Okay, maybe he could just - test - the waters?
Just stick one toe in and swirl it around?
Blair Sandburg stood before the mirror that hung over his dresser regarding his reverse image. Of course, he wasn't wearing his glasses, so all he saw was a kind of blue and grey blob, but it didn't stop his wondering. Not that he'd worn his glasses when gazing at his blobbish reflection lately. Not since, oh, like when he'd gotten his hair cut for the academy.
He could still remember the moment the hairdresser, recommended by Megan who'd accompanied him to the salon, had spun his chair around to face the mirror and he'd put on his glasses - and immediately taken them off.
It was High School all over again. There, in the mirror, staring back at him, was; That geek Sandburg.
Of course, once he'd taken off his glasses, he'd been unable to see the hairdresser's appreciative glance or Megan's double take and huge smile, and he certainly had no clue regarding James Ellison and what he'd gone through that night, coming home, finding his partner sitting on the couch, and - shorn.
He didn't have a clue that it took all of Jim Ellison's self control to keep his hands from that mass of short, random curls, to keep from palming that head and kissing Blair into the apartment below. But then, Jim Ellison was famous for his self control and so what if he'd bit his tongue in the act of repressing that desire to finger those loose curls?
And because he didn't have a clue about he really looked, he'd been staring at himself in mirrors without his glasses ever since.
So what if he sliced an ear off while shaving?
Of course, the cut had been weeks and weeks ago and his hair had grown out, was now down past his ears, just brushing his jaw, but the memory lingered on.
Which brought Blair Sandburg back to the mirror, well, it didn't really, because he'd never left the mirror.
Yes, he should definitely test the waters. See if he couldn't, somehow, change his ping nature, somehow adjust the setting so that it would set off Jim's gaydar. He desperately wanted Jim's gaydar to make a really loud PING when aimed at Sandburg, and right now, the device just went - thud. As in - dud.
Okay, how about tonight?
Maybe -check out Ripples? A hot gay club, popular, busy and crowded. He could - test to his heart's content.
He sighed deeply, hopelessly, because it wasn't as if he hadn't been to a gay club before. He had. Of course, he hadn't been trolling, no wait, it was called cruising, well anyway, he'd been - observing. For an article. And he'd been pointedly ignored all night. Not even a nibble. No shy glances, no bold stripping, no double takes. He'd been invisible all night. So what the hell made him think anything would change? Especially with his hair? He could try to test the waters, but damn, he just knew that they'd close the pool, he just knew it. They'd take one look at him, lock the gate and drain the water.
He shrugged, turned on his heel and walked out to Jim, who was yelling at him to get the lead out or they'd be late - again.
He sat alone in the lunchroom, eating a tofu and sprout sandwich and wondering - why.
Jim was having lunch with someone new, which left Blair very depressed. Jim had been seeing a fireman from Station 51 but they'd both come to the conclusion that while they were both fun, they weren't - an item. But the relationship had lasted three weeks. Three weeks that had left Blair virtually invisible. God, he hated it when Jim started dating someone. And now, a new one. And Blair was alone. He should slap himself. But that would hurt and he was hurting enough for the Spainish Inquistion.
"Yo, Sandy. Whatcha eating?"
"You don't want to know."
Megan pulled out a chair and plopped down next to him. "Uh, oh, you're in a mood."
"Gee, how can you tell?"
"Well, I admit, with you, it isn't easy. You usually hide your bad moods. But when you can't, you refuse to answer questions you'd normally love to answer. And just then? You're question, while caustic in nature, was asked in all innocence."
"Was that an oxymoron?"
"There, see? You just did it again. Caustic, but innocent."
"It was an oxymoron," he said morosely.
"Okay, tell auntie Megan what's wrong."
Sandburg pondered the idea of confiding in Megan as he took a bite of sandwich and stared at her over the sprouts.
"Aw, come on, Sandy, give me a try."
Metaphors. He needed to use metaphors.
"Okay," he leaned in conspiratorially, "Say you swim in a certain city pool but you've had your eye on another pool, a really, really different pool than you're used to. So, you decide, maybe you might head over to a third pool, just see if you might like the other pool. But - you don't really want to go alone, because what you need is a lifeguard. One that is familar with the third pool."
Megan cupped her chin in her hand and studied the question, then asked, "You know, I've never seen you in swim trunks. Do you wear racers, deck shorts or guard shorts? Or maybe," she paused and got all dreamy as she said wistfully, "or maybe a thong?"
Blair paused mid-chew and his eyebrows knitted together as he considered calling 911.
But Megan suddenly shook herself and said, "So, you want to try men, right?"
The sprouts dribbled from Blair's mouth and landed neatly on the other half of the sandwich.
"uh, well, um, yes."
"You're thinking of going to a gay nightclub and you want someone to go with you?"
"um, well, uh, yes."
"Remember Sergio, the hairdresser who cut your hair? He was really taken with you. He'd love to date you."
The chocolate milk that had just been taken into Blair's mouth, joined the sprouts.
"he - would?", Blair sputtered.
"Oh, yeah. He said you were a real hottie. You want me to call him? Set it up?"
"Uh...well, um, er..."
"Oh, don't worry, I'll tell him you're interested in somebody else, he'll understand. Sergio's a dream and he loves bringing innocent young men over to his side of the fence. He'll be thrilled. Maybe you'd feel more comfortable if I went too?"
Rapid eye movement.
"Uh, well, maybe, I mean..."
"Come on, Sandy, I can help, really. And you need help. It's going to take a whole lot of work to get Ellison to see the potential. He's certain you're straight. Which, of course, you are."
Blair was having difficulty breathing all of a sudden.
"Whaddaya say? Tonight? Ripples?"
He finally drew in enough air to speak. "I just want to ping, Megan."
She reached over and tenderly patted his hand, "Of course you do, Sandy.
We'll get you pinging so loud, Ellison will propose."
The baked Lay's littered the table.
"My, now I know how you keep so thin, Sandy. Have you always had this much trouble keeping food in your mouth?"
"So, where is he tonight?"
Megan was sitting on the couch in the loft, while she and Blair waiting for the arrival of one, Sergio Vladstock.
"Sandy? Are you planning on wearing - that?"
She pointed at him as if he were wearing seven day old clothing that had been taken directly from the garbage bin behind the building.
He looked down, assured himself that he was wearing clean jeans, clean t-shirt, clean sweater and clean flannel, then glanced up and said, "uh, yes."
"Uh, no. And when did you lose the ability to speak? Oh, wait, I forgot - mood. Blair Sandburg loses the ability to string two sentences together when he's in a mood."
"Do you write this stuff down somewhere?"
"Sure. Don't you?"
Bulls-eye. Well, not anymore.
Megan saw the darkness spread over his handsome features and immediately realized her mistake. She jumped up and rushed to his side.
"Oh, Sandy, I'm sorry. So sorry."
He waved her off, smiling brightly as he said, "Don't worry about it."
Then to change the subject, "So, what do you suggest I wear?"
She immediately brightened and grabbing his hand, led them both into his bedroom. She pushed him down onto the bed, and standing over him, gazing down into those huge blue eyes, she said, "You sure you want Ellison? I mean, he's a big prick, you know?"
"Nah, he's a pussycat, Megan."
She muttered under her breath, something about Sentinels and pussycats and sharp teeth as she walked to his closet, slid it open and began to survey the many forms flannel could take.
"Well, yes, I'm partial to flannel. It's warm, soft, comfortable. This isn't Florida, in case you hadn't noticed."
She moved coat hangers, shoved them right, left, one at a time, searching.
"Aha!" She pulled out an old, worn black leather jacket and spun around.
"This is perfect. Do you have a black t-shirt?"
He got up, went to the dresser, opened the third drawer down, pulled out the requested item and tossed it to her. She caught it and smiled wickedly.
"Oh, yes, this is the look for you. Wish you had a fishnet shirt, but this will do. We don't want you gang banged tonight."
"But we want that in the future?" He asked incredulously.
"Well, no, but you want that effect," she explained patiently, then continued with, "Not that you need any extras, but you do have to look the part."
She set the new clothes on the bed and asked, "What about other earrings? Got any studs?
He turned back to his dresser and an ornate, Peruvian box, lifted the lid, then stepped aside, inviting her perusal. She stepped over and peered inside. Her fingers played with the odds and ends, cufflinks, odd jewelry, and several types, sizes and colors of earrings. Finally, her fingers curled around one and she held it up jubilantly.
"PERFECT!" She tossed the chain in the air and Blair caught it easily. It was one of the first earrings he'd purchased after getting his ear pierced over three years ago.
The earring was a smaller version of jail chains, but in every other link, a blood red piece of glass shimmered.
"Dangerous, but classy. Put it in, Sandy, change and hurry up. I'm dying to see the whole outfit. And Sergio will be our test subject."
She scooted past him, out the french doors, cackling madly.
The knocking on the door brought Megan out of her lustful reverie about the guy behind the french doors and she jumped up to answer, knowing it was Sergio. She swung the door open and welcomed her friend.
Sergio sauntered in, dressed in white slacks, no underwear, a blue silk shirt, open to his navel, his dark hair slicked back and a diamond stud in his ear.
He leaned over and bussed her cheek, letting his lips just touch the skin. "Hi, sweetie. Where's my date?"
"He's not your date, remember? And he's dressing. We had to do a little - adjusting."
"Let me guess - flannel?"
"You've set him straight?"
"Dear, we're trying to corrupt him, remember?"
Just then, the french doors opened and Blair stepped out.
He had changed into a different pair of black jeans, these being tight and soft from many washings. The black t-shirt was tucked in, the black leather jacket clinging in all the right places. His hair framed his face, accentuating the strong, beautiful angles and the lush lips. His eyes, Megan realized, had never looked so big or so blue, a smokey, dazzling blue. The earring moved with him, glittering, adding that touch of danger, or mystery.
He looked - twenty.
Blair glanced down at himself, certain now that he did indeed look ridiculous.
Megan turned to Sergio and gasped out, "Save me, please."
"No way honey, you're on your own." With those words, he slinked to Blair's side and purred out, "You remember me, yes? Sergio? Of the famous haircut? Your date for this most momentous occasion."
Blair extended his hand, watched in amazement as Sergio brought it up to his lips and - and - and - kissed the palm.
"Tonight, Blair, will be perfect. You will love the water and I predict that you will want no other pool after an evening with Sergio."
Blair scratched his head and looked to Megan for help. She laughed and said, "If I'm on my own, Sandy, you're on your own. Lets get going, all right? The night awaits as does Ripples."
Blair pushed his hair behind his right ear, which only made him look younger, shrugged helplessly, gave a thought to letting Jim alone, but then decided that Jim was worth this and with head held high, marched out of the loft with Megan and his date, who followed behind him, eyes glued to the sweetest, tightest ass he'd seen in years. Megan poked him in the ribs but he maintained his vigil and smiled at where Megan's eyes were glued....
They were lucky in finding a parking spot, as the moment they turned onto Lexington, a car pulled away from the curb, directly across the street from Ripples. Megan pulled her sports car into the spot as she woohooed their success.
Even from inside the car, the music, the bass, low and rumbling, could be heard. For Blair, it matched his heart which was screaming at him to run for the hills, don't look back, don't pass go and definitely do not collect two hundred bucks.
As they got out of the car, Sergio's eyes were already assessing the group of men standing outside the club, some with backs against the wall, one foot up, smoking and making small talk, others just mingling, catching a breath of fresh air before heading back inside to catch something else, or should that be; some*one* else?
Megan started across the street, Sergio just a bit ahead her. Blair stayed on the curb, eyes taking in the well-muscled young men, the tight clothing that accentuated every muscle, each tight ass, every firmly worked out bicep. He groaned. This was not him. Could never be him. He wasn't sculpted, he wasn't tall or well-muscled, he wasn't a hunk.
Tonight would end just as miserably as so many others.
Megan, realizing that Blair was no where around, stopped and turned back.
"I can't do it, Megan. I can't. This is a bad idea."
She walked back to him, concerned by the tone of his voice, by all the things he wasn't saying, because she'd never heard such - insecurity in Blair Sandburg before.
She came up close, staring down at his upturned face and as she recognized the look, she also realized, for the first time, that Blair Sandburg didn't have a clue about his looks.
"Sandy, you can do this. But you don't have to. You could just tell Jim how you feel," she paused, then at his expression horror, she added, "Yes, I know, actually telling Jim Ellison how you feel is asking a great deal. It's not like I wasn't there, in Sierra Verde, it's not like I didn't hear all the things you never said to him, all the things you held in. You manage a great game of getting the rest of the world to talk about themselves while succeeding in hiding Blair Sandburg from the world. Well, not tonight."
"I don't hide. I've nothing to hide."
"Oh?" she asked, her eyebrows telling him she didn't believe him for a second. "You don't hide, uh? Then why do you wear seven layers of clothing? And baggy pants?"
"What does that have to do with the price of mangos?"
"From mangos, I know nothing, but from Blair Sandburg, I know a great deal. Answer the question."
"I'm always cold."
"Uh, huh. Right. Now, why do you wear seven layers of clothing?"
"I'm going home. You can stay, or you can come back with me."
He started to walk to the bus stop, but Megan grabbed his arm.
"Just answer the question, Sandy."
"I did, Connor, now, are you coming with me or not?", he bit out, yanking his arm from her grasp.
As he started for the car, she asked, "Do you know why I call you Sandy?"
He stopped, intrigued, then answered, "Because you like to be different?
And you know it bugs the heck out of the guys?"
"Well, yes," she smiled, then went on, "But the real reason was that after observing the squad room, the interaction between everyone, and knowing I'm not a last name kind of gal, I had to come up with something different than Blair."
He faced her then, his head tilting to his left, his frown indicating his befuddled state.
"*Because*, Blair belonged to Jim. Because, I quickly noticed the proprietary way that Jim, or Simon, or Joel would use your first name. And nobody else uses it. They don't dare."
"Blair," she said softly, "you don't have a clue, do you? How the squad feels about you? How you're viewed?"
"Sure I do. To some, I'm a weird hippy-copwannabe, to others, I'm Jim's tag-along, his shadow, to even more, I'm in the way, and to Simon, I'm something he has to put up with for Jim's sake. I'm not blind. I'm an anthropologist, Megan, it's my nature to observe, to listen. I do. I know exactly how I'm viewed by the squad."
Looking thoroughly disgusted with him, she hissed out, her Aussie anger just peaking, "You don't have a fucking clue. You don't have a fucking idea how you look, how incredible you are, how fucking lucky Jim is, how some of us would give our eyeteeth to be Jim because of you." She took a breath and went on, just as angry. "Simon cried, Blair. He fucking cried at the fountain. Do you understand? I thought Henri would fall apart and Rafe was," she paused, searching for the right word, and it finally came to her, "totally, fucking, paralyzed. And Jim? Do I really have to tell you about Jim?"
Blair was leaning away from her, the force of her anger almost a living thing. He was stunned; disbelieving and struck dumb. His only action was to shake his head back and forth.
"Now, we're going into that club and you're going to pay attention, because they're going to eat you up, and why? Because you look like everyone's wet dream, that's why, and then maybe you can go home and claim something that you already have, you jackass."
After Megan's little speech, Blair had meekly allowed himself to be led to the club, but still blind to the hungry looks he solicitated. Sergio, who'd been talking to an old boyfriend, separated himself as soon as they stepped up onto the curb in front of the curb, his arm sliding around Blair's waist in a very firm sign of ownership. As they walked into the club, he shot a look of so there to his ex.
The club was dark and intimate, with muted lighting, dark boothes and even darker corners and alcoves. The dance floor was huge, and at the moment, full of writhing bodies, sweatslicked, undulating invitingly, the music thrumming through them.
Some on the dance floor were dancing for each other, others were trying to connect, but for most, it was the dance itself. The energy, the freedom, the supreme joy of letting loose in a safe environment, of moving, swaying, gyrating to the beat, arms waving, hips moving and thrusting. Some were high on crystal or other recreational drugs, some weren't, but it didn't matter, because for these men, the dance was everything.
Blair watched, his eyes squinting as he tried to adjust to the darkness. The bodies, moving so erotically, were drawing him in, his own body moving slightly, his eyes glued to the mass of male forms, pressed against one another, stroking, some loving right out on the floor, and there was so much flesh, so much heat, so much - maleness.
He caught one couple kissing as their bodies moved to the music; a slow, sexy song, and he couldn't tear his glance away, wanted to know what they were feeling, how it would feel for him with Jim.
He barely registered when Megan and Sergio led him to a table, claiming it before anyone else could. Fortunately, the small table was right next to the dance floor, a short railing separating them from the dancing. Blair leaned on it, unaware of Sergio and Megan watching him; smiling, or of Sergio's knowing nod and Megan's small, happy shake of her head.
The music changed again, becoming louder, pounding, the beat supercharged, and now the bodies moved differently, the energy tantalizing Blair, electrifying him and his skin actually itched, his feet tapping and he wanted to be on that floor, with those men, sharing their joy, and he wanted hands on his hips, Jim's hands, and Jim's eyes smiling down on him, and he wanted to feel skin, possessive hands on his ass, other bodies bumping up against his, he wanted it, wanted it all.
Jim Ellison rested his back against the chair, his arm slung over the top of the chair next to him. He was bored, miserable and wondering why he'd even asked Liam out. This was not something he wanted to do, or someplace he wanted to be. Where he wanted to be, was home. With Blair.
His eyes searched and finally found Liam. The man was walking towards him, two drinks in his hand. They'd waited for a waitress for twenty minutes until Liam decided he'd get their drinks himself. Jim could certainly appreciate Liam Marchand. Oh, yes. His height, a little more muscular, strawberry blonde crew cut, pale skin, with a smattering of freckles that made him look younger than his thirty-eight years. He had dark green eyes that could pierce right through you, and a smile that was selfishly given, but when it broke through, you found yourself dazzled. Everything a man could want. And nothing this man wanted.
"Got you a scotch, neat." Liam set the glass down and as he slid into his seat, he said, "Man, this place is a madhouse tonight. The bodies around the bar are two states deep."
"Friday night. Guess we should have expected this, uh?"
Liam leaned in close and whispered, "We could go someplace - a little quieter?"
What do you say to that kind of invitation, when all you want to do is go home?
"Let's hang around a bit longer."
If Liam was disappointed, he hid it well. He leaned back and turned his attention to the men on the dance floor.
Sergio bent down and whispered in Blair's ear, "Join me, Blair?"
Sandburg gazed out onto the floor, at the bodies and accepted that yes, he did want to be out there. Well, this was his dip, right? How else to get that gaydar pinging? He looked into Sergio's eyes and nodded.
The music, which had been slow and easy, was now revved up, throbbing wildly and the men changed gears quickly.
Blair wasn't exactly dancing with Sergio, just in the vicinity and he loved it. In all the worlds he'd visited, all the cultures he'd observed, dance had almost always played an important part. He'd even done a paper on the importance of dance in tribal cultures and in today's modern world. His deductions, whether studying a tribe that danced as a way of prayer or dancing as a way to influence the weather or crops or love or birth, all amounted to the surpreme joy and freedom that came with balancing the human body with some type of music.
Tonight, he was dancing with abandon, his body moving of its own accord, the rhythm dictating the movement of his hips, hands and feet. The smell of male sweat filled his nostrils and encouraged him even further, his eyes alternating between closed and hypnotic and open and searching as he watched his fellow dancers and if there was one thing missing - well, maybe someday.
Not that he could actually picture Jim on the dance floor. Oh, he could picture Jim slow dancing, oh, yeah, he could see that, but not moving with the same wildness that Blair was seeing now. Not because Jim couldn't, but somehow, Blair envisioned Jim surrendering to that wildness, abandoning his control elsewhere, like the bedroom.
The music changed again, becoming sexually charged, slow, erotic, heavy on the drums, but low and seductive. Sergio moved in and claimed Blair; taking him into his arms, his hands drifting down to rest on Blair's ass, his face burying itself in Blair's hair.
Sergio wasn't all that much taller than Blair, maybe 5'8, so it was easy for his lips to move from the nest of soft curls to Blair's temple and it was just as easy for Blair to relax into the man's arms, to let his body become molded to the other man's, to search out every connection to Sergio, imagining that it was Jim, that it was Jim's lips on his temple, Jim's hands cupping his ass.....
Megan watched Sergio and Blair dancing, noticed how intimate and close Sergio had drawn Blair, and she smiled. If Jim's gaydar didn't go off like an airhorn tomorrow....
"Want to dance, Jim?"
"Not really, Liam. I'm enjoying the view, but don't want to become part of the scenery just yet. You okay with that?"
"No problem. You don't mind if I dance, do you?"
Jim smiled at his date and nodded encouragingly. "No, please, go ahead."
Liam had spotted a dancer at the far end of the dance floor when one of the muted spotlights had landed on him. Given the nature of the club, one end of the dancefloor was always in darkness from the other end. This inspired the patrons to circulate, to hit both bars. Liam now made his way to the southern end of the club until he spotted his target.
He wove his way into the mass of bodies, bumping hips with passing dancers, stealing a kiss here and there, until he was standing next to the man he wanted to join. For a few moments, he danced with the couple, until the slightly taller man met his eye, smiled and slipped away, letting Liam take the other man into *his* arms.
Blair was vaguely aware that the arms that now held him were different,
were holding differently, that his head was now resting on a chest, not
a against a cheek. Somewhat dazed, he glanced up and his heart nearly
He was dancing with Liam Marchand. Jim's date.
Blair pulled his body away, shaking his head. He'd never actually met Marchand, but Jim had made no secret of the fact that his date for the evening was the ex-Jag center.
Everyone in Cascade knew Liam, now multimilionaire owner of a string of sport pubs in Cascade, Seattle and Tacoma.
And Blair was dancing with him.
Sandburg's head twisted around, searching for Jim, not finding him, but knowing he had to be here, somewhere.
"You don't mind that I cut in, do you, gorgeous?"
Gorgeous? Blair couldn't remember hearing that Marchand wore glasses, or had suffered a severe head trauma while playing pro basketball? Blair felt a tug as he was brought back against the taller man's chest, and his eyes widened in disbelief as he was pressed against Marchand's groin. Very erect - groin.
"Aren't you here with Jim Ellison?" Sandburg demanded.
"You. Here. With Jim Ellison. Yes?"
"I, well, yes. But hell, kid, we're just dancing. Not that I wouldn't mind more, and trust me, Jim wouldn't mind a bit."
"I'm not a kid," Blair said, derision in his voice. "And believe me, Jim Ellison would mind. Now why don't you go back to him, like a good little boy, okay?"
Blair stepped out of the circle of Marchand's arms and stopped dancing to stare boldly up at the celebrity. He watched the puzzled expression give way to enlightenment.
"Shit, you're Sandburg."
"Yeah, I am. Now shoo. Get back to your date."
With that, Blair turned on his heel and stalked back to the table, leaving Marchand on the floor, scratching his head.
Jim was fast becoming bored. These clubs just didn't do it for him anymore. Of course, it might be the company he was keeping.
At that moment, Jim Ellison would have given his soul, if he still had one, to have Blair Sandburg, a gay Blair Sandburg, sitting next to him.
Sometimes life was the Five and Dime during the Reagan years. Sucked big time.
As his thoughts rambled on about the impossible, his sentinel eyes were doing a little reconnaissance.
Jim sat bolt upright.
It seemed Blair had a twin.
At the far end of the dance floor, a young man with Blair's hair, Blair's bounce and.....yep, Blair's ass, was stalking off the floor. Jim followed him with his gaze, noting how the leather jacket fit snug across tight shoulders and how the jeans clung to that ass....
Nobody else had that ass. Nobody. And Jim had been living with it for three years.
But - it wasn't Blair. Couldn't be Blair.
The young man had arrived at a table and Jim nearly choked.
Megan Connor. Inspector Megan Connor.
Well, god damn it to hell. That little shit. Jim could feel the anger building. He'd never made a secret of his bisexuality and Blair had never even batted an eye. So what the fuck was he doing here, while on a date with Megan?
The little bastard. Seeing how the other half lives? Getting his fucking jollies?
Jim stood and with his barely controlled anger, made his way to the other end of the club.
"I have to go - now."
Megan's eyes grew round as she gazed up at Sandburg. He was breathing harshly, his face suddenly pale.
"Sandy? Are you all right?"
"I'm fine. Jim's somewhere around. I've got to get out of here."
Connor stood, her eyes roaming, seeing bodies and more bodies, but no Jim Ellison. "Sandy, what on earth makes you thin...."
"The man, the tall guy? That I was dancing with?" At Megan's nod, he continued, "Jim's date. Liam Marchand."
Blair grabbed his jacket from the back of the chair and as he started to put it on, he noticed Megan's eyes widen impossibly wider.
"shit. it's too late, isn't it?" he asked her quietly. She nodded helplessly as Blair pointed his thumb backward and said, "behind me, now?"
With a resigned nod, Megan said, "Hey, Jim. Fancy meeting you here."
Blair took a Mariannas Trench-size breath, squared his shoulders, plastered a huge, fake grin on his face and turned around. "Yo, Jimbo. Hey," he said, brightly.
Jim Ellison stood a few inches behind Sandburg, his normally pale icy blue eyes now dark and unreadable. As Sandburg turned, he found himself talking to Jim's chin.
"Out slumming, Sandburg?" The words were snapped out, cold anger giving them impetus.
At Jim's harshness, Blair actually stepped back and into his chair, bumping the table in the process.
"Let me guess, reverting back to the scientist? I'm back on the slide?", Jim snarled out, oblivious to the color draining from Blair's face or the two bright red spots appearing on Connor's cheeks.
You know, Chief, this is low, even for you."
Even for you. The phrase struck hard and deep and Blair flinched as if from a physical blow. But then his own hand curled into a fist and before he could stop himself, he swung.
The blow hit Jim square on the jaw. His head snapped back and for a moment he teetered, but then, to a whispered "timber" from Connor, he went down.
Blair stared at his partner, on his knees before him, nursing his jaw and shaking his head like a dog with ear mites. Blair was instantly sorry - and not.
He turned and walked away, giving only a brief thought to packing and getting the hell out of Cascade. He never saw Megan get up and move to Jim's side.
Blair stopped at the edge of the dance floor and wondered how his evening of wonder and self discovery had gone so wrong. As he stood, immobile, a soft voice asked, "Care to dance?"
Blair squinted at a handsome young man of about his age and height, but with short, curly black hair and milk chocolate skin. Dark brown eyes smiled at him and Blair gave up.
"I'd love to."
Megan hurried to Jim's side and managed to control herself as she got a look at his face.
"Jim, you okay? Not that I care."
Glazed eyes met hers as Jim said, "He hit me."
She nodded solemnly, "Yes, he did. Beat me to the punch, so to speak."
Jim's head swiveled back to the floor as he repeated, dumbfounded, "He hit me. Blair hit me."
"You deserved it. I can't begin to tell you how much you deserved it, Ellison."
Jim searched the area as Megan's words washed over him and in spite of the pain, his eyes widened. Blair was on the dance floor - with a man.
Absently waving off help, he pushed up and frowned at the sight of his partner dancing with someone other than a woman.
"He's dancing with a man."
"Yes, and he hit you too and if I'm not mistaken, that big yellow thing parked next to you is the famous clue bus. Care to climb aboard?"
He looked at her, his face scrunched up in thought.
She took his arm and shook it. "Jim, go ask him to dance. He might actually forgive you for tonight."
He looked at her, then out onto the dance floor, then back at Megan.
"He did this for you, Jim. He wanted you to see him differently, get it?" At the blank look on Jim's face, she huffed a bit and said with great patience, "He wanted your gaydar to fucking ping for him, got it now, Detective?"
"Your sarcasm is not lost on me, Connor. But facts are facts - he's straight."
Megan grabbed his arm and swung him around so that his back was to the dance floor and he was forced to face her.
"You jackass! Are you telling me that your gaydar isn't pinging like mad right now? That you don't want what he's offering on a silver platter? Because trust me, if you don't take it, someone else will and they'll be the lucky one."
Pale blues gazed into blazing sapphires as he contemplated her words. He blinked a couple of times, then slowly, like some ancient puppet, he turned.
Blair was maybe thirty feet from him, dancing, not looking at him, so Jim walked to the edge of the floor, where he stood, bodies moving and swirling about him, the music slipping through him, and it was strange.
He was looking at the man who'd been his friend for three years. Everything was the same, and everything wasn't. But it wasn't as if he were seeing Blair for the first time, because this was the same Blair who'd occupied his life, his work, his home and his dreams.
And yet - not.
Jim moved onto the dance floor, eyes trained on Blair, seeking him out, silently urging Blair to see him, to connect with him. The music changed to a soft, sultry beat and Blair slowed as his dance partner started to take him into his arms. Blair's eyes flicked slightly to his right ---- and he saw Jim.
Their eyes connected and while Blair maintained the contact, he gently shook his head at the young man, who shrugged and moved off.
"Can we talk, Chief?"
"Is there something to talk about?"
Jim nodded even as his eyes searched out a small haven of peace in the club. He found it.
God, he hated it when Jim said his name. It was always something bad.
Like it could get any worse?, Blair chided himself.
"Fine. Lead the way."
Jim pushed his way through the throng of bodies, finally reaching the dark, empty corner. He pulled Blair in, tucking him into the corner.
"I'm sorry. I saw you, Connor, and I...."
"Jumped to conclusions, per usual. And per your norm, the conclusion left me in a rather unattractive light. Your opinion of me never ceases to amaze me, Jim, though I don't know why. I should be used to it by now, shouldn't I?"
"Blair, please, I can explain."
"Yes, I know. You always can."
Jim moved in closer, blocking out any remaining light filtering into their corner from the club. He could see Blair's eyes glistening in the darkness, could almost feel the flush of anger and hurt.
"Blair, I trust you with my life, you know that."
For a couple of beats, Blair didn't respond and just when Jim was about to continue, Blair spoke.
"Oddly enough, that isn't saying much. You trust Joel with your life too. And Henri, Rafe, Connor, Walters, Peterson and of course, Simon." Blair quirked his head and his voice dropped to the merest echo of sound as he said, "I wonder, Jim, if Simon were accused of selling out Major Crime, why you wouldn't believe it for a second, but if I were accused of the same, you would. Why is that? Can you tell me? What have I done that makes you think so little of me?"
Before Jim could answer, Blair went on, almost as if he were alone, musing for his own benefit.
"I know I've made mistakes, but never deliberate, never to hurt you or anyone. I've spent my life trying not to hurt people. To be what they wanted, to meet their needs, but somehow....,'" his voice trailed off as he suddenly seemed to rouse himself. "Never mind, Jim. I'm going back to the loft, or somewhere."
He started to brush past the bigger man, but Jim took his arm and held fast.
"Please, don't go yet. Let me try to explain, please?"
Blair shook his head as he tried to muscle his way past the larger man. As he stepped out of the alcove, Jim said, "Blair, you're the only one who can hurt me - because I love you."
Sandburg stopped but didn't turn. Jim took the opportunity and went on quickly.
"You don't have any idea, do you? Of how much power you have over me. I'm a jealous, selfish, insecure bastard, Chief, and with you, they all come to the foreground and you get hit with the heat." Jim took a few tentative steps toward Blair, and when the younger man made no move to leave, Jim came up behind him, carefully brought his arms up and wrapped them around Blair's waist. The gesture was neither sexual nor intimate, but rather, the act of a desperate and frightened man, holding on to his only lifeline.
"There is no man greater than you in my eyes, Blair." Jim dipped his head and let his lips skim through soft hair before coming to rest against Sandburg's ear. "I do trust you, it's me I'm having the problem with, don't you see that?"
Blair was having a great deal of difficulty not melting into the strong arms holding him, but his fear at the moment, was stronger than his hormones.
"So what you're telling me, Jim, is that you're always going to hurt the one you love?"
The arms tightened as Jim let his head rest against Blair's. He closed his eyes against the pain in Blair's voice as he said gently, "I swear to you, Chief, I will never hurt you, nor will I let anyone else hurt you in any way. I promise."
The words stunned Blair because Jim gave promises sparingly. They were sacred to him and if he *did* make a promise, it was kept.
Blair turned around in Jim's desperate embrace and pulled back just
enough to look up him. Even without sentinel eyes, in the dim corner of
their alcove, Blair could see the fear in the pale blue depths staring
back at him.
He was in Jim's arms. His trust intact. And he was home.
"Dance with me, Jim?"