If Wishes

by Kass

Originally a snippet inspired by my local community chorus, this one grew into a whole story. Thanks to Owlet, Kelyn and Justine for the beta-reads’—and thanks to Justine for suffering through "Alexander's Feast" with me...
The boys belong to Petfly; the words belong to me.

"You wanted to see me, sir?"

Simon Banks looked up to see Jim standing in his doorway, ramrod-straight as usual.

"Where's Sandburg?"

"Doing paperwork."

"Get him in here too," Simon said.

Sandburg was thumbing through a thick folder at his new desk, immediately adjacent to Jim's. Somehow his desk was the neater of the two, which Jim couldn't figure out, given Sandburg's house habits. It's probably just clean because it's new, he thought for the hundredth time.

Even though it wasn't really new, anymore.

It was four months since Sandburg had finished his academy training; technically he was the rookie on the Major Crimes squad. But life isn't ruled by technicalities, and the truth was he'd been a part of the team for years; no one paid much attention to his change in status. So the kid had cut his hair, big deal. It wasn't like the cops in Major Crimes wore uniforms anyway. Other than the occasional bulge of a holster, Sandburg didn't look much different.

Not to anyone but Jim.


Sandburg looked up, gave a small nod. Jim jerked his thumb towards the glass door. "We've been summoned."

"'kay," Sandburg said, standing, leaving the folder on his desk. Jim stood to the side and let his partner enter first.

"You wanted to see us, Simon?"

Simon just looked at his newest officer. Waiting.

"I mean, Captain?"

"Sit down, gentlemen," Simon said.

They sat.

"Is this about the paperwork for the Rossiter case?" Sandburg asked.

"No, although I do want those files on my desk by noon, and I appreciate the reminder."

Jim rolled his eyes. "Thanks, Chief," he murmured.

"No sweat," Sandburg murmured back.

"For once, it's not about paperwork," Banks said. "It's about drugs."

"You're not giving me another test, are you?"

Simon raised an eyebrow. "Given that the office was stormed the first time we tried, I think I'll leave things as they are," he said, wryly. "Although that vending machine maneuver was impressive, Sandburg."

"Hey, what can I say, I was born to be a cop," Sandburg said, sweetly. Simon gave him a long-suffering look.

No one, Jim thought, sassed Simon quite as often as Sandburg did. Funny; Simon played tough, but he didn't really seem to mind it. Sandburg might've annoyed him at the very beginning, with all that "thin blue line" crap, but the kid had grown on him. As he'd grown on everybody else.

And it seemed like Simon had been willing to cut the kid a lot of slack, since the press conference. Something about watching Sandburg send his career crashing down in flames’—it made everyone in Major Crimes a little softer around the edges where he was concerned.

It seemed to have had the opposite effect on Sandburg. He was more authoritative now than he'd ever been, although in a quiet way. As if daring the world to throw him for one more loop. As if dying, and changing career in mid-stream, weren't enough.

Dying, and changing career in mid-stream, both thanks to his partnership with a certain detective who carried the mixed blessing of heightened senses and an unfortunate tendency toward fear-based reactions.

And that, Jim told himself, was not a productive train of thought. "Not to break up your conversation, here, but what's going on?"

Simon leaned back in his chair. "I just got a call from the DEA in Seattle. They've been flooded with White China. Looks like it's the largest shipment this year. Bigger than the Anderson bust."

Jim let out a low whistle.

"Looks like it was laced with something. Fourteen OD's so far."

"You think it's headed for Cascade." Sandburg steepled his fingers unconsciously.

"You really were destined for cop-hood, weren't you?"

"What do you want us to do?" Jim, cutting in before his partner could retort.

"We have a lead on a guy that we think is their contact. Name's Christopher White. Just moved to town. I want you to establish contact and see if you can get something out of him."

"Will do, sir," Jim said crisply. He started to rise.

"Hold your horses! I'm not finished."

Jim sat back down.

"Since he's working temp jobs, you can't tail him at work; he won't be in the same place day to day - but we have a lead on where you can find him this evening."

"Great! Does this guy go clubbing?"

Simon smiled. "No, Sandburg. Better than that."

Simon sounded amused: not a good sign. An amused Simon meant an ignominious task.


Simon leaned forward, grinning. "You boys know how to sing?"

"Come on, Jim, we should go inside. Rehearsal's going to start in ten minutes."

Jim sat behind the wheel of the truck, seemingly frozen in place. "I can't believe we're doing this," he said.

"It'll be fun," Sandburg promised.

Jim was not convinced. "I haven't sung since I was fourteen, Sandburg," he pointed out.

"You said that already. No one's gonna care, man. It's a community chorus."

I'll care, Jim thought. "What if I sound like shit?"

Sandburg grinned. "I'll love you anyway," he said lightly.

I wish, Jim thought.

Sandburg opened his door. "Come on, man. Move it."

If wishes were horses, how beggars would ride. The saying came to Jim's mind in his mother's voice, even after all these years; it was one of the few phrases he could remember her saying, and he could remember the precise timbre of her voice, the wistfulness. He thought of it often. If wishes were horses.

Truth was, Jim didn't have an awful lot of wishes, these days. And that was probably a good thing; it meant his life was on track. He liked his loft, liked his job, liked his coworkers. Liked his boss, which was more than a lot of people could say. Liked going running a few mornings a week, liked watching football on Sundays and basketball on Saturdays. He liked his patterns and habits. And he liked his partner.

Too much.

They'd never talked about sexual orientation. In the early days of Sandburg's tenure as guide, they'd been busy learning to juggle research and work and their budding friendship; once they knew each other well enough to talk about something as charged as sexuality, Jim had felt awkward bringing it up. Like they'd somehow skipped the part where they were supposed to talk about those kinds of things. You know: love, death, religion, sex with men.

Besides, by the time they knew each other well enough to talk about sex, Sandburg was going after every woman in greater Cascade. (Jim had regretted the table-leg comment as soon as it came out of his mouth, but Sandburg hadn't seemed stung by it; he'd just smiled.) Why go through the ordeal of bringing up bisexuality when it was obvious the kid wanted women?

Which left him wishing. More often than he wanted to admit. If wishes were horses, he could have filled a stable.

It didn't take more than three minutes to find the director, Bob, a white-haired man with rosy cheeks. He looked like a cherub who'd had a few too many highballs. They were in luck; women outnumbered men by three to one, and Bob was delighted to have two new men on board. "Don't worry about an audition," he chirped. "Sing where you want tonight and if I think you're in the wrong section I'll let you know next week."

Since they weren't sure what voice part Christopher White would sing, they'd agreed to split up. Sandburg was singing second tenor. Jim's last real singing gig had been as a boy soprano at St. Joseph's, but he'd agreed to attempt baritone.

Simon hates us, Jim thought, scanning the room: middle-aged ladies in cardigan sweaters, guys with ponytails, the smell of cough drops.

Sandburg was already making friends in the tenor section. Which wasn't all men: there were a few women singing tenor, and somehow Sandburg had managed to sit right next to one of them. The prettiest one. With the freckles and the curls and the pert, romance-heroine nose. Jim's mood darkened.

Then the man next to him extended a hand. "You're new too," he said.

"Yep," Jim muttered.

"Nice to meet you. Chris White," he said.

Jackpot, Jim thought. He smiled. "Joe Williamson," he said.

The Cascade Community Chorus was singing a piece by Handel. Jim hadn't been aware that he hated Handel, but after a page or two he was as sure of it as he'd ever been sure of anything. The music was perky, repetitive and bright. It was driving him up a wall.

And to add insult to injury, the chorus was out of tune.

"Happy, happy, happy pair!"

A few bars of piano trilling.


More trilling.


Still more trilling.

"None but the brave, none but the brave, none but the brave deserve the fair..."

What the hell were they singing about, anyway? "The Messiah," at least, had a point; it was about, well, the messiah. Straightforward. Comprehensible. This’—Jim flipped to the front of his score’—this "Alexander's Feast" seemed to be a random collection of songs for a mythical celebration. Jim couldn't wait for rehearsal to be over.

And Sandburg looked like he was enjoying himself. Which made the whole thing worse.

"That was great." Sandburg climbed into the truck.

"Great?" Jim put a hand on his partner's forehead.

"Cut it out, man," Sandburg said, laughing. "I'm not sick. That was great."

"That was miserable," Jim retorted.

"It was not!"

"Yes it was." Jim stuck the key in the ignition. He could feel Sandburg looking at him.


"Why were you miserable?"

Jim decided not to comment on the pronoun shift. "They were out of tune," he said through gritted teeth.

Sandburg looked faintly surprised. "Huh. Yeah, I guess, a little bit."

"Have you ever," Jim craned his neck to pull out of their parallel parking spot, "considered," turned the wheel hard, "what Sentinel hearing means," put the truck in reverse, "in terms of pitch?"

Sandburg winced. "Oh. Shit. Hadn't thought about that."

Jim put the truck in first and started pulling onto the street. "Obviously," he said.

Just then a call came. "Joe!"

"Shh," Jim said quickly. "That's our guy." He rolled down the window.

"Hey, Chris," he said, amiably.

Christopher White jogged over to the truck. "Nice ride," he said approvingly.

"Thanks," Jim said.

Chris jerked a thumb toward Sandburg. "Who's this?"

"Marvin," Sandburg said. "Marvin Goldberg. I'm a friend of Joe's."

Marvin? thought Jim.

"Hey. Nice to meet you. Look, Joe, I'm new in town, I don't know a lot of people. You, ah, want to meet for a beer sometime?"

"Sure, Chris," Jim said. "Sounds great." Sounds terrible, actually, he thought, but a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.

"Here's my card," Chris said, handing it through the window.

"Thanks," Jim said. He stuck it in the edge of the ashtray. "I'll give a call. Have a good night," and Sandburg waved, and they pulled away.

As soon as they were out of earshot both men started laughing.

"Marvin Goldberg?" Jim repeated.

"I had to think of something that wasn't Sandburg," he said.

"You sound like an old man. Marvin. Jeez, I don't think I know any Marvins under sixty."

"Which would make them, what, your peers, right?"

"If I weren't driving right now I'd throttle you," Jim said, cheerfully.

Sandburg snorted. "Hey, I think our suspect likes you," he said.

"No way, Chief," Jim said.

"I think he does! 'You, ah, wanna meet for a beer sometime?'" Blair mimicked. "Gimme a break." Sandburg chuckled. "He's got a thing for you, man."

Jim cast a quick glance. "Not an option," he said shortly.

Sandburg smirked. "Hey, none but the brave deserve the fair," he said. Jim rolled his eyes.

"Which one of those is supposed to be me?" Jim asked.

"What do you think?" Sandburg reached over and turned on the radio.

Joining the force didn't seem to have changed Sandburg's routine much. He went into the station every day now, but he'd pretty much done that beforehand too. Jim had figured that the first time they were in a dangerous situation he'd have to fight the temptation to yell "Stay here and call for backup!"’—but as time went on and Sandburg continued to be quietly competent, Jim's memories of his pre-cop days started fading.

Sandburg applied himself to being a cop with the same doggedness he'd applied to studying Jim's senses. To no one's surprise but his own he turned out to be an excellent shot; to everyone's surprise but his own he didn't put up a fight about having to carry a gun.

("Everyone on the force carries a gun, Jim," he'd said, as if it were the most reasonable thing on earth. "Why wouldn't I carry a gun?" Because you're a grad student, Jim had wanted to say. But of course he wasn't, not anymore, so Jim just shrugged.)

Jim figured if you asked anyone else in Major Crimes they'd say that becoming a cop hadn't changed Hairboy one bit--aside from the obvious matter of the hair, which had been prime material for teasing the day or two after it was cut and then seemed to blend into ancient history.

But Jim wasn't anyone else in Major Crimes. And he could see a change in his partner.

His first wish about Sandburg’—about Blair, because when he fell into wishing he found himself using the kid's first name, a small boundary between the Sandburg he knew in real life and the Blair he imagined’—his first wish was that Blair weren't straight. He wished it at least ten times a day.

His second wish was that cop-hood wouldn't turn out to make Blair miserable. He'd seen it happen before: one member of a couple pursues something because he loves it (a job, the Navy, the Peace Corps, whatever); the other member follows without a good reason and winds up resentful. He didn't want that to happen to them.

Then again, they weren't a couple in the first place. Back to wish one.

"Jim. Snap out of it."

Jim blinked and shook his head slightly. "What?"

Sandburg handed him a beer. "You've been staring into space ever since we got home, man. You okay?"

"Yeah. Fine. Just..."

"...preoccupied," Sandburg finished. Jim nodded and took a sip of his beer.

"What's on your mind?" Sandburg sat down beside him, tipped his head back, took a long cold swallow.

Do not stare at his throat, Jim thought. Don't stare. Don't watch those muscles at work. He blinked again, to clear the image from his eyes.

"Nothing, Chief." He made his voice sound easy.

"Bullshit," Sandburg answered, in the same jocular tone. Their eyes met and Sandburg grinned at him.

"You can't fool me, Ellison. Spit it out."

"Can't a guy be preoccupied in peace?"

Sandburg looked thoughtful. "Is it that guy?"


"Our suspect. China White."

"Chris White," Jim corrected, absently.

"Whatever." Sandburg paused. "Hey, I didn't mean to piss you off in the car."

Jim was confused. "Piss me off? Sandburg, you're making even less sense than usual," he said.

Sandburg looked uncomfortable. "When I said he had a thing for you. I didn't mean to piss you off."

"You think I'm upset 'cause our guy might have a crush on me?"

Sandburg shrugged.

"What, because he's a guy or because he's a drug dealer?"

"Either. Both."

"Jesus, Sandburg, what kind of prick do you think I am?"

Sandburg looked surprised. "I don't think you're a prick, Jim."

"I can handle a man having a crush on me!"

"Then why are you yelling?"

"I'm not yelling!"

Well, okay, he was yelling. Sandburg just raised an eyebrow, leaned back, took another long pull on his beer.

Jim sighed, took a long swig himself, put the beer down. "Sorry," he said. He could see Sandburg's amusement in his eyes.

"No problem." Pause. "Wanna tell me what that was about?"

"Not really," Jim said. Sandburg cracked up, Jim smiled, the two men drank more beer.

"Man, are you predictable," Sandburg said, amiably.

For an instant a thought snaked through Jim's head - predictable, huh? Predict this! - but he dismissed it. Reaching over and planting a big wet one on his partner might not be predictable, but that didn't mean it was a good idea, either.

"I'm gonna hit the sack," Jim said.

Jim called the number on Chris White's card, which turned out to be a cell phone; they met for a beer after work. Jim said he had a "desk job" and hinted that he didn't like it, which was true enough; desk work was his least favorite part of being a cop. He just didn't mention the "being a cop" part.

Jim insisted on buying all three rounds of beer. By the end of the evening Chris seemed to loosen up a little, and he invited Jim for a drink the following night at a bar in the warehouse district. "So I can reciprocate," he said.

Thursday they met at Chris's bar, a smoky hole-in-the-wall near the pier. Jim coughed when they first walked in but managed to dial down smell enough to breathe. It meant he couldn't taste his drink very well, but the house whiskey was cheap and he didn't mind losing the taste. A good single malt was worth really tasting; "Old Whoever's Rotgut" wasn't.

Again the conversation turned to work. Jim slipped in a few comments about hating his boss and not exactly fitting in with the "establishment." He hinted he'd broken up with a girlfriend who wasn't "into needles" (and could almost hear Sandburg saying "nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more, say no more!").

The hints worked. After a couple of drinks Chris put his arm around Jim and said, "Joe, you're an okay guy. How'd you like to make a little dough?"

This is going to be easier than I expected, Jim thought. He said a little money sounded great. "What kind of work you offering?"

"Delivery work," Chris said, grinning. "Easy as pie. You pick up a few boxes, you take 'em somewhere else, you give 'em to the next guy. Not even heavy lifting."

Jim feigned ignorance. "What, is this a pizza job or something?"

Chris laughed. "Something like that," he said.

Jim came home to Sandburg curled on the sofa under an afghan, reading a novel. He couldn't quite get used to the sight of Sandburg reading paperbacks - somehow he always expected to see the heavy tomes he'd used to bring home from the library. Bound in fading cloth, or shiny with laminated plastic. Dark blues and reds and olive greens.

"Hey," Jim said, hanging up his coat.

"Hey yourself." Sandburg took off his glasses and pressed his fingers to the bridge of his nose.


Sandburg looked rueful. "A little."

"You didn't have to wait up."

"I wanted to."

This pleased Jim more than he wanted to admit. He walked over, sat down, started unlacing his boots.

"So how'd it go?"

"I scored."

Sandburg waggled an eyebrow and Jim couldn't help laughing.

"Not like that, Sandburg! Jeez," he grumbled, feigning annoyance. "He asked me to do some delivery work for him."

"Rock on!" Glasses went back on the nose, eyes lit up. "So when do we start?"

"We?" Jim looked at his partner. "He didn't invite us."

"Come on. You didn't ask if I could come with?"

Jim shook his head.

"Jim, I don't like you going into these things alone," Sandburg said.

"Look, it took three beers and two whiskeys to get this guy to trust me enough to ask me in; I didn't want to blow it by asking if I could bring my ol' buddy Marvin."

"I'm your partner, Jim."

"Like I could forget it." The hurt registered on Sandburg's face and Jim regretted the words instantly.

"Who the hell hit you with the snarky stick?"

"I'm not being snarky, Sandburg."

"No? Just being a jerk, then, I see, that's fine."

"Chief, what the hell is your problem?"

And they were yelling. Again.

"I'm going to bed," Sandburg said, and threw the afghan off his legs, and clomped into his bedroom.

Breakfast was awkward. Sandburg wouldn't look at Jim: still angry, Jim guessed. And Jim couldn't look at Sandburg, because in the moment before his alarm went off he'd been immersed in the most fantastic dream’—in which Blair was lying on top of him, his whole delicious weight on Jim's body’—and somehow he couldn't face his partner over a bagel when part of him wanted to finish what his imagination had started.

Most of him, even.

Which meant things were tense. If Sandburg had still been working at the U, he'd have found some excuse not to come to the station: it was that kind of morning.

Halfway to work Jim pulled into a gas station and stopped the car.

"What are you doing?"

Jim took a deep breath. "I'm sorry, Sandburg. I blew it."

Sandburg just looked at him steadily. He didn't say anything.

This wasn't fair. Jim had apologized; now Sandburg was supposed to accept graciously and let them get on with their day.

"I wasn't thinking. I don't like this guy and I didn't like the bar and I didn't want to drag you into it. That was the wrong reaction. I should've told him I wanted to bring my partner."

"Yeah." Sandburg finally spoke up. "Yeah, you should've. Whatever, man. It's okay."

A brief pause. "You don't sound okay."

This has to be a first, Jim thought. You said you were fine, the conversation ought to be over, and I'm keeping it going. Good Lord.

"Um." Sandburg sounded strange and Jim cast a glance his way. Was he blushing? "I'm not quite awake yet," he said. "Vivid dreams."

"You, too?" Jim bit his lip. Keep your damn mouth shut, he told himself.

Sandburg gave him a glance he couldn't decipher, then laughed a little. "Yeah. Half of me's still with Morpheus. He really packs a punch."

"King of Dreams, eh,?" Jim asked, glad to steer the conversation to safer turf. He pulled out of the gas station and headed for work, half-listening to Sandburg's discourse on names for the dreamworld, half-lost in memories of his own vivid dreams.

Thank God his jacket was long enough to cover his lap.

Saturday morning Jim got dressed in jeans and a flannel shirt to help Chris White with his "delivery" work. He had his gun, even though Sandburg had pointed out (in front of Simon, no less) that he seemed to lose his gun nine times out of ten anyway. Jim had chosen not to dignify that with a response.

Simon and Sandburg were supposed to be somewhere nearby, but since Jim didn't know where they were going (he'd agreed to meet Chris near the warehouse bar where they'd had drinks) and they didn't want to be too obvious a tail, Jim wasn't sure they'd followed. They'd made some weird turns and switchbacks; it was all he could do to follow Chris himself, much less keep an eye out for the unmarked squad car a hundred yards behind him.

The heroin was packaged neatly: brick after brick, wrapped in plastic bags. "Some pizza," Jim joked, and Chris laughed.

"Where's it going?"

"My buddy Tommy, on the south side. The old brick house on Crafts Street."

"Hey, is this what I think it is?" Jim asked. Carefully.

It's like fly-fishing, he thought. Easy on the cast, then reel the fucker in.

Evidently Chris had swallowed the Joe act hook, line and sinker; he wasn't at all reluctant to answer. "Pure Burmese," he said, sounding proud.

"How much you got?"

"Enough to make you some weekend cash, and enough to make me rich."

Jim pulled out his gun with one hand and flashed his badge with the other. "Cascade PD. You're under arrest for possession with intent to sell."

Chris swore, lunged, and knocked Jim's gun at least fifteen feet. Sandburg's going to laugh himself sick, Jim thought.

And then he didn't think much else, because a fist landed hard in the middle of his ribs. He blocked; he threw a kick; the kick was parried. His arm was stinging. His side was stinging. His leg was stinging.

Not good news. Chris could fight. Trained, by the looks of it. Maybe in Burma, who the fuck knew. One way or another, Jim wasn't sure he could fend the guy off.

Chris managed to get his hands onto Jim's head, one on the top, the other under the chin. He's going to break my neck, Jim thought. What a stupid last thought this is.

A shot. An earsplitting yell. The warmth of blood.

"Freeze!" yelled Simon, as Chris clutched his thigh in pain.

Jim turned his head and there was Sandburg, arm straight, gun still pointed. He lowered the gun, put it back in the holster, smiled.

Chris White was booked, cursing all the way. Jim clapped Sandburg on the back, said thanks, Sandburg said no problem, Simon said good work. Not long after that they drove home in their separate cars.

Jim stopped to buy a sixpack of Red Hook’—because he wanted a drink, and because he didn't quite want to go home.

He couldn't figure it out. Sandburg had saved his life and he wasn't grateful.

That wasn't it exactly. He was grateful; of course he was grateful. But something didn't feel right.

Shooting Chris in the hip hadn't fazed the kid one bit. Just ready, aim, fire. Bam.

It wasn't that he didn't appreciate it; it wasn't that he didn't want Sandburg to be a good officer. He did. Every time Sandburg seemed to enjoy his work, Jim got a shred of hope that maybe Blair wouldn't turn out to hate the job, maybe Blair wouldn't turn out to hate him.

But somehow it didn't seem like Sandburg needed him anymore. And he didn't like that.

Which made him feel petty.

He liked that even less.

No sooner did Jim offer Sandburg a beer than Sandburg put the cold bottle down on the coffee table. Sans coaster.

"Jesus, Sandburg, you're going to watermark the table!"

Sandburg picked up his beer, took a swallow, made a big show of replacing it on the newspaper and turned to his partner. "Okay. I've had it. What the fuck is the matter with you?"

"Nothing's wrong. What are you talking about?"

"Jim, we've been fighting all week."

"Yeah. I noticed."

"So what's going on?"

Well, Jim thought, I think you're going to hate me for making you a cop.

And I want to jump your bones. I want to undo those Levi's and make you come groaning my name.

It was a Catch-22. Admitting his lust would drive Sandburg away fast; letting things continue as they were would drive Sandburg away slowly. Jim couldn't decide which was worse.

"Jim, come on. There's something going on here and I deserve to know what it is. Did I do something to piss you off? Should I maybe not have shot the guy that was going to break your neck?"

"Don't be a jackass."

"Then why do you keep snapping at me? Why are you acting like this? Talk to me. I'm sick of being angry and I'm sick of being yelled at."

Jim was silent.

"Don't tell me you're enjoying this. We're avoiding each other. We can't work like this, we can't live like this."

Maybe Sandburg was right.

"You want to know what's on my mind."

"Yes, Jim," he said, with a tone of long-suffering patience. "That would be why I've been badgering you all fucking week, man."

"Well, at least you know you're badgering," Jim said.

"Yeah, well, knowing is half the battle."

"G.I. Blair?" Jim smirked.

"Fuck you, Ellison."

I wish, Jim thought, for at least the millionth time. If wishes were horses...He sighed. "Look, I've just had some stuff to process, okay?"

Sandburg waited.

"I think I'm an asshole," Jim said.

Sandburg's look of surprise was almost comical. Whatever he'd been expecting, this didn't seem to be it. "Well, sometimes you are," he said.

"Thanks a bunch, Chief."

"Kidding, kidding." Pause. "What kind of asshole, exactly?"

"I'm your friend, right? I should be happy that you're successful."

"Mmm." Noncommittal.

"And I am, mostly."

"But you're kind of not."

"Kind of."

"You kind of wish I weren't taking to this cop thing like a fish takes to water."

Jim stared at his hands, morose. "I'm an asshole," he said again.

"It makes sense, actually," Sandburg said.

"It does?"

"Sure. Our relationship's always involved some degree of power imbalance. Both ways, actually." Sandburg pushed his glasses up on his nose. "If you'd decided to become an academic, I'd probably feel pretty weird about you horning in on my territory. Same goes for me becoming a cop. You're used to taking charge in action-oriented situations. The cop world is your world. And now it's my world, and that's not easy for you. Wishing I needed your help is natural."

"Thanks, Professor." Jim mustered a smile.

Sandburg grinned. "There's a name I haven't heard in a while."

Jim's smile faded. "That's the other thing."

"What other thing?"

"You miss Rainier much?"

"Nah," Sandburg said, cheerfully. "Musty old books. Insouciant teenagers. Screw that. This is much more fun."

"I'm serious, Sandburg."

Sandburg cocked his head slightly. "What are you saying, Jim?"

"I'm worried about you."

Sandburg just looked at him, waiting.

Now that he'd gotten started Jim wanted to say it all fast. "I'm not sure being a cop is good for you," he blurted.

"Good for me?" Sandburg sounded annoyed. "Where do you get off deciding what's good for me?" He stood up and walked over to the kitchen.

"I'm your goddamned Blessed Protector," Jim started, and Blair cut him off, turning on his heel.

"Uh-uh. No way. You're my room-mate and you're my partner and you're my friend, but that doesn't give you the right to turn into the father I never had."

"Look, fuck you, okay? I'm not trying to be your father."

"Well, you're sure acting like it!"

"What, it's okay for me to wish you needed my help, but it's not okay for me to say I'm not sure you ought to be on the force?"

"Maybe you really are an asshole."

"Would you let me finish? I'm saying I'm scared, here."

That took the wind out of Sandburg's sails. "What of, Jim?"

Jim looked down.

"You can't stop there."

Jim sighed. "Losing you," he said.

Sandburg sat down. "Go on," he said. Quietly.

Go on? thought Jim. "I don't know if you're going to like this."

"Quit stalling."

"Fine." He took a deep breath. "I don't think you really wanted to become a cop, and you gave up your dreams for it, and one of these days you're going to come to your senses and realize that this fucking sucks and you hate everything about it and you're going to pack up and leave."

There was a moment of silence. "Oh," Sandburg said.

"Oh?" Jim repeated. The silence got louder. "I push myself through a fucking sieve and all you can say here is 'oh'?"

"Gimme a minute," Sandburg said. He sounded surprisingly calm. Not like somebody who was about to bolt, Jim thought.

He hoped.

"Okay." Sandburg seemed to have made up his mind.

"First of all. I do want to be a cop." He held up a hand to stop Jim's response. "Let me finish, Jim. Okay, I'm not saying I spent my childhood fantasizing about the happy day when I could finally strap a gun on my hip," and Jim couldn't help smiling at that, "but working with Major Crimes has had an impact. They're good men," he said.

Jim nodded.

"And I think I'm making a difference in the world. Whether it's making a difference through teaching, or making a difference through saving lives, that's what's important."

Sandburg took a breath. "But this isn't about my job satisfaction."

"No. I guess it's not."

Sandburg seemed to be battling with himself. "I - look, Jim -"

"Spit it out, Sandburg," Jim said, affably, glad not to be the one on the spot for a change. He'd said the hard part’—well, half of it, the only half he was ever going to say’—and now it was Sandburg's turn.

"Shit, Jim, I couldn't leave you," Sandburg said finally.

Jim looked at him, uncertainty warring with relief. "What do you mean?" His partner's heartbeat was up: what was he talking about? "You don't think I'd force you-" he started, and Sandburg was shaking his head vehemently.

"No, no. That's not what I mean."

"Then what do you mean?"

"I couldn't leave you," Sandburg said, quietly. "Even if you wanted me to."

"Chief, I'd never want you to." Jim must have looked as confused as he felt, because Sandburg kept talking.

"Look, I'm going out on a limb here," he said, a little nervously. Jim nodded for him to continue. "You've never said anything about - I mean, the tone in your voice -" Sandburg blew out a short burst of breath. "I think everybody we know except you has figured this out, but - what would you say if - " He stopped. "I'm not doing this very well." He looked frustrated. Words came fast: "There's-something-you-don't-know-about-me-I'm-bisexual."

Jim was startled into silence.

"And I think I'm in love with you."

Jim looked at him. Was that a trick of his ears? Had he really just heard what he thought he'd heard? A slow elation spread through him.

Taking his silence as rejection, Sandburg started backpedaling furiously. "Fuck," he said. "That's not what you meant. Damn it. Okay, look, just pretend I never said that, okay?" He was blushing furiously.

I like when he blushes, Jim thought, absently. Wonder how far down that blush goes.

"This conversation never happened," Sandburg was continuing.

"No," Jim said.

It was Sandburg's turn to pause. "No?" he repeated, after a moment.

"No," Jim said firmly. "It happened."

"O-kay," Sandburg said cautiously. "It happened." Jim nodded, Sandburg nodded. "So, ah, what does that mean?"

Feeling happier than he could remember in a long time, Jim reached for his partner and pulled him close for a kiss.

Hot. Sweet. Perfect. Blair's arms were wrapped around him and he was holding on like there was no tomorrow. And his mouth! Some part of Jim's brain was astonished that they'd waited so long to do this, that they'd let so much time slip by, but he told his brain to shut up and leave him alone: he was enjoying himself far too much to think about anything else.

"Oh, man," Blair sighed as they broke. Jim bent his head and bit gently at his partner's earlobe, gratified by Blair's breathing, by his heat.

"Um. Jim." Jim kissed Blair's throat and Blair moaned softly. "Jim. Has it...escaped your notice...that I'm male?"

Jim took Blair's lower lip into his mouth. "Nope," he murmured. They kissed again.

"Jim." Blair seemed really concerned about this. "You've never expressed any - " Jim ran his hands along Blair's back, enjoying the planes and curves there. "Any...interest in men...before..."

Jim pulled back, studied his partner for a moment. Trust Sandburg to want explanations. "Look," he said, his voice rough with desire. "You have a choice. I can explain, or we can go upstairs and see just what I can...sense...you might enjoy."

Blair's eyes deepened and his flush was, to Jim, immediately palpable: longing was coming off of him in waves. Not bad, Ellison, Jim thought, a little smugly.

"No contest," Blair breathed. A pause. "Explain."

Jim opened his mouth soundlessly, completely taken-aback. He was trying to force some of the blood back into his brain when he saw Blair break into the biggest, most delighted grin he'd ever seen. "Gotcha," Blair said, and leapt off the couch and ran up the stairs.

Jim could feel his own face crinkling into a smile. "You jerk," he said, fast on Blair's heels. As he reached the top of the stairs he saw Blair fling himself onto the bed, bouncing slightly on impact, landing hair everywhere and arms and legs akimbo.

What a sight. Jim stood motionless for a minute, looking. So many wishes...

Blair's eyes met his. "You know, this party'd be a whole lot more fun for two," he said.

Jim was on the bed in two seconds flat, knees between Blair's thighs, leaning over Blair. The almond scent of shampoo, tinged with sweat and a trace of coffee and a hint of soap, was intoxicating. He bent, buried his nose in Blair's hair, lips giving Blair's ear and neck tiny touches.

Blair inhaled deeply, seemed to melt into the mattress. Oh, he liked that, did he? There was more where that came from. Jim returned to Blair's throat, liking the way he sighed. Jim slipped down and braced himself on his elbows, which freed his hands to unfasten the buttons of Blair's shirt. Blair's chest’—his to touch, now!’—was soft and hard all at once, and his curls were thick beneath Jim's fingers. Fingers that skated now down Blair's ribs, held Blair's sides as Jim bent to graze his tongue over one tiny hard nipple.

"Oh, God," Blair murmured, rich voice cracking a little, straining upward for more. Jim teased him with feather-light licks, then rolled the nipple between his teeth. Blair groaned.

A lick to the other nipple, the one pierced by the little golden hoop, and Blair's hands clenched, twisting the blanket, twin whorls beneath his fingers. Jim probed the ring with his tongue, tasting its metallic shine, and Blair gasped, breathing coming hard.

"Perfect," Jim murmured, placing a row of kisses down Blair's belly. As his mouth approached Blair's waist he felt Blair tensing, and pulled back. "Too fast?" he asked, softly.

"Don't stop," Blair whispered.

Don't stop. Okay. He could follow that. Slipped open the top button on Blair's jeans, then the next, then all five. Blair was hard’—hard for him!’—and the nearness of his erection, separated from Jim only by a layer of soft gray cotton, was irresistible: Jim bent and mouthed the head through Blair's briefs. Blair gave a small moan, almost a whimper, frustrated when Jim pulled back.

"I want to make this good for you," Jim said, low. Blair's desire was visible in his face, in his grip, in the way he pushed upward, and Jim was savoring every sight and sound of it.

"So good," Blair sighed, a quick intake of breath as Jim tugged the jeans down and away. Jim nuzzled at Blair's crotch, breath warming him through the cotton, and Blair moaned long and low.

"I've wanted this for so long," Jim said, then licked, his tongue pushing the fabric, knowing how the soft rasp danced against thin skin.

He caught a quiet "please," pitched Sentinel-soft, and smiled. Hooked his thumbs under the elastic waist, lifted carefully up and over Blair's erection and down his thighs and off. Blair lay, hands clenched, naked but for the flannel shirt open over his chest, and Jim felt he might burst with the perfection of it. He slid one hand along the hot silk of Blair's cock, holding it steady at the base, then slipped it into his mouth.

The explosion of flavor, the feel of a man in his mouth (it had been so long’—so very, very long) was overwhelming, amazing, like coming home. And Blair was keening now, a stream of "ohh"s like running water, and a "Jim," and a "God," and his body was putty in Jim's hands.

Jim pulled back, lips lingering on the head, tasting the tiny slit, then pushed down again, engulfing him, and Blair tensed and arched and came, pulsing into Jim's mouth.

Some moments later Jim pulled away and moved up the bed to lie beside his partner. Blair's eyes were closed and Jim felt almost shy’—what do you say after something like that?’—so he settled for lying next to Blair and pressing a kiss into his hair.

"You're unreal," Blair said, humor and amazement blending in his voice.


Blair rolled up onto one elbow. "Yeah," he said, adamantly. He moved closer, reached for Jim, started a languorous kiss --

-- which turned pretty quickly into something harder, stronger, Blair on top of Jim and rubbing maddeningly against him. Jim reached for Blair's hips and Blair moved his hands back to his sides. "My turn," Blair murmured, and the intent in his voice made Jim ache.

Blair unfastened Jim's shirt, his jeans, tossed everything he was wearing on the floor, and Jim shivered at the sweep of Blair's hands along his body.

"Oh, man, look at you," Blair murmured, kneeling back.

Jim flushed, caught between pleasure and embarrassment. "What?" he asked.

Blair shook his head. "Fucking spectacular," he pronounced, bending to take Jim's nipples in his fingers and mouth. Jim gasped and arched up. "Good?" Blair murmured against one nipple.

Jim felt the soft brush of Blair's breath, the residual ripples from his tongue, reverberating through his entire body. "Can feel you...everywhere..." he managed.

Blair laughed softly and the sound was like fire in Jim's groin.

"Turn," Blair murmured, hands flipping Jim onto his stomach, and Jim felt a prickle of excitement. They hadn't talked about’—was Blair going to --

"Relax," Blair said. "I won't do anything you don't like," and Jim was about to assure him that he'd like pretty much anything Blair could think of when Blair's hands parted his cheeks and Blair's tongue descended.

"God," a groan of longing and disbelief and desire, and a small part of Jim thought 'is it really me making that sound?' but the rest of him was shaking, craving, whimpering for more.

And then Blair's tongue was stroking, firm and insistent and pushing inside him, and Jim felt his universe contracting to that one point in his body and his body expanding to fill the entire world, and he caught his breath and moaned and came, for what seemed like forever, in what he knew was the best orgasm of his life.

He was dimly aware of Blair moving to lie beside him, and of Blair's hand gently stroking his back, and of the sound of Blair's voice.

"--never made anyone come just by doing that before," Blair was saying, and Jim groaned quietly, and Blair laughed. "He's alive," Blair said, and Jim could hear the smile in his voice.

"You're unreal," Jim said, flopping onto his back, knowing he was grinning like a jack-o-lantern and not really caring.

"Yeah, well, takes one," Blair said. A moment went by. "Man, are we idiots or what?"

Jim turned his head to look at his partner. "Hmm?"

"We wasted years."

Jim thought about it for a moment, then shrugged. "Yeah," he said.

"And we dated all those people!" Blair propped himself up on one elbow, energy evidently returning.

Jim chuckled. "No, Chief, that's where you're wrong. You dated all those people. I was too busy carrying a torch to date."

"Oh, come on, you went out with ’—" Blair started, then stopped. "You were carrying a torch?"

There was something in Blair's intent look that Jim couldn't quite place. "Yeah," Jim said. As if it were obvious. Wasn't it obvious?

Blair was even quieter now. "For me?"

Jim resisted the temptation to roll his eyes. "No, for Simon," he said. "Of course for you, you dumbass!"

Blair looked like he'd just been handed the Nobel Prize, a million dollars and a classic Mustang on a silver platter. "Jerk," he said, eyes alight.

"Idiot," answered Jim, affectionate. Blair leaned over, Jim reached up, they kissed for a while again.

"We still wasted a lot of time," Blair pointed out.

"I think I've got a few years in me yet."

Blair grinned wickedly. "A few."

"You might be stuck with me."

"I'd better be."

As if in response, Jim's stomach rumbled, and both men smiled. "You want to throw together some dinner?" Jim asked.

"Your wish is my command," Blair said lightly, and gave Jim one more kiss, and stood, and pulled on Jim's bathrobe, and padded down the stairs.

Wishes. Who knew they could come true?

The End