Helluva day. And not a very nice one either.
Criminals up the yin-yang with all of them doing totally inexplicable things -- even for criminals. Two chases, both ending badly, a shoot-out, not at the OK-Corral, but at the Wiltern Theater in downtown Cascade, and all of that before noon. Now it's after six and the day shift had the singular honor of reporting three officers injured in the line of duty. And me? I'm exhausted, worn out, dead inside.
So here I sit, alone, on a barstool in Nick's, drowning my day in a rather fine scotch whiskey while my fellow keepers of the peace sit at a booth at the other end of Nick's.
It's unusual for me to separate myself like this, but damn, today it's necessary.
I can hear my friends releasing their stress thanks to Henri repeating the story about the thief, the purple wig, and the eighty five year old woman who cold-cocked the guy with a dead chicken. The purple wig was the old lady's, the dead chicken was never claimed. The gang's laughing as if they hadn't heard it twenty million times before. Hell, I could walk over there right now and say the word 'butter' and they'd howl. But hey, they need laughter the way I need this drink, the barstool and the solitude. I need people not touching me, not invading my space.
As I stare down at the inviting amber liquid in my glass, the door to Nick's opens, allowing a blast of frigid air to invade the warmth of the bar. To a unified yell of "Shut the damn door", it's quickly closed again. I can hear, and feel, the movement of the person who entered, and I know when he takes off his jacket and hangs it on the coat tree. I don't have to see him to know he's slid onto the stool next to mine. Robbie, the bartender, wanders over and asks, "The usual?"
The new guy answers "Yeah" in a voice that rivals mine for exhaustion.
Robbie sticks a frosty glass under the tap, and seconds later sets it in front of the man beside me. The guy takes a long swallow, then puts it down and says, "Man, that hit the spot."
"Rough day?" I ask, not caring.
"Nah, just the usual. Late to class, had the wrong lecture notes, and I somehow ended up with Conner's recipe for tripe stew instead of a paper that was supposed to be on Sid's desk at eight this morning."
I pause with my drink halfway to my lips and wait because it's obvious there's more.
"Talked with two sets of parents who are threatening to have me fired because their sons have been suspended from sports. One parent apparently has an aversion to teachers with long hair, and he's certain I'm the anti-Christ and planning the destruction of the world via the removal of his son from the football team--"
"Tell me you didn't suspend Carter?" I ask, shocked.
"I didn't suspend Carter," he dutifully reports. "His grades did."
"That tears it. We're gonna be slaughtered in Saturday's game."
"Yeah, I know. That's why I'm the anti-Christ."
I put the drink down and ask, my curiosity piqued, "So what happened next?"
"Well, the other set of parents think I have an agenda. The mother is positive that my goal in life is to destroy sports, and the jocks who play them, because I have a small penis, wear glasses and have a pierced ear. She thinks I suffer from," he makes small quote marks in the air, "'jock envy'. And did I mention that she's a friend of Chancellor Edwards, who, by the way, called me into her office today? She wanted to know why I was spending so much time away from my duties to the University. I told her I was saving the common person from the evils of organized - and disorganized - crime. I also told her I was suffering from a Superman complex." He looks over at me and grins. "Jim, I'm telling you, her lips twitched."
At my look of utter disbelief, he adds while holding up his right hand, "I swear it, man. Her lips twitched."
Without any help from me, my lips start to twitch.
"I'd of paid a lot of money to see that, Sandburg."
"I'll take your digital camera next time. Fifty bucks, man, fifty bucks."
Resting my chin on my hand and staring at him, I ask, "What else happened?"
"Well, I had those seven books to return to the library, remember?" At my nod, he says, "So I had fifteen minutes to get them back before Mrs. Garibaldi sends out the goon squad to bring Blair Sandburg to justice, but I'm at Peepes Hall, not Hargrove--"
At my raised eyebrow, he explains, "I was returning Cunningham's statue to her, and by the way, my students thought it was awesome, but of course, a man with three penis' would be exciting to a bunch of twenty year olds. And where was I? Oh, yeah, anyway, because I didn't want to cart it to the library with the seven books, you know?"
I don't bother to point out the fact that I'd thought a man with three dicks was pretty impressive myself. Nor did I bother to point out that Peepes Hall is in the opposite direction of both the Library and Hargrove, which meant, in essence, that he carried the entire load twice the distance. He probably knew that already.
"So anyway, I drop off the kinky thing and damn if she didn't blush, Jim. I mean, the woman is 70 years old, she's been around the world more times than I can count, seen things I could only dream about, and yet she blushes over a statue with three dicks. Go figure." He takes another breath and another sip of his beer, then says, "Anyway, now I've only got ten minutes to keep Mrs. Garibaldi off my tail, plus a class that starts in twenty, so I'm hustling.
"I run down the stairs, books teetering precariously, but I've got 'em. I make it outside and I'm almost there but then I run into - guess who?"
I'm thinking - Julia Roberts.
"I run smack into, and I mean smack into, Pete Carter. My head hits his chest and I swear I was thrown back at least ten feet. The books go up, I go down and you can pretty much figure out what happened next."
He's leaning forward now, blue eyes sparkling with mirth, his hand on my knee, which is almost touching his. His hair is down, and with his other hand, he knuckles a chunk behind his ear. He's wearing jeans and some God-awful patterned shirt that under normal circumstances would make me puke but I can just see some dark, wiry chest hair peeking out above the second button and suddenly the shirt looks great. As.I glance down at his hand, I realize that he's not even aware that it's on my leg. I look back at his face - and one word pops into my mind.
I'm not sure why, but it seems to apply. This man belongs to me. I know this suddenly. He actually - belongs to me. He's mine.
He's a man a tough, funny, odd man, good-looking; sometimes unbearably so. He's naive, and yet, more worldly than me. He's a walking contradiction of everything. And he belongs to me.
My day fades, my aches and pains are no more. My eyes can see everything with a just-polished clarity, my ears can hear the singing in his voice, and my skin, through my jeans, can feel the safe warmth of his hand. I can take in all the varied odors around me and yet, sift through them and find only him.
Smiling, I finally answer him. "The books that went up came down on you?"
He nods happily. Seven books, all bigger than War and Peace, used him for a landing pad and he's smiling.
"Yep, they did. But it's what happened next that matters. Carter picked them up, man. Every last one of them. And you know what he kept saying? He kept saying 'Thank you' over and over again, man. Can you imagine that, Jim?"
I lean in, and as I do, I place my hand over his and say, "Did you know that you belong to me, Chief?"
I want to laugh out loud at his expression, at how round those blue eyes grow. Then he blinks, frowns, and finally asks softly, "Say that again, Jim?"
"Did you know," I repeat, only more slowly, "that you - belong - to - me?"
God, I can actually see him processing this. He's taking the words apart and trying them out in various positions before putting them back together again. He's also trying to decide if he should be insulted. I'm guessing he's decided that he shouldn't be because his face clears like a Cascade day following a summer storm.
"I'm glad, Jim," he says softly.
He's glad and I'm not even done yet. I bring my mouth close to his ear allowing my lips to just graze the rim. He shivers, but moves closer as I whisper, "I'd like to belong to you, Chief."
He turns his head enough so that my mouth is a mere breath away from his. I find myself staring at those lips, then watching as they part, as soft words are uttered and his breath caresses my lips.
"You do, Jim. You belong to me."
Inhaling his scent, I say, "I'm glad, Chief."
Sandburg pulls out some money, drops it on the bar, and stands. We head for the coat tree and I stand next to the door while he takes both our jackets and holds mine out until I turn and slip my arms into the sleeves. He puts his on and heads for the exit. Without a backward glance at our friends, I follow.
Much, much later, after I've had my fill of him, after I've touched every inch of his skin and he's touched mine, after I've finally tasted him and he's swirled his tongue around my mouth, after we've been as intimate as it's humanly possible for two men to be, I run my hand down his sweaty back, rest it in the hollow just before the swell of his ass, and whisper in the darkness, "Thank you, Blair."
I'm surprised when I feel breath on my chest and hear his voice rumble against my skin.
"Thank you, Jim."
What a strange way to say I love you.
One of these days he's going to want to discuss who belonged to whom first. We'll probably argue about it.
I can't wait.
End All Mine