Disclaimers: Nothing's mine but the words; everything else belongs to Pet Fly. No infringement is intended, and I'm not makin' a dime. (Who needs money when you've got love?) (Well, okay, but I'm still not making any money!) Please go away if you're under 18!
Summary: A hell of a week for Blair Sandburg. There's very little, plotwise, that doesn't happen in this story. Everything except the kitchen sink — actually, there's even a scene with a sink, now that I think about it. Sorry.
Warnings: None. Maybe language. I've got a fairly foul mouth, sorry.
Notes: God Bless All You Wonderful LoC Writers: She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah. And you know that can't be bad. This takes place after Nature's Trials. Sorry, we get into heavy eroticism (I hope, anyway — that's what LoC's are for, you all!) but no very explicit sexual description. Maybe next time. Gimme a day or two.
James Ellison stirred in the middle of the night and was suddenly awake, knowing that the bed was empty, that his partner wasn't there. His senses shot out and he quickly located Blair Sandburg's heartbeat downstairs in the living room; he smelled fire and herbal tea and sighed, pushed himself into a sitting position. Swinging his legs off the bed, he rose and descended the stairs in his boxers.
Blair didn't hear him approach; he was lost in thought, staring into the fire. Only when Jim was a couple of feet away did he suddenly turn, blink, smile — but the smile was reflexive, polite.
"Hey there," said Jim softly, settling next to Blair on the floor.
"Hey yourself," replied Blair.
"Can't sleep?" asked Jim, and Blair pursed his lips and shook his head no. "Everything okay?" he pressed, and Blair looked at him and sighed.
"Fine, Jim," he replied, and they both knew that he was lying. "It isn't important," Blair added.
"Okay," replied Jim, resting his back against the couch and crossing his long legs at the ankles. "It's not important."
"It's just...well, I'm just thinking, that's all."
"Go ahead," said Jim. "Think away."
"There's really nothing to talk about," said Blair.
"If you say so," said Jim. He looked at Blair. "Did you have a bad day?" he asked softly.
"Mmmm," replied Blair. "Sort of." He chewed his lip. "It's just stupid, really."
"Well, what is?"
Blair exhaled softly, scratched his cheek, torn between wanting to talk, fearing to talk. "I don't know, Jim — I don't think that you're the right person for this conversation." Jim blinked and Blair immediately felt guilty. "No, don't take it that way, its stupid, I swear, it's just — they fitted me for a dress uniform," he blurted. "For graduation. And I — I mean, you're a cop, Jim, I don't want you to take it wrong."
Jim smiled. "You hate the uniform," he murmured and Blair moaned.
"Oh, man, you can't even believe it," he replied softly, starting to laugh. "You just can't have any idea." His grin widened. "I mean, the only way I got through it without crying was to pretend I was in the Village People," he added, tossing his arms up in a "Y". "I mean, look, I know it's only for graduation, I know that its just about me getting a higher class of badge and then things are going to be just like they were, me in my shitty flannels running around four paces behind you, helping people, which is what I want, honestly — but boy, for a moment there I thought — " He stopped, smile vanishing abruptly. "I looked at myself and I thought...well, who is that? What happened to me?" he asked, frowning deeply. "And then...well...then they told me..." He trailed off and sighed again, then shook his head as if to clear it. "Oh, God, I can't even believe it..."
"What?" pressed Jim.
"Aaaaagggh," said Blair, torn between laughter and anger. "They're giving me an award for my shooting, can you imagine?"
Jim's eyebrows shot up. "Blair — that's great. I mean — " he fumbled.
"Yeah, it's great, Jim, it's really great," spat Blair irritably. "It's just great being a pod person — it's just great to sell out — I mean, if you're gonna do it, do it right, you know? I mean, don't just flirt with the Establishment — get right in there! Really go for it! I know — why don't we make sure to get a picture of me, in my uniform, accepting my award for Most Likely To Blow Someone's Head Off and send it to my mother, framed? Make her really really proud of me! Or, on the other hand, we could just do it the easy way — we could take a wooden stake and drive it through her heart with a mallet. Or I could just blow her head off myself — kill my mother and prove my marksmanship at the same time. Maybe I can get another award for that! Maybe I'll get a promotion!"
"Blair..." began Jim softly.
"No, look, I really don't want to have this conversation with you, okay? I just want to rant to myself and blow through it and get over it — I'm having a hard enough time dealing with what I'm feeling, I don't need to be worrying about what you're feeling right now, okay?"
"Okay," said Jim, taking Blair's hand in his firmly. "It's okay for this to be about you. Okay?"
"Okay," said Blair, clenching his jaw.
"I can understand how you're feeling," began Jim.
"No," said Blair sharply. "No, I don't think you can, okay?"
Jim raised his hands, relented. "Okay, I don't understand, all right?"
"I mean, you just can't," said Blair tightly. "I'm sorry, but there it is." He shook his head, clenched his fists. "I mean...you know, when I was a kid I went to this party with Naomi. And at the door, there was this fishbowl," he said, indicating the size and shape with his hands. "And on the fishbowl there was this sign. It said: 'Got too much money? Put some here. Need some money? Take some.' He raised his head, looked at Jim challengingly. "That's what I'm used to, okay? That's where I'm coming from. This? This is like Mars to me, okay?"
"Okay," soothed Jim.
"I mean, where I'm from, this is just about the most rebellious thing I could have done. I mean, don't take this the wrong way, man, but this cop shit is an embarrassment. That's the truth, Jim, and I'm sorry. And I can't tell anyone why I'm doing it — I can't tell them that this is about fulfilling my destiny as a shaman, that this is about cementing the most important, most worthwhile connection of my life — that this is my chance to be whole, to be in a place where who I am and what I do and who I love are all synchronized and unified — that it will allow my life to have — to have had — meaning in a way that very few people ever manage. I mean, I have a once in a lifetime chance to really matter, Jim — I realize that, and so I don't regret anything, but boy, Jim!" he finished. "Oh boy, you know?"
"I don't know," teased Jim softly. "Can I know that?"
Blair smiled. "Yeah, sure, man — you can know that. I'm sorry."
"No, you're right," Jim said. "I don't know. But...well, I'd like to, if that's all right with you. I mean, you talk all the time, but you never say much, if you know what I mean. I like hearing you talk like this." He sighed, ran his hand over his head. "I guess I want to know whatever you want to tell me."
"I appreciate that, really," Blair replied. "I don't talk about it — my childhood, how I grew up — well, because I don't want to have to apologize for it, I don't want to have to justify it. I mean, okay, it wasn't mainstream, it was definitely subcultural, I do realize that, but it wasn't bad. I'm not a freak, I'm not fucked-up — "
"No, I would never think that," said Jim immediately.
"Well all right, maybe not you, but there's them that would. I mean, its stressful, Jim — the people I know now would be shocked at my childhood, the people from my childhood would be shocked at me now. I mean, I'm all alone, here," he said softly. "It's like with you — half the people I know would be outraged because you're a man, the other half would be outraged because you're a cop. I can't win — I'm caught between two worlds."
"So I'm either a fag or a pig," summarized Jim and Blair laughed.
"Yeah, that's about the size of it," concurred Blair, smiling.
"You know, you're not alone in it," said Jim softly.
"Yeah, I know," said Blair. "I know."
"C'mere, let me hold you," said Jim quietly.
"Oh yes, but certainly," said Blair, sliding over into Jim's arms. "I just don't know how I'm going to get through it, Jim. The next week. I mean — they're all going to be so happy for me — Major Crimes, I mean. They're all going to want to come, and that's so nice of them, I know that, but the whole ceremony is going to be an agony for me, man. I'm absolutely dreading it. I mean — standing and marching and the uniform — bleecch! I may just puke," he confessed.
"I'll bring a bucket," said Jim.
"I mean, I haven't ever been to any of my graduations because, well, I hate standing in line and I hate processing and I hate looking like everyone else and I hate the damn trumpet music that they always play."
"It's a ritual," teased Jim. "I thought you liked rituals."
"I like observing them, I don't always like starring in them," admitted Blair.
"Aren't you going to go to your Ph.D. graduation?" asked Jim, curiously.
"I don't know, I haven't made up my mind yet. I mean, I thought about it, being that it's the last one," said Blair. "I don't know — the ceremony's not till May, I have time to think about it."
"I mean, I — well, I'd like to go," said Jim. "If you go. If you want to, that is."
"I'll think about it," said Blair. "You know, people will probably take me out after my defense on Friday," he added. "That's kind of a ritual too — you know, friends meet you outside and take you out and get you sloshed. You can come to that, if you want."
"I — well, maybe." He sighed. "To be honest, Blair, that scares the shit out of me."
"I can understand that," said Blair.
"No, I just don't think you can, Blair!" said Jim, dramatically, and Blair grinned and turned around and hit him. "Ow. I mean, you just don't understand how my rich, white suburban childhood totally fails to equip me for bohemian academic discussion — Ow! Enough already!" he said again as Blair hit him again, harder.
"How dare you develop a sense of humor in the middle of my angst-fest!" yelled Blair, grinning.
"Sorry," said Jim.
"Oh, hey, you really want to laugh? I forgot to tell you," said Blair. "They've finally decided on a title for me — I'm going to be 'Special Officer Sandburg.' Hilarious, no? Special Officer — I wonder, is that 'special' like in 'Special Olympics'? I mean, what the hell?"
"That is pretty funny," admitted Jim.
"No shit," replied Blair. "One humiliation after another this week. What I wouldn't do for you, man."
"What wouldn't you do?" repeated Jim, pondering the question, and then he turned Blair's head toward his and pressed the softest of kisses on Blair's lips. He heard Blair moan and cradled him in his arms, supporting him while he made slow, gentle love to Blair's mouth. How he loved that mouth. Sweet, generous lips — sweet, generous mouth — sweet, generous Blair —
When he finally raised his head the sun was coming up.
Jim suppressed a groan, shifted in his seat. Would this meeting ever end? He glanced out the window of the conference room, took in the dark reflection of the other Major Crimes detectives, wondered if it was worth checking his watch. He didn't think he could handle his disappointment if the hands hadn't moved. Home, he thought. I want to go home, want to go —
JIM! he heard Blair scream in his mind and he was out of his chair, muscles taut, mind frantically realizing that Blair had called once, only once, only once and he practically vaulted over the table, toward the door, ignoring the shocked expressions of the Major Crimes detectives, and he was down the hall before they had come to immediate, silent agreement that Megan Connor and Simon Banks would follow, and Jim was through the door to the stairwell and was hurtling, circling down the stairs, ignoring Megan's cry of "Wait, Jim! Wait!" He pushed through the door into the garage, ran to the truck, tore the door open, and nearly wrenched the gears as he floored the accelerator. Megan and Simon watched the truck speed away, ran for Megan's car. Simon reached out and put the siren on the dashboard.
The truck sped through the darkness and Jim never once stopped to wonder where he was going; his mind was listening intently for Blair, hoping to hear more, straining to hear anything, and his heart beat faster as each moment passed without communication between them. Only once, he thought. He called only once.
He turned sharply into an alley and the truck's headlights revealed the suddenly looming shape of Sandburg's Corvair. The trunk was open. Jim slammed to a stop, bolted out, and ran to the rear: he practically stumbled on his partner's unconscious figure.
Blair Sandburg lay crumpled on the ground, blood streaming down his face from a wound on his head. Jim knelt on the ground and scanned Blair's body instinctively: his heart was beating strongly, his brain activity was normal, the gentle hum along his neurons assured him that there was no nerve damage — nothing was seriously wrong.
He looked up as he heard the double slam of car doors and saw Simon Banks and Megan Connor emerge from the darkness, backlit by the bright headlights of the two vehicles.
"Oh Jesus," hissed Megan, coming forward. "Sandy — "
"I'll get an ambulance," said Simon, wheeling around, and he stopped suddenly when Jim said: "No."
"No?" he said, eyebrows rising into his hairline. "No?"
"He's ok," said Jim, tearing off his sweater, unbuttoning the shirt he wore underneath. He pulled the fabric off his shoulders and quickly tore it into strips. He used one to carefully wipe the blood from Blair's face; he pressed another, wadded up, against the wound to staunch it, his hands moving gently, reassuringly, over Blair's face.
"You can't know that," objected Megan sharply. "He could be hurt, his neck could be broken — "
"I can know that," snarled Jim. "He isn't. It isn't." He pulled Blair gently into his lap, caressed his head, feeling a bump rising fast under the curly hair.
Megan turned to Simon for support, opened her mouth when she realized that Simon wasn't moving, that he had simply accepted what Jim Ellison said.
"What's that?" Simon asked, stepping closer, squinting into the darkness.
"Sandburg's dress uniform," replied Jim, moving his hands over Blair's head, smoothing the wounds away, willing the flesh to heal under his fingers.
Simon nudged the plastic dry cleaner bag with his foot, frowned as he saw trails of dripping liquid. "It's wet," he said, surprised.
"It's urine," replied Jim softly, and Megan swallowed hard at the sound of his voice in the darkness. "Someone peed on it."
"Jim, we're going to have to report this," said Simon. "It's essentially a hate crime."
"You realize that it was probably a cop," said Megan. "Someone who doesn't want Sandy graduating this week."
"Yes," said Simon wearily. "I realize that. All the more reason. We don't tolerate this — we have to find that bastard. You agree, don't you, Jim?"
But Blair had opened his eyes and Jim was focused only on him. "Hey," said Jim softly.
"I didn't see him," rasped Blair, and coughed. "Just a blur. He had a bat."
"Shhh, its okay," whispered Jim.
"Jim, my arm," said Blair, and Jim gently slid his hands along Sandburg's right arm till he felt the hairline fracture. "Ropes tomorrow," said Blair. "Final test. The wall..." His face contorted in pain as Jim ran a his thumb over the fracture, exploring its width and depth.
"You're going to be fine for the wall," said Jim, firmly. "You're going to be just fine."
Blair nodded, let out a deep breath, let Jim's hands return to his face.
"I'm sorry, I just don't understand what's happening here," said Megan, and her voice was tight and afraid. She backed up a few steps.
Simon turned to her, put a gentle hand on her arm. "Megan, its very hard to explain, all right? Jim is...well, Jim is not like other people."
"God, I knew that," said Megan with a frightened giggle. "How did he know — ? How does he know — ?"
"He knows," said Simon, patiently.
"He's psychic?" asked Megan.
"He's psychic and then some," said Simon.
"Simon, help me," said Jim, easing Blair into a sitting position.
"You're sure this is wise, Jim?" asked Simon concernedly.
"I'm feeling better," interjected Blair. "I can stand."
"Watch the arm," hissed Jim. "I haven't gotten to the arm yet."
"Okay, okay," said Simon, and then Blair Sandburg was on his feet, supported by the two tall policemen.
"Jim, the report," said Simon, as they gently guided Blair into the passenger seat of the truck.
"Come to the house," said Jim, carefully belting Blair in and shutting the passenger side door. "We'll do it there. Let's get a team here," he said, striding back to the Corvair. "We'll want that as evidence," he said, pointing at the plastic bag. Jim was still for a moment, trying to sense clues. Finally he sighed, leaned over the plastic bag, and inhaled deeply. "I want to be able to smell the bastard," said Jim, wheeling toward his truck, and the predatory look in his eye made Megan shiver.
When Simon Banks and Megan Connor arrived at 852 Prospect later that night, they found a washed, fed, contented Blair Sandburg curled up on the sofa.
Megan walked over to him, scrutinizing his face closely. What had been a bleeding cut on his forehead was now a healed, albeit reddish, bruise. Her eyes narrowed. "Sandy, your head," she said.
"I have excellent health care," replied Blair, grinning infuriatingly.
"Are you ready to give your statement?" asked Simon Banks.
"Yeah, but there isn't much to tell," said Blair. Simon and Megan pulled up chairs, and Jim sat down close to Blair, taking his arm gently between his hands and holding it. "I went in to the Academy, did my last classes. The sergeant told me that our dress uniforms were in, and so we all ended up going over to this storeroom to pick them up. They were doing it alphabetically," he added, "and so, as an 'S', I had to wait a while. Finally I got it and I went out to my car." He sighed. "It was dark outside. I went around to my trunk and opened it. Then there was just a blur — I saw this bat coming toward me, and then I felt a pain in my head, and then I was on my knees, and then I felt the bat slam into my arm, and then I was falling and I don't remember anything else."
"Who was in the building when you left?" asked Simon.
"Well, pretty much the 'T's and after," said Blair. "People pretty much left as they got their uniforms. Michael Kelly was still there — he was waiting for Alex Wurtzel, I think they're drinking buddies. Maybe one or two others. Vera Glynn — I remember her because I like her."
"So you're saying that almost any of the students from A through R could have been waiting outside by your car?" asked Simon.
"Yeah, I guess," sighed Blair.
"And how many cadets are there?"
"Okay," said Simon, making a note.
"Also the instructors," added Jim.
"Jim, I can't imagine — " said Blair.
"Sergeant Dodgeball? You said he hates you."
"I don't know, I just don't know," muttered Blair.
"You said something about a wall?" inquired Simon.
"Yeah," said Blair. "Tomorrow, the last day before graduation — just to put the pressure on, mind you — they make us — "
"Oh, yeah, yeah, the wall," said Simon. He looked at Jim. "Been a while," he said, smiling, and Jim made a face, grinned back. "So tomorrow's wall day, huh? So that's why your arm."
"That's what I think, yeah," said Blair. "I think they want me to flunk, or be delayed, or something."
"Right," said Simon, taking notes. "I'm really sorry, Sandburg."
"It's not your fault," said Blair.
"I'm sorry anyway. Listen, if you had to guess, who would you say? Anyone say or do anything mean to you?"
Blair looked at Megan, got a sympathetic look back. He sighed. "There are several," he admitted. "Just the normal macho shit. Nothing that struck me as dangerous." He suddenly grinned, looked at Jim. "You don't think it could be Naomi, do you?"
"Uh, no, Blair," replied Jim, smiling back.
"All right, give me the pad, I'll write you a list," said Blair, pulling his arm away from Jim and reaching out. Megan stared at him, at the fluid use of his arm, as he put the pad on his knee and started scribbling furiously. She shot a look at Jim, who smiled tightly back.
"He's not going to have a problem with the wall, is he?" she asked.
"I don't see why he should," said Jim blandly. "He's got pretty good upper body development."
"Hell, I didn't," said Simon, shaking his head. "I was just this tall, skinny kid."
"Well, at least you're still tall," jibed Jim.
"Yeah, you just keep on with the Wonderburgers," retorted Simon. "You won't be able to do that shit for much longer."
"Here," said Blair, handing the pad back to Simon.
"Okay," said Simon, getting up. "We'll get on it. The only thing that we know right now is that there is a bat missing from the sports equipment room at the Academy."
"Big surprise," said Jim, rising to show them out.
"You know, you've been awfully quiet about this whole thing," said Simon suspiciously. "I thought you'd be screaming to be in charge of this one."
Jim smiled. "I am in charge of this one. Glad to have your help. And by the way, I'm not coming in tomorrow. I'm going to watch 60 cadets scale the wall. I'm sure I can pick him out."
Banks threw up his hands, knowing better than to argue. He moved toward the door, but Megan stood her ground. "Is anyone going to tell me anything, here?" Megan looked hard at Jim, Jim looked at Simon, Simon looked at Blair, and Blair smiled ruefully and held his wrists out, pressed together, miming, "My hands are tied." "All right, fine," she snorted.
"Megan," pleaded Blair, "I'm really sorry, but there's an awful lot at stake here for us." He sighed. "Lets just say that the world can be a pretty marvelous and magical place, sometimes, okay?"
"Okay, Sandy," said Megan, nodding, and she turned and followed Banks to the door.
"I should have known there was something supernatural going on when you got him," she muttered teasingly to Jim on her way out, and Jim grabbed her upper arm and bent his head to her ear. "I know," he whispered, and then he smiled as he shut and locked the door behind her.
"Hey Jim," said Blair brightly, "if my uniform is in evidence, maybe I don't have to — dammit!" he yelled, as Jim smirked and shook his head no.
Jim Ellison sat on the empty bleachers at the side of the Academy gymnasium, holding his cell phone to his ear as he watched the cadets run the obstacle course one by one, going through the various hurdles, heading ultimately for the wall.
"So I told them all that you had explosive diarrhea," Banks was saying in his ear.
"Oh, yeah, thanks a fucking lot, Simon," said Jim, shaking his head. "You're a real pal."
Simon laughed. "No problem, any time. Not that they believed me. We're running a 'don't ask, don't tell' policy about eevvverything here in Major Crimes."
"You know, you could have asked Sandburg to make you up a story," said Jim, irritably.
"Well, I forgot. And I haven't got his talent," said Simon.
"Yeah, obviously," said Jim. "So, how does this brilliant cover story of yours account for us finding Sandburg?"
"Hell, I don't know — maybe he had your bottle of Kaopectate," replied Simon, laughing.
"You bastard," hissed Jim. "I will get you for this."
"Anything going on over there?" asked Simon.
"Nah," said Jim, "It's all the people you hated from school, twenty years younger," he added, watching the first of the cadets hit the wall, grab the rope, and scramble over. "Amazing how they're all the same types all over again."
"Except for Sandburg," Simon objected.
"Yeah, except for," agreed Jim, watching his partner run the starting twenty laps.
"Well, kiss the tall, skinny black kid for me," sighed Simon.
"Yeah, will do," said Jim, clicking the phone shut.
Jim bent forward, wrists dangling between his knees, and contemplated the action unfolding before him. He watched as Sandburg came out of his last lap and headed for the obstacle course — then frowned as he noted a burly, dark haired man move, well, just a little too close. He watched the developing situation closely — could see the man's eyes judging the distance between himself and Blair Sandburg and then saw him speed up so as to narrow that distance. In between the third and fourth set of obstacles, the he made a move as if to pass Blair, and then he appeared to stumble, but Jim noted with sharp eyes that he stuck a foot in Blair's path deliberately in a way calculated to send his partner crashing hard to the floor. Even as he rose, he saw the two men's feet entangle and they were both going down — but Blair suddenly twisted his body and hit the ground rolling and was up on his feet again in one fluid motion, and then he was sprinting through the fourth obstacle, hell-bent for the wall, leaving the other man behind, growling, trying to manipulate his bulk back up, and as Sandburg's arms stretched up for the rope, as he hauled himself up up up hand over hand and disappeared, finally, over the wall, Ellison grabbed the dark haired cadet and hauled him off the course.
"What the fuck are you doing?" the cadet yelled, and as Jim threw him hard against the bleachers he could see that he was young, maybe only twenty or twenty-two.
"Right now, I'm a detective, and you're nobody, okay, so drop the fucking attitude," said Jim. "We know about your stunt — if you'd studied, you'd know its called assault. You have the right to remain silent — "
"You can't — " blurted the kid, and Jim shook his head and said, "God, you're stupid" and smacked him in the head. "You blew it, asshole, you really blew it." He saw the kid look at him with something like panic in his eyes, then saw the eyes harden into fury and turned around to see Sandburg loping toward them, dabbing his face with the towel slung around his neck.
"You're not a cop," the cadet snarled at him. "You're not cop material."
"Oh yes, I am," said Sandburg, reaching behind Jim and taking a pair of handcuffs from his belt. "You bet your sorry ass I am," he said, and closed the cuffs around the cadet's wrists.
"Brian Donnelly," said Simon Banks, later that afternoon in the bullpen. "Twenty-two, a fourth generation cop. Supposed to be, anyway — he's been expelled, pending charges." Simon smiled ironically. "Just as well, anyway: he's as stupid as a brick. He kept the bat. Probably hated Sandburg just for being smart."
Jim nodded, then stood, pulling his jacket off the back of his chair. "Simon, I've got to go now: there's somewhere I need to be before six."
"Okay," nodded Banks. "I hope there's no crime wave, tomorrow: this place is going to be dead. Everyone's going to city hall, tomorrow: you do know that?"
"Yeah, I sort of figured," said Jim.
"I think everyone wants to see Sandburg in uniform," said Banks, smiling. "It's a once in a lifetime chance."
"Yeah, well don't tease him about it, he's very sensitive on the subject," replied Jim.
"Us? Tease?" replied Simon. "Listen, are there plans for afterward — we'll take him out to lunch, or something, right?"
"Yeah, I think he'd like that. If he's got an appetite," he added in a soft mutter. "I've got to go."
"Okay," said Simon, going back into his office. "Hey, congratulate him for us, will you?"
When Jim came out of the shower he heard Blair talking to himself. "Under the hat. Out of the hat. Under the hat. GODDAMMIT!"
He climbed the stairs to the bedroom to find Sandburg peering into the mirror, trying to find a way to fit his police cap around his ponytail. "Don't say a word, not a fucking word, Jim, I swear!" said Sandburg to Jim's reflection.
There really wasn't a word to be said. Blair Sandburg's dark navy uniform fit him well, and his crisp dress shirt was almost blindingly white in contrast. The gold buttons sparkled on the jacket, and as Jim watched him shift the flat, broad brimmed hat around on his head, watched the gold braid across the visor rise and fall and rise as Sandburg adjusted it irritably, he honestly couldn't think of anything appropriate to say.
"All right," said Blair, finally, turning around. "How's this?" The ponytail was out, resting low on the back of his neck. "Is that stupid? — scratch that — how stupid is it?"
"It looks fine," said Jim. "I didn't think you'd be dressed already."
"No point putting it off," said Sandburg, pulling the hat off and tossing it on to the bed like a frisbee. "I've got to get used to it — I've got to calm down about it."
"I...uh...well, I bought you something," said Jim, pulling his own dress uniform from the back of his closet.
"What?" asked Blair, loosening his tie and pacing around, trying to get comfortable in the clothes.
"I don't know, maybe it's stupid," murmured Jim, sliding the slacks off the hanger and stepping into them.
"Well, what?" asked Blair as Jim zipped his pants and gracefully slid his arms into a shirt. Jim dropped his hands, leaving the shirt open, and fixed him with a look.
"I just don't know — look, I don't want you to take it the wrong way. It seemed like a better idea yesterday."
"Jim, what? What, what, what?" said Blair. Jim sighed and walked down the stairs half-dressed, Blair following.
Jim went to his jacket and took two boxes out of the outside pocket: one was large, square, and flat; the other, a small cube.
"Look," said Jim, turning, "it was just that you said — that you said that time — " and Blair gave him a look of such wide-eyed, explosive impatience that Jim simply handed him the two boxes.
Blair pulled the top off the larger box and frowned, looking at the jumble of intricately woven leather pieces. "They're, um — " he said, touching one gently with a fingertip.
"Look, Blair, I know how the uniform fits," said Jim, moving closer. "I know what will show and what won't. I just thought — " He stopped, took a deep breath, and then snatched the box out of Blair's hand and strode over to the kitchen table, dumped it out. "Neck, wrist, ankle, and — well, you did say — "
"Jim, I'm not — " said Blair, approaching, shaking his head in confusion.
"I just thought you'd be happier wearing something, well, underneath," said Jim, separating out the cluster of soft leather. "Look, here — " he said, and Blair looked and suddenly the prettily woven designs had resolved themselves into separate pieces of jewelry. Blair blinked. Necklace. Bracelet. Ankle-bracelet. And something else — Blair grinned suddenly, and shot a surprised look at Jim. "It's not practical," Jim muttered, not meeting Blair's eyes. "It's only decorative. It's not supposed to — it shouldn't bother you."
"My God, Jim," said Blair softly, staring at him.
"I just wanted," said Jim, hesitantly. "I wanted you to feel like you were in there, you know? At least underneath."
"Put them on me," said Blair. Jim picked up the necklace, and had to further loosen Blair's tie, and undo the top two shirt buttons before he could fasten it into place. Blair's hand went to touch the supple leather at his neck, to rub it softly against his skin, as Jim picked up the bracelet.
"Right or left wrist?" he asked, and Blair thought for a moment and then answered, "Left," and he pushed up his jacket sleeve and undid his cuff before extending his arm out to Jim. Jim slipped the leather around his wrist. Fastened it.
"Ankle?" asked Jim, and again Blair thought before deciding, "Right," and he put his right foot up on the chair and pulled up his pant leg and pushed down his sock. Jim bent to fasten the third leather piece around Blair's sturdy, hairy leg and when he rose he was smiling.
"Now, that," he said, gesturing to the last piece, "you're gonna have to do that, I don't know what the fuck to do with that," and Blair grinned and undid his pants and carefully looped the soft leather once, twice around his cock and balls with gentle, nimble fingers.
"Blair," said Jim, cautiously, "I don't think that's supposed to — "
"Jim, why don't you let me decide what it's supposed to do?" replied Blair, teasing.
"Okay, fine," said Jim. "None of it should show," he added.
"I have that within which passeth show," murmured Blair.
"So do you like it?" asked Jim.
Blair smiled, made as if to speak, stopped, smiled. He nodded, swallowing, took a step back. "Am I pretty?" he asked tightly, holding up his arms, presenting himself to view.
"You're beautiful," said Jim. "Oh, hey, wait a minute — there's something else."
"It's like Christmas," said Blair,
"You're like Christmas," replied Jim, picking the smaller box off the table where Blair had put it. "Christmas every fucking day. Here. This is — this is something else," he said, putting the box into Blair's hand.
Blair looked at it, looked up at Jim. "Jim, I don't think I can take anything else. I'm going to start crying in a minute as it is."
"Shut up and open it," said Jim. "Come on, the Village People wouldn't cry."
"The hell they wouldn't," replied Blair, opening the box. Inside the box was a small silver hoop, and set into the hoop was a small diamond. Blair's breath escaped in a soft hiss. "Jim, its beautiful, its unbelievably fucking beautiful."
"You'll wear it?" asked Jim.
"I'll die in it," responded Blair — adding quickly, "Sorry, sorry, sorry — bad choice of words. I'll live in it, okay? How's that?"
"Better," replied Jim, watching as Blair further unbuttoned his shirt with one hand, gently removed his old nipple ring, and threaded the new one in carefully. "So, do you feel like you, now?" he asked.
"No," replied Blair, honestly, looking up at him. "I feel much better than me."
"There's nothing better than you," answered Jim, and Blair stepped forward and slid his arms around Jim's neck and Jim wrapped his arms tightly around his back and held him tightly.
"PERKINS!" Applause, scattered cheers, as the newly minted Officer Perkins marched forward and saluted, was handed his badge, shook the hands of the mayor and the commissioner of police.
"You know," said Simon Banks, leaning close to Jim. "I would never in a million years have thought that it would work out this way."
"PHELPS!" Jim choked out an explosive laugh, looked at Simon with wild eyes. "You!"
"Well, yeah, I know, Jim," said Simon. "POSEMAN!" "Still, the idea that he's actually going to be on the team now — "
"RANDALL!" " — Hey, is that Albert Randall's boy?" asked Simon, suddenly, raising his head to scan the crowd.
"Who the fuck cares?" muttered Jim.
"Now, you be nice, Jim," said Simon. "RATZEIMER!" "You're away from Sandburg for two hours and you're already reverting."
"Yeah, well, it only works if he's within ten feet of me," said Jim.
"I'll strap him to your leg," Simon retorted. Jim suddenly swallowed hard, grabbed the seat in front of him tightly. "REUBEN!" "Are you okay?" Simon asked quickly, face concerned.
"Yeah, I'm fine, it's Sandburg," said Jim weakly. "He's freaking out. Maybe I really should have brought that bucket." He closed his eyes, fighting off the sudden wave of sympathetic nausea. "ROSS!"
"Yea!" he heard Megan call out from his other side, and he looked at her sharply and she shrugged. "A woman," she explained. "YOU GO, GIRL!" she yelled.
Oh God oh God oh God oh God oh God, Jim heard Blair chanting in his mind, knew that it wasn't directed at him, that his partner was simply hissing under his breath — "SADLER!" — and that his rush of adrenaline had hooked the connection inadvertently.
"Here comes," whispered Simon, and then it did — "SANDBURG!" and Jim was suddenly drowning in the wild whoops that came from his row as Major Crimes leapt to their collective feet, screaming and clapping so that he was suddenly, stupidly, the only one in the row sitting, and he hauled himself up just in time to see Blair withdrawing his hand from the commissioner's amid a lightening storm of flash bulbs and then he stepped back, clutching his badge in his left hand.
"Aren't you happy?!" asked Megan, whirling to look at him and grinning widely, and Jim didn't really know how to answer that — "SIDDONS!" — and Megan frowned, noting Jim's blank expression and reached for his arm and then held his hand tightly as they sat down. "It's okay," she whispered softly, squeezing his hand. "It's okay," and Jim met her eyes and whatever she saw there caused her to reach out gently and touch his face. She drew his head close, suddenly moved to press his cheek against hers.
"Oh man, oh man, oh man," muttered Blair to himself as he pushed through the door of the restaurant, still white-faced and tense two hours later. As the detectives moved en masse toward a large, round table at the back of the dark-paneled hall, Blair broke away and headed off toward the men's room. Jim Ellison followed.
"Here," Jim said, pulling a small white bottle out of his pocket as he pushed through the door.
Blair took the aspirin gratefully. "You think of everything," he said, and he shook three tablets into his palm, took off his hat, and bent to scoop water from the faucet into his mouth.
"It's okay," said Jim, leaning against the wall. "You'll feel better in a minute. It's over."
"Oh, man, I was kidding when I talked about pictures," said Blair, face dripping from the cold water he had splashed on it. "Pictures with the mayor, pictures of me with the stupid award — "
"You're news," said Jim. "New city program, remember? And you nearly left your award behind — Simon picked it up."
"Yeah, nearly," sighed Blair. "Nearly clearly isn't enough. Let's go camping this weekend — I want to throw the damn thing into a ravine." He dried his face with a paper towel, then pulled off his hairtie and bent over, shaking his dark mass of curls out, running his fingers through them.
"Feel better?" asked Jim as Blair straightened and Blair replied, "Getting there," and he unbuttoned his jacket, yanked his shirttails out of his pants, pulled his tie off, undid his top three shirt buttons, unfastened his cuffs and shoved his sleeves up around his elbows. He exhaled happily. "Okay, better, much better."
"You look like you've been ravaged," said Jim, eyeing the transformation.
"I live in hope," said Blair, smiling meaningfully.
Jim put Blair's tie in his hat and the hat on Blair's head. "Come on," he said, "They're waiting."
"Fuck me stupid when we get home?" asked Blair, holding the door open.
"Yeah, sure," said Jim, letting the door close behind him.
"Jim?" whispered Blair as Jim softly kissed the skin around the leather necklace, around the bracelets, around the cock ring. "I wouldn't have made it today without these," he said. "I kept touching them, I could feel them under my clothes — they reminded me of me, they reminded me of you."
"I'm glad," murmured Jim, deeply enjoying the combined smell of leather and Blair.
"You have no idea how this moves me," Blair said.
"You have no idea of how sexy they look on you," replied Jim, gliding his mouth over Blair's wrist, letting the taste slide over his tongue. "I'm not sure who got the present."
Blair smiled. "You're getting in touch with your kinks," he said approvingly.
"Well, I'm certainly getting in touch with something," Jim admitted, and his voice was amused.
"I wouldn't have thought this would be your thing," said Blair.
"I wouldn't have thought so either," conceded Jim, running a finger slowly down Blair's chest, gently circling the glinting diamond at Blair's nipple, "but there's something about you being, well, decorated, I guess — allowing me to decorate your body — "
"I know," said Blair. "I really like it, too," and he moved his foot and scraped the soft ankle bracelet gently against Jim's leg and Jim shivered.
"There's something about it," mused Jim. "It's very deep, very, I don't know — "
"Primal?" suggested Blair, sliding his leg back and forth.
"Yes," said Jim.
"Fuck me, please," whispered Blair, and Jim bent his head and kissed him deeply, clutching two great handfuls of hair. Eventually Jim moved away from Blair's lips and tenderly licked his guide's face: at the temples, on each cheek, along the jawline. "You really like it," he murmured, nuzzling Blair's Adam's apple.
"Huh?" asked Blair, hazy with sensation.
"Being fucked," said Jim softly against his neck and Blair moaned assent. "Oh yes."
"It feels good?" asked Jim, caressing Blair's shoulders.
"It feels wonderful," hissed Blair, guiding Jim's hand back to his erection.
"It's just that I was thinking," began Jim, and then he stopped when he heard Blair say suddenly, urgently: "Don't." Jim swallowed hard as Blair released a torrent of words: "Jim if you want it, I will, I want to, and there's time, but I'll have a nervous breakdown right now, I swear, its too much, I can't handle it all, much too much too much — " and Jim stopped the flow with another kiss, and smoothed Blair's hair back away from his face until he felt his lover calm underneath him.
"Okay, I understand," said Jim softly. "I just felt, suddenly, that — "
"I know what you were feeling," replied Blair quietly. "I felt it too. This," he said, reaching up to brush Jim's cheek with his wrist, "this means something, doesn't it? Did you know it?"
"I didn't know it, I don't know it," said Jim. "I just feel it, now."
"That you decorated me for a reason," finished Blair, and Jim sat up.
"Blair, this is creepy," he said. "I don't want to think that — "
"Then don't," interjected Blair, grasping his hand, pulling it to his chest. "Don't think about it. Does it turn you on to see me like this?" he murmured.
"Oh yes," said Jim, inhaling deeply
"Then okay," said Blair. "Think about that. Sex first, mystical implications later."
"Thank god one of us has his priorities straight," said Jim, reaching down to gently circle Blair's opening with a finger.
Blair paced nervously outside the door of small conference room in Hargrove Hall; he knew he would pass, knew he had to pass, but still his stomach was tight and he kneaded his hands. They had asked him to step outside for the obligatory voting process, but it seemed as if they were taking far too long for a simple yes. His mind raced: maybe he'd get distinction? he thought hopefully. Maybe they hadn't bought it? said another voice and he cringed, thinking about the fraud he had perpetrated in his so-called dissertation. They couldn't have discovered the fraud, he assured himself nervously. There's no way they could know. Could they know?
Had he answered their questions appropriately? Had he said too much and confused them? He had panicked for a brief moment when one of his committee members questioned his methodology — lying, he thought brutally, just wasn't an acceptable method, unfortunately — but he had anticipated the question, and thought that he had addressed it convincingly enough. Dammit, when were they going to open that door? He worried the leather bracelet on his left wrist, twisting it round and round and round.
Finally the door opened, and his advisor stuck her head out. "Blair, we're ready for you," she said and smiled, and Blair let out the breath he was holding because smiling was a good sign, a very good sign, and he followed her in and shut the old wooden door behind himself, and then the other committee members rose to their feet. His advisor extended her hand and said, "Congratulations, Dr. Sandburg, the committee has decided to pass you with distinction," and Blair relaxed so much that he almost felt dizzy, and then he was shaking the hands of the four other professors, and mumbling, "thank you, thank you," to their undifferentiated comments of "nice work," "very fine work there," "a pleasure," "real contribution to the field," and he drifted back to his office in a daze, clutching his copy of the dissertation to his chest, his mind chanting, "Special Officer Doctor Sandburg." What a week.
There were nine or ten people clustered outside of his office door as he turned the corner, and they quieted as he approached. His friend Sarah took a few steps toward him and frowned at his stunned expression. "Well?" she asked nervously, curiously, and he grinned and gave her a thumbs up, and then everyone exhaled and screamed and surrounded him, and he was being hugged and kissed and he heard a champagne cork pop! and he took a deep swig from the suddenly proffered bottle and then he was being propelled down the hallway by the chattering, excited group and knew he was being steered straight to the local grad student bar. Fine. Wonderful.
As the group turned the corner they ran smack into Jim Ellison and Megan, who took surprised steps backwards. "Jim!" cried Blair, detaching himself and running straight into his lover's arms, and Jim hugged him tightly and kissed the top of his head and then said, "Listen, I brought Megan, I hope that's OK," and Blair looked at her and smiled and she smiled back and he twisted his head and yelled, "Sarah — there's someone I've been wanting you to meet!"