Don't own 'em, but keep 'em fed, watered and lubed
Thanks to TSL for the motivation and inspiration, and to The Cellar for the beta!
This is the first in a series, but stands alone and is complete with no hanging ending. Takes place after TSbyBS
The last thing Blair wanted to do was join Jim at the tailor's. Of course, the last thing he'd wanted to do was plan a bachelor party for the man, but he'd not only done just that, with Steven and Simon, but he'd attended it too. He hadn't wanted to purchase a wedding gift either, but just two days ago, there he'd been, browsing the Pottery Barn (the only store where the happy couple had registered) perusing dishes and barbecue equipment. He'd bought a large blue bowl. It had absolutely no significance other than to remind Blair of Jim's eyes. He doubted that he'd put that on the wedding card.
There'd been a whole lot of shit lately that Blair had found himself doing in the name of friendship, and now, today, he'd go to the tailor's like a good little boy. He would stand patiently while he and his tuxedo had their final fitting, and nod appreciatively while Jim's tuxedo was fitted. Tomorrow night, he'd attend the rehearsal, followed by the rehearsal dinner. He could hardly wait. He was all a `twitter.
Then there was Saturday.
On Saturday, he'd attend the wedding.
//Bridget and Matthew Connor request your presence on Saturday, June 15th, 2000 at Saint Michael's Cathedral, for the wedding of their daughter, Megan Siobhan Connor to James Joseph Ellison.
Reception at the Ritz-Cascade will follow the ceremony.
Yeah, Blair Jacob Sandburg was definitely all a `twitter.
"How do I look?" Jim tugged at the midnight blue tie and one eyebrow rose rakishly as he viewed Blair in the mirror.
"You look great. You'll outshine the bride, man," Blair offered with a grin.
Jim looked back at himself, and then undid the tie. "Outshine the bride, eh? You need a new prescription for your glasses, buddy."
"I know," Blair said, a twinkle in his eye.
Jim stepped down from the small platform where the tailor had been marking his inseam. With a little help from Blair, he slipped the tuxedo jacket off, followed by the midnight blue vest. The tailor, George O'Brian, took both as Jim stepped into the dressing room to carefully remove the pinned slacks.
Blair had already changed and now stood just outside Jim's stall. His tuxedo was bagged and being held at the cashier's counter. The only reason Jim's wasn't ready was that since his last fitting, he'd evidently lost a couple of pounds and the slacks had to be taken in again.
With nothing to say, Blair waited for Jim to come out. It was their lunch hour and he really wanted to have a chance to get something to eat before they went back to work.
"Would you take these, Sandburg," Jim said as he waved the pants over the curtain bar.
"Got 'em." He plucked them from Jim's fingers and carried them over to George, who nodded and said, "He can pick them up tonight, Mister Sandburg."
"Great. We'll stop by after work."
"No problem. We're open until nine."
"Thanks, George." Blair walked back just as Jim stepped out, now fully dressed. "Your tux will be ready tonight--"
Smiling, Jim said, "I know, Sandburg. I know."
"Oh, yeah. Right. Sorry."
Patting him on the back, Jim said, "Let's go get something to eat, then head back to the station."
"Yes, yes, yes. That rumbling you heard earlier was not an earthquake, it was my stomach."
"No kidding. Come on, let's feed the beast."
Their lunch was sitting on the seat between them, and getting cold. A traffic accident at Third and Geronimo held them in the grips of gridlock. Blair eyed the bag, then Jim, then the bag again. He said nothing, just waited.
"Oh, all right. Go ahead and eat. But any mess, and so help me, Sandburg--"
"Yeah, yeah," Blair said happily as he dug into the bag and pulled out his grilled fish burger and fries. He set them on his thigh, opened the glove compartment, and after settling his food on the open lid, he pulled out Jim's. "Here," he said as he waved the burger under Jim's nose. "We're not moving, go ahead and eat."
The burger was waved again and Jim groaned, then reached out and snagged the flying sandwich. "All right, all right, I'll eat." He opened the yellow wrappings, then took a big bite and chewed.
Laughing at the sight of mustard and Thousand Island dressing dribbling down Jim's chin, Blair handed him a napkin. Mumbling his thanks, Jim dabbed at his chin, and then took another bite.
Blair shook his head in disbelief before turning his attention to his own lunch. His fish sandwich was good, the fries better. Even though traffic was at a stand still, Blair noticed that after only three bites, Jim was rewrapping his burger and sticking it back in the bag.
"Uh, Jim? We're not going anywhere fast. You could probably finish a seven course meal before we move again."
Eyes staring out the windshield, Jim nodded. "I know. I'll finish it later."
Worried, Blair put his own sandwich down and turned slightly in his seat. "Jim, when was your last fitting?"
The man shrugged and said, "I don't know, maybe two weeks ago? We've been kind of busy, in case that skipped your notice."
"Two weeks. And George had to take your slacks in. You okay?"
Smiling, Jim turned and faced his friend. "I'm fine, Doctor Sandburg. We've both skipped a few too many meals lately, haven't we?"
"Ye-ah, but he didn't have to take my tux in, Jimbo."
"That's because you deal with stress by burying yourself in books, Chief. I deal by doubling up my exercise."
"At least we closed down the Villegas operation," Jim cut in.
"Amen. And I didn't have to testify. I was so not looking forward to that, man."
Traffic started to move at that moment and Jim said, "Buckle up, buddy. We're on our way."
There was no chance for further talk as negotiating the mess that had been caused by three cars colliding took all their attention. The police cars had created a first line of defense against the look-e-loos, and the ambulances were long gone, but the tow trucks and damaged vehicles remained for the gawkers. Both men gave involuntary shivers as they passed the destruction and Blair immediately repacked his sandwich.
"Are you sure about this, Jim? This is a radical move--"
Jim held up a hand to forestall further remarks from Simon. "I'm sure, Simon. It's a promise I made to myself."
"This isn't a maybe, Jim. These scores and your history pretty much guarantee that you'll make lieutenant, which means you'll be running Homicide under Captain Mueller."
Simon looked out his door, his gaze falling on his newest detective. "Have you told him yet?"
Jim shook his head. "No, not yet. I'm telling him tonight."
Simon looked back at his friend and best detective. "He became a cop for you, Jim."
It was obvious from Jim's expression that Simon had just said the last thing in the world Jim had expected. Simon pressed on. "And now, you'll be leaving him here, alone. There are no other openings in Homicide, and we both know he wouldn't be welcomed anyway."
"He's comfortable here, with you and the others. Sandburg will be fine."
"You believe that, do you?"
"Of course. He's a cop now. He'll be fine."
Simon's gaze returned to the young man in the bullpen. He wondered how Jim could be so obtuse.
Blair sat down on his bed and tried to breathe. He should remember how to do this, hadn't he been breathing for years? On the other hand, his entire world was falling apart. He was entitled to not breathe.
He wasn't going to be able to handle this. He wasn't. He just ... wasn't.
First he'd been told that Jim and Megan were going to be married (and as far as Blair had known, they'd never even dated), and now this? Getting married wasn't enough of a blow? Now Jim has to tell him that he'd taken the lieutenants exam and passed and was about to take a desk job in Homicide?
What the fuck was Blair supposed to do now? He was this ... whole ... different person because of Jim. Because he ... loved ... the fucking man. And now?
He couldn't do this. This was asking too much. He was a normal guy with feelings ... and dreams ... and desires, and ... and ... THIS WAS FUCKING UNFAIR.
He put his head in his hands.
He didn't ... maybe ... deserve all this, did he? Was this his payback for all the mistakes?
There had to be a way out. There just had to be.
"All right, Mister Sandburg, you'll stand here, and you, Steven, next to him. Jim, yes, that's perfect. The preamble to the wedding march will begin and the doors will open. The two bridesmaids will enter, yes, just like that ... very good ladies, no pause, just float down the aisle, beautiful..."
Blair watched as Rhonda and a young woman by the name of Chris, "floated" down the aisle. He stood to the left of Steven, who was Jim's best man. Jim had asked Blair to take that honor, but Blair knew himself well enough to know that being Jim's best man would probably topple him over the edge. He'd managed to convince Jim that his brother should be awarded the honor.
It was Friday and rehearsal night. William Ellison sat in the front pew while Megan and her mother sat across the aisle. Blair smiled at her and Megan gave him a slight salute. She was going to make a beautiful bride, and in all honesty, would make Jim Ellison a wonderful wife. They were perfect for each other.
Which left Blair where? No where.
"...the doors will close, there will be a slight pause, then the actual wedding march will begin. The doors will be opened again, and Mister Connor, yes, you'll lead your daughter, yes, thank you, Marcia for being Megan's stand-in, you'll lead your daughter down the aisle, slowly please, yes, exactly like that. When you reach this point, Jim, you hold out your hand and take Megan's, yes, good, but Mister Connor, you remain in position until I say, 'And who gives this woman', then you will say--"
"Her mother and I do," Matthew Connor, a big red-headed Irishman said in a deep baritone.
"Very good. Then the happy couple will face me, you will take your seat, Mister Connor, and the ceremony will begin."
Father Donovan continued to talk, to take everyone through the ceremony, and Blair tuned out.
Earlier in the day, he'd made a momentous decision. The wedding would take place tomorrow, Jim and Megan would leave on their honeymoon Sunday morning, and on Monday, Blair would give Simon his formal resignation and request a letter of reference for the NYPD.
Naomi was in Connecticut, with an old beau, and New York seemed like a good place to start over. No one back East cared much about what went on across the country anyway. He was old news here, so he doubted that he'd even register in New York.
"...and I'll say, you may now kiss the bride, then after the kiss, and please, make it chaste, you'll both turn and face your family and friends, at which time I will take great pleasure in introducing you as husband and wife."
Blair came back to the here and now. He smiled, watched Marcia step back as Megan moved into Jim's arms. Matthew Connor immediately bounced up from his seat and said, "All right, I think it's time for those steaks." He rubbed his hands in anticipation and everyone laughed.
Several minutes later, Blair was part of the caravan making its way to the new and very posh Morton's Steakhouse.
The meal was good, as was the wine. Everyone seemed pretty happy, and since it would be Steven who would toast the happy couple at the reception, Blair decided his toast, as Jim's partner, should come now. It would also serve as his good-bye to the best friend he'd ever known -- and the man he loved more than his own life.
He picked up his knife and gently tapped the side of his glass. The noise abated and everyone turned their attention to him. He pushed back his chair and stood. Facing Megan and Jim, he said, "I deliberately waited until everyone had eaten the majority of their steak since I knew I wouldn't have your attention otherwise." Blair waited for the laughter to die down before saying, "I'd just like to take a moment to wish two people who mean a great deal to me, all the happiness in the world." He looked at Megan and grinned. "Megan, you came into our lives like a summer storm and none of us have looked back since. If anyone can handle Jim Ellison, it's you." Everyone chuckled knowingly and Blair went on.
"I suspect that the next thirty or forty years are going to be a challenge, Megan, but you can take it. As for you, Jim, well," he ducked his head a moment and said, "you deserve someone as wonderful as Megan. May all the rest of your days be as blessed as I have been by your friendship."
He lifted his drink, everyone following suit, and they toasted the bride and groom to be. Blair managed not to look at Jim, who was probably staring into Megan's sapphire blue eyes over his Merlot.
What was really strange about the whole wedding thing was that Jim was still at the loft and Megan was still in her house. They had not spent one night together since ... well, Blair didn't know since when. Following Jim home from the rehearsal dinner, Blair thought back over the last few weeks and found himself reliving his return from the Academy.
//Blair watched the state of Washington zip past his window, caught the occasional glimpse of deer, and later, cows. He noted the precise moment when the evergreens gave way to fields of spring flowers and when those flowers gave way to steel and concrete. He was nervous and excited and didn't feel one bit like a cop ... but he was. A badge was tucked into a pocket and a gun rested under his arm, and wasn't that a feeling that would take some getting used to? He wiggled and felt the holster and bulk of the weapon.
He checked his watch and grinned. Another forty minutes, and he'd be home.
Home. And Jim's official partner.
Tonight, Major Crime was throwing him their version of a graduation party since the one thing he'd not been allowed to do was actually graduate with the rest of his class. After finals, he'd been forced to wait for his grades to be given to him privately. His last exam, on the firing range, had been yesterday afternoon, and today he'd been called into the Superintendent's office and told that he'd passed. His badge and gun had been handed over as Nelson wished him luck.
Blair had been on the train headed home one hour later.
Eight weeks. Eight weeks of no phone calls and no visits. Eight weeks of pure hell and no Jim to make it easier. His choice, but still ... it had been damn hard. But he'd insisted that Jim, Simon, and the rest of Major Crime stay out of Blair's eight weeks at the academy. Not one phone call, no checking up on him, no surprise visits, nothing, unless Jim needed help with his senses, which he hadn't. And it had worked.
He'd been able to concentrate, to give the academy his all. Without Jim phoning, or coming up on the weekends, he'd been able to put the pressure of living up to the man aside and just do his thing. And he'd passed. With flying colors.
But it was over now and in thirty-five minutes ... he'd be seeing Jim.
Blair found his leg jiggling almost against his will and he clamped a hand down on his knee. Eight weeks had been the longest he'd been separated from Jim since meeting the man three years ago. It had been the most difficult eight weeks of his life. Not the academy part, the missing Jim part. Blair had missed his voice, his laugh, his jokes, his granite jaw, and his icy blue eyes that could warm up a room when he smiled.
Man, Blair had it bad.
He gazed at his reflection superimposed over the meadows on the other side of the glass and grinned. Maybe now, tonight, would be a good time to tell Jim how he felt? Hadn't they been tap dancing around each other for weeks? Hadn't Blair begun to believe that his feelings were returned?
He nodded at the reflection. Yeah. Tonight.
"Simon, where's Jim? Has anything--"
"Hold your horses, Sandburg. He's fine. He's on the call list for testifying today and asked me to pick you up."
Blair stepped down from the last step of the train and breathed out a sigh of relief. As he hiked his bag higher on his shoulder, he asked, "Which case finally came to trial?"
Simon reached down and took the other bag from Sandburg's fingers, and as they made their way to the parking lot, said, "The Culver case. We're lucky you were in the middle of finals when Jim closed that one, or...."
Simon's voice trailed off and aware of his gaffe, he moved the bag to his other hand, coughed, and then kept walking.
"It's all right, Simon. You can talk about it. I'm not going to break down or anything."
Simon huffed a bit, then said, "I know that. I just thought--"
"Don't sweat it, Simon."
They'd reached the curb and Simon paused, caught Blair's arm, and said, "You really okay with ... being a cop?"
"I don't do things I don't want to do, Simon, or have you failed to notice that in the last three years?"
"Good point. So why wouldn't you let, I mean, we could have helped, you know?"
Blair chuckled and shook his head helplessly. "Oh, man, don't I know how you guys would have helped me?"
Simon clutched at his heart and feigned shock. "I'm hurt here, Sandburg."
Both men laughed, then checked for traffic and jogged across the street to the parking lot. Simon led him to the LHS, opened the trunk and stored Blair's luggage away. As he slammed the lid, he said, "Don't tell anyone I said this, but damn, it's good to have you back."
"Jim's been a handful, right?"
"How did you guess?"
They shared another laugh as they climbed into the car. Once Simon had backed up and was heading toward the exit, he said, "I will say the academy timing is perfect. You get a short break before being thrown into the wedding plans."
Blair was just about to ask 'whose wedding' when Simon added, "I still don't know why Jim and Connor are in such a rush. The man no sooner gets his official partner back from the academy before he's marching down the aisle."
Heartbeat thundering in his ears, too fast, he could feel it in his throat, then his stomach churning, and Blair Sandburg had the ridiculous thought that twenty-nine years of age was too young to have a heart attack.//
The present smashed into Blair.
He hadn't suffered a heart attack at the train station, only a barrage of questions shouted silently within his brain. Questions like; `Why hadn't Jim called his best friend to let him know that he was getting married?'
Blair was very grateful that Jim made it through the next signal and he didn't. He was starting to get that heart attack feeling again.
At least he'd found out when the whole Jim and Megan thing had started.
Exactly two days after Blair left for the academy.
Jim and Blair hadn't been tap dancing, Jim and Megan had.
Blair should have recognized the signs. Hadn't the two been at each other's throats for months? Wasn't that the biggest honking clue in the world? Biting sarcasm almost always meant true love, right?
So Blair had been tap dancing alone.
Me and my shadow, he thought as he chuckled.
Blair didn't miss the fact that his laugh was slightly hysterical in nature.
By slowing down, Blair made it back to Prospect in one piece and managed to control his emotions enough to fool a sentinel. As he parked in his usual spot, he gazed up at the balcony. He wasn't surprised to find Jim standing at the railing. Knowing the man could see him, he lifted a hand in a wave and climbed out of the Volvo.
As of tomorrow, the loft was his. They'd had that conversation two weeks ago. Jim insisted that the loft was Blair's home and, since he was moving into Megan's place, it only made sense that Blair should have it.
Blair had finally agreed on the condition that he purchase it from Jim. They'd drawn up a silly agreement in which Blair promised to fork over five hundred bucks a month, keep the loft sparkling clean, refrain from allowing sprouts to take over the kitchen, to only eat tofu two times a week, to never stink up the place with the smell of cooking brussel sprouts, to continue, for the sake of sentinel guests, to use the spray, and in honor of Jim, to refrain from having a sex orgy in the loft for one week following Jim's departure.
Then ... they'd gotten drunk.
Blair didn't bother to tell Jim that the only sex he'd be having would be the one-handed kind.
Blair walked across Prospect and into the lobby. He rode up the elevator; proud of the months he'd spent schooling his emotions in order to protect his friend.
Jim met him at the door with a beer. "Thought, in spite of the wine consumption tonight, we could both use this."
Blair took the offered bottle and cracked wise with, "A bit of pre-wedding jitters, Jim?"
"Nah. Just a final beer with my roommate."
"You're only getting married, Jim. You're not moving out of state or ... anything. And Megan's house is only three miles away."
"True, true. But still ... this is a momentous occasion."
"I know. You're trading a shower full of brown hair for a shower full of red hair."
"Right on, buddy." Jim held out his bottle and they clinked, then drank. After Jim swallowed, he said, "I wish you'd agreed to be my best man tomorrow."
Blair shimmied out of his coat, bouncing his beer from hand to hand. He finally got it hung up and as he headed into the living room, said, "Jim, it's right that Steven be your best man, and it's not like I won't be standing right up there with you and you know it."
"Still, you're marrying a great woman tomorrow. The least of your worries is whether I'm standing directly to your left or one man down. Get real."
Jim looked down at the bottle in his hand. There was nothing else he could say to that.
"Are you nervous, Jim?" Blair asked gently.
"Not really. Seems like I should be though. I was the night before Carolyn and I took our vows."
"Then this time ... it must be right. The real thing," Blair offered softly.
"That must be it," Jim said quietly, his eyes still fixed on the opening of the bottle.
They weren't late, they weren't rushed. The entire morning had gone precisely as planned, up to, and including, their arrival at the church. Upon entering through the side door, Jim and Blair were immediately shown to the groom's room. Steven was already there and in his tux. He immediately pounded his brother's back and pulled him into a hug.
"I can't believe it, Jimbo. You're really getting married, and this time, I'm a part of it. And no," he held up a hand, "that was not meant to be a slap because I wasn't a part of the last wedding. I'm just grateful we're in each other's lives now."
Jim held his brother at arms length, and staring at the happy, handsome face, he recognized Blair's wisdom in his insistence that Steven be his best man. He grinned at his younger brother, his own joy at having him present, evident in his eyes.
"Look, this is sweet and all," Blair interrupted with a grin, "but the groom had better get dressed."
The door opened and William walked inside. He stared at his two sons for a moment, then moved toward Jim, hand outstretched. Jim took it, and as he'd done with Steven, he pulled his father into a hug. When they parted, William said, "It's time, Jim."
Nodding, Jim made eye contact with his best man, and his usher. As one, they moved out.
Blair held his breath as he took his place next to Steven. Self-consciously, he tugged at his pale blue vest, then his tie. He glanced out over the guests and spotted the Major Crime gang, all dressed to the nines. This represented their first official wedding. Blair doubted that anyone would have pegged Jim Ellison as the groom, nor Megan as the bride.
Oddly enough, as miserable as he was, his one regret was that he'd had no time to spend with Megan. She'd been on leave for the last two weeks, her parents having arrived from Australia to help with the wedding preparations. Prior to that, everyone had been working hard on the Villegas case. He would have liked some time with his friend, before today. They had shared a lunch together just before her parents had arrived, but all they'd been able to really discuss were Jim's senses.
Piano music filtered in, and with a start, Blair realized that the ceremony was starting.
Rhonda and Chris walked beautifully and sedately down the aisle, their cream colored silk dresses shimmering in the sunlight that streamed from the windows above the church door. Their bouquets were made up of a blue flower Blair didn't recognize, along with pale pink and white roses.
The two women took their places, and just as the priest on Friday had said, the music stopped, the doors were closed, and the wedding march began. The double doors were swung wide again, and to "Here Comes the Bride", Matthew Connor and Megan started down the aisle. Blair kept his gaze focused on a point above Megan's veil in order to keep his gaze from falling on Jim. He knew Megan was stunning, but he couldn't bring himself to actually ... look.
There was no way he could handle the pride and love that Jim's face would be reflecting.
The rest of the ceremony passed in a blur for him. He never really heard the vows exchanged, and he certainly never heard the priest ask, "If there be anyone present who does not believe that this man should wed this woman, speak now or forever hold their peace."
Even if he'd heard it, the moment would have passed without a word from him. His peace would forever be held.
When he came to, he was walking down the aisle with Chris on his arm.
For the next hour, he was subjected to being posed for the wedding photos, or watching as the photographer worked with Jim and Megan. He watched as they smiled, grinned, and kissed for the camera. He had his photo taken with the happy couple, and with the entire wedding party.
And he smiled and grinned and pecked cheeks, and hugged, and kissed, and inside, there was nothing.
The bride and groom finally climbed into the limo to head for the reception, the rest of the wedding party following in their cars. Blair never noticed that even his Volvo had been dressed up for the wedding. Chris was his wedding party "date", and she chatted happily about the ceremony throughout the drive. It took all of Blair's self control to drive, listen, nod, respond, and smile.
The reception was in full swing by the time the wedding party arrived. Jim and Megan were escorted to the long front table, as were the rest of the wedding party. Blair was seated to Steven's right, Chris beside him. In front of them, the rest of the wedding guests were seated eight to each of the many round tables that filled the room.
Amazingly enough, the Connors had a great many friends and relatives around the globe, most of whom were present. Add to that all of Megan's friends and a good chunk of the Cascade Police Department, and you had yourself an `intimate' wedding of over five hundred people.
Blair spotted the two tables that held most of Major Crime and a happier group he doubted existed anywhere.
The dinner was served, champagne bubbled, and conversations flowed. Blair managed to respond when spoken to, but in all reality, the only thing that saved him was the champagne. He made sure his glass was kept full.
Eventually the moment that promised to be the most difficult ... arrived. The moment Jim and Megan took to the dance floor for their first dance as husband and wife.
The lights were dimmed and one spotlight covered the newlyweds.
To the tune of "This I Promise You", Jim took Megan into his arms and they began to dance.
The singer for the band stepped forward and began to sing softly, and Blair found himself thinking the song an odd choice, but he couldn't help but listen to the lyrics.
"When the visions around you bring tears to your eyes, and all that surrounds you, are secrets and lies, I'll be your strength. I'll give you hope, keeping your faith when it's gone.
"The one you should call, when you're standing here all alone ... and I will take you in my arms and hold you right where you belong, till the day my life is through. This I promise you."
Blair gulped down the rest of his champagne and immediately held up his glass. A moment later, the waiter refilled it.
"Jesus, I'm fucking Julia Roberts at her 'Best Friend's Wedding," Blair thought, his mind only slightly muddled by the wine. He glanced around, hoping to find Rupert somewhere close. No such luck.
He'd done his duty and danced with Chris, several times, and finally, with Megan. He'd smiled, told her how beautiful she looked, how happy she was going to be, and then joked about tips for keeping James Ellison happy. Steven had cut in at that point, and slowly, Blair had made his way back to his seat.
Rhonda had asked him dance then, and he'd swung her onto the floor, but Simon quickly cut in. Blair made it all the way back to his seat this time.
The cake cutting ceremony came next, followed by the couple preparing to leave, which meant the tossing of the bouquet. One of Megan's relatives caught it, a young woman named Virginia. No one mentioned the fact that she'd used a few underhanded football techniques to elbow everyone out of the way, and with a leap worthy of Michael Jordan, grabbed the flowers out of the air.
As the crowd calmed down, a chair was brought out for Megan, and as she situated herself, Steven led Jim to his bride. He went down on one knee and carefully removed Megan's garter. No one missed the animated discussion about "no way am I using my teeth" and the laughter was loud as Jim turned around and tossed the garter high into the air.
Rafe caught it, or rather, it landed on his head. He tossed it back into the air as if it had been a snake and the thing was taken by another of Megan's relatives.
At that point, the couple was rushed out into the lobby, and the elevator that would take them up to the honeymoon suite. Their first night as husband and wife would be spent at the Ritz, before boarding their flight for Hawaii the next day.
Blair hung back, and thanks to his height and the partygoers, he never saw the couple leave. He remained on the edge of the crowd and realized that he'd just lost his last opportunity to see Jim.
Without a backward glance, Blair headed for the outdoors and his Volvo. The wedding was over for him.
As the elevator closed out the guests, Jim immediately turned to his bride. "Connor? You okay?"
A slight green tinge to her face, Megan shook her head. "No, I don't think I am. And 'Connor'? You don't think you could use Megan now? Or," she said with a wan smile, "Ellison?"
Tucking her into his side, he smiled. "Sorry, old habits. And you'll always be 'Connor' to me," he said fondly.
He felt her forehead, then gave a low whistle. "You should never have had that second piece of meat, not to mention two pieces of cake."
"Just get me to a bathroom, husband."
Megan barely made it. Four hours and fifteen minutes after becoming Mrs. James Ellison, Megan had her head buried in the toilet, her gown pooled around her legs, as she emptied her stomach.
Simon searched the room but couldn't spot Sandburg anywhere. On the other hand, the young lady he'd come to the reception with was also absent. Simon smiled. Leave it to Sandburg to score at Jim's wedding.
He went back to partying.
Blair stood on the balcony, the same balcony he and Jim had occupied countless times, and he lost himself in his memories.
//"It's just for one week, man, just one week."
"Talk, it's what friends do."
"A sentinel will be a sentinel as long as he chooses to be."
"You're a human crime lab, man."
"You know where you can find me."
"It's about friendship. I just didn't get it before."//
Blair never felt the tears as they tracked down his face.
Sunday passed with painful slowness.
The only blip to his day occurred at twelve-thirty ... the time Jim's and Megan's plane was due to take off.
Blair was constantly surprised, as he walked the loft, to see how little it had changed now that Jim was gone. He supposed he'd find a bigger difference in Jim's bedroom, but he hadn't been up there ... yet.
In fact, Blair had no intention of going up there at all, other than to clean. His room was fucking downstairs. It had been good enough for three years; it would be good enough for the next two weeks.
At midnight, Blair paused in one of his many 'walks' of the apartment and pondered the fact that he'd probably walked a distance equal to that of Cascade to Seattle.
Blair kept walking.
"We can catch a later flight, Megan. We don't have to leave today."
Megan looked up from her overnight bag and said, "But we are, because I'm fine."
He shook his head helplessly. Megan Siobhan Connor Ellison was one stubborn woman. "You're sure you should fly at all?"
The warning in his new wife's voice was undeniable. Jim backed off.
Ten minutes later, a bell boy was loading their luggage on one cart, their wedding 'outfits' on another. Megan's parents would pick them up later. Jim picked up Megan's coat followed by her overnight bag, then held the door for her. They were on their way to Hawaii.
Blair felt the envelope burning in his breast pocket. His resignation. He lifted his head and gazed around the bullpen, then turned his attention back to his report. Simon hadn't shown up yet and it was almost noon. Rhonda had reminded him that it was Monday, that Monday, which meant Simon's monthly meeting with the Commissioner. With a nervous hand, Blair touched his pocket before he resumed his typing.
The morning had been difficult for Blair, his resignation being the least of his worries. For the first two hours, he'd had to listen to the gang wax poetic as they relived the wedding. He'd also had to listen to the jokes about wedding nights and additional jokes centering around the burning question of who'd be in control in bed; Jim or Megan? Best he could figure, Megan was winning. Rafe had brought forth a few "amen brothers" when he'd offered up the theory that only one Ellison would return from Hawaii, the other Ellison having been murdered.
Megan was winning that one too.
Damn, he wished Simon would arrive. He wanted to get the whole "give Simon the resignation letter" thing over with ... pronto.
"Hey, Hairboy, how does it feel to have the whole loft to yourself?"
Without lifting his head, Blair said, "A lot like I have the whole loft to myself, H. At exactly one minute after ten last night, I flushed the toilet seven times."
"I'm thinking Ellison probably heard that, and is currently winging his way home to break your neck," Henri Brown said with his usual lopsided grin.
Blair's fingers froze in place on the keyboard. A large hand squeezed his shoulder as Henri bent low and whispered, "We're detectives, you know? We figure things out, man."
Cautiously, Blair looked into Henri's smiling face. He found nothing but humor and understanding in the brown eyes gazing back at him. He let out the breath he'd been holding and nodded slowly. Henri chuckled and walked back to his desk.
Well, I'll be damned, he thought. They knew.
It was after two when Simon finally made his appearance. Blair was up and following him before the man could get his coat off.
"Sandburg, you dogging my heels for a reason?"
"Yes," he said as he slipped into Simon's office just ahead of the closing door.
"Fine. Sit, but don't say a word. I need coffee."
Blair sat. As Simon went through the necessary motions to get his coffee maker going, Blair took out the envelope and tapped it against his thigh. By the look on Simon's face, the monthly meeting had not gone well.
"Sir? Everything all right?" he finally asked, unable not to.
"No." Simon gave a little shake of his head. "Jim in Homicide is now a done deal. He'll start on the Thursday after his and Megan's return."
The coffee maker pinged just as Blair said, "That isn't really a surprise, is it, Simon?"
The older man poured his coffee and took a seat. With a somewhat disgusted look directed at Blair, he said, "Yeah, it is. I honestly didn't think Jim ... that he'd accept ... but evidently he did. Before the wedding."
Surprised, Blair leaned forward. "Simon, I thought--"
Simon held up an impatient hand. "Do us both a favor, Sandburg. Don't think. And if you do, don't share your thoughts."
Blair sat back and stared at the envelope. He stood and approached the desk, then set it down.
"This is for you, Simon. It's my ... resignation."
Simon looked up sharply, his eyes narrowing. "Now why am I not surprised? Jim is out of Major Crime, so you up and leave. Sure, why not? Not like this is your gig, right?"
Blair kept his emotions in check as he said, "Actually, I'd very much like a reference letter from you, Simon. I'm applying with the NYPD."
Simon's eyes widened as he fell back against his chair, mouth dropping open. He quickly closed it, and immediately opened it to say, "Excuse me? The NYPD?"
"Yes. Naomi is living back East now, and with Jim moving on, I'm thinking it's time for me to do the same."
Simon put up a hand, almost in self-defense, as he said, "Wait. Wait. You're going to remain a cop, but not here? Not with your friends?"
"Simon," Blair started to say, but was immediately interrupted as Simon quickly stood and demanded angrily, "What, we're not good enough if Jim isn't around? We go to bat for you, accept you, trust you, and you take off just because Jim is moving on? Does that sound right to you, Sandburg?"
Jaw clenching, Blair managed to say, "Accept me? Trust me? I earned that acceptance and trust. Three years earned, Simon. I graduated top of my class, I broke fucking records at the academy--"
Palms flat on his desk, Simon leaned forward. "So why are you leaving? You can't be a cop here without Jim? Why this need to 'move on'?"
"I have my reasons, Simon."
"Oh, really? Well, I've got news for you, Sandburg. I'm not accepting your fucking resignation. I'm not losing both members of my best team, you got that? At least not until you give me a hell of a better reason." With that, he sat down, pulled out one of his cigars, then stuck it in his mouth and waited.
Blair stared at him, dumbfounded. This was not going as planned. He looked at the letter, then back to Simon. Finally he said quietly, "I'm leaving in two weeks, Simon. Next Friday will be my last day. I'd appreciate it if you'd accept it and provide me with a letter--"
Waving the cigar, Simon said, "You know department policy, Sandburg. You're required to give thirty days notice. Without that, no reference letter, no rehirable status, no resignation." He put the much chewed-upon cigar down, and said in a gentler tone, "Two weeks? Friday? And Jim and Megan don't return until that Saturday? You plan on being gone by the time they get back?"
Heart thudding in his chest, Blair nodded, unable to speak.
Simon frowned. "You haven't told Jim, have you? He doesn't have a clue, does he?"
"No, and I don't want him to. At least, not from anyone but me. I plan to let him know next week. Late next week."
Simon squinted at him. "You're lying."
"All right, I'm ... leaving a letter for him."
"A letter? A fucking letter? After three years, Jim gets a fucking letter?" His voice rose on the final "letter".
"You know, Simon, how I do this is none of your business. The letter will explain everything, and believe me; Jim won't be all that upset. And it's not like our friendship is over. Communication nowadays is pretty damn simple."
"Well, don't you have all the answers, Detective Sandburg," Simon said snidely.
"No, you look. There is no reason to take off. None. You're part of this squad, and a damn important part. We need you, Sandburg, and you need us. We're a family. And so far, you haven't given me any reason to accept your resignation."
For the first time since the discussion began, Blair could see real emotion swimming in Simon's eyes. God damn it, the only thing that could end this was the ... truth.
"Simon, I can't stay and I'd really appreciate it if you'd take me at my word."
"Not going to happen, Sandburg. You belong here."
Blair reached out blindly and connected with his chair. He dragged it forward and sank into it. "Okay fine. You're not going to like hearing this, but you asked for it."
Focusing on one of the knick-knacks on Simon's desk, Blair said softly, "I'm not strong enough to stay, Simon."
"What, you think you can't be a cop without Jim?"
"Simon, if that were true, I wouldn't be asking for references for the NYPD."
"Then I'm lost. What kind of strength does it take to stay with your friends and do the job you've chosen to do?"
Blair gave a bitter laugh. "Way more strength than I possess, Simon. You see, I can't ... there's no way that I can--"
Blair dropped his head and closed his eyes. Damn, this was hard. Finally--
"I can't stay here and see Jim in the halls, or talk to him on the phone, or be invited over to his and Megan's home for dinner, where we'd make small talk and they'd cook together in the kitchen, trade quips, touch each other--"
Blair looked up and gave Simon a wry smile. "You got it, Simon."
Staggered. Stunned. Shocked. Could he come up with anymore adjectives to describe how he was feeling? Did he need anymore?
Blair was in love with Jim. Blair Sandburg was in love with Jim Ellison.
God, he needed a drink.
Simon found himself staring at the white folded letter on his desk. Slowly he reached over and pulled it to him.
"I'll accept this, Sandburg. I'll okay the fact that you can only give us two weeks notice."
Blair nodded. "Thanks, Simon." He started for the door but was stopped as Simon spoke again.
"Sandburg, I'll have that letter of reference ready by the end of the day."
Blair nodded, but didn't turn around. "Thanks, Simon." He opened the door and walked out, shutting it behind him.
Blair walked to his desk and sat down. Wasn't it amazing how fast a guy wasn't a part of the "family" when it was known that said guy was in love with a male member of said family?
"Yes, this is Jim Ellison in the Mauna Loa suite. I'm hoping that you can help me. My wife isn't feeling well ... yes, do you? Please, if you would? Thank you. Her name is what? Doctor Karen Bailey? Yes, I'll hold."
Jim drummed his fingers on the desk top as he stared down at the myriad of flyers the hotel left on all the desks. Behind him, Megan was finally sleeping. He was worried. Morning sickness was to be expected, but in Megan's case, it was turning out to be morning, noon and night sickness. They should have stayed in Cascade.
"What? Oh, yes, thank you. Thirty minutes? That's great. I really appreciate this. Thanks again." He hung up and walked over to the king size bed. He sat down, careful not to disturb Megan, and brushed some hair from her forehead before running the back of his hand down one pale cheek.
Watching the sleeping woman that was his wife, he felt a bitter cold seeping into his bones. All it had taken was one night of jokes, a dinner accompanied by too much wine that fostered talk about regrets, guilts, and fears, more wine ... and now he was honeymooning in Hawaii with Megan ... instead of being with someone ... else.
Instead of Blair.
He could admit it now, say it now, now that he was married and on his honeymoon.
He was in love with his partner, and gee, it had only taken marrying another to get him to admit it. But in all fairness, he knew that even if he'd acknowledged said love, he doubted that he would have told Blair.
So why in a cabana on the island of Maui, could he admit that maybe Sandburg had similar feelings? Not that he could pin down the precise reasons for believing that, but sometimes there'd been a shared look or a lingering touch between them.
Of course, it didn't matter now, thanks to a phone call all those weeks ago, a phone call from Megan asking to meet with him. Jim had almost turned her down; fearing that she'd changed her mind about their "one night" being a terrible mistake. But something in her voice held him, and over a spaghetti dinner at Scarpetta's, she'd quietly shared the fact that she was pregnant. She hadn't asked for anything, but simply felt that he deserved to know, and that she was going to have the child.
It had never occurred to Jim not to propose. That's what men did. That's what his kind of man did. The idea that Megan would raise the child -- their child -- alone, was simply not an option. All of which meant that a future with Blair was no longer an option either.
A gentle tapping at the front door aroused Jim from his reverie. He quickly let the hotel doctor in.
"So everything is normal, then?" Megan asked from the bed, her hand held tightly in Jim's.
Doctor Bailey turned, prescription pad in hand. "All things considered, yes. I think you'll find that in another couple of days, you'll be feeling a hundred percent better, Mrs. Ellison. It's a safe bet that with the wedding, the flight over, and your natural excitement, well, it was a bit more than your system could handle at this point."
She did some quick scribbling, then said, "I'm giving you a prescription to help with the nausea, and don't worry, it's perfectly safe. Give it a chance to work and enjoy the rest of your honeymoon." She tore off the sheet and added, "Mister Ellison, you can get this filled at the pharmacy in town, or I can have someone from the hotel run it over for you."
Grateful, Jim said, "Would you? I really don't want to leave her."
"Of course, no problem." She put everything back in her bag and said, "Just rest, Mrs. Ellison, and don't worry about a thing. Congratulations, by the way." She smiled as Jim rose and walked her to the door.
"Thank you, Doctor Bailey."
Jim let her out, closed the door, and turned to Megan. "Feel better now?" he asked, grinning.
"Do I feel better? Which one of us worry-warts called for a doctor?"
"That would be me."
Megan laughed softly, then rolled over on her side and dropped her head back on the pillow. "I can not keep my eyes open. Do you mind?"
"You heard the doctor. Lots of rest. Go to sleep. When you wake up, that medicine will be here. Maybe you'll feel like trying some dinner tonight."
At the word "dinner", Megan scrunched up her face. "Ugh, please, don't even mention meals." She closed her eyes and rubbed her stomach.
Smiling, Jim walked to the couch, sat down and picked up his book. It looked like another afternoon of reading for him. He lowered his hearing against the sound of the tempting surf just outside their cabana.
Simon sat in his car, the engine still running. He was stopped in front of 852 Prospect. Blair's resignation had thrown him for a loop and he desperately needed someone to talk to about it. Unfortunately, the one person he would have discussed it with, was in Hawaii, not to mention that said person was also, coincidentally, the reason for the resignation.
Of course, the other person Simon would have talked to about it, was the person who'd resigned. Simon turned off the engine and climbed out of the car. He stood a moment; traffic moving past as he gazed up at the balcony that belonged to number 307. He needed to get a handle on this and that meant talking to Sandburg. Now.
With purpose and determination, Captain Simon Banks strode across the street and into the lobby.
Blair was pacing again, the only thing it seemed he could do now that he was -- home. No, that wasn't right. The loft certainly didn't feel like his and most definitely was no longer a home. It was just a place, nothing more. A place that was too big for him. He paused in his pacing to stare up at the high ceiling and the railing of the bedroom overhead.
The loft was -- had been -- perfect for Jim Ellison, sentinel of the great city. Roomy, high, airy, and lots of light. But for the sidekick?
He had a sudden urge to go into his small den of a bedroom, to close the door and hibernate for the rest of his life. He'd like nothing better than to curl up; face buried in his pillow, or better yet, Jim's pillow, and let the days of the Earth spin without him.
If the jaguar was Jim's animal spirit, then the wolf he'd been in Jim's dream and at the fountain could only mean that his animal spirit was a wolf, and wolves mated for life. Once they mated.
It was a known fact that if a wolf lost their mate, they would crawl off somewhere to curl up and die.
Blair gazed over his shoulder at his room. His room. Cave.
A pounding on the front door, followed by, "SANDBURG!" kept him from moving toward the French doors. He didn't really want to let the owner of the angry voice in, he wasn't up to Simon right now, but let him in, he did.
"Hey, Simon, you yelled?"
"I've been knocking for several minutes. You deaf all of a sudden?"
Blair scratched the back of his head and puzzled, said, "I'm sorry; I... guess I just didn't hear you." He stepped aside and allowed the bigger man to enter. "You want a beer or something?"
Taking off his coat, Simon grunted, then said, "Kid, I... we... need something considerably stronger than beer. Get out Ellison's bottle of Jamison's."
Blair walked into the kitchen, took down the bottle, picked up two glasses, and carried them both back out to the living room. Simon was still standing near the door, so Blair lifted the bottle and said, "Table or couch?"
Simon looked at both, then ever the practical man, said, "Couch. I hate falling on hardwood floors when I pass out."
One oddly shaped eyebrow rose. "That bad, eh? Okay, couch it is."
Blair walked over to the far sofa and sat down. Simon followed suit, but surprised the younger man by choosing to sit on the same couch, albeit, the opposite end. He held out his hand and wiggled his fingers. "Give," he said, indicating the bottle and glass still in Blair's hand.
"Right." Blair tossed the glass and after Simon caught it, he handed off the bottle.
Simon uncapped it and poured a generous amount before handing the bottle back. Blair poured, capped it, set it down on the floor, and held up his glass. Simon nodded, they clinked lightly, then downed the smooth, amber liquor.
Simon licked his lips, then said, "So, how's it feel sleeping upstairs?"
"I don't know."
Simon cocked his head. "What, you haven't moved up there yet?"
"I have no plans to move up there. My room is fine. I like it. And besides, we're talking two more--"
"Weeks. Yeah, I know. But still, that's a king-size bed up there, Sandburg."
Blair looked down at himself and chuckled. "And I so need a king-size bed."
They both had another shot, but this time, they sipped. Finally, Simon decided it was time to get to the crux of the matter.
"I need help, Sandburg. Help in ... understanding. I admit to having some difficulty wrapping my mind around the fact that you're ... in love--"
"With your best friend, who also happens to be a man?"
"Well, yeah." Fingering his glass, Simon added, "You've really surprised me this time."
"Why? Because I'm in love with a man? Or because I'm in love with Jim?"
"Well...er, let's say... both."
Blair took another sip and wiped his mouth before saying, "Given how I was raised, I'd think the `loving a man' part would be a slam-dunk. You know I'm not big on labels. And I don't label love either. But I will admit that since joining up with Jim, I've kind of curtailed my pursuit of the male half of the population. I was strange enough, Jim didn't need the extra aggravation, nor did you."
"So you just, what, changed over to women? Can gay men do that?"
Blair's laughter erupted like Old Faithful. It shot straight up and filled the loft with its truly joyful sound. Simon couldn't help but smile in return.
"Oh, man," Blair finally said, as he calmed down, "that was good, Simon."
"Glad you liked it, Sandburg," Simon huffed, even as he hid his smile.
"Look, I like women too, okay? I like women a lot."
"Ah, so you're ... what is it, bisexual?"
"No, I'm just... sexual," Blair said with a smirk. "Look, it isn't about labels, man. It's not being gay, or het, or bi. It's just being... me. I don't care what's in the package, you know?"
"Got it. It's the person."
Simon gave a nervous chuckle and asked, "How long--"
"How long have I been 'this way', or how long have I been in love with Jim?"
"Sandburg, I... shit." Simon swiped a hand over the lower half of his face, took off his glasses, pinched the bridge of his nose, then slipped them back on. "I'm thinking... there is no 'this way', right?"
"You got it, Simon."
"Good, so now you can explain about the loving Jim part."
Blair downed the rest of his drink, poured another one, then at the glass being shaken next to him, poured for Simon as well. He put the bottle between his legs this time as he said, "You don't really want to know about that, do you?"
Simon gave Blair a hard look and for the first time noticed what Jim's marriage was costing the younger man. The pain was there, etched in the lines around Blair's mouth and the dark shadows under his eyes. It was the kind of pain Simon was pretty sure he'd never known, even during the days when his marriage to Joan had been falling apart.
"No," he said quietly, "I guess I don't."
They were both silent then, each staring out the large windows and taking occasional sips of their drinks.
Finally Simon asked, "What about Jim's senses? Who's going to help him with those if you leave?"
The pained look in Blair's eyes seemed to intensify as he said, "Jim isn't going to ... use them once he joins Homicide."
Shocked for the second time that day, Simon said, "He told you that?"
Blair nodded. "Yeah, on the same night he told me about taking and passing the lieutenant's exam."
Simon stared at the drink in his hand and murmured softly, "So it was all for nothing. Just... nothing."
The enormity of what this really meant to Blair hit Simon in the gut. How the hell could Jim have done this to the kid? Okay, so you marry the woman you love, but do you have to kick your best friend at the same time? Do you really have to throw all that he did for you, back in his face?
Why the hell couldn't Jim Ellison have loved Blair Sandburg back?
Suddenly Simon sat up straight. Had he just thought what he thought... he'd just thought? Shit, how sorry was that? Except...it wasn't. Sorry.
Simon was not naive, he'd known gay men, knew a couple on the force, but he'd honestly never given the idea of two men loving each other much thought. And yet, when he found himself now thinking of Jim and Blair in that way... it actually made sense. So why the hell was Jim Ellison in Hawaii with Megan Connor? How the hell had that happened?
At almost the same moment that question entered his head, so did another one. Without thinking, he asked, "What the hell would you two have done if... if... you know--"
Blair looked away from the window and at Simon, his head cocked to the side. "If what? If Jim had felt the same? Come on, Simon, get real. I've had these feelings for him for quite some time and you never had a clue. And while Jim isn't 'in love' with me, he does love me. Has that affection or my feelings interfered with how we worked in all these years?"
"There you go then. Not that it matters."
"No, I guess it doesn't."
"Simon, what do you think you're doing?"
"Going home, Sandburg. It's late."
"I would be," he paused to hiccup, "an inconsiderate and," he hiccupped again, "irresponsible host, if I allowed you to drive home in your highly inebriated condition." He bent at the waist and addressed Simon's legs. Wagging a finger, he admonished, "You, my man, are drunk."
Simon stared down at his friend, and frowned. "I am not drunk, Blair."
The finger rose ominously. "AHHA! You are drunk, you called me 'Blair'. Now why don't you just trot upstairs and crash on Jim's... on my... on the bed, okay?"
Simon didn't think for a moment that he was really drunk, but damn, it looked as though Blair might be talking to his legs, and that wasn't probably the case, so maybe he should spend the night? On the other hand, maybe it was Sandburg who was drunk? In which case... Simon should spend the night.
"AHHA! See? Now you're calling me Sandburg, which means you're definitely drunk. I'm betting you don't want to stay because you don't think," he stepped closer, lowered his voice, and said to Simon's knees, "your virtue is safe with me. That's it, isn't it?"
"Yeah, Sandburg, that's it. I'm really concerned that you'll take advantage of me in the middle of the night. Overpower me and have your wicked way with me. Yep, that's my main concern all right."
"Man, you are, like, too tall, you know? And you're like, my father, you know? A man does not climb his father."
Simon gave out with a heavy sigh. Oh, yeah, this guy was drunk. He put his hands on Blair's shoulders, turned him in the direction of the bedroom, and said, "Come on, Sandburg, let's get you to bed."
"Okay," he said cheerily. "But don't even think about having your wicked way with me, Dad."
Pushing him along, Simon murmured, "I sure hope neither of us remembers this tomorrow."
Somehow he managed to get Blair to sit down on the futon. One drunken man helping another drunken man get undressed was not the way he'd planned on spending Monday night, but here he was, undressing Blair Sandburg. As he struggled with the kid's shoes, he felt his body starting to sober up. Blair was mumbling and he strained to hear his words as he unbuttoned the flannel shirt.
"...why, huh? Tell me why Jim didn't call me, his best friend, and tell me that he was getting married. I mean, who knew he even liked Connor, you know? How many weeks was I gone? And he couldn't call once to tell me? That hardly would constitute 'bothering me' at the Academy, you know?"
Pushing Blair back so that he flopped down on the bed, Simon started to pull off the jeans as he nodded and said, "Yeah, I know. He should have phoned. But you did order us, all of us, not to call unless it was an emergency, Sandburg."
Looking up at him with soulful eyes, Blair said, "But that was an emergency. He was... getting... married."
"I know, kid, I know."
"I gave up everything for him and he couldn't call me? Tell me? I'm not complaining, I'm just... alone now. I don't have anything, Simon. Nothing. It's too much like--"
Simon stopped what he was doing. "Too much like what, Sandburg?"
"Too much like... always. Like always leaving, and always starting over, and always saying, 'no mom, I don't mind moving on, and no, I never really liked that guy anyway, mom' when I did mind and I did like -- love -- the guy who'd been my dad for awhile. Or when I'd have to say, 'no mom, I don't mind being left with the Andersons, go, have fun, see you in a few months', when I did mind and I didn't want her to go again, you know? But I know Jim doesn't owe me anything, but damn, I really thought this one was forever. Stupid, huh? How could we be forever?" Then, almost to himself, Blair whispered, "But how could we not?"
Simon felt his heart climbing into his throat. He pulled the blankets down and urged Blair to move over so that he could get him under their warmth. When he'd shifted enough, Simon tucked him in just as he'd tucked his own son in so many years ago. He brushed some hair out of Blair's eyes, and said, "Go to sleep, son. Everything will look better tomorrow."
He reached over and turned off the light. As he walked toward the French doors, Blair said, "I was wrong, Simon. I'm not strong enough to leave. You can tear up my resignation."
"Sleep, son. We'll talk in the morning."
By mid-day on Tuesday, Megan was feeling like her old self. She managed some toast and fruit for breakfast, and then walked down to the pool with Jim. While he swam laps, she basked in the warmth of the Hawaiian sun, her fair skin amply protected by plenty of SPF 15.
Watching Jim swim she realized with a start that she was watching her husband. Her -- husband.
Jim Ellison was her husband.
Unconsciously, her hand strayed to her stomach and the new life growing inside.
Her husband. Their child.
She honestly hadn't expected this when she'd told Jim about the baby. She'd had three days to think things over, and in the end, when she'd made the decision to not only have the baby, but to keep it, she'd never once dreamed that it would entail becoming Mrs. James Joseph Ellison. She'd simply wanted him to know, and to assure him that any part he wanted to play in the life of the baby, he was welcome to play.
"You're lying to yourself, Connor."
She gave a little shake of her head as her "Voice" chastised her.
"Yes, you are. You know what kind of man Jim Ellison is. Honorable. An honorable man. It might be the tag end of the twentieth century, but he's the kind who believes that a man should 'do the right thing' and you know that, were counting on it."
Not true, not true, not true.
Her stomach started doing flip-flops and she quickly got up and started for their cabana.
She paused, then turned. Jim had stopped swimming and was standing in the shallow end, arms crossed on the decking, water dripping over his face, the drops glistening in the sun.
"I'm... not feeling so well. Don't worry, I'm not going to toss my breakfast, but maybe a nap?"
"All right, but wait up and I'll--"
"No, no, you stay here and enjoy. How about an early dinner at the Luau Room?"
Jim settled back in the pool and nodded. "All right, if you're sure. And the Luau Room sounds great."
"Good. Wake me up in plenty of time to get ready."
He chuckled and said, "Will do."
She walked back to their suite, changed out of her suit and into bra and panties, then crawled under the cool sheets.
It couldn't be true, she thought.
She'd never... do that, would she?
Tuesday morning dawned and Simon cursed it. A skylight. A fucking skylight. He shielded his eyes and rolled out of bed. He'd just have time to get home, shower, shave, and change before his Citizens for a Better Cascade committee meeting. Damn citizen's groups. Their idea of 'Citizens for a Better Cascade' was, "Let the cops do it".
Simon got up and slipped into his slacks. As he reached for his shirt, the unmistakable smell of coffee reached his nose. Sandburg was up. Following the scent like a bloodhound, he found Blair in the kitchen, standing over a frying pan of cooking eggs.
"Sit. This will be ready in a minute. Juice is in the fridge, coffee is hot and ready."
Simon couldn't resist the odors. He poured both coffee and juice, then carried them to the kitchen table and sat down. His head was splitting and he knew he looked like hell, but Blair looked decidedly worse, just not in a hung over kind of way. For a guy who'd drunk as much as he had, Blair looked almost normal. No, his "look" was the kind that said, "The end of the world is near so you'd better stand back 'cause I'm in the middle of the ending".
"What time is your committee meeting, Simon?"
"No problem then. You have time to eat, then get home and change. You'll make your meeting."
He turned off the range, carried the pan over to his boss and ladled a generous helping of scrambled eggs onto Simon's plate. He sat down and started to eat the rest out of the pan. It didn't skip his notice that the moment was very much like his first morning as Jim's "temporary" roommate.
"This smells terrific, Sandburg. Thanks."
"No problem. And I should be thanking you. I think last night definitely exceeded the rules of captainship."
"Maybe, but not the rules of friends or... surrogate fathers."
Blair looked up quickly, then with a flushed face, glanced back down at his plate.
Just as Simon was beginning to think that Blair wouldn't say anything else, the younger man spoke up. "I meant what I said last night... about tearing up my resignation."
"Blair, are you sure? As much as I want you to stay, that's how much I want you to do what will ultimately make you happy."
The red in his face darkened as Blair answered, "I'm sure. I keep forgetting, see? Forgetting that it's about friendship, and not about ... me. No matter what else, I'm Jim's friend." He knuckled back some hair and added, "And Major Crime... is my family. You were right, I belong there."
Smiling, Simon went back to eating. The months ahead would be tough, but Blair had more than he knew. He had Simon.
Blair closed the door behind Simon and faced his... home. He'd have to accept that now. This was his home. Slowly he moved through the loft, one room at a time until the only room left was... Jim's. Blair climbed the stairs, hearing each creak of wood as he made his way to the top of the landing.
Simon had changed the sheets and the extra blanket was folded, along with the bedspread, and laid out at the foot of the mattress. Blair took two steps into the room and looked around. No sweaters, no shirts, or shoes, or interesting books that would have told the uninitiated just how smart Jim Ellison really was. No odds and ends collected by the sentinel for reasons he could never have explained. No sleep mask on the nightstand, no white noise generator next to the sleep mask. No water glass. Blair wandered over to the bed and sat down. He ran a finger over the clean wood of the nightstand and smiled.
"I wonder how Megan will handle the fact that like a small child, Jim Ellison needs a glass of water to take up with him every single night."
He chuckled and pressed the palm of his hand down into the mattress. Jim had slept here, tossed and turned here, had made love to Emily and Lila here. And Carolyn. And who knew how many others. He'd loved them, caressed them, cared for them, given each and every one of them... his all.
Blair wondered if Jim had made love to Megan here, or if....
It didn't matter. It didn't.
Blair got up and walked downstairs. He grabbed his jacket and keys and headed for work.
Their table was next to one of the large bay windows. The moon was full and lighting the ocean with its silvery beams. The restaurant's lighting was dim, the tables far enough away from each other to further the romantic "hideaway" feel. Megan watched the flickering light of the candle that served as the centerpiece play over Jim's face, changing the shadows and angles constantly. He looked more handsome than she could ever remember seeing him. His skin color was already a bit darker thanks to the sun he'd received today.
God, he looks good in a suit, she thought. Not as good as he did in swim trunks, however. Megan ducked her head and smiled. She was shameless.
The waiter arrived bearing their salads, seafood for Jim, Caesar for her. They both turned down the cracked pepper and the man faded into the shadows, leaving them alone again. Jim lifted his wine glass and indicated that Megan should do the same with her water glass. When she did, he said, "To us, Hawaii, and the end to morning sickness."
Smiling, they touched the two glasses lightly as Megan agreed. "To us."
Sipping her water, Megan thought she spotted something dark floating within the pale blues of Jim's eyes, but she shook her head and dug into her salad.
Walking back to their bungalow, the fragrant night air swirling around them, Megan felt the distance between them. They were walking side-by-side, but not actually touching. They'd have to be the only newlywed couple to walk anywhere not touching.
The hours since getting up from her nap had been the only hours of normalcy between them since their wedding... and yet, they'd never seemed further apart.
The small distance between them right now might as well have been an entire continent.
"Dinner settling all right, Megan?"
His deep, sweet voice tickled against her skin and for just a moment, she thought she could hear another....
She shook herself and said, "Fine, Jim. Feeling a little tired, but that's it."
She shivered slightly and Jim immediately took off his jacket and draped it across her shoulders. Megan didn't miss the fact that his hands didn't linger. She pulled it close. "Thanks, Jim."
"Can get a bit cool here, can't it?" he said conversationally.
They turned down the path that would take them to their bungalow and Jim pulled the key card from his pocket. At the front door, he slid it down the slot and said, "You want to sit on the patio for awhile?"
She feigned a yawn, then said, "I think I'll just go straight to bed. No sense in tempting fate."
He stepped aside and she walked past him, through the living room, and into their bedroom. She turned on the light, and as she dropped his jacket on the back of a chair, she heard the refrigerator open, then close. She pulled out her earrings and dropped them on the dresser, then did the same with the bracelet.
Megan stared at herself in the long mirror, reached up and absently pulled out the comb that held her hair up, and watched it cascade down to fall against her neck and brush her shoulders. She didn't look pregnant. She didn't look like Jim Ellison's wife either.
Megan slipped out of her dress, hung it up in the closet, put on her night gown, then crossed the room and opened the doors that led out to the patio and overlooked the water.
With her hand on her tummy, she watched the moonlight play over the ocean as she let her mind converse with her heart.
Jim stuck a finger in the knot of his tie and loosened it, then took a swig of the beer he'd pulled from the fridge. He walked over to French doors and pulled both open, then stepped onto the patio. This side of their bungalow overlooked the gardens that surrounded their small "home away from home", but Jim could hear the ocean. He stood in the moonlight and drank his beer.
Blair stepped back and looked at the bed. Jim's yellow sheets were in place, as well as Jim's blue blanket.
His day was over, a day spent at his desk instead of on the streets. He suspected that was Simon's conscious decision based on last night and what they'd both consumed, alcohol wise. He couldn't fault Simon's decision. The problem with a boring day was that it simply failed to exhaust Blair. He'd taken care of that with a two hour work-out at the gym, followed by a run along the ocean. A long run. The kind of run that locked up every leg muscle a man had.
And when Blair returned home? He'd paced. Exhaustion had finally forced him to lock up and head for bed, but once in his room, he'd been unable to sleep. Which was why he was now standing in Jim's room, staring at Jim's newly made bed. Blair turned off the light, removed his thin robe, then pulled back the covers and climbed in.
The feel of Jim's sateen sheets sliding over his naked skin was enough to bring forth a groan. He'd have given anything if he had something of Jim's. Something that smelled of Jim Ellison. He stared up the skylight and at the full moon that stared right back at him. The damn thing looked way too happy.
With a sudden move, Blair threw off the covers, jumped out of the bed, put his robe back on, then hurried down to the kitchen. He pulled a beer out and walked over to the windows. He opened them and stepped onto the balcony.
Maybe he'd sleep on the couch tonight.
Megan rolled over, her hand dropping onto the other side of the bed... the empty side. She opened her eyes, blinked, then faced the patio. The door was open and thanks to the full moon, she could see Jim leaning against the door frame. She braced herself on her elbows and was about to call out to him when something strange happened.
The moonlight seemed to shimmer around his body and, to her astonishment, gathered next to him. She sat up, the sheets falling to her waist, and rubbed at her eyes. The shimmering moonlight was taking the shape of... something. Slowly it wavered and shifted until it appeared that Jim was no longer alone. A man was now standing beside him. One bright hand of moonlight touched Jim's arm and the head turned and gazed up and now Megan could see silvery curls....
"Sandy," she whispered.
At the sound of her voice, Jim turned and the silvery apparition by his side broke into a million fragments until all that was left was... moonlight and ... truth.
"Megan, are you all right?"
Feeling "right" for the first time in weeks, she patted the mattress next to her and said, "Jim, please?"
She watched as, puzzled, he walked to the side of the bed and slowly sat down on the edge. She placed her hand on his thigh and, feeling the muscles tremble beneath her fingers, said, "I think we need to talk."
Even with the moon bathing the room in pale silver and the aid of sentinel sight, Jim turned on the bedside lamp.
"Talk? Is everything all right?" he asked, concern evident in both his voice and expression.
Propping herself up on one hand, she said with a smile, "No, everything isn't all right, but if we're honest with each other tonight, maybe we can make it right."
She gently put a finger to his lips. "Let me talk." Megan sat up then and rested against the headboard. She took Jim's hand and held it between both of her own. "When I woke up just a few minutes ago, I watched you, and it seemed, after a moment, that you weren't alone."
Again she stopped him, this time by squeezing his hand. "Sandy was standing next to you, Jim."
Eyes on his face, she let her words sink in, then just when he was about to speak, she went on. "I saw him, or should I say, an image of him, and I realized he was standing right where he was meant to be... by your side."
"Megan, I don't think partners are supposed to come along on honeymoons. I mean, granted, Sandburg and I have been pretty close, but trust me; both of us draw the line at--"
He stopped and looked at her, looked hard, then said, "What?"
"Just listen, okay?"
Frowning, he nodded.
"When Roger and I broke up, I was really feeling the loss. Not because I was madly in love with the man, I wasn't. But I was thirty-five and a cop, and I wanted love. I wanted to be in love, get married, and... I wanted a child. Hell, Jim, I wanted a life. A life that consisted of more than being one of the guys in Major Crime. I know the sisterhood will probably hang me from a cross, but there it is. I was lonely and feeling as though life as a woman was passing me by.
"Then we went out after that bust, and damn it, you were so charming and funny and you were so lonely and hiding all your guilt about Sandy by being so charming and funny, and we both had way too much to drink--"
This time it was Jim who touched a finger to Megan's lips. "Hey, I was there, remember?"
She recaptured his hand and surprised herself by kissing his palm. "Jim, you're a wonderful man, but I'm not in love with you and we both know you're not in love with me. We made a mistake in trying to do what was supposedly right. Can we admit that up front?"
"Megan, this will work, it will work. The baby needs a mother and a father, it will work."
"It won't, Jim, because it doesn't need to. We're not living in the middle ages, you know? I can have this baby without being married and you can be its father without being my husband. Don't you think that three happy people can raise this baby better than two very miserable people?"
She waited for the quarter to drop into the slot and when it did, when she saw a glimmer of understanding enter Jim's eyes, she said a mental "ka-ching".
"Three people?" he asked. "Three?"
"Come on, Jim. Think about it. Who do you really belong with? Hell, who do you belong to?"
Jim's eyes narrowed as he stared at Megan. She looked damn smug. She also looked happy. Very happy. Happier than he'd seen her in weeks. And she looked free.
"Jim, you know I'm right. You know it. You and I together, we're a mistake, but you and Sandy together, that's gold. Can't you see it? I'm not afraid anymore because I can see the three of us raising this baby."
She took his hand and placed it on her stomach. "Our baby, yes; parents, yes, but we don't need to be husband and wife to raise this child with all our love. But I'm thinking we do need to be happy. Am I wrong?"
For the first time in several months, the fog that had surrounded him, lifted. The air around him was clearer than he could ever remember experiencing and his senses seemed razor sharp. From deep within Megan's body, he could feel the second heartbeat....
Eyes on his hand, he said, "Everyone's going to think we're crazy."
"Our friend's will understand, Jim, and isn't that all that's important?"
"So what, we go home now and get a divorce?"
Placing her hand on top of his, she said with a smile, "We're not eligible for a divorce, Jimbo. We get to go for the very embarrassing annulment."
One eyebrow arched, and suddenly both of them were laughing easily. When Megan caught her breath, she smiled up at him and said, "Friends again?"
"Friends," Jim agreed. He put out his hand and chuckled when she shook it.
"Why don't you turn off that light and come to bed, Jim? Tomorrow, we'll see about catching the first flight home."
Somehow, it seemed very right. Jim turned off the light and crawled into bed beside Megan. It was also right when he took her into his arms and kissed the top of her head.
"Thank you," he whispered.
Wrapping her arms around him, she murmured, "I think Sandy will make a great dad, don't you?"
Giving an exaggerated sigh, Megan placed her hand on Jim's jiggling leg. "We'll be home soon, Jim. Relax."
"I'm relaxed. I'm...just fine."
"Oh, yeah, sure you are."
"How did the call to your parents go? And I still think you should have let us tell them together. It would have been the right thing to do."
"Oh, no, Jimmy boy, it would most certainly not have been the right thing to do. Mom cried, dad got angry, and they both decided to stay with me until the baby is born."
"Shit, I knew--"
"Jim, they're fine now. Trust me; they'll get over their hatred of you in time."
"Was that supposed to make me feel better?"
Megan gave a ladylike shrug, then laughed out loud and said, "We are a pair, aren't we?"
"Please, let's not go there, all right?"
She laughed again, the sound young and free. Jim had to smile in response. She pushed some hair away from her face with her left hand, and Jim found himself staring at the now ring-less finger. They'd both, by some kind of unspoken agreement, taken off their wedding rings before leaving for the airport back in Maui. Now as he stared at her hand, she said, "What about your call to Sandy?"
He shifted his gaze away from her and his leg started jiggling again. "I didn't ... haven't... called him."
The relaxed atmosphere melted away.
"Jim, you need to call him. This time, you need to call him."
"What do you mean, 'this time'?" Jim asked, his eyes on the floor.
"You know damn well what I mean."
"Pregnant women shouldn't swear."
"You get the fuck up and call him. Now."
"The baby's first words are going to be--"
"I don't know... how. And don't go all Freudian on me, I just mean... I need to see him in person, watch his eyes, his expressions. That's how I'll know."
"Bullshit. Number one, you know now. Number two, even if you're unsure, you'll know the moment you hear his voice. You're a detective and, in case you've forgotten, a sentinel. Phone him now."
Raising his eyes to hers, and smiling broadly, Jim said, "You know, I think I'll go phone Sandburg. Give him a heads up, you know?"
Jim stood up and as he pulled some change out of his pocket, he said, "You sound just like him."
"Who?" Megan said innocently. "Dick or Sandy?"
Blair jogged in place as he fitted the key into the lock, turned it, and pushed the door open. He moved in, legs still pumping restlessly. Dropping the keys on the table, he jogged into the bathroom and finally stopped his seemingly never-ending movement. He plucked a towel from the rack and wiped down his face and neck, then with the towel still in hand, walked into the kitchen and took a cold water from the fridge. Leaning against the counter, he twisted off the top and took several gulps, letting the water dribble down his chin. It felt good.
Tuesday had been as boring as Monday, and Simon didn't have Blair's hangover to use as an excuse. Two new cases had come in and both had been assigned elsewhere. Blair hadn't missed the looks shot his way. Funny now that he'd decided to stay, Simon seemed hesitant to pair him off, or send him out on the street. Okay, it had only been two days, but still, it was weird. He'd skipped the gym after work, choosing instead to come straight home in order to change into his running clothes and go for another long run.
Finally cooling down, he glanced over at the phone and spotted the blinking red light. Curious, he walked over and punched the button.
"Now is the time to buy a home. Interest rates have never been lower--"
Rolling his eyes, Blair pushed the 'skip message' button.
"This is Doctor Harrington's office calling to remind Mr. Blair Sandburg that it's time for his--"
Blair punched again.
"Chief? Yeah, it's me. Meaning... Jim. Look, I'm at LAX and our flight takes off in an hour. If you get home in time, call me at--"
There was a pause and Blair could almost see Jim looking for the number on the pay phone.
"Okay, call me at 626, 938, 8320. I'll be standing by until six." There was another pause, then, "It's... important, buddy."
With a flutter of panic in his stomach, Blair looked over his shoulder at the clock in the kitchen. Two minutes to six. Hand shaking, he snatched up the phone and punched in the numbers Jim had provided. The phone at the other end rang exactly once.
Closing his eyes and taking a deep breath, Blair said easily, "Hey, man, yeah. What's up? And what do you mean LAX?"
Blair could hear the sounds of the airport in the background, including a tinny voice announcing United flight 626 to Cascade, and finally... Jim's voice.
"That's our flight, Chief. Look, I have a lot to tell you. We're due to get in around ten. I mean, get in there, Cascade. Will you pick us up?"
"Is everything all right?"
"Oddly enough, yeah. Will you--"
"I'll be there, Jim. I'll be there."
Another pause, then, "Blair, I have to go, but... not without telling you... I...love... you. I know it doesn't make sense right now, but believe me, it will. Megan is all right, I'm all right, and... I'll... be home. I'm coming... home."
Blair felt his face flush and his eyes burn. He nodded his head, then realizing that not even Jim could see that, said, "I'll be there."
"I know, buddy, I know," Jim said softly. "Gotta go. See you in a few hours."
"Yeah, Jim. Yeah."
He heard a quick intake of breath before Jim hung up. Slowly Blair returned the phone to the cradle.
Jim was coming home.
The trip from Maui to Los Angeles had been uneventful, with Megan sleeping through the first half the flight, and the two of them talking, firming up decisions, and sharing their thoughts the rest of the time.
The flight from Los Angeles to Cascade had proven equally uneventful as they'd continued their talk. Now as the plane touched down, Jim gave a mental laugh. Since hearing Sandburg's voice, he'd been on pins and needles, certain that something would go wrong, like the plane developing mechanical difficulties, or getting hijacked by some crazy guy who just had to go Pocatello, Idaho. But nothing had happened.
He gave another mental chuckle. After all, this wasn't a movie, or some silly piece of fiction where the star-crossed lovers would be torn from each other's grasp just as they'd found their way back to each other. Right?
On the other hand... Blair Sandburg was out there alone, and he had to make it to the airport. A forty-five minute drive. And this was the guy who routinely ran amuck.
The plane rolled to a stop and people started to move. He got out of his seatbelt, stepped into the aisle, and took their bags down from the overhead compartment. Once he had everything, he stepped back just enough to allow Megan to step in front of him.
With bodies pushing and shoving, but not moving yet, he leaned in close and whispered, "You okay?"
"Just dandy. But you'd best know now, I'm starved. As in 'this is a pregnant woman, feed her' starved."
Smiling, Jim said, "That kind of works with the idea of you and I sitting down with Blair, if you know what I mean? Might as well do it over food."
"Now you're talking, Jimbo."
Blair had been standing at the window since his arrival an hour earlier. He hadn't moved a muscle. The airport was quieting down as the hour drew later, and Blair was glad Jim and Megan were coming in on a late flight. He spotted what might be their plane, and watched with a pounding heart as it turned and rolled slowly to his gate. They were here, they were safe. He moved away and as close to the gate as he was allowed to get. One of the United employees walked over and opened the door. By craning his neck, he could see the long walkway leading from the plane to ... him.
Refusing to give in to his hopes, the hopes fostered by Jim's call, he nevertheless started bouncing on the balls of his feet. He'd know the moment he set eyes on both of them. He'd know.
The first people off the plane started down the walkway and Blair licked his lips. He wondered idly if he should have called Simon.
He spotted Megan first. She was smiling, looked good, but his eyes were drawn to the man behind her.
Their gazes locked on each other, because in spite of a hand on Megan's back, Jim was focused on seeing only one thing; Blair.
Blair saw Jim's lips move and he knew he was telling Megan that he'd spotted him. Hating the fact that he had to look away from Jim, but knowing he needed to see Megan's expression now, he flicked his gaze to her. Her smile broadened. Then she lifted her left hand to wave, but the wave was... odd. All Blair could see was the back of her--
Blair's heart dropped to his feet.
His gaze flew back to Jim... who was smiling just as broadly, his pale blue eyes fixed on him.
A moment later Megan was hugging him.
"Oh, Sandy, it's so good to see you. So very good," she murmured into his ear. She held him away from her and said, "We're going to eat dinner so the three of us can talk. How 'bout Gennero's? They're open til midnight."
Looking over her shoulder at Jim, Blair stammered, "I...I--"
Jim reached out, took his arm, and pulled him around Megan. Against all the odds, Blair was being hugged by his partner. Hugged hard, Jim's face resting against the side of his head, his arms holding tight.
They might have stood like that forever, but Megan said happily, "Hey, starving woman here."
What happened next left Blair wondering if he'd crossed into the Twilight Zone. Jim laughed, pulled Blair to his side, and with one arm around Blair, he reached out and slid the other one around Megan's waist. "We can't have that, now can we? Let's go eat. Where are you parked, Chief?"
Stammering seemed to be his new method of communication.
"Great, so not too far to walk. Let's claim our luggage, then eat," Jim said happily.
With Jim's arms around both of them, they headed down to the baggage claim. The overnight bag slung over Jim's right shoulder kept thumping into Blair, but he couldn't have cared less.
The bags were in the trunk and Megan was in the back seat with the two overnight bags. As Jim slid into the passenger seat, he said, "Are we ready?"
Blair figured he'd stammered enough, so this time, he simply nodded and started the engine.
Fifty minutes later, he was parking in front of Gennero's, and fifteen minutes after that, all three were seated in a corner table, their orders given. Jim and Blair were enjoying a nice glass of burgundy while Megan had her Perrier.
Blair looked from one to the other, took another sip of wine, then said, "You're not really tan."
Okay, not the best opener, but it beat, "So Jim, you love me, huh?"
Jim glanced over at Megan, and both looked back at Blair and smiled. Megan lifted her glass and held it up. When Jim did the same, Blair realized a toast was coming up, so he followed suit.
With eyes sparkling in the candle light, Megan said, "To the three of us." She touched Jim's glass and waited. In the dark about the toast, but trusting the love he could see in Megan's eyes, a love directed at him, Blair joined them. After they'd taken their sip, Megan said, "You want me to go first, Jim?"
A bit of color tinged the older man's cheeks, which nearly floored Blair, but then Jim nodded and said, "Might be best. You're considerably better at words than I am."
"Jim, Dopey is better at words than you."
Blair couldn't contain the laughter that burst forth. "Oh, man, she's got you pegged, Jim." He then drew an imaginary '1' in the air.
"Yeah, yeah, make fun of the conversationally challenged, Sandburg. You're turn will come."
"Boys?" Megan interrupted. "Can I get on with it?"
Jim nodded sheepishly, then with a mischievous grin, he started whistling the theme from the Brady Bunch. Megan drew her finger across her throat and Jim shut up, but he was still smiling. Blair figured whatever was going to be said, had to be good news. Right?
"Blair, I'm pregnant."
Death seemed a good idea right now.
Blair's vision darkened and he could have sworn that his heart had stopped beating, but then... he'd done that before, so maybe it was beating after all.
"...Jim and I are getting an annulment."
Like an ancient computer being fed too much information, Blair was about to shut down. But then Megan was talking again, and Blair tried to listen, but it seemed pretty complicated until Megan got to the part about how she and Jim didn't love one another, and how they'd both tried to do the right thing, but that what they'd tried to do was actually the wrong thing because Jim actually loved Blair and Megan didn't love anyone, but everyone loved the baby and then things got pretty simple.
If Blair had heard correctly, apparently he and Jim and Megan were about to become, in a little under eight months, parents. He didn't exactly get that part, since as far as he knew, he'd played no part in conceiving the baby, although he had kissed Megan once. It seemed to him that the best he could hope for was uncle. Or maybe... some kind of step-dad?
"...that's it, Sandy."
That's it? Oh, okay, that's it. He swallowed his entire glass of wine, which he refilled first. When he was done, he filled it again, and emptied it again.
"I think I'll be driving you home, Megan," Jim announced quietly.
Blair thought that was an understatement.
Jim stood on the sidewalk with Megan and asked again, "Are you sure you don't want me to come in with you?"
With a glance toward the Volvo, Megan said, "No, no, I'm sure. You get Sandy home, and we'll talk tomorrow. We still have to explain things to Simon and maybe by tomorrow," she indicated the slumped body in the front passenger seat of the Volvo, "he'll be feeling better and we can talk."
"All right, if you're sure." For a moment, Jim didn't move. He continued to stand on the sidewalk, his eyes focused on Megan. Finally, he said, "Our decision seemed pretty simple back on Maui, didn't it?"
"Yes, it did. But then, there were only two of us." She glanced down at her tummy and amended, "Okay, two and one-sixteenth. Now there are three and--"
"One-sixteenth," Jim said with a wry smile.
"Yeah. And tomorrow, well tomorrow, there'll be even more. But you know what, Jim? Ultimately, it really comes down to us. You and me. And doing what's right for both of us."
They were both quiet for several seconds, then Jim said softly, "Not the best honeymoon on record, was it?"
Megan was about to respond with a flippant answer, but then the detective in her dissected Jim's words ... and the real meaning behind them. Gripping his arm, she stepped in close and said in a soft voice, "Jim, it was the best honeymoon the two of us could have had. We learned something important, and we had the guts to do something about what we learned. How many people can say that?"
Smiling in the darkness, Jim said, "You know, Connor, I take back every bad thing I ever said about you. To paraphrase a very wise man, 'Not much meat on you, but what's there is cherce.'"
"I resemble that remark," she answered with a grin.
"Yes, you do." He leaned over and kissed her cheek. "Good night, the ex-Mrs. Ellison."
"Talk in the morning, after you and Sandy... you know, talk."
With a slight wave, she turned and headed up the walkway to her front door. The porch light came on but the door didn't open. Must be a motion sensor. Jim was glad. No way could he have faced either of Megan's parents tonight, coward that he was.
He turned around and started for the car.
Jim slid in behind the steering wheel and started the engine.
"Megan all right?"
Turning on the headlights and putting the Volvo into gear, Jim said, "Yeah, she's fine."
"I take it her parent's know?"
"Yep. We called them before we left Maui. They hate me."
Eyes straight ahead, Blair said, "You wronged their baby girl. They'll get over it."
The reaction was immediate. Jim swung back to the curb and shut off the car, then turned in his seat. "Is that what you think I did?"
Blair looked down at his legs and started to rub at his jeans. "I don't know, Jim. I went away, I came back, and Simon's first words were something along the lines of how I could now get involved in the whole wedding scene."
Jim expelled his breath, closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead. Jesus, what a mess.
"Chief... look, let me get us home, then... I'll tell you everything, all right?"
The urgency that was driving Jim to get home as fast as humanly possible didn't override his common sense. He drove like a good cop should. After five minutes, he put the red light on the roof and floored it. He managed not to look at Sandburg.
He made it home in record time. With a nonchalance that belied the fear coiling around his intestines like some kind of parasite, he pulled the light from the roof, stored it under the seat, and said, "You coming, Chief?"
They got out, and together, carried Jim's luggage into the building, up the stairs, and into number 307.
The door snicked shut behind them and Jim set his bag down and watched as Blair did the same. He handed the keys to Blair and looked around his -- Blair's -- home.
Everything looked the same. Shouldn't that be wrong? Jim scratched the back of his head -- and it hit him.
His stuff. All of his things, other than what was in the luggage at his feet, was at Megan's. Damn, they'd forgotten all about that. They'd discussed a million and one things, everything from what religion to raise the baby, to what god damned diapers to use (they'd both agreed to use Pampers, knowing damn well that Blair would make them use cloth) but forgotten his things.
Okay, so why did the place look so damn normal? It took him a minute, then he had it. Sure, he'd packed some books and cd's, a few photos and such, but the majority of 'things' that dressed up number 307, Prospect Avenue, Cascade, Washington, belonged to Sandburg. Upstairs, in his bedroom, that's where he'd find the lack of him.
Something waving in front of his face forced him to refocus. It was Blair's snapping fingers.
"Earth to Jim?"
"I'm here, Sandburg. I was just looking around."
"You got a dollar, Jim?"
He blinked and looked down at Sandburg, a frown on his face. "What?"
Blair snapped his fingers again, then wiggled his fingers. "Give me a buck, man."
Not knowing exactly why he was actually doing what Blair asked, he nevertheless dug into his pocket, pulled out his wallet, then slid out a dollar bill and handed it over.
"Now the loft is yours again," Blair said as he tucked the money into his pocket.
"Why don't I rent from you for awhile?"
Blair was in the process of taking off his jacket at that, and he paused, one arm still in its sleeve. "Excuse me?"
"Why don't I rent from you? Until... well, until you're comfortable with everything."
"Jim, I never paid you rent," Blair said with a wiggle of his head.
"Chief, it was the thought that counted."
"I never thought about it, Jim. Not once."
Jim's eyes narrowed. "Not even once?"
Blair gave a little eloquent shrug and smiled, his first real smile of the evening. "What can I say, man? You were a pushover."
Giving Blair a roll of his eyes that spoke volumes about his patience and forbearance where Sandburg was concerned, Jim said, "Have you ever noticed that in times of trouble, we have the most inane conversations?"
Blair's eyes widened innocently. "No, Jim, I never noticed that."
"O-kay, is there a chance in hell that we might sit down and discuss everything?"
Blair cocked his head and said in all seriousness, "Is that what you really want to do?"
Sensing a turn in the tide, Jim stepped close, nodded, and said softly, "Yes, Chief, that's what I want to do. Almost more than anything."
At the earnestness of Jim's gaze, Blair looked away and ran his fingers nervously through his hair. "I guess... yeah, we could sit down and talk. Probably need to, eh?"
"Yeah, we need to, Chief."
Jim took Blair's arm and guided him over to the couch. He sat him down and took up residence so close to Sandburg that he was almost in his lap. Not an easy feat. "Okay," he said, taking Blair's hand, "obviously I should start."
"That's my Jim, always thinking."
With an eyebrow raised, Jim said, "Remember that, Sandburg, it's important."
"What, that you're always thinking?"
"No, that I'm yours."
Blair slipped his hand out of Jim's and abruptly stood. "Now see, there you go. Hello? Married man here, you know? Annulment aside."
"Sandburg, would you just sit down, shut up, give me back your hand, and let me say what I need to say?"
Blair sat back down, but grudgingly. He also held out his hand, which Jim took and enfolded into his own. "Good. Okay, so, you go off to the academy, a move that I doubted you really wanted to do, but thanks to everything that happened, you had no choice--"
"Bull puckey, Jim."
"You really need to watch your language, Sandburg. And you didn't have a choice--"
"Did too. Could have gone back to school, albeit, not back to Rainier. Could have taught. Could have sued, could have done a good many things, but hello, I chose to be a cop, something I'd been doing, coincidentally, for the last three years."
"Yes, well, I never said I was smart."
Another roll of eyes, then, "Okay, so I'm miserable, feeling guilty, I can't call you, thanks to a promise made, but I'm certain you're going to be miserable and treated like shit, and I can't do a damn thing about it. Meanwhile, Megan is back on duty full time, and she'd just broken up with some guy and is feeling pretty lousy herself. We're paired together, solve a case, bite each other's heads off, then decide to celebrate and drown our miseries over dinner."
Jim paused and, for the first time, found that he couldn't look at Blair. He concentrated on their hands.
"We drank too much, both of us smart enough to realize it, but not smart enough to avoid any complications because of it. We took a taxi to her place, managed to get inside in spite of Megan and her purse having a discussion about hiding her keys again, then we stumbled over to the couch."
"You know, I really don't have to hear this part, Jim. And Megan doesn't need me to hear this part--"
"Wrong, Chief. You do need to hear it, and Megan and I... she insisted, okay?"
Blair waved his other hand, his free hand, and said, "Sure, sure, fine, go ahead, whatever."
"Sandburg, it's not like I'm going into any detail here, okay?"
"You don't want to hear this, do you? Any of it?"
Blair was up and walking in an instant.
"Gee, gosh, pardon me all to hell and back. Two enlightened, smart, savvy ADULTS get drunk and do the deed, evidently without protection, and surprise, surprise, one of them comes up pregnant. Being the good adults that they are, they conceal the truth from friends, family, co-workers -- partners -- and they announce they're going to get married. Did I mention the part about how said two smart, savvy ADULTS could barely STAND to be AROUND each other? Did I mention that part?"
Jim sat back. Blair was in his, "tear out my hair, don't you dare try to stop me from talking" mode.
This was going to take awhile.
"Then you wing your way to Maui on a dream honeymoon," he whirled on Jim, "and NO ONE missed the surf board or golf clubs, Jim, and how MANY days later does the stupid, asshole, ignorant partner receive a phone message from you saying that you're coming home?" He waved two fingers in the air. "TWO days, man. TWO FUCKING DAYS. And you say all this...this... STUFF to me and like a freaking wind-up doll, off I go to pick you two lovebirds up at the airport. Then over dinner, MEGAN, not YOU, drops the bombshell." His voice rose to a high feminine squeak as he said, "Oh, gee, Sandy, I'm pregnant and Jim and I are getting an annulment.'"
As suddenly as the rant had started, it was over. Jim watched as all the steam left Blair's body and he sank down into the yellow chair. He was about to say something to Blair, to try to help him, when Blair leaned forward, rested his elbows on his knees, and ran his hands through his hair in a nervous, wiped out gesture.
"Shit," he mumbled, "man, oh, man, Jim, I didn't mean to say any of that, had no right to say any of it. What happened between you and Megan is none of my God damned business. I know that. If I can't understand two people getting caught up in the moment, who the hell can, huh? Tell me that? You think I was conceived by two aware people? Get real."
Blair lifted his head and, without looking at Jim, stood up. "This is just... like... it hits too close to home, you know? But you and Megan are adults, and ultimately, you made some brave decisions and that baby is damn lucky, Jim. It will have you as its father and you're going to make a great dad."
Jim's emotions crawled to the surface and he felt his eyes burning with them. Before he could act, before he could get up, Blair started talking again.
"Maybe tonight isn't the best time to talk after all, you know? You have to be exhausted, and I'm not... at my best, you know? How 'bout we try this again tomorrow? I'll call Simon, and--"
Blair looked so lost, Jim did the only thing he could. He stood up and took the younger man in his arms. As he held him, he rested his head against Blair's and said, "I wanted to tell you, Chief, I swear I did. There were moments, days, when it took every ounce of strength I had not to call. But damn it," he closed his eyes and tightened his grip, "hadn't I done enough to you? Weren't you going through hell already? Did I really need to burden you with my mistake? God, don't you get it yet? I was about to do something that would end any dreams I had of being with you, and even though I didn't admit that, I knew it deep down where it counted. But I couldn't not ask Megan to marry me when she told me she was pregnant, Chief. There was never any question that it was mine."
He finally paused, realizing that he was talking like Sandburg; all words, no breathing. He took a couple of deep breaths, lifted his head to peer down at his partner, and added, "God, I never once thought about you and Naomi, Chief. It just didn't seem--"
"To be the same thing?" Blair asked quietly.
"Yeah, I guess so. The way you explained it, you didn't think Naomi even knew who the -- who--"
"My father was," Blair finished for him. "It's okay, Jim. I guess this whole evening has been kind of strange, you know?"
They were still standing in each other's arms, Jim having no intention of letting go. Now he moved his hand to cup the back of Blair's head and gave a gentle push until the younger man was resting against him. "I know, believe me, I know. I had no idea that Connor would be...so blunt."
Blair's question was muffled, but Jim heard it clearly, and he grinned. "Good point."
Blair pushed away then, and with hands on Jim's forearms, asked, "How did you two go from a honeymoon in Maui, to coming home, getting an annulment, and telling... me?"
"Megan is a pretty smart woman, Chief. She figured out quite a few things about us, herself, about... you and I, and here we are." He reached out and touched Blair's jaw, then added, "We know it's going to be rough, that family and friends are going to be shocked, maybe even angry, but Megan and I knew we had to do this, that ultimately it was right for everyone concerned, including the baby. And our real friends... they'll understand."
"So what happens now?"
"That's the question, isn't it? Megan and I were only able to plan so much, the rest is kind of up to you. She has this vision of the three of us raising the baby, and I gotta tell you, Chief, I'm right there with her."
"And when Megan meets some guy? Falls head over heels, and he isn't right there with this plan?"
"Megan wants to draw up an agreement, to protect us. A custody agreement."
Blair stepped away, out of reach of Jim's touch. "You can't let that happen, Jim. No custody agreement."
"I don't plan to, Chief," Jim answered softly. "I kind of figured you'd feel that way, what with the whole Naomi-mother thing. So we're taking a risk," he cocked his head, "a risk we're willing to take, Chief?"
Blair squinted his eyes and said, "We could be very hurt, Jim."
"Part of that risk, Blair."
"I'm not really worried about me, but you? You're bound to go all fatherly and throw yourself into this and then--"
Jim placed his hand over Blair's mouth and said, "We gotta trust here, Chief. We don't have a choice."
Blair nipped the tender flesh of Jim's palm and when the older man yanked his hand back, Blair grinned. "Always wanted to do that."
Jim scrutinized his hand, "Geez, Chief."
"Get real, I barely touched you. Under other circumstances, that would have been erotic."
"Yeah, well, we haven't got to those 'other' circumstances yet." He held out his hand, palm up, and said, "But you could get us headed in the right direction by, maybe, kissing it and making it better?"
Blair moaned and rolled his eyes.
Blair stared at the hand being held out to him. Three fourths of him wanted to take it and suck those slender fingers for all he was worth, but the other fourth, the fourth that actually used his northern brain, wasn't up to the game plan. True, he was actually beginning to feel better about babies, weddings, and annulments, and it was obvious that Megan and Jim had discussed a great deal, some of it even in great depth. He certainly couldn't deny that Jim and Megan had made a very courageous decision and Blair was just selfish enough to acknowledge the fact that the decision-making process had included him, and Jim's feelings about him.
He still wasn't sure about the whole "Jim and Blair and Megan raising the baby" thing, but he couldn't fault the wisdom of not remaining married. One thing he'd never got around to telling Jim was the primary reason his own mother had left home at such an early age. No, two miserable people in a marriage was a recipe for disaster and unhappiness all around.
He still wasn't absolutely certain of his place in this strange, new-age threesome, but damn, the parts of him that used his southern brain were telling him to shut the fuck up and worry about it in the morning.
The southern brain won. Evidently the South was rising again. Three cheers for the South.
With a sly grin, Blair took Jim's hand and proceeded to nip his palm again.
Surprised, but not pulling his hand away this time, Jim said, "So we're moving onto those other circumstances, are we?"
"Looks like, Jim."
"So you're all right with everything?"
"I didn't say that. I said we're moving on. I'm guessing there's still a lot to do, and to talk about, and at some point, Megan's gonna have to be included, but right now? I don't care. Right now, I'm not about to look a gift-Jim in the mouth. Scratch that. I fully intend to do a great deal with your mouth. And your fingers," Blair licked up the inside of Jim's index finger, "and your legs, and your ass, and your--"
"This would be a good time for less talk and way more action, Sandburg."
Blair sucked Jim's index finger into his mouth. Jim groaned, moved in closer, and with his other hand, stroked gently up the left side of Blair's face. He bent his head tentatively and Blair let the finger slip from his mouth in anticipation of the kiss he knew was coming. Jim paused and Blair rose up on the balls of his feet to meet Jim halfway. He canted his head to the side a bit and smiled almost shyly. He'd kissed a good many men and women in his time, but this, this was... Jim.
Jim framed his face with both his hands, and their lips met.
Sweet and agonizingly slow, their first kiss seemed to epitomize their voyage to this moment. Then, like their lives working together in the last three years, the kiss changed to urgent and probing.
Blair was aware of every moment of the kiss, of how Jim felt, how the scent of his aftershave enveloped him, how Jim's mouth was a mixture of their dinner, the wine, and Jim, and how it felt to be so thoroughly kissed, kissed as only a sentinel ... and Jim, could kiss.
The kiss had to end, and when it did, Blair looked up with passion-darkened eyes and into the unbelievably unfocused gaze of Jim's. He managed to grin, then reach up and plant a series of small kisses along Jim's jaw. As he did, Jim buried his nose in Blair's hair and murmured, "Love you, love you, love you--"
The words flew overhead, then took a nose-dive and painlessly entered Blair's skin. From there, the words, and the emotion behind them, drove straight to his heart. His knees wobbled and turned to jelly. A strong arm around his waist kept him standing as they moved clumsily upstairs.
Once there, they got as much clothing off as necessary, then hit the bed. They rolled into each other, and just as Blair was about to get another kiss going, Jim reared up, sniffed, then looked around.
"Sandburg? I don't smell you up here, I smell... Simon?"
"I...never... I couldn't, you know... couldn't sleep here. The other night, Simon and I... we kind of had a long talk, and got better, or worse, thanks to your Jamison's, and he, you know, stayed. Did I mention that I turned in my resignation?"
Jim sat up. "Excuse me? You resigned?"
"Well, yeah, sort of. But don't worry, Simon didn't exactly accept it. We... came to an understanding."
It was evidently Jim's turn to pace. Getting up, wearing only his open white shirt and his shorts, he started doing an excellent imitation of Blair.
"I get married, and bam, you resign?"
"Uh, Jim? You were... you and Homicide, remember? And sorry, but the idea of standing around and watching you be happy with Megan, well, pardon me all to heck."
Then Blair was up in only his tank top and shorts, doing his own pacing, his hands waving in the air.
"Pardon me if the idea of you in Homicide and me in Major Crime left me feeling less than... than... whatever. Pardon me if suddenly everything seemed so damned pointless, you know? And isn't it amazing how fast our dicks can lose interest?"
Jim stopped his pacing and shook his head like a bull in the ring. "Sandburg, I will never... you're...I guess we'd better talk some more, eh?" Exhaustion hit him then and he walked over to the bed and sank down. "Sandburg, maybe tonight, maybe we should just get some sleep and pick this up in the morning?"
Blair stopped his pacing. "Oh. Right. All day in the air." He raked his fingers through his hair, then head bent, he started for the stairs.
As Blair passed Jim, the older man reached out his arm and snagged the leg of Blair's shorts. The action yielded two rather nice results: Blair's shorts slipped down enough to reveal a nice hip and a lovely stretch of pale butt, and of course, his action stopped Blair's movement.
"Whoa, buddy," Jim said with a grin, eyes planted firmly on the expanse of flesh showing, "where do you think you're going?"
Blair twisted enough to look down at Jim's fingers wrapped around the material of his shorts, and said, "My room. Duh."
"I don't think so, Sandburg. This is your room. This is our room. You sleep here, with me, from this day forward, no matter what."
Slipping out of Jim's grasp, Blair turned to face him, his expression one of outrage. "Wait, you want us to sleep together... without sleeping together?"
"Are you nutso? Look, you may be approaching the big 4-0 with a libido to match, but man, I'm in my prime, you know? I still have a libido and if you think I could get into that bed," he pointed a shaking hand at the suddenly offensive object, "with," his finger moved to indicate Jim, "that body and do nothing but sleep? You are so ready for Happy Dale Farm, man."
Jim couldn't help it. He tried, but he just... couldn't... help... it.
He started laughing.
It was a tribute to Sandburg and his ability to see the humor in himself that the younger man sat down next to Jim and joined him.
Catching his breath, Jim finally said, "I have just as much libido as the next guy, Sandburg, and I seriously doubt that I could get into this bed," he put his index finger in the middle of Blair's chest, "with this body and just sleep."
"So that whole, 'let's just go to sleep' shtick was what, a come-on? One of the famous Ellison lines?"
"Well, ye-ah. But how was I to know you'd actually go downstairs? I mean, damn, Sandburg."
"Okay, so what we're saying here is that once you got me into 'the bed', you'd have seduced me? Have I got that right?"
"Um, well, yeah, yeah, that's what I would have done."
"I see." Blair pondered his toes, then with the kind of energy reminiscent of those first months Jim had known him, Blair jumped up, threw himself onto the bed, crawled under the covers, took quite a bit of time to get himself settled, then said, "Well okay then, seduce me. Show me your stuff, Casanova. Bring it on."
Hiding his grin, Jim buried his face in his hands and moaned, "Oh, the pressure, Sandburg. The pressure."
Biting down on a smile, Blair inched forward and slid his hand under Jim's waistband. "You know, I could help relieve that pressure, Jim."
Looking up, then down, Jim squeaked out, "Hey, who's seducing whom, Chief?"
All patience gone, Sandburg muttered, "Oh for crying--" then he grabbed Jim, pulled him back down and promptly straddled him. "Geez, but you're slow."
Blair attacked Jim's mouth in the same way he attacked life; head on, full steam ahead, and with all the energy at his command. This was no tentative, explorative first kiss, this was a claiming, a branding that burned through to Jim's soul. Hell, he was being seduced. Hot damn.
O-kay, being seduced was very nice, but Jim really, really, really needed to do something here, like -- seduce right back. He brought his hand up and slipped it between Blair's waistband and heated skin, then began to knead the soft, silky flesh. He wasn't prepared for Blair's reaction. Blair nearly choked. Then he pushed himself up gave Jim the evil eye.
"What are you doing?"
Wicked grin in place, Jim pushed Blair's shorts down as far as he could. "You're playing with my mouth, I'm playing with your ass."
Blair thought about that for a minute, then said easily, "Okay." He promptly went back to kissing Jim.
This was the life.
Blair lay on his stomach, lower limbs tangled in the sheet and blanket. Jim lay on his side, propped up by his left hand. He stroked his other hand idly up and down Blair's bare back, always stopping at the swell of the younger man's ass. It was a test of will power.
Blair groaned and turned his head to face Jim. One eye cracked open, and Blair smiled.
"Whaddya know, it was real."
Jim nodded as his hand continued to stroke lightly. "Yeah, it was real. We did it. We... slept together."
"You sleep good, Jim."
Jim lifted dark, still-damp hair from Blair's neck, leaned down to kiss the revealed skin, then whispered, "So do you, Chief. So do you."
Blair turned over, checked the clock on the nightstand, yawned, then said, "I have to get up in three hours, man."
Gaze focused on Blair's damp and curly hair, and said, "We could call Simon now, you know. Then do some more... sleeping. And Megan thinks we still need to really talk. You weren't exactly at your best last night."
Grinning, Blair captured Jim's hand and said, "I thought I was at my very best, Jim. My very, very, very best."
"Yeah, yeah, you were swell. But at dinner? Listening?"
"Swell? Just swell? A minute ago, I was--"
Jim abruptly sat up. "My God, you're in avoidance. Blair Sandburg is in avoidance." He swiped a hand back over his own damp head of hair and said, "I don't believe it."
Hiking himself up and resting against the railing, Blair shook his head. "Is this how it's going to be from now on? We move from loving passionate moments to arguments and mental health discussions?"
"Just when did we switch personalities, Sandburg? I'm the one who wants to talk and you're the one who wants to avoid? This is too weird."
"Believe it or not, Jim, I'm not avoiding anything. The truth is, no matter how much we talk, you and Megan are the parents. All decision- making rides with you two, not me. I'm a part of this only as much as I'm a part of you. You and Megan will be having a good many talks in the weeks and months to come, but you don't have to include me, okay?"
As Jim watched his friend and partner, Blair pulled the sheet up to his waist, then rubbed at his eyes. But before that beloved gaze was hidden by busy fingers, Jim glimpsed a depth of sadness he'd never seen before.
He had to think about this and think hard. Jim joined Blair, his back against the cold railing. Oddly enough, in spite of Blair's words, Jim had never felt more connected to Blair than he did now. He just wished he could understand him. Somehow, he intuitively knew that the key lay in Blair's past and childhood.
He turned his head to look at the object of his ruminations and was surprised to find Blair's eyes closed. He wasn't asleep by any means, and if the small frown creasing his brow was any indication--
Damn. Blair was afraid.
"You're afraid," he said gently.
Eyes still closed, Blair said, "Hell yeah. Lots of things to be afraid of. So?"
"So, I'm not the only one with fear based responses."
"Of course you are. If I were having a fear based response, I'd be gone. We wouldn't be here right now and we most certainly would not have done - what we did - last night. There's a big difference between working through, and with, your fears, as opposed to acting irrationally due to said fears."
"So what do you fear, Chief?" Jim asked softly, his voice, he hoped, holding all his love.
Blair waved his hand aimlessly in the air and said, "Oh, I don't know. I fear waking up some morning with straight hair, I fear that someday, I'll lose the ability to pull useless information out of my brain, and thus fail to dazzle Simon. Or that I might suddenly develop an unhealthy appetite for McDonald's, or that I'll wake up two inches shorter than my current five-seven, or with, God forbid, a dick two inches shorter than its impressive ten inches--"
Jim coughed politely.
"...or that one day, you'll discover what a fraud I am, and that you'll soon realize that me and babies are not one with this world and I'd make a lousy father and an equally lousy uncle, and there won't be anything between us but incredible sex and that won't be enough to sustain you, in spite of--"
"Your impressive dick length?"
"Sandburg, trust me when I say that I'd love you even with straight hair. Okay, losing two inches on your dick might be a problem, but I promise to try and love you even if you do wake up with less dick someday, okay?"
"You say that now, Jim, but in all reality--"
"In all reality, neither of us can know what the future holds, que sera sera and all that jazz, okay? But what I do know, is that while Megan and I struggle with this thing, you'll be leading the way. You'll make a great father, Sandburg. And a great friend, partner, lover, cook, and chief bottle washer. This I know. And I already know what a fraud you are, that you're really nothing but a bundle of insecurities, but," he turned and pulled Blair into his arms, "Chief, you and you alone can sustain me. I'm useless without you, and I wonder how you can not know that?"
Shifting enough so that his face wasn't plastered against Jim's chest, Blair said, "You keep believing that, Jim, and this relationship might just work." He kissed Jim on the chin and said, "Can we go to sleep now?"
"Yeah, Chief, sure. I'll call Simon later."
If Jim had been worried about whether or not his words had penetrated Blair's busy brain, the fact that he had to turn out the light with Blair still attached assuaged his worries. Smiling, he moved down, readjusted the covers, and settled in for a few hours of sleep.
Simon thought about taking a Lean Cuisine to work for lunch, concern for the encroaching middle-aged spread his motivation. But then the idea of having to listen to the jokes forced him to put the box back into the freezer. He'd get take-out -- maybe a salad.
The shrill ring of the phone took his mind off of green leafy things that did nothing for his healthy appetite. He really needed to get that damn ringer fixed.
//Simon, this is--"//
"Jim? Don't tell me terrorists have taken over Maui. Just don't tell me that."
//I'm... we're... back, Simon.//
"Excuse me? You and Megan are back? As in here? As in Cascade?"
//Yes, sir. Look, there's a great deal to tell you, and I'll get back to you later, maybe at lunch time? We could meet you? But right now-look, Simon, could you manage without Blair today?//
Everything Jim wasn't saying told Simon something serious was up. "We'll manage, Jim. Is Connor all right?"
//She's fine. What time would work? For lunch?//
Simon mentally reviewed his schedule. "One. At Doheny's. You're buying."
//Wouldn't have it any other way, Simon. Thanks. See you at one.//
Simon put the phone down, but kept his hand on it as he considered the strange phone call. Something was up, but finding out what would have to wait until one. Damn it.
Jim replaced the phone and ran back upstairs. The morning light coming through the closed shades cast a muted golden glow over the apartment and warmed Jim's soul with its sense of peace. As he hit the top of the stairs, he paused to look at Sandburg.
The man was still asleep, but like a dog who routinely takes over a bed once its owner leaves, he'd moved from his original position the moment Jim had left. He was now stretched out in the middle of the mattress, Jim's pillow hugged against his chest, his chin resting on the edge of the pillow. Jim grinned broadly. Three years of separate bedrooms had robbed him of this sight.
He moved to the side of the bed and stared down at his partner. This was like a Chinese puzzle. He was going to have to figure out a way to get back into bed without disturbing the mattress king.
This could be fun.
Jim continued buttering his toast as he repeated patiently, "I called Simon, asked him to excuse you today, arranged to meet him for lunch, then I checked in with Megan, told her about the lunch, and we're all meeting at Doheny's. One o'clock."
"You asked him to excuse me? Like, as in writing a letter to the teacher? 'Dear Mr. Banks, please excuse my lover from work today as we have a lot to talk about. Thank you for your consideration in this matter. Best regards, Jim Ellison.' ARE YOU NUTS?"
"Calm down and eat your breakfast, Sandburg. Simon's a detective and excels at reading between the lines. Now eat. Your eggs are getting cold."
Blair scratched his butt, looked at the plate Jim had set down for him, and felt his ire fading away. Damn it. Unwilling to give in just yet, he headed into the kitchen, pausing long enough to snag a piece of toast from the platter in the middle of the table. He bit down, then said, "Cold. Toast is cold."
"Have a piece of mine, Chief," Jim said as he held up his plate.
Grudgingly, Blair took an offered piece, and continued into the kitchen. Once there, he didn't know what to do so he ate the toast. When he was done, he looked with great yearning over at his plate of eggs. Damn, they looked good ... and full of chives too. Just the way he liked them. He just really hated the idea of Jim calling Simon for him. Geez, he wasn't a kid.
Suddenly he grinned. Wiping the of toast crumbs on his plaid robe, he walked back into the dining room and said, "If this little courtship ritual is supposed to--"
"Courtship, Sandburg? We're way beyond courtship now, little buddy."
Blair pulled out his chair and sat down. As he pulled his plate toward him and picked up his fork, he said, "I have news for you, Jim. The courtship of Blair Sandburg is never going to end for you."
Smiling, Jim said, "Damn, and all I thought it would take was a night of great -- sleep -- and chives in your eggs."
She didn't have a clue why she was spending so much time on her appearance. Megan leaned forward and checked out her teeth. Clean. Her make-up? Too much eye shadow? Blusher? Nervously, she fluffed her bangs, ran her tongue over her lips, glanced down at her blouse, then gave up. She looked fine. Great. Terrific. And her boobs were sore. Was that normal this early? The thought of sore breasts caused her to reach for the soda cracker on the counter. She munched her way back into her bedroom, picked up her purse, and still chewing, walked into the hall and almost into her mother.
"Ooops, sorry, Mom."
"So you're really doing this?" Bridget Connor asked, her disappointment audible to anyone within earshot.
Holding in her impatience, Megan nodded. "Yes, I'm really doing this."
"You do realize that once you tell Captain Banks, it's all over. It's real. There's no going back."
"Mom? No going back to what?"
"To your husband, that's what. He may be a no-good--"
Megan placed a finger on her mother's lips. "Mom, don't. It takes two people to get one of them pregnant... well... in most cases, anyway. And this was my decision. And it was the right decision and deep down, you know it. I want to be in love, Mom, and I want to be loved back, and someday, that may happen, but in the meantime, I'm going to have a baby, and my child will have a wonderful man as its father and..."
She let the words peter out. How many times in the last twenty-four hours had she said them? She closed her eyes and counted to ten.
When she opened them, her mother was still standing in front of her, only now, she was crying. God, she really didn't have time for this.
"You were... I just wanted... your father and I just want--"
"I know, Mom, I know. But please, have some faith, all right? Faith in my ability to know what's right and best for all concerned, okay?"
In an uncharacteristic move, her mother hugged her. Hard. Megan could barely move, let alone breathe. On the other hand, skipping a few breaths would be worth it if this meant final acceptance for her decision.
"All right," her mother finally said, pulling away and wiping at her eyes. "I guess... your father and I know that you did, you know, the right thing, but we had such dreams--"
"Guess what, Mom? At least one of those dreams will be coming true in less than eight months. You're finally going to be a grandmother," Megan offered with a smile.
A shaky return smile graced Bridget Connor's lovely, freckled Irish face. "You'll be a wonderful mother, Meggy. After all, look at the model?"
They shared a quiet laugh, then Bridget put her arm around her daughter's waist, and together, they walked out into the living room.
"An iced tea for now, thank you." Simon shook out the napkin and set it on his knee. He was early by better than ten minutes, but he'd figured he could use the time wisely, like figuring out what the heck was going on with Mr. and Mrs. James Ellison. The waitress returned and set down his tea, then turned to the table on his left.
Eyes roaming the restaurant, he took a sip and sighed in contentment. Just the way he liked it. Refreshing, slightly sweet, with lots of lemon.
"You must be having a good day, you're not drinking coffee, sir."
With a start, Simon twisted around and found himself staring up at Megan. Mrs. Ellison. He glanced over her shoulder and frowned. No Jim.
"He'll be here, Captain Banks. With Sandy."
His face cleared. "Ah. He swung by to pick up Sandburg?"
Megan slid in opposite and immediately scooted all the way around until she was next to Simon. As she placed her purse on the table, she said, "Is the tea good here? And is it herbal?"
Simon glanced down at the glass in his hand. "Um, herbal? I don't...do I drink herbal tea?"
"Doesn't everyone in Major Crime now?"
Before he could answer, Megan nodded in the direction of the front of the restaurant. "Here they come, sir."
Twisting around for the second time in five minutes, Simon spotted Jim and Blair as they entered the restaurant. As the two men approached, it hit Simon. Maybe it was because of his talk with Sandburg and his awareness of Blair's feelings, or maybe it was the way they were walking, with Jim ever so slightly behind his partner, his hand on Sandburg's lower back, Sandburg looking up at Jim. Whatever it was, Simon got it.
Of course, now that he had it, he didn't know what to do with it. He quickly turned back around and said, "He didn't pick Sandburg up, did he?"
Eyes focused solely on his face, Megan said, "No, sir, he didn't."
Simon glanced down at her left hand. Her ring-less left hand.
"Good God, what has Sandburg done?"
"Simon's figured it out."
"Well, he is a captain--wait. He figured it out from just looking at... us?"
"Shit, I've got to work on my expressions, or something." As they approached the booth, he added, "Maybe Simon's the sentinel and I've been wrong all these years?"
"That's Simon's tough luck, buddy. You're mine now."
The four people stared at each other for a moment before Megan patted the space next to her and said, "Come on, Sandy, slide in."
With a quick glance at Jim, Blair sat down and scooted over, Jim sliding in next to him. Simon looked at Connor, then at Sandburg, then at Jim. Of the three of them, Sandburg was by far the most uncomfortable.
Gee, wonder why, he thought. Evidently, he should have accepted Sandburg's resignation after all. In fact, it was now apparent that he should have insisted on Blair leaving. It was one thing to wish Ellison had loved Sandburg back, when he was in Maui with Connor - Mrs. Ellison - and quite another to be dealing with - this, whatever this was.
Simon sat back and rested his right arm on the top of the booth, which put it protectively behind Connor. Not that he was going to jump to conclusions, but damn it, Sandburg was in big trouble.
When no one said anything, Simon caught the eye of their waitress. She ambled over, took the pencil from behind her ear, and asked, "What can I get you folks?"
Jim looked at Blair, who looked over at Simon's glass, then said, "I'll have an iced tea, with lots of lemon, please."
"I'll have the same," Jim added.
"Do you have herbal iced tea?" Megan asked sweetly.
"Sure do, honey. We have mango herbal, raspberry herbal, and--"
"I'll take the mango. Thank you."
"Sure thing. Do you folks need more time or would you like to order now?"
With a stern look at Sandburg, Simon said, "We need more time."
"Right." She shoved the pencil back behind her ear and walked off.
Silence fell again. Simon picked up on Blair's increasing nervousness as the younger man kept pushing hair back behind his ear, while with his left hand, he fiddled with his utensils. He hadn't really looked at Megan once. Big surprise.
Okay, enough was enough. Time to take the bull by the horns, and since no one else seemed willing, then it was up to him to grab the damn bull -- and rip its head off.
"I notice that Mrs. Ellison isn't wearing her wedding ring, and what do you know, neither is Mr. Ellison. And apparently Mrs. Ellison came by herself, while Mr. Ellison arrived with his ex-roommate. Anyone care to explain?"
During his 'speech', Simon had kept his cold gaze fixed on Sandburg. He didn't know how Sandburg had done this, but it didn't really matter. He noted, with satisfaction, the dull flush that had started to creep up over Sandburg's collar. Bulls-eye.
"Uh, Jim? Could you let me out? I need to find the men's room."
Jim turned his scowling face from Simon, to his partner, schooled his expression and asked, worried, "Chief?"
"Men's room, man. Come on, shove it over," Blair said testily.
Frowning, Jim got out and up and Blair moved quickly. When he was standing, he said, "Just...do whatever. I'll be right back."
As he hurried off, Jim almost followed, but Simon's voice stopped him.
"So what's going on, Ellison?"
Thank God the men's room was in the back, next to the rear exit. With his hand on the door, and making sure he was alone, Sandburg said, "Jim, I'm outta here. I'll take the bus home, okay? You and Connor talk with Simon, do your thing, whatever, just... leave me out of it. Tell Simon that I'll be in tomorrow, if I still have a job." With that, he walked out.
Frowning, Jim cocked his head. Damn him. His first impulse upon hearing Blair, was to go after him, but then he looked at Simon. He leaned forward, and resting his arms on the table, said, "Blair's leaving and wants me to tell you that if he still has a job, he'll be in tomorrow."
"If he still has a job, he'll be in tomorrow. Evidently he picked up on your anger. He can be quick that way, picking up on other people's anger, and all."
"Stop it, both of you."
Two heads turned to look at Megan. She took the initiative.
"Jim, you stay here and explain everything to Simon, I'll go after Sandy." At Jim's shaking head, she held up a hand. "Jim, you stay here and I'll go talk to Sandy. Shove it over."
She added a shooing motion with her still raised hand but Jim made no move, choosing instead to stare hard at her. She stared back. Finally, as if satisfied with whatever he found in the blue depths of her eyes, he nodded. He scooted over and Megan got out, gave him a small peck on the cheek, then said, "I'll bring him back, don't worry... hubby."
With a quick look at Simon, Jim said, "See that you do... wifey."
Megan patted his arm and hustled her way to the back exit.
It wasn't until Jim heard the back door open and slide shut that he took his seat again. Praying that Megan could help Blair, he glanced over at Simon and said, "None of this is Sandburg's fault and he didn't deserve the angered looks and everything you managed to say and imply, without saying a word."
"Mrs. Ellison isn't wearing her wedding ring, and neither are you and I know how Sandburg feels about you, and if you think I missed the way you ushered Sandburg in here--"
"Is he your friend, Simon? Do you care about him?"
"What kind of question is that?"
"A fair one. Is he your friend?"
Simon leaned forward and said in a low, dangerous voice, "Is he your lover, Ellison?"
Jim took a deep breath...then said, "Yes. But that's not what this is about... exactly." He closed his eyes, scratched the back of his head, then said with a touch of panic, "I'm not sure I'm the one who should be talking to you, Simon. At least, not alone like this." He opened his eyes to look at his boss and friend and the answer came to him. The answer and the way to help Simon understand.
"Simon, I know you and Sandburg talked, that he confided in you, right?" At Simon's nod, he went on. "And you know him, you know him. We have a friendship, all of us. You and I go back a long time now, and I know you care about Sandburg. Connor is newer, but no less a friend. With that in mind, I'm asking you trust the decisions that Megan and I made in Maui. To... help us. Can you do that? Can you trust the friendship and trust Blair?"
Simon had never seen such vulnerability in Jim Ellison before. Nor such need.
Trust the friendship.
Jim was asking Simon, in the face of what he'd heard the other night and was seeing today, to do a whole hell of a lot of trusting. Hell, hadn't he been doing that for the last three years? And against what kind of odds? Hadn't he allowed the craziest guy in the world to ride along with Jim for the last three years? If he didn't trust--
Simon's thoughts came to an abrupt stop.
Three years ago, there'd been very little friendship. Respect, sure, even admiration, but a friendship between one of only two black captains within the Cascade Police Department and a still-difficult loner of a detective? No way. But the seeds had been there. The seeds for a burgeoning friendship that had sent Jim all the way to Peru to rescue him and his son. And Jim hadn't gone alone. Right on his heels, the craziest guy in the world; Blair Sandburg. Where would Simon be now without the friendship of both Jim Ellison and Blair Sandburg? Where would they all be without the friendship born out of the strangest circumstances and against such weird odds?
Simon sat back and regarded his best friend. Trust the friendship? Yeah, he could do that.
He remembered the night spent with Sandburg, remembered the pain etched on the younger man's face, remembered his words, his loss, and he remembered Sandburg's heart. The biggest damn heart in the world.
Trust Blair Sandburg?
Hadn't he been doing that for years?
"Okay, Jim, talk to me," he said softly.
She spotted him almost the moment she stepped into the sunshine. He was standing, not sitting, in front of the bus kiosk. His right hand was in his pocket and even from where she stood, she could tell he was jiggling loose change. He was also tapping his right foot. Neither gesture was typical of the normal energy that flowed from Blair 'Sandy' Sandburg.
Megan walked across the back parking lot and up to his side. Before he could do anything, she said, "Let's sit down, okay?"
She was surprised when he smiled shyly and asked, "You okay?"
"Sandy, I'm fine. A hundred percent. You're the one I'm worried about."
He waved his hand in an abstract manner, gave a little shrug of his shoulders, and said, "I'm fine. Simon's anger is understandable. But really, you should go back inside. Jim's going to need you in there."
"Not as much as we need to talk out here, Sandy." She walked around him and sat down on the hard bench, then patted the wood next to her. "Please? Join me?"
Blair sat down beside her and she took his hand. "You've always been there for me, Sandy, from the beginning. When I couldn't count on anyone else, I knew I could count on you--"
"Jim would say it was because I was a horn dog and any sheila in a skirt could buy my allegiance with a flash of thigh," Blair said with a grin.
"Yeah, but we know different, don't we? We know that only a bloke in a tight black tee shirt and wearing a kevlar vest imprinted with the word, 'Ellison', could earn your allegiance, right?"
"Drop the tee shirt, it's an unnecessary accessory."
They grinned at each other. After a moment, Megan said, "I'm not in love in with him, Sandy. I never was. You need to really believe that, and accept it. And you have to know that what happened between us was a perfect example of two very unhappy and lonely people taking comfort where they could." She felt her face color as she added, "Unhappy, lonely and drunk people.
"It would never have happened under normal circumstances, but Sandy, the weeks before that night were so far from normal as to be almost laughable, and Jim was so wrapped up in guilt and self-loathing--"
"I know, Megan. I know. But what you're forgetting is that the whys aren't really important here. At least not to me. You were both consenting adults with no ties to anyone, and taking comfort through an act of such connection, well, again, it's understandable. Neither you, nor Jim, owe me any explanation, okay?"
Megan searched Sandburg's face for any sign that his words were simply that; words, placating but meaningless. She found only honesty and sincerity. He actually meant and believed them.
As if sensing her confusion and surprise, Blair took her hand and said, "Look, what you and Jim decided took guts, you know? And I'll do whatever you need me to do, but--"
"Did Jim tell you about my vision?"
"I take it he didn't. I had a vision. At least, that's what I'm calling it. I woke up and Jim was standing at the patio doors and there was all this moonlight and I started thinking how lonely he looked and how lonely I felt, and from there, well, I started having a real heart-to-heart with myself. I tried to figure out how to tell Jim about my talk, and my decisions, when all of a sudden, the moonlight kind of... well, it took on a certain shape, see?"
It was clear from Sandburg's expression that he didn't see at all. Megan frowned, then said, "It was you, Sandy. You were suddenly standing right next to Jim. Right where you belonged and where I realized you'd always be. Suddenly, I wasn't worried about Jim anymore, or me, or you, or the baby. Everything was just so right."
"Because... the moonlight became me?"
Megan suddenly laughed and watched in delight as Sandburg's face split into a grin. Nodding, she said, "Yes, because moonlight became you. And I'm sure Jim thinks it does." Megan's grin faded as she added, "God, Sandy, the vision was so real, so very real, and it seemed to cement everything I'd been thinking and deciding, you know? Suddenly, there were... three of us. Three people raising the baby, and it seemed that, no matter what happened in my future, that it was right. A wise young man once told me that he believed all things happened for a reason, and you know what? You were right."
She stood up, pulling Sandburg with her. "Let's go back, okay? Let Simon see the three of us, let him know that it's what we want, and that it's right?"
Blair looked down the street, then back toward the restaurant. Finally he said, as he slipped his hand from Megan's, "You go on back, and I'll come in shortly, all right?"
"I promise. Just give me a few, okay?"
Once again Megan found herself searching his face, looking for a clue that he intended on leaving as soon as she was gone. She found only the same sincerity. Nodding, she said, "Okay, but only a few, then I expect you back in there. And it's not nice to keep a woman who is preggers, waiting when food is involved. Got it?"
Smiling, Sandburg nodded. "Got it."
Megan took a few steps backward and away from him, then raised a finger and said, "Only a few, right?"
"Okay. I'm going."
He really needed to get his head on straight. This was, oddly enough, too much for the brain of Blair Sandburg. Maybe because it was already so overstuffed? He knew that every word spoken by Megan had been true, and yes, that had helped considerably. Not that he hadn't believed Jim, but hearing it from Megan had helped immeasurably, because he'd been so concerned for her.
It hit him then. Hit him so hard he actually had to put out his hand and grasp the pole next to the bus stop to hold himself up.
This whole baby thing was about all three of them. He was involved because Jim and Megan wanted it that way. He was involved because Jim loved him, and he loved Jim, and Megan loved both of them, and now there was ... a baby.
God, what if the baby... what if....
Blair could feel his heart thumping in his chest at the very idea, let alone the possibility, that Jim's child might carry the same genetic advantage that made Jim who and what he was.
Blair had another epiphany.
There was a reason Sir Richard Burton was so often referred to as "the explorer", and not 'the scientist'. Exploring was what Burton had loved, and Blair was no different. He loved the joy of discovery, yes, but he also loved the adventure of the discovery, and the explorations that followed.
Just like Burton.
He, Jim, and Megan had an adventure ahead of them and baby sentinel or not, Blair was suddenly excited at the prospect.
Of course, none of these new thoughts did anything to help with the Simon problem. Time to face the music. Besides, he ached to see Jim again.
Blair walked back into building through the back door and as he entered the main part of the restaurant, he immediately locked gazes with Jim. He smiled and noted with satisfaction that Jim immediately relaxed. Keeping his eyes on Jim, he moved around tables and waitresses until he'd reached the booth. He wasn't unaware of the three sets of curious and worried eyes watching him. He slid in next to Jim and said, "I'm hungry, let's eat, then talk."
The ice was broken, and suddenly all four were laughing. Menus were picked up and perused, and finally Simon waved the waitress over. Their orders were taken; a Reuben for Simon, a burger with the works for Jim, French onion soup for Megan, with a small side salad, and a tuna salad sandwich for Sandburg. As the waitress hurried off, Simon looked over at Sandburg and said, "I've talked to Jim, then had to listen to a stern talk from the Connor camp, but I didn't need any of it to know that I owe you an apology. I'm sorry, Blair."
Blair shrugged, and with fingers busy tearing up his napkin, he said, "No problem, Simon. This is probably the weirdest thing you've had to deal with since Jim, well, you know. I suspect this even beats Molly."
Grinning, Simon nodded and said, "Can't argue with you there. I'll take a ghost to the complications of the Ellison-Sandburg-Connor saga any day of the week." He then looked at each of his friends and asked, "So, how do we explain things to everyone?"
"I'm wondering," Megan mused, "if we need to say anything at all, really. It will be very apparent that Jim and I are still very much connected, friends, etcetera, and I plan to come back to duty until my doctor says otherwise--"
Jim turned toward her, and with eyes dangerously wide, he said, "Since when? If I remember correctly, you were going on leave until after the baby was born, and even then, you weren't sure you'd be going back. What's changed?"
"Well, for one thing, I'm no longer Mrs. Ellison, and I don't need to keep a worry wart of a husband happy," Megan said with a humorous gleam in her eyes.
Slightly disgruntled, Jim mumbled, "I'm not a worry wart."
"Oh, I can attest to that," Sandburg said, voice heavy with sarcasm.
"Anyway," Megan continued, "that's my plan. I'll work for at least another four to six months, and possibly with desk duty only, up to the eighth month. And I'm thinking with me back at work, it'll be extremely obvious that everything is fine with Jim and I, even though we've annulled the marriage."
The three men looked at each other, gave a collective shrug, then Simon said, "This ought to be fun."
"Oh, yeah," Jim agreed with a grin. "I can see it now. A hormonal Connor facing down some crook--"
Blair held up his hands in supplication. "Guys, guys, let's keep it PC, okay? I'm sure the manner in which Megan conducts herself as a detective won't change with encroaching motherhood."
Jim looked at Simon, Simon looked at Jim. They both started laughing.
Megan shook her head and said to Blair, "Men."
"Megan? I'm a man."
"Well sure. But you're -- different."
Blair snorted, then said, "I'm shorter, Megan, that's all. If you think Jim and his sentinel moods are bad? Wait a few more weeks and we'll compare yours to his, okay?"
Feigning shock, Megan said, "My God, you are a man!"
With a disbelieving look, Megan said, "Not hardly, Sandy, not hardly."
"Lunch went pretty well, eh, Chief?"
Blair was just hanging up his jacket and at Jim's words, he turned around and said, "Oh, sure, Jim. Peachy."
Jim walked over to him, turned him around so that Sandburg's back was to him, and started massaging tense shoulders. As his hands worked their magic, he said softly, "It really did go well, Blair. Simon's on board now, we all had a good talk, plans have been made, decisions firmed. It was a very productive lunch." He leaned down enough to bring his mouth close to Blair's ear to whisper, "And now, we're alone. We have the whole weekend, and," he reiterated, "we're -- alone."
"And," Sandburg added, "we're alone."
Blair twisted around until he could look up at his partner. "So we're okay?"
"Aren't we?" Jim asked, a touch of worry coloring his voice.
Blair looked up at the handsome relaxed face, at the blue eyes full of love and now worry, and he smiled. "Yeah, we are, Jim. We are. But man, the next months--"
"And years," Blair conceded, "are going to be different. Fun, but different."
"So you're looking forward to being a--"
"Whatever I'm going to be?"
"I am. Very much so. I'm looking forward to seeing you change a really shitty diaper. I suspect it will be the highlight of my entire life. Oh, and when you get spit up on, and urinated on--"
"If its a boy," Jim added dryly.
"Well, duh. Yeah, I'm looking forward to all of that."
"Someone needs to tell me why I love you."
Blair hooked his finger around Jim's belt and started leading him upstairs. "Let me show you why, Jimbo."
"Could you not call me 'Jimbo'?"
"Come to pappa, Superhunk."
They started up the steps.
"Could you not call me 'Superhunk'?"
"In about two minutes, the only way we'll be able to talk, is if and when I call you -- on the phone -- from Timbuktoo."
"Call me anything you want, Chief. Jimbo, Superhunk, you name it."
"That's better, my liddle puddycat...."