, it's easy to let things go." Tears filled her warm brown eyes but she smiled, a bit tremulously.
"Why do you think I'm here?" he asked curiously.
"Lars," she answered, and it took Blair a moment to realize that was Jorgensen's name. Lars. Lars and Lois. He was willing to bet the two little Jorgensens were named Louis and Leo or some other L names. Then he let that go.
"Yes, but why?"
She shook her head, her short curls bouncing. "I don't know, Detective Sandburg. I was hoping you would tell me."
She sounded better now, more together. "I was asked to clean his office for him, to tidy things up a bit until he gets back," if he comes back, Blair added mentally. "I wanted to know what happened to him."
"He had a psychotic break," she answered bravely, almost daring him to react.
"Was it sudden?"
Clearly, this was not the question she'd been expecting. After a second, she said, "Yes. Well, I think. I knew he'd been stressed out about work for a long time. I'd been asking him to take an early retirement, get another job. Maybe one of those mall security jobs. They pay well and the hours aren't bad. But one day," tears filled her eyes again. "One day he started crying and couldn't stop. They called me --"
"He was at work?"
"Yes, at his desk. Captain Fuscaldo called me and helped me take him to our doctor. Lars just cried and cried; he cried for days. The doctor gave him Prozac and some sedative, but nothing helped. He was in therapy, going everyday, and then decided he needed to be away." She cried in earnest now. "He needed to be away from his own family," she gasped, in pain at this desertion.
Blair wasn't sure what to do. He started washing coffee cups out in hot soapy water, and a couple spoons, and busied himself preparing the coffee. "Cream?" he asked, feeling ridiculous, but she said more calmly, "Yes, please, and lots of sugar."
Eventually, he settled at the table with her and they sipped the coffee. "Do you see him?"
She nodded over her coffee cup. "I wasn't allowed to go the first three days, but now I visit him every afternoon. The kids don't go, though; Lars doesn't want them to see him like this."
"Do you need help, Mrs. Jorgensen? Any money? Maybe to hire a cleaning service?"
She blushed. "No. That's a good idea; I just hadn't thought of it. I just stay in bed until it's time to go to the hospital. Then I pick the kids up. We've been eating a lot of Wonderburgers." Blair had to smile at that.
"What do you think happened, Mrs. Jorgensen?" She stared at him, eyes and nose red. Blair became aware that she wanted to trust him, to tell him something. "I don't work for Homicide," he reminded her. "I'm here on behalf of Captain Banks in Major Crimes."
He thought for a moment. How much could he tell her? Finally, he said, "He's concerned. We're all concerned. We're wondering if it, if it was work related."
She leaned forward, pulling her pink robe tighter around her throat. "I think Lars is afraid. I think he might have done something --" and she paused for a long minute, searching for the right words.
"Something he regrets?" Blair finally suggested.
"Yes. Something he regrets. I think it's eating at him, tearing him apart, making him crazy."
"Do you know what that something might be?"
She shook her head. "Maybe with a case. I don't know. He never told me."
"Mrs. Jorgensen, may I meet with your husband?"
She gazed steadily into her half-filled coffee cup, swirling the contents gently in little circles. At last she said, "I was raised a Catholic, Detective Sandburg. I believe confession is good for the soul. I think someone should talk to him. I'll make arrangements with his doctors."
Blair pulled out a business card and scribbled his cell and home phone numbers on the reverse. "Call me anytime, Mrs. Jorgensen. If there's anything I can do." She took the card carefully, and Blair knew she'd call. "Thank you for the coffee." She looked up at him and for the first time gave him a genuine smile.
"No, thank you for the coffee," she gently corrected him, and he squeezed her shoulder before letting himself out of the disordered home.
Sitting in the truck, Blair called the airlines; Jim's Continental flight was due in an hour. That probably meant it wouldn't be in for a couple more, so Blair called Simon. "I wanna talk to Jorgensen's doctors. All of them. Can you get me permission to?"
He could hear a tapping noise in the background; Simon was probably bouncing a pencil against his desk. "Yeah, maybe. Let me talk to Fuscaldo first. Right now, you're off the case."
"I don't trust Fuscaldo, Simon," Blair said as confidently as he could.
"Okay," Simon replied slowly. "Let me talk to one of the assistant DAs. I'll call you. Isn't Jim supposed to be back?"
"Yeah. Listen, you work on that; I'll head out to the airport. Call me."
"Yes, sir," Simon said sarcastically. Blair smiled and clicked off, then started the truck. He could think at the airport as well as at his desk.
Jim felt grimy; why did traveling always make him feel dirty? Did everyone feel this way, or was it some weird sentinel thing? He collected his baggage from the overhead compartment and swung one of Blair's old backpacks over his shoulder; he'd long ago learned not to relinquish anything to the untrustworthy hands of airline baggage personnel. To his delight, Blair was waiting for him at the gate, smiling enormously. He dropped the backpack and pulled Blair into a firm hug, enjoying the feeling of Blair's arms around his back.
"Goddamn, I missed you," he finally said, leaning back to look into Blair's face, then patting his cheek with pleasure.
"Ditto," was all Blair said, but the look in his smoky blue eyes was enough. Jim grabbed the backpack and they headed out into the familiar drizzle of home, Blair filling him in on the Jorgensen situation.
"So we're gonna see Jorgensen? Why?"
"I wanna know exactly what's wrong with him. I think that will tell us what happened in Homicide."
"You're thinking crooked cops."
"I'm *knowing* crooked cops; I just want to prove it."
"Blair, you don't want to go up against Dunn and his men. We just collect the evidence and pass it on to Simon and, uh, Fuscaldo. Dunn's replacement."
Blair drove silently for a while; Jim didn't think he was really angry, just sorting things out. Finally he said, "I'll take you home, let you get cleaned up. Then I'll call Simon and see what's next."
Jim leaned back in the seat, happy to be home and in Blair's company. The drizzle was still coming down, but the ceiling was a bit higher; it looked as though they might get a few minutes of sunshine later that afternoon. Maybe enough to sit on the balcony and enjoy it.
While Jim was in the shower he heard a phone ring, and Blair's voice. He didn't try to tune in, but could easily hear the conversation. "Thank you, Mrs. Jorgensen. I never dreamt you'd act so quickly. We'll be there at three. Thank you."
Blair came to the bathroom door and leaned in enough to talk to Jim but still giving him some privacy. "Wanna come out to the funny farm with me? I have an appointment with Lars Jorgensen at three."
"Wouldn't miss it," Jim shouted back, smiling.
But he couldn't smile when they were finally permitted to enter the hospital. A very nice place; clearly the Jorgensens had money or great insurance. But it was a grey, depressing day that turned the long glassed-in hallways grey and depressing, too. They followed an attractive young man in street clothes to an alcove looking out onto a rose garden. A middle-aged man sat in a wheelchair, staring out into the rain.
"Mr. Jorgensen," their guide called softly. "Your guests are here." The young man smiled at them and said, "I'll be back in thirty minutes. If there's any problem, use that phone there," and he pointed to a white phone discreetly tucked into a corner.
Jim and Blair stood for a moment, watching their colleague. Then Blair stepped forward. "Mr. Jorgensen? My name is Blair Sandburg, and this is my partner, Jim Ellison. We're detectives in Major Crimes. My captain and yours have asked me to clean your office. I wanted to let you know what I was doing, get any special instructions from you."
A nice approach, Jim thought, watching his partner catch Jorgensen's attention. Blair sat on the window seat and leaned forward. He looked reassuring and comforting to Jim, who hoped Jorgensen would find him equally so. At a glance from Blair, Jim sat down next to him, and smiled at Jorgensen.
"Hello," he said, but Jorgensen just stared at them. To Jim's consternation, Jorgensen's eyes filled with tears and he began to cry, enormous wracking sobs. His mouth opened, his nose ran, he trembled. Jim braced to call for help, but Blair simply leaned forward and took the weeping man's hand.
"Hey, hey," he said softly, in a deep, comforting voice familiar to Jim. "It's okay. We don't have to talk about that. You wanna tell us about your boys? What are their names, anyway?"
Jorgensen continued to cry, but he held on to Blair's hand tightly. Blair used his other hand to stroke Jorgensen's; slowly, the sobs lessened. At last he pulled away and reached into a pocket for a well-used handkerchief and wiped his face and nose. "Sorry," he whispered. "So fucking sorry."
"It's okay," Blair said again. "You take your time. We didn't come to upset you."
"Lois said you were nice," Jorgensen said in a stronger voice, and Jim looked with pride at his partner.
Jorgensen sighed heavily, and finally met their eyes. "Lawrence and Lasse," he said, and Blair laughed softly.
"I knew their named would start with L," he explained, and to Jim's surprise, Jorgensen smiled.
"They sorta had to, didn't they. This has been so hard on them," he added, glancing down. Blair patted his hand again.
"So, Mr. Jorgensen, do you have any instructions for me while I clean out your office? I took out all the personal stuff, the mugs and pictures and things, and wrapped them in newspaper. I'll get them to your wife. But is there anything else?"
"I know what you're asking," Jorgensen said. "You mean anything that would explain what happened to me. Why six weeks later I'm still crying." Blair didn't respond, so Jim followed his lead and remained silent. "It's nothing surprising. Just. Just really hard to admit to." His voice trailed off into a hoarse whisper, and he stared at the floor for a long time.
When he looked up, though, his eyes were clear. "Detectives, you need to arrest me." Jim felt his eyebrows climb into his hairline, as high as that was. Blair simply nodded.
"I thought that. But we're not going to. You give us your statement and we'll take it to the DA. I'll also have your wife get you a lawyer. You've suffered enough, Mr. Jorgensen; I'll try to get some deal cut for you. You'll probably be dismissed and put under house arrest or something like that."
"I'm so ashamed," Jorgensen explained to Blair, who nodded earnestly. "I knew what I was doing was wrong. But you had to be there -- everybody was involved. Jon was just so, so powerful. Charismatic. Do you know him?" Both Blair shook his head, but Jim remembered Dunn well, better than he'd admitted to his partner. Charismatic was the right word. He'd been drawn to Dunn in a way he hadn't liked. That's why he'd turned down the opportunity to work in Homicide, even as fucked up as he'd been back then. Thank god.
"Take care of my family, Detective Sandburg." Blair nodded again, and pulled out his notebook and a pen.
That evening, over a dinner at Graziano's, Simon heard the sad story. He poured another glass of chianti, listening intently to Blair's recitation. "Jesus," he finally said. "How does one get in so deeply?"
"It's easy," Jim found himself saying, and glanced a bit anxiously at Blair, who was watching him with wide eyes. "I never really did anything, but you remember what I was like, Simon. How angry. How I pushed the line --"
"You crossed the line, Jim," Simon said firmly, and Jim felt his face blush.
"Yeah," he admitted softly. "I was a little rough on a couple suspects, in a couple interrogations. I know that. I knew it then. But the pressure to perform is so great, and the feeling that we're separate, we're special, is so seductive."
"Badge heavy," Blair murmured, and Jim nodded.
"Yeah. They teach you that in the academy? I got badge heavy, and Dunn did, too. You just get used to people jumping when you say to."
Simon nodded. "This is gonna be ugly. Not as bad as in LA, but still. Lotta murder cases are gonna be opened again. Probably wash over into Major Crimes."
"Simon, why did you choose me to look into this?"
Their captain swirled the wine in his goblet, then set it down. "You're an honest man, Sandburg. A man of integrity. I respect you. I knew you'd tell the truth no matter what you found. I trust all the men in Major Crimes," he added, a bit belatedly, "but they have loyalties elsewhere, too. You don't."
Jim watched Blair turn beet red and enjoyed the sight. He felt a wave of affection for his partner wash over him, warming his very soul. He patted Blair's shoulder but said nothing.
"What's the plan?" Blair finally asked, looking up at Simon's carefully blank face.
"Now that Jim's back, I'm going to send you both in to finish working Jorgensen's office. You know what to look for, although it sounds as though Jorgensen covered himself pretty carefully. I'll talk to Fuscaldo. Don't either of you say anything to him, though. Just to be on the safe side."
Jim and Blair glanced at each other, but neither commented.
Blair was happy to have Jim's help in Jorgensen's office. "Jesus God," was Jim's only comment when he saw the file cabinet contents, but after getting coffee (Homicide's coffee was significantly better than Major Crimes's, Blair had discovered) they set to work. Blair had developed a system for sorting: first by year and then by victim. There were eleven piles along the credenza, one for each year Jorgensen had been in Homicide.
"Started as a patrolman," Jim had commented, reading Jorgensen's personnel file the night before. "Looks like he was a good cop, till he got into Dunn's circle."
Blair had agreed. He liked Jorgensen. He liked his wife, he even liked the as yet unmet kids. He was sorry that Jorgensen had fallen into Dunn's clutches and succumbed to the lure of easy money. They'd no doubt have to sell that nice house in the suburbs and live someplace more like the loft's working-class neighborhood. Not that Blair minded that; he loved the loft and the businesses around them. But that was different.
What puzzled Blair was how Homicide had a chance to make money. Vice he could understand, and Narcotics was rife with opportunity. He and Jim had been accused of graft shortly before he'd gone to the academy. Falsely accused, of course, but still. But apparently any time someone was faced with the threat of prison or even the publicity of an arrest and possible trial, money was to be found. Jorgensen had been shamefaced and weeping when he described how he'd obliquely suggest to suspects that he could be persuaded to look elsewhere for evidence.
Jon Dunn would be a difficult man to oppose, according to Jim. Blair also puzzled about Jim's relationship with Dunn, if it could be called a relationship. But he could tell Jim had strong feelings about the other man. He just didn't know what those feelings were. Dislike, yes, and a little fear, but all tinged with a bit of respect. He almost wanted to meet the former Captain Jon Dunn, to see what he was like.
But both Simon and Jim had vetoed that idea as far too dangerous. Dunn still had a lot of friends, both in the PD and outside, powerful friends who might be threatened by the discoveries Jim and Blair were making. So Blair remained in the office, drinking coffee, visiting with Orris McKnight and a few other Homicide cops who seemed to like him, and avoiding the others.
Blair had smuggled out papers from three cases that could be used to support Jorgensen's confession. Since he was voluntarily committed and had on his official record the diagnosis of a psychotic break resulting in paranoia, they would need more than his word again Dunn's. Unfortunately, Jorgensen had been as thorough a crook as he had been when an honest cop; it wasn't as though he'd been keeping a diary listing his victims and what he'd threatened them with. But he was able to point out a few cases in which his instincts told him they'd arrested the wrong man, and he could tie others to payments or donations made to various charities. It was beyond either Jim's or Blair's abilities to tie these charities to the money laundering that must have gone on. However, Jorgensen did have a little bank book listing regular deposits; this should prove most helpful.
One day during their second week in Jorgensen's office, McKnight stopped by to visit. Always friendly, he'd become a friend of sorts to them, making them feel comfortable about being in Homicide. "You guys are almost through, hunh."
Blair stretched his back, listening to his vertebrae pop. "Yeah, thank god. What a mess. Don't make me come down here and clean out your office, Orris, okay?"
He smiled. "That's a promise. Listen, you two wanna meet for a beer after work? Celebrate getting through this mess?"
Blair glanced at Jim, who shrugged. "Sure. Where?"
"Chevy's, over on Tacoma and Fifth. They've got great chips, too, made right there." Blair was suddenly hungry.
"Cool," McKnight said, and headed back to his desk.
Blair turned to look at Jim, who shrugged again. "Call Simon," he said softly, and Blair nodded.
Chevy's, Blair thought, was not exactly his kind of place. Standardized chains went against his upbringing; he distrusted the menu and the kitchen and the beer. But the music was fun, a powerful salsa playing that got into his blood and bones and made him want to move rhythmically to it and feel someone's arms around his neck as they moved together. They did have Pacifico Clara, a beer he really liked, and Orris was right, the chips were good.
So he sat at a large round table covered in a brilliantly-colored tablecloth and topped by small bowls of salsa and chips and an enormous platter of tiny hors d'oeuvres that he, Jim, and Orris were chowing down instead of dinner. Orris was easy to talk with and right now they were focusing on whether to try out for the PD's summer softball team. Then Orris stood, nearly knocking over his beer, face red from laughter, and shouted out, "Back in a few. Gotta drain the snake." Not an expression that Blair particularly enjoyed, but that's what he got for hanging with cops.
Jim turned to look at him, a smile that Blair could only call intimate on his face. "How you doing?" he asked softly, and Blair smiled back.
"He's nice," he said, before taking another swig from his beer bottle, and Jim nodded.
Behind Jim, a very tall, very handsome man with short blond hair and striking grey eyes walked up, standing right next to Jim's chair. Blair watched Jim's face change as he sensed the other man's presence. He put down his beer and looked over Jim's head at the man, who was smiling slightly and, to Blair's shock, winked at him.
Jim slowly turned and lifted his head. "Jon," he said flatly, and Blair realized this was Jon Dunn. The man himself.
He was dressed in a exquisite suit that fell gracefully from his broad shoulders. The cut accentuated his trim waist and hips; his legs appeared to be as long as Blair was tall. His shoes must have cost a month of Blair's salary. He was, quite simply, the most beautiful person Blair had ever seen off a movie screen.
Dunn sat, as gracefully as he no doubt did everything, and smiled at Jim. "It's been a long time, James," he said, and his voice was as striking as the rest of him: a rich baritone that cut through the shrill noise of the bar and went straight to Blair's groin. To Blair's utter amazement, Jim blushed brilliantly red, as red as Orris' hair.
At last, Jim said, "Jon, this is my partner, Blair Sandburg."
"Detective Sandburg," Dunn acknowledged, putting out an enormous hand for Blair to shake. Blair's disappeared into Dunn's paw, and he felt the strength of the other man. Dunn's hands were warm and dry, and he clasped Blair's just a fraction of a second too long for Blair's comfort. Then he was released and left to watch Dunn put that hand on Jim's shoulder, his thumb stroking Jim's throat.
"I've heard interesting things about you, James. And your partner." To Blair's increasing astonishment, Jim blushed again and dropped his eyes. He appeared almost fragile sitting next to Dunn, who was as tall as Simon and just as big, but proportioned like a Michelangelo. Dunn's smile grew incrementally, and leaned confidently into Jim's space. "Tell me you haven't heard interesting things about me."
Jim pulled back a bit and looked into Dunn's face. "Of course I have, Jon. You're a hard man to miss."
Dunn smiled even more. "Well, I'm a hard man, James; am I not?"
Blair wasn't sure Jim could turn any more red and not have a stroke. He cleared his throat, hoping to break the tension between the two men, and Dunn glanced at him.
"You've gathered that James and I are old friends," he said smoothly.
"Yeah, Jim told me," Blair responded with as much confidence and insouciance as he could find at that moment. Dunn's eyebrows raised marginally and he looked back at Jim.
"Oh, James," he scolded teasingly. "Do you kiss and tell?"
"Knock it off, Jon," Jim insisted, jerking his shoulder back and scooting his chair closer to his partner. Dunn's hand dropped to his side and he laughed, a melodious timbre under the stridency of the bar. "What do you want?"
"Just to say hello. It's been a long time, James. Let's see, six, seven years since we've seen each other? As I recall, you married Carolyn Plummer shortly afterwards."
Blair genuinely could not believe what he was hearing. What the hell was this guy saying? He hoped his eyes weren't as big around as saucers, and took another sip of beer to cover his confusion and distress. As he watched, Dunn put his hand on Jim's shoulder again and leaned over to say something into his ear, softly enough that Blair couldn't hear the words. Jim turned his head slightly and for an instant the two men's cheeks remained in contact. Blair swore to himself that he saw Dunn tilt his head so that he caressed Jim's face with his before he pulled away. Jim kept his eyes on the table before him.
"Jon!" Orris exclaimed with pleasure as he returned to the table, and Dunn stood up to shake his hand, clasping Orris' in both of his.
"So good to see you, son," he said, and Blair saw Jim scoot his chair back even farther. He cautiously put his hand on Jim's elbow, below the table so no one could see.
"Let's go home," he whispered, and Jim nodded, still not meeting his eyes. Blair put his beer on the table and stood. "Hey, Orris, Captain Dunn. I have to run a couple errands and Jim's driving, so we need to scram. Nice meeting you, sir," he said politely to the god, who still had his hands wrapped around Orris'. "See you tomorrow, Orris."
He deliberately put his hands on Jim's shoulders. "Come on, partner." Jim tilted his head up to Blair and the relief in his eyes warmed Blair's heart. Then he stood and Blair dropped his hands and stepped back.
"James." Slowly, perhaps reluctantly, Jim turned back to face Dunn. "Good to see you again. Very good. Let's not let another seven years pass, shall we?"
Jim remained silent but nodded, then put his hand on the small of Blair's back and they headed out to the truck.
Once at the truck, Jim uncharacteristically handed Blair the keys. He felt too rattled to drive and he knew his partner had a million questions.
He also felt humiliated and used, as no doubt had been Jon's intention. Jesus. That was so fucking long ago; why was he coming back to haunt Jim's life now? And in front of his partner, his beloved and still-so-innocent partner.
But Blair remained quiet as he took the keys and started the trip home. Jim put his hands on his face; he could still feel the warmth of his blushes. His stomach was upset, too; maybe Blair would make him some tea to help settle it after the beer, salsa, and Jon. He laughed miserably at that thought, and Blair glanced at him.
Jim turned to look out the passenger window. "You wanna know what that was about."
"Shut up, Blair. I need to tell you this." Blair's mouth closed with a pop audible only to sentinels. "Sorry. Sorry. I always take my anger out on you, don't I." Blair's eyes got a bit bigger, but he said nothing.
"As Jon wanted, you now know that he and I, uh, knew each other pretty well back when I was in Vice." Jim rested his head against the cool window. "Yes, Blair, we were lovers, okay?"
Blair simply nodded. He didn't look shocked, he didn't look disgusted; if anything, Jim thought, he looked sympathetic and a little sad. Or was that pity? Watching his partner closely through the poorly-lit drive home, Jim said, "I swear I didn't know about the graft. I really didn't. It wasn't until Jack calmed me the fuck down that I figured out what was going on right in front of my face.
"You have to know, Blair, how angry I was in those days. Jon fed on that. The sex was . . ." But he realized he couldn't tell Blair about the sex. A little too much information, as Simon was always warning them. The things they did together, the things Jon did to him there was no way Jim could ever articulate those things to Blair. Never.
"Anyway. I, we were together just a short time. Maybe my last six weeks in Vice. As soon as I got to Major Crimes he dumped me. That was part of the reason I was such a bitch to Simon and Jack. Jack knew, of course. He knew everything; he always knew everything. But I don't think Simon did."
"I won't tell him, Jim," Blair began earnestly, but Jim waved him back.
"It's okay. If it turns out to be pertinent, I'll tell him. He's a friend. He deserves to know."
"No, Jim," Blair insisted. "You're trying to punish yourself for what happened all those years ago. You're not that man anymore; you haven't been him for years. Not since Jack, and not since Simon, and certainly not since me. There is no reason Simon needs to know. If one turns up, I'll tell him."
Jim was a little ashamed at his surprise at Blair's insight into his behavior. Blair always knew what was going on.
"I haven't been with a man since Carolyn, Chief," he said softly, and to his amazement, Blair reached out and lightly touched Jim's hand on the bench seat beside him.
"Doesn't matter to me if you have. I just want you to be happy." And Jim knew he was sincere. He closed his eyes in relief and exhaustion. Blair gently shook his hand. "We need to figure out what that little performance was for, Jim. That was not a coincidence."
Jesus. Jim hadn't been able to focus on anything beyond Jon's presence. "You're right," he said, sitting up straighter, trying to kick his brain back into gear. "So Orris is a protege of Jon's. He and Murray are double-teaming us? Good cop, bad cop?"
Blair was nodding as he swung into the truck's usual parking space. "I think so. I think it was a warning. A threat."
"They'll bring up my past if we find something. Out me."
"We have to tell Simon."
Blair rolled his head against the seat behind him. "Shit. Yeah. You're right. We have to tell Simon. Fuck."
"It's okay, Chief. I knew it'd come out someday." He looked steadily at his friend. "Are you okay? I mean, we live together and all."
Blair scratched an eyebrow, then his forehead. "Have you ever found me homophobic?"
Jim laughed. "No, I can't say you have any phobias except occasionally for heights."
"Well." He looked directly into Jim's eyes, a little stern, with what Jim thought of as his professor's face on. "I love you, Jim. You're my best friend. I was serious when I said I just want you to be happy."
His voice was a little scratchy when Jim finally said, "Thanks, Chief."
Blair opened the door. "Since I'm primary on this, I'll call Simon."
Jim obediently slid out of the truck and followed his partner. "Thanks. I guess he'll take me off the case."
Blair shrugged as he held open the glass door to the building. "So I'll bring Brown with me to Jorgensen's tomorrow. We'll finish up and then turn everything over to Simon and Fuscaldo. Big deal."
No, thought Jim, as he watched his partner punch the elevator call button. Big man. It suddenly occurred to him: Blair had said he loved Jim. He smiled in the dark hallway.
Jim took a shower while Blair called Simon. It wasn't a conversation he wanted to overhear, so he dialed hearing down to normal. When he got out, wrapped in his old robe, Blair was sitting on the big couch staring into space. He looked up and gave a tight smile to Jim.
"You're off the case," he said.
Jim nodded ruefully. "Figured."
"Yeah. He's cool, though, Jim. Really. Nothing more will be said."
Jim really didn't need another beer, but he wanted something. He stood indecisively in the kitchen, wondering if Jon could out him without outing himself. And if it would matter.
While he stood there, Blair got up and put water on, then started digging through his tea collection. "Chamomile, I think," he said. "Soothing to the tummy." That made Jim laugh. Tummy.
Blair looked over his shoulder at Jim, a thoughtful look on his face. "It will be okay. I promise."
Blair shrugged as he scooped loose tea into a pot. "Honestly? I don't know. But I'll do everything I can to *make* it okay. And Simon will too. Think about it, Jim. Dunn wouldn't want this information made public anymore than you do, would he? If he's going to be brought down, your participation is irrelevant."
Jim watched Blair carefully fill the teapot with boiling water and cover it to steep. He was still wearing his hair short, so bent over as he was, Jim could see the knob of his vertebrae above the collar of his shirt. He looked grown up. Responsible. And Jim knew Blair would take care of him. It might not be all right, but it would be as good as Blair could make it.
Henri wasn't thrilled to be assigned to packing up paper, "some old fart's shit," he complained repeatedly, but it only took another five hours and they were out of there. Thanks to Jorgensen's cooperation, they'd collected a fair amount of suggestive paperwork, but the paper trails would need to be followed. Henri was, despite his complaining, good at that, so Simon assigned him and Rafe to the task and put Jim and Blair back on a regular assignment. He hadn't said anything to Jim about his and Dunn's relationship when Jim was still in Vice; Jim was sure Simon wouldn't unless he had to.
A couple weeks later, when the District Attorney's office had whatever H and Rafe had come up with, Jon Dunn himself stopped by Major Crimes. He was dressed in an obviously very expensive wool raincoat and carried a walking stick topped with a silver duck. Blair wondered about the significance of the duck, but refrained from questioning Jim about it.
He did watch Jim, though, whose head had come up before the glass doors to Major Crimes had opened, already pink with some emotion. The doughnut girl was there, gossiping with Rhonda while passing out pastries to Joel; H and Rafe were working on a case wherein a city official's wife had been in a fender bender and her dog had run into traffic causing multiple accidents. Simon was lounging in his office door, watching Joel at the pastry cart.
Dunn stopped at the entrance to MC to observe the activity. His attractive face was set in a slight smile, as if amused by the goings-on of the department. He fingered the duck's body and then strolled to Blair's desk. "Detective Sandburg. Good to see you again." He stuck out his hand and Blair felt obligated to shake it. Once again, he held on a few seconds too long, long enough to make Blair uncomfortable, which he knew was Dunn's intention.
Then he turned his attention to Jim, who'd remained seated and impassive. "James," he said, almost in a whisper. "My boy, it's good to see you. Won't you shake my hand?"
Jim stared at him a second more, then slowly stood and shook Dunn's hand. As he had with Orris McKnight, Dunn wrapped both his hands around Jim's and held on, looking into Jim's eyes. "My boy," he said again, in an affectionate rumble, and Jim's blush grew in intensity.
Blair couldn't help himself. He wondered what their sex life had been like. What had they done? Jim had been so angry back then; what had he desired from Dunn?
At last Dunn released Jim, patting his hand and squeezing it again, while smiling intimately at him. Then he turned away and walked toward Simon, who stood up almost at attention. "Simon," he said in his warm baritone. "Haven't seen you in a while."
Simon nodded cordially. "Jon. What brings you to Major Crimes?"
"Your office?" And they disappeared through Simon's door, which shut behind them. H looked meaningfully at Blair, who shrugged and looked at Jim. Jim stared at the door, clearly listening to the conversation in there. The other detectives remained silent; Blair's refutation of his dissertation had never fooled any of them.
Suddenly Jim stood and put his hand on Blair's shoulder. "Let's head down to forensics for a while; see if we can persuade anyone to look at the stuff we brought in yesterday."
"You owe them, like, so many favors," Blair cautioned, closing the folder he was reviewing and standing himself, tugging at his jeans. But he hurried; he understood that Simon and Dunn were finishing and would be out soon. By the time they were, he wanted to be in the elevator, Jim at his side.
After harassing their co-workers in forensics, Jim persuaded a not very reluctant Blair to go out for coffee, since they'd missed their turn at the doughnut cart, and then they decided to re-interview a couple witnesses in the hopes they'd remembered something since the last time they'd talked. By the time that was over, Jim treated Blair to lunch, so it was after one before they returned to the station, joking about the latest repairs being made to Blair's beloved Volvo.
The minute they stepped through the doors to PD, Blair knew something was up. The other detectives were standing in clumps, talking earnestly among themselves. In Major Crimes, Simon was with Joel again, gesturing with a chewed-looking cigar, Joel trying to talk over him. But when the glass door swung back under Blair's hands, silence fell.
"Gentlemen," Simon said, and Blair knew they were in some sort of trouble. "Pleasure to see you again. Can you tell us where you've been for the last, uh," he ostentatiously checked his watch, "four hours?"
Blair glanced at Jim, whose face was drawn and pale. "Running errands, Simon. You need the specifics? You need *witnesses*?" And Blair was suddenly grateful that they indeed had witnesses, and that they'd never left each other's side, not even when they'd hit the men's room.
"Orris McKnight is dead," H said in the silence, and Blair's mouth fell open. Jesus. He'd *liked* Orris, even if he had been a protege of Dunn's. "His body was dumped behind the PD."
Jim turned instantly; Blair followed, knowing he was going down to the site of the dumping.
Jim felt himself sinking into the anesthesia of objective analysis, a blessing, he'd always thought, when working as a detective. He knew Blair hadn't, probably would never, master that ability, but he counted that as a blessing, too. But Blair stood calmly at his side, arms crossed, staring down at the yellow-taped rectangle that protected where Orris' body had been found.
Forensics was there, of course, although Orris had been removed to the morgue and the coroner's good graces. The forensics staff was long used to Jim and Blair's presence and occasional odd behavior, so they satisfied themselves with quick glances out of the corners of their eyes as Jim knelt and carefully examined the ground, Blair firmly grasping one of his shoulders. Sporadically, Blair would say something in low, quiet tones to Jim, who would nod. Jim felt almost relaxed, following this routine for so many years, so many investigations.
At last he stood and slapped the crumbling dirt off his knees, then brushing his hands together. Blair's hand slipped from his shoulder; he felt that as a loss and turned to look at his partner. Pale, lush mouth closed in a straight line, but not overwrought. Probably because Orris himself was no longer there. Not that he was anywhere, really, Jim thought.
"Get anything?" Blair murmured, and Jim shook his head no. The ground was too torn up from traffic and recent rains. Without asking, Blair led the way to the morgue and again, the staff was used to them and let them review the body without comment.
Blair's heart rate caught Jim's attention and this time he put his hand on Blair's shoulder. "You gonna be okay? You don't have to do this."
"Yes, I do," Blair said firmly, and Jim knew this was a battle he would never win.
Poor Orris, he thought a moment later, when he'd slowly drawn back the canvas hiding the body. Even a non-sentinel could see he'd been bludgeoned to death. Again, Jim felt Blair's hand on him, anchoring in this world. He took a deep breath and leaned over.
"He was beaten with a fist," he remarked a few minutes later, feeling a bit surprised.
"How could a fist do that damage?"
"A very strong fist, attached to a very strong arm." Jim thought again of watching Jon working out, those swollen pectorals, biceps, triceps, deltoids waxing and waning as Jon had lifted, shiny with sweat and oil. He had the strength, but did a fifty-year-old have the ability to kill a twenty-something? Jim dismissed the thought; if Jon wanted it, it happened. If he wanted Orris killed, he would kill him as easily as a dog would snap a rat's neck.
"Jim, Jim," he became aware of Blair calling and realized that he'd zoned out on the memory of Jon's body. He blushed and patted Blair's hand on his arm.
"I'm okay, Chief," he reassured him, unable to meet Blair's eyes.
"Well, I'm not. Let's get outta here."
Jim held his hand up in the wait-a-minute gesture, and leaned again over Orris body. He sniffed deeply, hoping to capture some trace of someone, but smelled nothing but the waste Orris had excreted as his body had relaxed into death. He studied the face and neck, then unbuttoned the torn and bloody white shirt. On his chest were purpling bruises and red stripes, as if he'd been beaten with a belt. Jim leaned closer, frowning. "Fists and something else," he muttered to Blair, who nodded and, swallowing, leaned over as well. Jim pointed without touching the body.
"Can we go?" Blair asked again, and this time Jim obeyed.
Henri was tapping his fingers against Jim's desk when they returned, while Rafe watched silently from his own desk. "Whadja find?" he asked impatiently.
Jim felt a sudden shock as he realized that they not only knew he had some special abilities, they were relying on them for assistance. He glanced at Blair, who wasn't at all nonplused. Hell, they'd known Blair as long as Jim had; they wouldn't believe he was lying. He looked back at Henri, anxious to find who had killed one of their own, trusting Jim's senses, trusting Blair's integrity. He smiled a little shyly and told H what he'd found.
H looked meaningfully at Rafe, who stood. "Let's go talk to his co-workers," Rafe said and H led the way to the door.
Jim rubbed his nose, then regarded Blair. "We're off the case," Blair reminded him.
"Doesn't mean we can't *think* about it."
Blair smiled. "Want some coffee?"
Jim sat and smiled back. It was nice being the senior partner, getting waited on.
Simon permitted Jim and Blair to sit in on the briefing by Henri and Rafe, who had quickly discovered that Orris McKnight drove a much nicer car and lived in a much nicer apartment than a typical young detective could afford. The evidence was circumstantial, but very strong. Blair told them about meeting Orris for drinks, and how Jon Dunn had behaved toward Jon.
After a few seconds of silence, Simon said, "You all know I need to call IA now. They need to investigate Dunn, tie him to Jorgensen's and McKnight's money. Henri and Rafe, pull everything together -- chronology, the paperwork from Jorgensen's office, Jorgensen's statement, Ellison's and Sandburg's statement about last night -- and have it ready for them tomorrow morning. Jim and Blair, you are still officially off this case. I'm sure you have plenty to do; if not, take some of H and Rafe's caseload."
No one disagreed.
Blair had driven in with Jim that morning, so they stopped off together at the farmer's market on the way home and picked up baby spinach leaves, Yukon gold potatoes, basil, tomatoes, and a fromage blanc to make a hearty salad for dinner. While the potatoes were steaming and he was rinsing the spinach leaves, Jim sliced tomatoes and set the cheese out to warm. Suddenly, Jim looked up, in the tense dog-like posture that signaled to Blair someone at the door -- someone he didn't want to talk to.
Blair sighed and dried his hands while Jim stalked to the door and flung it open. "What are you doing here?" he growled. To Blair's dismay, Jon Dunn strolled in.
"James," he acknowledged. "Detective Sandburg. That's right; I'd heard you were living together."
Now why, thought Blair, did the phrase "living together" sound so inappropriate when spoken by Dunn?
"This place has changed," Dunn continued, studying the pictures on the wall, the artifacts on the shelves left over from Blair's student days, their shared CD collection. "And for the better." He looked at Jim. "It was always so sterile when I here before."
Jim blushed again, something Blair had seen him do rarely before Dunn. "I've changed, Jon," he finally said. Dunn's eyes slid over to Blair.
"Oh, I don't know," he murmured, and smiled. Blair swallowed.
"What do you want?" Jim asked before Blair could.
"No. Get to the point."
Dunn's eyebrows raised slightly, but he said nothing, only settled himself placidly into the yellow chair. "You heard about poor Orris."
"Poor Orris," Jim repeated, in a tone of voice Blair couldn't identify.
"Poor Orris. He was -- a friend."
"Like I was a friend?"
"Oh, no, Jim. You were much more than a *friend*."
Blair felt sick to his stomach. He didn't want to know this. He didn't want to know any of this about Jim. He turned his back on them both and went back to preparing the salad, although he was no longer hungry. Unlike Jim, though, he couldn't dial down his hearing.
"James, sit down."
A heavy sigh, but Blair could tell Jim obeyed.
"Do you think I killed Orris?"
"I don't know. Did you come here to confess?"
"No. Tell me what you think." There was more than a hint of sternness is Dunn's voice, and Blair paused to listen to Jim's reply.
"I don't know," Jim finally said, sounding both sullen and defensive. "I don't want to believe you could kill someone. But I don't want to believe you could pervert justice, either, and I know you did. Do."
"Is that all I pervert, James?"
Blair thought his eyes would pop out of his head.
"Christ, Jon. In front of my roommate? Why not just put a fucking ad in the Cascade Press-Democrat?"
"Oh, no need, no need, James. Your reputation is well known. I'm sure you're very safe. I just want you to remember that I'm not an easy man. I've never been easy."
"Easy to bring down? You did that yourself. The evidence is a mile thick."
"No doubt I grew careless. We all grow careless."
"Stop talking in riddles! What do you want?"
"James. Come here." Blair stared at the wall in front of him, trying to imagine what was going on. He heard a whisper, and rustling. This isn't happening, he thought, and picked up the knife Jim had been using to slice tomatoes. Then he turned around.
Jim was sitting on the coffee table in front of Dunn, staring at the floor. Dunn had one hand on Jim's face, trying to draw his gaze up, and the other on Jim's leg, above the knee. Blair's heart rate shot up, he began to sweat, and he said loudly, "Jim, man. Let's get going, okay?"
Jim jumped up as if poked and stepped back, nearly falling across the coffee table. Dunn smiled at him and then stood himself, helping catch Jim's balance, holding his hand.
"Remember me, James," he finally said, and then in front of Blair's disbelieving eyes, leaned forward as if to kiss Jim's unwilling mouth. Jim's face screwed into a grimace as he turned his head away.
"Detective Sandburg. Have a pleasant evening. Don't cut yourself."
And with that, Dunn left.
Blair stared at Jim, who was swallowing as if he had a bad taste in his mouth. "I, uh, you wanna beer?"
Jim laughed, a little. "Yeah, Chief. I think I need a six-pack right now." Blair put down the knife and grabbed two bottles from the fridge, locking the front door on his way to Jim's side.
"Jesus the fuck Christ," he said as he handed Jim one. "You wanna tell me what that was about?"
"I'm sure you figured it out."
"So he was threatening you? In front of a witness?"
"Blair," Jim said patiently, a little pink. "As he pointed out, we live together. A good defense attorney can make us look like, uh, I mean, it's not inconceivable that we, uh. . . "
"Yeah, yeah, I get it, we're lovers, blah blah blah, all gay men are painted with the same brush. Shit."
Jim's eyes widened during Blair's brief speech. "You okay?"
"No, I'm not the fuck okay! My best friend is being threatened by this giant Nordic asshole *murderer*, I'm gonna get labeled a faggot *again*, a really nice if crooked kid got offed, and I'm having a really lousy day here."
"Aw, Chief, I am so sorry, so fucking sorry. I should have told you about Jon years ago. It was just so hard admitting to you what a jerk I'd been --"
"I am the expert on Jim-as-jerk, okay? Just spill it. What else do I need to know?"
"Really, nothing. We were lovers, he, uh, he initiated it and he ended it. I wasn't promiscuous or anything. You've only seen him a few times; you can't imagine what it's like to be courted by him. I was younger, alone, angry -- it was overwhelming. So powerful."
"Charismatic," Blair said softly, remembering Jorgensen's word.
"Yeah. He really can be. When he looks at you, it's as if there's no one else in the world more important, more interesting, more desirable than you are. I needed that so fucking badly, Blair." Jim took a swallow of beer.
Blair looked at Jim, then sighed. "We all need that. Everybody wants to be loved that way, Jim. Don't beat yourself up over that. Just, let's just not get caught up in it again, okay?"
Jim smiled crookedly. "Okay, Chief. I hear you."
"Gonna burn some sage on your ass," Blair grumbled, but his stomach felt better, and he retreated to the kitchen. "Think you can eat? No, let me rephrase that: dinner will be ready in thirty. Go take a shower."
"Remember that!" Blair shouted at Jim's back as he climbed to his bedroom. "I'm holding you to it!"
While Jim showered, Blair puzzled over Jim and Dunn's relationship. Clearly Dunn had been the dominant one, a very powerful figure to Jim. Somehow he'd always thought of Jim as the alpha male in any situation, but this shed a different light on him.
Maybe it shed a different light on Blair.
Off the case or not, as the days passed Jim and Blair heard everything about it. IA had brought in the feds, much to Henri's and Rafe's disgust; that forensic auditor Blair had been hoping for was also brought in; the papers got hold of it. It was, Blair thought, a fucking nightmare.
He and his partner kept busy on other cases; there was always enough crime in Cascade to warrant overtime and weekend work. Simon looked exhausted, and Henri's cheerful countenance turned into a permanent scowl. Blair stuck to Jim's side as much as possible, fearing that Jon Dunn would turn up again and do something -- implicate Jim or blackmail him or something. Blair really didn't know what he feared, but he was going to make sure it didn't happen.
Blair stood in line at the coffee stand, waiting impatiently to buy two lattes and a couple cinnamon rolls. It was chilly and damp out, a typical Cascade day, and he was anxious to get back upstairs to Jim. Two more customers and then it would be his turn.
He felt a tap on his back and turned to see Detective Murray's unsmiling face. "We need to talk."
"No." He stepped forward; one more customer.
"No. It isn't appropriate."
"Appropriate. Jesus. We can't be any more public."
"No. My captain'd have my ass. Go away."
There was silence, and when Blair looked back, Murray was gone.
Two nights later, Jim was arguing with Simon about the possibility of a major league baseball team coming to Cascade. Blair couldn't hear him, but across the noisy bar watched him gesture and Simon roll his eyes. Then Murray was in his face.
"Goddammit, Detective," Blair hissed. "Not here, not anywhere. Fuck. Off."
"Sandburg. Listen to me." He pushed Blair back towards the men's room, where he'd just come from. They stood next to the phone, in a little alcove. "I'm a good Catholic, Sandburg. I'm married. I've got three little girls. A wife. My mother lives with us."
Blair just shook his head. "I'm sorry, Murray, but you got yourself into this mess. Just what do you think I can do at this point?"
Murray bent his head down until his breath was warm against Blair's face. "You don't know Jon. You don't know what he'll do. He'll take us all down, including your partner. You have to help me."
"Help you do what?" Blair was exasperated, despite his pity for the man. "Just what do you want me to do?"
Blair shouldered his way past Murray and strode back toward Jim and Simon.
"What's wrong, Chief?" Jim's eyes were dark with concern.
Blair shrugged. "Too noisy in here. Order me another beer, would ya, Jim?"
Jim stared at him for a moment, then obediently rose to thread his way to the bar. Blair turned to Simon. "Murray asked me to kill Dunn."
"What?" But it was Jim. Blair knew better, he thought to himself. He knew Jim was always tuned into him.
"I'm not gonna do it," he said reassuringly, but Jim didn't think it was funny.
"It's a set-up, Simon," he insisted, seating himself -- without Blair's beer, Blair noticed.
"Gentlemen, this case has given me a non-stop headache. I've learned more about the sex lives of my co-workers than I ever want to know. And now we've moved into some Dial M for Murder universe. Well, I don't live there. None of us do."
He looked sharply at Blair. "You'll report this to IA tomorrow, Sandburg. If Murray approaches you again, arrest the son of a bitch.
"And you," he moved his attention to Jim, "are gonna calm the fuck down and not do anything. Do you understand me, Detective?"
Jim looked mulishly at Simon but a raised eyebrow from Blair helped him back off. "Yes, sir," he said, sounding at least a little sincere. Blair heard Simon sigh.
"Get us all another beer, would ya, Jim?" When Jim had once again begun pushing his way through the crowd, Simon turned to Blair. "Do I need to tell you to be careful? That one man is dead, another hospitalized, and several more about to be put on trial?"
"Yes, Simon," Blair tried to reassure him. "I don't want to end up like Orris."
The party broke up shortly after the next beer; Blair was happy to escape to his quiet bedroom, even if he didn't sleep much that night.
Jim felt as though every nerve in his body was activated, and all tuned in to Blair. Radio Blair, broadcasting day and night, straight to Receiver Jim. It was unnerving. A little exciting.
But until this case was resolved, he knew there was no turning off this broadcast.
So when Murray stepped into Jim's personal space, it took a second to register; Jim was so focused on Blair's respiration and heart rate a couple floors away in forensics.
"Don't say a word, Murray," Jim warned him. "My captain's told us to arrest you, you make any more threats."
Murray's big face flushed red and he looked a bit ashamed. "Had too much to drink," he mumbled. Jim knew that Blair felt sorry for him, but Jim just felt tired.
"You shoulda got out a long time ago," he said, instantly regretting engaging this man in conversation.
"Would you? If Jon hadn't've dumped you, wouldn't you still be with him?"
Jim blushed furiously. Maybe Murray was right. Jon had been an aphrodisiac on legs, and as long as his attention had been focused on Jim, or at least on the Jim of those days, he would've eaten it up with a spoon. Had eaten it up, and been eaten. Had fucked and been fucked.. And he'd loved it, loved it, loved it. No. He couldn't blame Murray for his own sins.
Unable to meet Murray's pained eyes, Jim dropped his. And saw the elaborate silver buckle decorating his belt.
"Get out, Murray," he at last advised. "Go to IA, tell them everything. Then tell your wife, and your mother, and your priest."
"Is that what you did?" But Jim refused to look at him, ashamed.
"What is it, man?" Blair asked when he'd returned. Sensitive to all the nuances of Jim, he'd recognized an increased level of tension instantly. Jim had to smile; Blair was his own seismograph.
"Saw Murray. I'm pretty sure that buckle he wears made the marks on Orris' chest."
"Oh, shit." Blair turned pale and hurriedly sat down. "Oh, Jim. Oh, man, I can't believe that."
"I need to tell Henri and Rafe, but I kinda wanted you with me when I did."
Blair put his hand on Jim's. "Of course. They're in the interrogation room IA is using as an office. But, Jim. Do you really think he did it? Was he set up?"
Jim shrugged. "It's possible. Jon's people would do anything for him. Including take off their clothes." He was blushing again. "So I can believe that Murray did it, or that Jon did it with Murray's belt. Thank Christ, it's not our call."
So the case rolled inexorably to a close. Jim felt his heightened senses were truly a burden, then, focused as they were constantly on the well-being of his partner. To the point that his head throbbed, his muscles ached, his stomach roiled, all from the energy it took to follow Blair's presence. He didn't know what he'd do if anything happened to Blair. Go back to normal, whatever that might mean? Or follow his senses into a comforting oblivion?
Within a few days, he saw by Rafe's and Henri's faces and body posture that they were going in to make the arrest. And he heard through the grapevine that Jon Dunn had disappeared.
Jim was filling the truck with gas when he saw him. Beautiful, as always, a little smile playing on his mouth. "James."
"You're under arrest, Jon," he said, mouth dry.
"I know. But not by you, sweetheart," and he leaned forward and kissed Jim again, right there at the Shell station. To Jim's shame, he felt himself drawn forward to Dunn, felt his lips open under his caress. "See?" Dunn said triumphantly. "My boys *never* let me down."
"Hmm. Let's not talk about Orris right now, James. Where's your little partner?"
"At the station."
"Are you fucking him?"
"Jon! No. I don't do that anymore."
"Oh, come on, James. I think you like dick too much to give it up, and your partner's got quite a basket on him. I've checked him out in the locker room a few times. Lovely, lovely ass."
Jim couldn't believe he was having this surreal conversation about Blair's attributes in a public filling station with a former lover now wanted for fraud, graft, and murder. He stared with incredulity into Jon's beautiful face.
"You know what I want?" Jon was asking in his sexiest voice, and suddenly Jim didn't want to know, didn't want to play those games anymore.
"No, Jon. No. Stop it. I have to arrest you, you know that." Leaning into the cab of his truck, he picked up the microphone and, scarcely believing it himself, called in Jon's location. Jon just stood there, smiling dreamily, eyeing Jim's body.
When Jim was through and had clicked off the radio, Dunn leaned forward again, for a last kiss. Jim tried to pull away but found his head captured by Jon's enormous hands. He gave in for a few seconds and let Jon kiss him, let him slide his tongue into Jim's mouth and suck on Jim's tongue. "Oh, god, I wish I could fuck you one last time," Jon murmured, and then strode away. Shamed, Jim let him go, watching him walk behind the gas station and into the parking lot of a grocery store. By the time the patrol cars had arrived, he had disappeared, and Jim had to explain how that had happened. He knew Simon was going to rip him a new one, and probably Blair would, too.
Blair discovered that Jon Dunn was every bit as strong as he looked. He might be twenty years older than Blair, but he was eight inches taller and a hundred pounds heavier, all of it well-trained muscle. So Blair relied on skills other than brute force.
"You don't wanna do this, Dunn," he said calmly, confidently. "You know you're going down. Let's just go back into the station and get it over."
"Going down, mmm, yeah. Your partner gives good head; did you know that?"
Blair couldn't speak for a moment. No, I didn't, he thought hysterically; gosh, how'd I miss that? He felt a blush rise to his face, but tried again. "Just put me down and let's go back. It'll be easier if you turn yourself in; you've been a cop long enough to know that."
"I'm not a cop anymore, Detective Sandburg," Dunn said in his precise way. "And I do want to do this."
Blair was afraid to ask what "this" was. Other than it involved pushing him firmly against a wall and keeping Dunn's arms wrapped around him. Why couldn't he remember an aikido move that would work in this situation? Or reach his gun? Or have Jim find him?
Finally, he asked, "What do you want?"
"Oh, my little detective, I think you can deduce that." And then he kissed Blair, who twisted his head and then slammed his forehead into Dunn's nose.
"Shit!" Blair had a powerful headache and Dunn's nose was bleeding, but at least they were separated by a couple feet.
"I'm not one of your boys, Dunn," Blair said, voice shaking in anger. "Whatever turns your crank, but not me and *not* *Jim*."
But Dunn was too shocked and distressed to do more than moan and mop at his nose with a no-longer spotless handkerchief. Blair took a deep breath and pulled out his handcuffs.
"Jon Dunn, I am arresting you for the murder of Orris McKnight. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say may be used against you in court. You have the right to the presence of an attorney before and during any questioning. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you . . ." and he kept up the required litany over Dunn's moans. He handcuffed Dunn, once his nose had stopped dripping, and walked him into the station, feeling slightly ridiculous.
Jim was very quiet that night, barely touching the mu-shu pork they'd picked up on the way home and excusing himself to go to bed early. Blair let him; they'd both gone through a lot that day. But Blair had learned something about himself, and something important about Jim. He was a scholar of Jim Ellison, and he would use that knowledge. If not now, then soon.
The night Jon Dunn was indicted, Simon took them to dinner at Graziano's again. It was a quiet dinner, but pleasant enough. Simon had managed never to mention what Blair had told him about Jim and Dunn, although Jim occasionally caught Simon studying him curiously.
"You did good work, Sandburg," Simon told his partner over a glass of the house chianti. "I realize that to a certain extent your bringing in Dunn was luck, but you took that opportunity. A lot of men wouldn't've." Jim burned in embarrassment, but remained silent.
"I don't know," Blair said thoughtfully, turning his wineglass to catch the light. "Don't give me too much credit."
"Never," Simon promised, and the two men smiled at each other. Jim felt obligated to protest.
"Naw, Chief." He patted Blair's hand where it lay on the white tablecloth. "You did a good job." He blushed again. "Better than I could have."
Blair smiled at him, the smile that told Jim that he was loved despite his many flaws. They sat looking at each other for a moment, until Simon interrupted them.
"What are you boys going to do?" Simon asked, and Jim turned to him in puzzlement.
"About what?" Simon gestured with his wineglass toward their joined hands. Jim blushed again and pulled his hand away.
"Now, now," Simon said, smiling. "No need to be shy in front of me. I've watched your little courtship rituals for four years now. Just wondering when you were going to tell me."
"There's nothing to tell," Jim said, his mouth dry.
Simon shrugged. "Whatever." He swallowed down the wine. "Gotta go. Good job, Sandburg." Blair nodded, and Simon stood. He looked down at Jim and Blair for a moment, then smiled beatifically on them. "You have my blessings, gentlemen." With that, he was gone.
Jim took a minute to gather his courage before he looked at Blair, who was staring at his empty plate. Then he put his hand back on Blair's and gently squeezed. He slipped his thumb into the palm of Blair's hand, so they were kind of holding hands. Right there in the restaurant. To his pleasure, Blair tightened his fingers. At last he looked up.
Jim thought he looked beautiful in the candlelight. His large eyes were glowing, his voluptuous mouth moist and inviting. He licked his lips and Jim couldn't take his eyes off the tongue sliding out and back in behind those white, even teeth. Well.
"Hey," Blair said, and Jim raised his eyes again to look into Blair's.
"That was -- interesting."
"Interesting, yeah. Surprising."
Blair nodded. "Surprising. And, uh, reassuring, don't you think."
Jim smiled. "Very." They looked at each other, each with a goofy grin on his face. "You okay with this?"
"Oh, yeah," Blair smiled now, really smiled, the full smile that had always wowed Jim, sent him reeling into delicious Sandburgian dreams. "Let's go home, Jim," Blair suggested, still smiling, and Jim nodded.
The drive was silent but comfortable. As though everything that needed to be said already had been. Blair was still driving the pickup, which meant Jim could watch him as they slipped from streetlight to streetlight, Blair's face coming into a silvery focus and then retreating into the blue shadow of the night. He continued to sit when Blair parked in front of the loft, lost in his thoughts, and was surprised when Blair opened the passenger door for him. He jumped out and Blair took his arm as they made their way upstairs.
Finally, finally, the door was before them. They stood there, arm in arm, staring foolishly at this gateway before them. Once they opened it, Jim wondered, what would happen next? Who would they be? He looked down at his friend's curly hair, so short now, a little damp from the mist they'd walked through. Simon had given his blessing. Oh my god, thought Jim, dizzy for a moment with anticipation. Oh my god.
Then Blair turned Jim in his arms, gently but firmly. Blair looked up at him, eyes wide, lips slightly parted. He was breathing heavily, and when he swallowed, his prominent adam's apple moved. Jim slowly reached out and touched Blair's throat, softly stroking the skin with his fingertips. He touched Blair's chin, rough with the bristles of his heavy beard; Jim discovered he enjoyed the sound they made under his fingertips. Blair's tender body moved toward him, and Jim slowly moved toward Blair. Their bodies' heat mingled and rose, and Jim breathed it in as perfume, as an aphrodisiac. Blair's damp leather jacket was open to his flannel shirt that pressed against Jim's canvas jacket, and his face was next to Jim's.
They stood so near Blair slipped his sneakered foot between Jim's boots, their bodies touching at hip and chest, their faces millimeters apart. Jim breathed in Blair's breath, and gently rested his cheek against Blair's, one hand on his chin, the other at his waist. To his delight, he felt Blair's hands touch his chest, pushing back the jacket. Jim sighed.
And still they stood, outside their home, leaning against each other, leaning into each other. Jim heard the fridge inside click on, its cheery hum a welcome. Blair tightened his grip on Jim and pulled him even nearer, until the lengths of their bodies pressed together firmly. Jim discovered he was breathing in shallow pants, as if he'd run a great distance, which I suppose, he thought, I have. I've come a long way for you, he thought, and stared down at Blair.
Who kissed Jim with all the passion he desired. He felt Blair's body quiver, and then Blair seized him, pulled him even tighter, sliding his hands down Jim's back to cup his bottom, working his fingers to feel more of his friend's body. Blair grabbed Jim with the force of a drowning man clinging to a lifeline, and Blair's mouth tasted of wine and tomato sauce and peppermint, and Jim thought, oh god, I want this. I need this. He remembered what Blair had told him earlier: Everybody wants to be loved this way. To be under the close, intelligent, and loving scrutiny of a Blair Sandburg, scientist, cop, and friend. More than friend.
At last their mouths separated, just enough to speak, enough for Blair to say, "Open the fucking door," and enough for Jim to laugh breathlessly and then scoop Blair into his arms, Blair's legs opening and wrapping around Jim's as Jim fell back against the door under Blair's sturdy weight and they began to kiss again and Jim thought: We'll have to do it right here, I'll never get my keys out, but that was okay, that was fine, and then Blair twisted in his arms and thrust against him and Jim couldn't think anymore.
When Jim finally found his keys and unlocked the door, Blair slithered against his body and, putting one arm up, hand against the doorframe, stopped him before he could open it. Blair's eyes were enormous, a deep smoky blue, just inches from Jim's. "Listen to me," he said earnestly, and Jim stopped, remaining outside with him. "This is our future here. It has to be done right."
"What do you want me to do, Blair? What should I do?"
"Listen to me," he whispered again. "No more bullshit. No more fucking around. Do you understand?" Jim felt himself blush yet again that night.
"Yes, sir," he whispered back against Blair's temple, trying to make a joke of it.
"No," Blair smacked his chest. "I'm serious. Do you understand?"
Jim leaned back against the doorframe to look down at his friend. Blair was nearly vibrating with the intensity of his emotions; his beautiful face was stern. Jim nodded. "I do," he promised, his word choice quite deliberate. "I do, Blair."
Blair smiled and nodded. "I do," he responded, and kissed Jim again, quickly but encouragingly. "I'm personally holding you to that promise."
Jim smiled back. "I hope you personally hold me."
Blair kissed him thoroughly, then, pleasurably, luxuriously, his tongue stroking Jim's, sucking on it, licking at his teeth and lips. Blair moaned in his arms and pushed against Jim. Jim had never felt so alive, as if he could sense every molecule in his body and Blair's vibrating with life. He sighed happily. With one hand, Blair pulled Jim's head down to nuzzle tenderly, cuddling Jim as sweetly as Jim had ever been held. "Hold me like this," Jim whispered, and felt Blair melt into him, his arm falling from the doorframe to wrap around Jim's waist and pull them together.
"Like this, then," Blair agreed, and towed him into the loft.
Blair was operating on some kind of auto-pilot, as if he knew what he was doing so well, so profoundly well, that he didn't have to think, didn't have to do anything but *do*. He pulled off his coat and helped Jim with his, then hung both up on the rack. He locked the door and then took Jim's hand and led him toward the stairs.
If not for the auto-pilot apparently in control of Blair's body, the top step would have undone him. As it was, he simply stepped onto the floor of the loft and led Jim directly to the bed. Never releasing his hand, he turned Jim and sat him on the bed. Jim's eyes were wide in the dim light, his mouth swollen from their earlier kisses. A very good look, Blair thought, smiling slightly, as he sat in Jim's lap and began kissing those lips again.
He could feel Jim under him, feel his hardening penis press up against Blair's bottom. Blair squirmed a bit and heard Jim moan and felt his hips roll up. Blair leaned against Jim's chest and slowly pushed Jim to the bed, Blair lying on top of him. Blair threw one leg around Jim so he knelt over his hips and slowly, lasciviously rubbed against him, never stopping the kisses.
Jim moaned again. Louder. A little desperate. Blair really, really, really liked that.
Blair lowered himself further, so their bodies pressed against each other. Jim's hands wrapped around his lower back and pulled; the pressure and heat and friction set fireworks off behind Blair's eyes. He forced one hand between them and firmly seized Jim's cock through his trousers; Jim almost lifted off the bed. "Shh, shh," Blair whispered, and Jim settled back. "Look at me, Jim," and Jim opened his eyes again.
"Oh, god, Chief," he breathed, and Blair kissed him lightly. He squeezed again and then released Jim, lifting up a bit.
"Roll over," he said, and Jim's eyes opened even wider. Jim twisted under him, turning his shoulders first, then his hips and legs. Blair tugged at his own dick, and then lowered himself again, aligning himself along the crease in Jim's ass, and began rubbing. Even through the layers of cotton and khaki, he felt the heat and moisture of that part of Jim he desired.
When his dick felt swollen and raw, he pulled off, gasping. He began pulling off his shirts and tee shirt and wiggling out of his jeans and briefs, watching as Jim did the same, watching Jim as Jim watched him.
Blair had seen Jim nude before; he was so casual about his body, unlike Blair's shyness. But never had he seen Jim like this, swollen with lust, trembling with desire, and so pliant. This was another Jim, a Jim only for Blair. Jim lay back again, and Blair reached out with an unsteady hand to touch first his shoulder, a safe place, and then his ribs, still safe, and then skim across the flat abdomen down into the sparse brown pubic curls, knuckles bumping into the impressive erection curving up from them. At last he curled his hand around Jim's penis and had the pleasure of seeing Jim seize the bedspread with both fists and hear him cry out in delight. Blair kissed Jim again, as a distraction, and swung back over him and this time letting their skin touch, hot and dry and exquisite.
For a few moments, Blair remained like that, lying on top of Jim, slowly moving against him, stroking Jim with his entire body. Jim trembled in his arms and Blair smiled through his kisses, touching Jim everywhere, rejoicing in his right to do so. He slid off Jim again, leaning heavily against him as he stroked Jim's hip and thigh, then played with his balls, squeezing and pinching them in the way Blair loved to be played with. "Yeah, oh, yeah," Jim murmured, and Blair kissed him.
He kissed Jim's throat and shoulders and chest, licking at each nipple, learning how sensitive they were, before putting first one and then the other testicle in his mouth to lick and nibble at. Jim put his hands on Blair's head, but he said, "No," quietly, and moved them to Jim's side, where they stayed as he'd known they would. "Spread your legs," he whispered, and Jim groaned, a heart-rending sound, and spread his legs, putting one heel on the edge of the bed so his knee was in the air and twisting the other leg parallel to the edge of the bed.
Blair massaged Jim's thighs, still licking his balls, and then pushed his head down between Jim's legs, licking under the balls and back. Jim cried out in a language unknown even to his scholar, and Blair licked across the hidden part he so wanted. Gently, Blair's thumbs pulled Jim even more open and he pressed his tongue deeper inside Jim's body. Blair was gasping for breath, his jaw ached and his tongue, too, but the noises from Jim kept him working, kissing and sucking at Jim's anus until he simply couldn't wait anymore and slipped a finger inside. With his other hand, he firmly grasped Jim's penis and began the rhythm he felt himself, his own hips moving in tandem. Jim cried out wordlessly and came.
Gently pulling his finger from the moist warmth of Jim's body, Blair twisted on him and looked down at his face; both men were panting as if they'd run a marathon and sweat ran down their sides. Blair slid his penis through the semen on Jim's body and began to stroke again; Jim pulled away as if it were too much sensation, but Blair held him and continued. "Oh, god, Blair!" Jim cried out, and Blair slipped his hand through the warm mess and then down behind himself and again lightly circled Jim's anus. Jim pulled away and then pushed back, breathing so hard Blair wondered if he would have a heart attack.
"Please look at me," he whispered, and Jim opened his eyes, bright with some emotion. For a moment Blair halted, afraid that he'd hurt his friend, his lover, but with a tiny shake of his head, Jim let him know it was okay, more than okay, the very best ever. Blair kissed him firmly again, and to his pleasure, Jim opened his legs even wider and pressed down onto Blair's finger, never taking his eyes off Blair's.
Blair felt almost overwhelmed with emotions -- simple lust, powerful yet tender affection, and heart-stopping love for Jim all combated in his chest as he, too, struggled for air and control. He'd seen Jim with Jon Dunn and as a result he knew that he understood Jim as Dunn never had, never could; knew that he loved Jim more than Dunn was capable of loving anyone. He could care for Jim with a ferocious ardor.
Gently, Blair pulled his finger almost out of Jim's body, calming him with soft pets to his chest and face and softer kisses to his lips. When Jim focused again on him, he smiled lovingly and asked, "What do you want?"
Jim captured that petting hand and kissed it. "I want you, Chief," Jim whispered back. "Whatever you want, I want." He smiled shyly. "I'm all yours, Blair." Blushing, he wiggled suggestively on the finger still half in him.
Blair kissed Jim yet again, but a different kiss from all the others, a forever kiss, a kiss of sweet promise for a loving future. "I want this," he finally said, and Jim nodded, then reached over his head to the night table for a small silver tin: Gardener's Hand Butter. Blair smiled as he gently withdrew his finger from Jim's body to accept it. He would be a gardener indeed, and plow his fields and seed them with love, and harvest that love. He twisted off the lid, enjoying the scent of cocoa butter and beeswax. He saw Jim did, too, sniffing with pleasure as Blair scooped out a finger of the creamy stuff and gently stroked Jim's perineum.
Blair took his time; he had time now, he had the time he needed and more, and with each stroke Jim fell deeper into a sensual daze. Blair leaned over him for a condom, dearly wishing such things weren't needed in their world, and finally, finally, finally, knelt poised between Jim's thighs, the sweetest spot on earth, he thought, smiling idiotically at the image in his mind.
At last Jim was ready for him, as ready as Blair was; whatever fears Jim had harbored were banished by Blair's strong hands, and their first joining was as easy as love. Blair knew there would be rougher times; he twitched at the thought of pushing Jim over the kitchen table or pinching a buttock in the elevator at work, but right now, he was as gentle as the gentlest lover gentling his blushing bride.
For this is a marriage, Blair thought, his last thought, before he too fell into the bliss of their friction and glide, and it took only a few strokes before Blair was gone, in a jungle somewhere, warm and fragrant with flowers, the light dim, the crickets thrumming, and then he was hovering over himself and Jim, looking down at their joined bodies, smiling at their pleasure and foolish antics, and then with a shout to wake their neighbors he came, finding himself back in his body, back in the loft, deep inside his beloved Jim.
He lay, gasping and sweating, on top of Jim, clutching him, near the edge of some powerful emotion that transcended exhaustion or relief or orgasm. The knowledge that he was, for a few moments, literally part of Jim, that Jim was part of him, threatened to overwhelm Blair in a way no coupling with another ever had. He lay his head against Jim's, calming himself as best he could, trying to focus on Jim's pleasure and comfort but finding it difficult to wrest his attention away from his own feelings of profound confusion and longing. How can I long for what I possess? he asked himself, muddled with the experience.
Finally, he lifted himself slightly off and away from Jim, to look down at his face. Jim's eyes were tightly closed, his face shiny with sweat, and he was breathing deeply. Blair waited, an interminable moment that stretched on and on, his hands gripping Jim's biceps so tightly they had to hurt, his legs trembling in the awkward and uncomfortable position. But he waited. This was too important; he couldn't simply back away as if from any other sexual encounter. He waited, watching Jim's face reflect some fierce inner perturbation and listening to Jim's labored breaths. He waited.
Jim opened his eyes.