The Sandburg Chronicles

Transcribed by Candy Apple




If I live to be 100, I don't think I'll ever top the last couple days. First, I get this fax from one of my students who works at the hospital, saying I should come over and take a look at some cop who just came in complaining of his senses going nuts. So I get over there, scam my way in to see him, and give him my card. This guy is really stressed...something seriously weird is happening to him--that's obvious. At first I figured maybe it was job-related stress. I mean, he looked like this uptight military type--brush cut and all. I left him my card and figured that'd be the end of it. I didn't figure him to be the type to come and see an Anthropologist about something he thought his family doctor should be able to fix. I should've realized Jim Ellison was no ordinary guy, but first impressions aren't always too reliable.

When he showed up at my office, I was floored--totally nervous. I started babbling something about Seattle grunge bands and something totally inane about the Stones. I mean, here's my thesis, walking and living and breathing, standing in my office, actually giving me a shot at explaining myself. Things didn't exactly flow--he ended up slamming me against the wall and calling me a neo-hippie something-or-other. I just thought he was going to kick the shit out of me, so I really didn't focus on what he was saying. I just tried to figure out a way to save my ass. He let go, but he wasn't taking the bait to let me study him. After I ended up lying under a moving garbage truck with him, he started taking me more seriously.

He is like, so amazing! The things he can hear...or see or sense...I mean, I was seriously going to ask this really hot-looking girl out, and it turns out she told her friend she thought I was a geek. Not that that was good news, but Jim heard it from several yards away! And it saved me from making an idiot out of myself, so even if it didn't make me happy, it sure as hell was helpful.

Naomi would freak out if she saw me now--working with the "pigs". I actually helped him on a case--man, it was such a rush! Scary as hell, but exciting. We stopped the "Switchman". It was awesome! I ended up wrestling with her, knocking her out...whoa, it was intense!! But you know, Jim's not like the old hard asses that used to clobber my mother and her pals when they protested or picketed something. He cares a lot about people, about his community. Under that cool exterior, I get the feeling there's a really worthwhile person--a good soul, with a good heart. I just think he lashes out when he gets scared...and this Sentinel stuff would scare the shit out of me if it just kicked in all of a sudden. I mean, he lived like some kind of predator in the jungles of Peru, but to have it come back to him now, in this setting... When he jumps down my throat, I know how scared and out of control he really feels. I mean, the thesis is major, and if he's as great a subject as I think, it'll be phenomenal--maybe put me on the professional map. But besides all that, I'd like to help this guy get his life back. He gets stuck over in a jungle for 18 months serving his country, comes back here and serves his community...I guess I have respect for him...and his is a life more than worth saving. I'm getting too damn philosophical, and my eyes are about shot for tonight. This monitor is starting to look like a torture device. Time to rescue myself from computer to glasses glare before I go blind. I've heard legends that there are much more enjoyable ways to make yourself go blind. The long and short of it is that he's going to let me work with him. I think this is the start of something very cool.



Never type a journal entry when your wrists hurt. My brain is full to the brim, but my hands feel like two dead fish on the keyboard. I can now add one more item to my list of things that are not a turn-on. I hate being tied up. Man, that sucks!! What a day!! I went to the precinct with Jim to get my observer ID, and he feeds his boss--Captain Simon Banks--this line of crap about me being his ne'er do well cousin from back home who has been living off the family as a professional student. Geez. Nothing like starting out with a good reputation! And this Banks guy? Now there's a man who needs to take a happy pill and learn to chill out. He's going to die way before his time if he doesn't lighten up a little. But then I guess police captains are supposed to act like that. It's that whole military culture...but that's another dissertation by itself, and I'm too damned tired to write it tonight.

As if meeting with Banks and being billed as the worthless cousin from hell wasn't bad enough--not to mention having to come up with a urine sample five minutes after I peed--the day got worse. How could deranged gunmen take over the precinct on the exact day I show up? I mean, shit, the damn place has been secure for years and years and years, and today, one day on the whole freaking calendar, machine gun toting lunatics take the place over. When I peeked out the bathroom door and saw those weapons, providing a urine sample would not have been a problem. I lost track of how long I was wedged in that lousy bathroom stall. Then I slipped and damn near fell in the toilet--not to mention the fact I did it while an armed nut was in there. I never thought of a bathroom stall as a lethal weapon before, but that door really brained him. Then I spent the next half hour behind a vending machine until another bozo shot it up. Pinning him under it was a lucky shot. I'm not even going to talk about jumping onto the window washers' platform. It was a bad idea anyway, and I'm getting chills in bad places just thinking about it.

And all the time, Jim and Banks were trying to get in to rescue everybody. These guys had no back up or help--all the cops were at some fake plane crash site, and the lunatics with the guns said no cops or the hostages were dead. I guess they dangled Banks' son out the window to speed up the negotiations. Sick bastards--using an innocent kid like that. Man, this is when you wonder if man has truly evolved at all...or if we're just walking straighter and carrying guns instead of clubs. When they finally found me, I thought I was saving my butt by telling the guy I was a Narcotics Lieutenant--and he bought it!!! Me, a cop! Gotta write to Mom on that one. On second thought, maybe not... I digress, and I'm coming down off the adrenaline...shit, I'm tired. I thought Anthropology would be a nice safe job...

Anyway, they ended up dragging me along on this ungodly helicopter ride--did I mention I'm not crazy about heights?--and the next thing I know, there's Jim, hanging from the rudder of the helicopter! Man, sometimes I think he's a little over the edge, and I'm not talking about his senses! It was incredible the way we ended up working together. I mean, Kincaid leaned out to shoot Jim, and I kicked his ass out of the chopper--seriously!! He was hanging onto Jim's leg, screaming like a banshee, and then I pulled a flare gun on the pilot and made him fly back. I said I flew choppers in Desert Storm! Hah! Well, if you count a really cool virtual helicopter flight video game, it's not a total lie.

I know Jim went that far over the edge to nail a dangerous maniac. For some reason, this little part of me wants to think he grabbed that rudder because they had me. I don't know why I should think that. I mean, I think he's been grateful for few of the pointers I've given him, but to think he'd risk his life for me is dumb, I know. And that was the only way to stop the bad guys. But just for a minute, I thought maybe that was why... And the way he patted my face...maybe he was kind of glad I was okay...I think he likes me a little. I'm glad. I don't know why, but I really want him to.




You know, I thought identical twins committing crimes just made for damn good crime dramas. I never thought I'd see an honest-to-God pair of twin hit men. The Juno Brothers. And I was never on the scene with a dead gunshot victim before...God, it was awful. One minute, this guy's riding his bike, laughing and talking with Jim, hugging him--they were real close. Makes me feel guilty for that flash of jealousy, and I don't know why I felt it in the first place. But I saw the way Jim lit up around Danny--just for that minute. Why do I care? It's crazy, but it got me thinking that I wanted Jim to look that way when he saw me... And the next minute, the shooting started and Danny was down and Jim yelled at me to get down...and then I was next to Jim, and his hands were covered in Danny's blood and he was screaming...Jim. Jim was out of control, and I was alone in a back alley in the middle of the night with a dead guy, a freaked out cop and a hit man.

Jim's always so cool, but I was right. There's something very soft, very caring, very deep under that surface. He really loved Danny, and that raw cry of grief just ripped my guts out. I was surprised he let me put my arm around him. He didn't shake me off, and I was glad. I wiped off his hands the best I could with a handkerchief--and finally the tail of my shirt. I mean, he couldn't touch anything without smearing it, and it was driving him almost over the edge. And I knew how strongly the poor guy could smell the blood...and probably the death too. I hope he'll open up and talk to me about that. I don't care about putting it in my dissertation. I just know he needs to talk to someone who knows how fully he perceives things... I think he sometimes doesn't trust me because he thinks everything is research with me. It's not.

It was a real adventure nailing those bastards. I'm glad we did it. I'm glad the men who killed Danny Choi--and God knows how many others--won't be doing it anymore.

Jim seemed to really like Beverly Sanchez. Why does that bother me? She's a good-looking woman, who would blame him? I do. I don't know why, but I don't like it. I have the feeling this journal is going to be less and less useful as a research tool. Guess that makes it my diary, huh? Dear Diary, today I got jealous of a woman Jim was attracted to. Shit! Why am I getting so territorial with him? Probably for the same reason I just don't like his ex-wife. This is getting weird.

Major eye strain headache. Time for sleep. Or at least darkness. Since I'm being candid here, maybe I'll just lie in the dark and jerk off. I need to relax. I need a sex life. I need a Tylenol...




I'm sitting on a little bed in Jim's study. I thought my days of begging for shelter from someone else were over. Of course when you're traveling with an ape, your options are limited. I was kind of hurt at first that Jim didn't offer--I kinda thought he would. But I'm hoping it was the ape he didn't want here and not me. At least he doesn't have to worry about me peeing on his furniture or eating his plants.

I honestly didn't know there were drug dealers in that warehouse. Well, I figured something was going on. I had been getting nervous living there--I mean, I knew I was kind of living on the edge being there by myself in that neighborhood. But I kind of figured if I lived and let live, maybe they'd let me live. Ha ha. Yeah, gallows humor, I know.

Mrs. LaCroix was priceless. God, what strength and courage. So many times we write off the elderly as dottering, nonsensical old fools. I was ready to see her as an unrealistic old woman. She has more strength in that time-ravaged body than I have now. Hell, probably more than I ever will. She is a hero...all those old people--what spirit!! I just know there's a paper in that somewhere, as soon as I can find a permanent place to live and get my head together.

You wouldn't think Cascade as being a gang playground, but it has its share of the action. Gangs are sociologically fascinating. Truth time? They scare the hell out of me. A bunch of kids-turned-killers who would push around somebody's little old grandma to make a point. Kids shooting each other...dear God, how do you make sense out of that with a bunch of theories in a book? Drugs twisting their minds, little girls selling their bodies on the streets, playgrounds where drugs are sold like popsicles in the summertime... I don't know. If anything could make me throw in the towel on figuring out what makes the human race tick, that might be it. Maybe this police work isn't a good companion for Anthropology. Reality is hard to swallow sometime. This is a hell of a lot less depressing and frightening on the pages of a Criminology text. It's nice to feel safe for a change. I didn't realize how antsy I was getting in that warehouse until I crashed here. It's not as lonely either. It's nice having Jim around, even if Larry is more communicative.




I will not write about Lash. I can't. I think about it and my hands start shaking. I've got to keep it professional--a detached analysis. But God, I was so scared. I thought I was going to die...and die horribly. None of Lash's victims looked peaceful. I was going to look like that. Jim was going to find me in his bathtub with a yellow scarf around my neck, eyes popping, skin blue-white...oh, shit. This happens every time. I can't go off on another panic attack here. Gotta stay fcused. gocused. focusde...shit. FOCUSED, you stupid weak son of a bitch!! Start off on another fit of crying...yeah, that looks good in front of Jim. He hears everything.

I've been sitting on the bed for the last ten minutes trying to put myself back together. Jim's out on a stakeout. Maybe that's why I've got a case of panic tonight. Pathetic, huh? I just start shaking so hard and sweating and I see his face--and he's yelling at me about being me. Damn it. I just wish it would fade. He's dead. Why can't I let it go?

Jim shot him five times in the chest. I never saw Jim kill someone like that. It was overkill. I know there's something in police training about emptying your gun into someone if you have to shoot to kill, but there was something else. He killed with rage. But Lash was a maniac. A serial killer...

I was shaking so hard when Jim finally got back to me. I was so damned ashamed of myself. I don't know for sure if I pissed my pants--hell, maybe I did that too. I was soaked in sweat, I wouldn't have known the difference.

Jim held me. I was shocked. I figured he'd untie me, haul me out of that chair--and he did. But he held me, first just to keep me standing while the circulation got going, but then he put his arms around me and just held on. I really didn't want to lose it and cry in front of Jim. I mean, I wonder sometimes if he really takes me seriously anyway--he can handle just about anything--and he deals with his fear so damned well. I didn't. I was so relieved to see him come back to get me instead of Lash--it just came out. And he was whispering something about being there, telling me Lash was gone, that he was there--that he was going to keep a better eye on me from now on. Like it was his fault. I'm the one who fucked up the stakeout at the church. But he never blamed me for that. He stood by me, protected me with Simon. And he held me there in that bizarre place until I stopped crying and shaking and could walk with him holding on around my waist.

That was two weeks ago. Not many nights go by without nightmares, though it's getting better. And every time, Jim comes down and looks in on me. The first few nights, when I woke up screaming, he came down in a near-run, and he'd sit on the bed holding me and rocking me and telling me it was safe, and that I was home. HOME! I know I shouldn't attach special significance to that. It's just a word. But it's how he said it, all gentle while he was holding me. "It's okay, Chief. You're home. You're safe now. I'm here..." And then he'd sit with me until I went to sleep. Nobody's ever done that for me before...I mean, Naomi would always come in if I yelled, but she'd be with somebody and have to go back to them.

Now sometimes he just sits with me and we talk a while. I get sleepy again and doze off, and the next thing I know, it's morning. It's getting better.

I wonder, when I see how he's treating me, if Jim put a couple extra bullets in there for me...




I thought it would be a real lark to go for a trip on an honest to God train. Believe it or not, out of all the stuff I've done, I hadn't done that before. I mean, I've been on an Amtrak, but that doesn't count. They didn't have sleek silver trains back in the early days...just these big old locomotives. Totally cool way to travel. I should've known it would turn into a nightmare. Whatever happened to the nice, tranquil criminals who got transported from point A to point B in handcuffs and didn't have several armed goons waiting around the corner to spring them?

And for a horrible few hours, I thought Jim was dead. I know there are tons of things I need to research and analyze about his reaction to that cold medicine...maybe I will when I really get over that feeling I had when I thought he was dead.

I didn't know how to react. I mean, I wanted to kill the bastards who did it, but it was like all my strength was I couldn't do anything. Then my mind kicked in, and I started distracting myself with copping a few cheap feels and peeks of Isabelle Caine. Jim's convinced that's where my brain is anyway, so maybe he's right. I know now why people go around for days--sometimes years--in denial when someone they love dies. Love? Is that what this is? Do I love Jim? I must, because when I thought he was gone, it felt like someone ripped my heart out with their bare hands. And like some catastrophic physical pain, suddenly it went numb...and I guess my mind helped me out by telling me it wasn't so. He wasn't dead. Or did I know that on some other plane? I feel like we're connected somehow, probably this whole Sentinel-Guide bond. Lately it feels like more than that. I mean, I don't know why, but I love it when he depends on me for something--when that big tough cop actually lets me in--confides what he needs, and looks to me to provide it. I really love helping him, and it wouldn't matter if I was getting any dissertation out of it or not.

When Jim showed up alive, I just wanted to throw my arms around him and hang on and tell him how glad I was he was okay, and that my first thought when I heard he was dead was that I wanted to jump out the window right behind him. Something tells me that unbridled declaration of love would have gone over like a lead balloon. I'd probably be apartment-hunting right now. I mean, I know he cares about me, but it's not like I'm the center of his world or anything. He needs me. I want him to be free--not to need anyone. I want to teach him to control the abilities he has and live a happy, healthy life--independently. Everyone should have a right to that. I know there's some old saying about if you love something, set it free. I guess that's what I want for Jim. That freedom. But part of me is so scared of what's going to happen when he has it...where I'm gonna fit. Probably somewhere halfway down his Christmas card list...or maybe somebody he calls every couple months to have lunch, and talk about his abilities. I mean, he can't talk to just anybody about those. I need a life so bad here. I need a woman...yeah, that's it. A totally hot, sexy, nymphomaniac intellectual with a Ph.D. in something and the body of a Playboy centerfold. God, if such a woman exists, send her to me, please. I'm hurting here. I'm starting to check Jim out when he comes out of the shower in the morning.




It's times like these when I seriously question the possibility of ever publishing this damn dissertation. Let just one nut get his hands on the information about Jim's senses from my old research papers and make the connection about the subject's identity, and the whole city of Cascade is damn near killed by the plague. Jim is forced into criminal activity, we both damn near get killed dancing over electric land mines....shit. Sometimes I think I should just scrap the whole freaking thing. Do a dissertation on the "thin blue line". Yeah, right. But if I quit now, I won't have much reason to hang around in Jim's loft, tag along with him... I have this feeling he'd never be as open with me as he is if he didn't think I was taking objective research notes. I wonder if he'd want to still be friends? I wonder if he'd really ever pick me for a friend?

Brackett's in jail, yelling about Jim being some kind of superhuman. They've scheduled a battery of psychological tests for the jerk now. Nobody's buying it. Simon just rolls his eyes and digs around in his desk for another Excedrin. I think he's bought stock in the company since I started hanging out with Jim. Not that it's all my fault or anything--I mean, Jim's senses messed him up in the first place. Not me.

It was sort of fun showing Dr. Sonya Price around Cascade. It's way beyond bizarre meeting her after what I wrote in my last entry. I mean, she kind of fits the bill. Well, she wasn't exactly a nymphomaniac, but as the old song says, the girl's got rhythm, that's for sure. She really gave me a night to remember before she left Cascade for good. But you know, I left her hotel in the first gray light of dawn sort of knowing how a fucked over whore feels. I mean, we had this mind-blowing, sheet-ripping, expletive-yelling sex (a friend of mine calls it pig sex--I don't know if I want his explanation). But what the hell does any of it mean? What's it worth? I didn't love her. She didn't love me. Hell, she's back to work and her own friends. She probably doesn't even remember my name. Okay, I'm exaggerating. But I don't think she's losing sleep over leaving me. Just one more cheap fuck with no future. I used to think of that as freedom, as being liberated. Now I'm beginning to look in the mirror and not like the person looking back. I feel so damned empty. I want to fall in love with somebody...I want to make love for once, not just get my rocks off with some willing girl with a nice ass. Everything all my life has been so transient that maybe I don't know how to put down roots. Maybe I have put 'em down, but I know I'm going to have to tear 'em up again. Jim's not going to stay single forever. And then I'll be out on my ass in the street again. Why do I dislike Carolyn so much? Shit, I feel...jealous. Yeah, that's the word. I want to just shove myself in between them every time she talks to Jim. I know she hurt him--I get the feeling she dumped him, and none too gently. I want to make her pay for that. She had her chance and she fucked it up, lost the best thing she ever had... Now what? It's my turn?

What the hell is it with Ellison? Why can't I separate the feelings I should have for a friend and the feelings I should have for a lover into neat compartments? Why do I get so possessive? Can you just turn gay all of a sudden?

I wish I hadn't started this damn diary. Writing in it's like a compulsion. And I call Jim anal. Why don't I just toss it? I don't know. It makes me look at that good?




Where do I start? Shit, I complained about feeling empty before. I feel like somebody just hollowed me out with one of those big metal spoons people use to scrape out jack-o-lantern guts. Or maybe like they did an autopsy and forgot to toss it all back in when they were done. How could she say she hated me? Strike that. I know how she could say it, and I don't blame her. But it hurt so bad to hear it, even if I deserved it. I'm beginning to feel like this fucking diary is cursed. I write something I wish for in it, I get it, and then it all shatters somehow, or isn't what I thought it would be.

At least the headaches are fading a little. Getting clobbered over the head two or three times in one day really sucks big time. That's my own fault too. I went back and sniffed around Maya's house even after Jim tried to tell me her father was a crime lord. Did I listen? Of course not. I'm Blair Sandburg, fucking genius. I know people. I study the sons of bitches. I know when someone's a crook. Hector Carasco was a nice man who collected art and grew orchids. I admire Jim for not laughing in my face. I deserve it.

And Maya. I used her. But I honest-to-God fell in love with her...or did I? I don't sleep at night lately...since this whole thing blew up with Maya. I lie here and think. And I reached one conclusion, which leaves me feeling shittier than I did when I just hurt about Maya dumping me. What I felt for her never ran as deep as what I feel for Jim. There, I said it. Maybe to no one else but myself, but I said it. And I was clinging to her because she felt like my last chance to be "normal". Some enlightened anthropologist, huh? Conforming to societal norms with nothing short of desperation. It's not convenient for me to love another man. Or maybe the truth is that while I can't leave Jim because I love him too much, it hurts like hell to stay because I want so much more than I have any right to ask.

I mean, this Latin goddess had just told me to go to hell, and what really made me sit up and take notice? Jim and his sweet awkwardness standing there with his stupid bowl of noodles trying to figure out what to do with me when I was sitting there getting ready to cry my eyes out for a hurt that was all my own fault. You know, with Lash, it was easy for Jim to hold me or comfort me--I was half asleep, hysterical, screaming in my sleep...maybe he could even tell himself he was doing it to keep me from injuring myself in some crazed half-sleeping frenzy. I think I cried more because what I wanted most was right there and I couldn't have it. Hell, I couldn't even have the false thrill of him holding me while I cried. I think he would have if Drennan hadn't been a few feet away in the kitchen. As it was, when she left, he came and looked in on me. I was lying facing the wall, and I played I was asleep, though he knew better. Sometimes I forget he can hear if I'm sleeping or not. He sat on the edge of the bed and put one of those big hands on my shoulder and just started talking to me, real softly. He said, "I know how much it hurts right now, Chief, but it gets better with time." He sounded so sad. I know he felt sorry for me, but maybe there was some autobiographical stuff in that statement.

I know Carolyn hurt him. I said that before, but it bothers me. Jim is so damned kind. He's got an exterior like concrete sometimes, but he's got a big heart, and I don't think it's real hard to break it. He's a good person, and he deserves to be loved...and he is, but not by anybody he'd want that way. God, life is weird....






I told you this damn diary was prophetic. Pheromones. You want to talk weird? I looked back at that last entry and laughed. I think the events of the last few days just redefined weird. First, it started out with me pushing Jim at women. Yeah, I know, not consistent with my feelings for him. But in a way it is. It's consistent with that idea of setting free someone you love. He's not gay (of course I didn't think I was either--it's not like I've been out cruising for guys) and maybe finding a good woman would make him happy. He's a catch. Women all go for him--all those muscles, that chiseled face--he's what you'd call a babe magnet. If I cared, I'd just stand around and catch his fall out. That's right. I don't care. I'm not saying I'll never be with another woman again. I probably will. I don't want another man. I don't see other men the way I see Jim. I don't see anybody that way, really. But at least with women, it's familiar, and the physical thing is okay. Empty, hollow and emotionally void, but it's like playing a video game. There's no real value in it, but it's fun.

Anyway, we went to this bar--a nice bar, where a lot of singles go. He seemed pretty happy hanging out with me, but I have to stop seeing what I want to see in everything Jim does. So I pushed him to go after this one really nice-looking woman who was obviously giving him the eye. I didn't realize she was also giving off a scent, literally. And with Jim's heightened senses, he was off an running. He fell hard for her...and it all crashed around his ears and he ended up arresting her. But not before he made a fool out of himself in front of Simon, sniffing after her (literally). God it hurt to see him all over her in that coat room. I don't see any point in lying to myself about this anymore. I wanted him to be ripping my clothes off like that...I wanted him to take me home and throw me on the nearest horizontal surface and fuck my brains out. Not her. Not her!! Damn it. I love him. It's not fair. It's not fair to Jim is who it's not fair to. He takes me into his home, trusts me completely, and I get horny for him. Nice way to pay him back.

So Jim got hurt again, and I just keep getting hurt, wanting him so bad and watching him want someone to love...and sometimes I think he fills the void with me. I mean, we live together, eat together, work together, vacation together...sometimes I almost wonder if Jim would be so opposed to doing a few other things together. But even if he felt like getting drunk and experimenting with me, it'd kill me when he met a woman and went back to normal. I've always been so good at detaching. Naomi and detachment--she taught me that early. It's hard for a kid to "detach" from his get shoved in somebody else's life where you're not always welcome to impose on them until she finds whatever it is she's looking for and comes back... I had to learn early not to let the detachments hurt. I can't detach from Jim. And if the impossible ever happened, and we made love, it would kill me to let him go.




Monks. Vows of silence. Quiet contemplation. Who'd think that could be dangerous? As usual, I tried to help Jim and screwed up again. Well, in a way I didn't--I mean, there really were mob hit men after one of the monks--yes, I live in a very surreal world sometimes. Anyway, if we hadn't gone there, we couldn't have saved him. So it was good in the grand scheme of things that we went. But for Jim, again, Mr. Servant-of-the-People, he got screwed out of his RnR. Simon called him back in on a case right after we got home, so he had to postpone any further vacation time.

I wonder if God strikes people dead for using a monastery to spend some intensely close time with someone they secretly lust after? Probably. There's probably a one-way ticket to Hell with my name on it for that. I was looking forward to teaching Jim meditation techniques, to long talks in the middle of the night in that little room...that's the thing with Jim. I've never been in love with somebody like this and been able to handle not sleeping with them. I can handle it. It's a void, one I'd like to fill...but I'd stay with Jim like this forever if he'd let me.

You know, those monks blow my mind. They can leave all this shit behind and give themselves to God. Is that the ultimate in pure love or what? Love without any kind of desire or really even physical manifestation. You love a deity with all your heart and devote your life to him. I kind of know how that feels. I mean, Jim's no deity and I'm a far cry from a monk--plus I get so horny for him that I jerk off thinking about him sometimes--okay, most times. But I could stay with him forever with nothing but love. That's powerful. How much more powerful must their love and faith be to give it all to God? To keep it pure and selfless? Wow...




I'm not too sure where to begin. It's been a while since I entered anything here. Things got hectic at the U, and at the station. Then, Simon disappeared in Peru. Peru of all places. Jim and I went to find him. I'm glad he's okay. Something happened to Jim while he was there. I'm not sure what it was, but he seems...I don't know, different somehow. I can't put my finger on it. It's like he's more accepting of his senses and their quirks, and like he just falls easily into letting me help him. He always kind of did, but's kind of like a wall came down. And we really bonded struggling our way around to find Simon.

I had a chance to go to Borneo--it was a great opportunity, and quite a feather in the cap of someone as young and relatively inexperienced in the field as I am. I was flattered by the invitation. It would have meant leaving for a year. I selfishly wanted to hear Jim say he needed me, or that he'd miss me, or ask me to stay. But he told me it was a great opportunity and I should go. I cried for two hours straight in my office just thinking about it. That's all it means? It's a great opportunity? Go for it? Not a "gosh, Chief, what am I gonna do without you?" Not even a "Gee, I'll miss ya, buddy". It hurt so bad that he didn't care...and I knew I couldn't go. But then part of me knew I should because if he didn't love me, even as a friend, I should force myself to move on.

But when we were in Peru, something happened. I keep saying that, but it's true. It's intangible and inexplicable...but something happened. I really felt it hit me how much Jim needed me, whether he knew it or not, and there's a bond between us that quite frankly it's my fault for not seeing more clearly. It's friendship. Jim is a man of few mushy words. But he's opened up his whole life to me and shared it. Even if it never takes the form I want it to, he loves me, and I'm his other half in many ways. So I told the powers that be that Borneo would have to survive without Blair Sandburg. And I told Jim, "It's about friendship." And he paid me back with the most wonderful smile.

Where does this leave me? Still in love with him, but smart enough now to appreciate what I do have instead of pining for what I don't have. No one is as close to Jim as I am. I don't know if that'll all change, but for now, I'm just going to live it, and love Jim, and give him everything I have to give. If I get hurt, well, hopefully the flight will be worth the fall.





If I'm going to keep hanging out with Jim, I'm going to buy a fucking crash helmet. Damn. I have the headache from hell again. I'm turning into a Tylenol junkie. I wonder how many times you can get knocked out before you get brain damage? You know, boxers end up kind of flaky after enough years in the ring.

Angie Ferris. Wow. Meeting her was too cool. I even have a copy of her new album before it hits the stores! This is beyond cool. This is major!!

I'm glad she and her daughter are safe now. Ray was the worst kind of bastard--using a little girl's need for a father to get near her kill her for God's sake. Maybe I took it so damn personally because I know how Pam feels. I used to feel the same way. If some guy had sweet-talked me and acted like he wanted me as much as he did Naomi--that he wanted us to be a family--I'd have followed the fucker to hell and back, sap that I am. I didn't blame her for anything she did. To feel loved instead of like a liability. I always felt like a wart on Naomi's nose--you know, the one thing that made her unattractive to men. She could seduce a statue, but then they found out about me, and half were out the door because they didn't want a kid, some treated me like shit but turned all nicey-pie in front of her, and a few genuinely *didn't mind* me. I don't remember any of them loving me...or genuinely wanting me around.

Man, I'm off on a tangent. But I understood how that kid felt, and those memories hurt. They'll hurt her too, though Angie is a much more attentive mom. She's there for her daughter. That'll get her through a lot. Nobody will get close to Angie again who doesn't care for her little girl. They'll be okay.

I know I said I had all this Jim stuff under control, and I do, but I'm glad Angie left town on her tour. She liked Jim too damn well. He didn't seem impressed--I mean, he didn't seem to feel much for her. Hey--why does he need her when he has this really hot, sexy roommate? Okay. I had to live the fantasy for a second. Even I'm laughing at that one. Time for bed. I think I have that brain damage I was worried about. I'm acting dumber than usual tonight. Getting an attack of the sillies.




Jack Pendergrass. Poor bastard. He never stood a chance...he was set up big time. His best friend and partner was in the sack with his girl while he was being murdered. Man, that would suck!! What a lousy way to die. You know, it's not so much that I blame Jim--I mean, yeah, he is guilty of shaking the sheets with Pendergrass's girl, but she and Jim knew each other before, and she did say things were over with Jack, and she did show up at the loft and basically jumped Jim's bones. The guy's not made of stone. And all these years, Jim was loyal to his memory, refusing to believe he was dirty. And he wasn't. Jim had faith and he was right.

Do I need to feel guilty for loving the feel of Jim close up behind me, and his hand on my wrist, guiding my hand along the door of the mangy old car? I wanted so badly to lean back into him... I love him so much sometimes it still hurts. I still lock myself in my office in the U once in a while to think, and end up crying. I'm scared of losing him...of losing even what we do have. I used to regret starting this diary. Now I cling to it. I can say the things I need to say...I'm so tired. I'm tired from living life as two people. Lying about these hoards of women I'm sleeping with, lying about how I feel about Jim, lying about the fact that I've resolved anything--I've even lied here. I tried to be cheerful and upbeat about it, but maybe I shouldn't. This stupid diary is cheaper than a therapist. Maybe I just need to get it out somewhere. It's not like anybody's gonna read this, so why do I care if it's boring and redundant? Because in my own way I'm anal about editing and critiquing everything I write.

She was pretty--the girlfriend. She's married with a baby. Good. One less to worry about.

Sometimes my mind wanders back to poor old Brackley. He died never knowing what happened to his son. Not knowing his pretty young wife had engineered the poor guy's murder, and was sucking him dry like some kind of fiscal vampire. How can people be so cold? I've studied so many people, so many cultures...I keep thinking I'll find an answer to how someone can use another person...and betray their love.

I'm getting morose, and it's late. I've got papers to grade. I wish I could say something to make Jim feel better about Jack.




I thought corrupt sheriffs who seriously thought they owned their towns were primarily a creation of Hollywood. They exist. Trust me on this. Man, Simon really got into something nasty just trying to go to a class reunion. They were seriously going to pin a murder on him with no damned motive. Ridiculous. Unbelievable. Then these lunatics set a whole hotel on fire just to wipe out the evidence of killing Simon. Sometimes you wonder if evil is more than a concept--I mean, what makes someone willing to risk dozens of lives just to save his own ass? I have a renewed respect for Simon. He's one tough cookie. He held up beyond well. He was amazing. Oh yeah--my Jim did okay too.

Missed our camping trip. I don't know if that's good or bad. It's bad because I wanted to spend a couple of days in a tent with Jim. It's good because that same situation is potentially dangerous. I mean, what if I went nuts and tried something? Or, what if I got what I wanted, but then he announced it was just all in fun--experimenting or messing around--but that it didn't mean anything. "Come on, Chief, get real..." I'm afraid to try. Glad we aren't in a tent together. I just hope I don't talk in my sleep--because he hears me anyway, I'm sure. I know I dream about him all the time. Wonder what he thinks if he does hear me say his name in my sleep? Maybe nothing. We're together all the time. It wouldn't necessarily mean anything. Would it?




Angela Kumoro. I could be in trouble here. Jim really likes this lady. And why shouldn't he? She's beautiful--in that sort of exotic Asian way. And she's devoted to her job, and damn good at it. She's in deep cover right now...a Fed posing as the lover of a crime lord. I wonder what it's like for her to have sex with that guy? Could I do that for my job? Could I fake it in bed? Maybe he's really good. Maybe on the physical side she doesn't have to fake it. Would Jim really love her knowing what she'd done for the job? Maybe he sees it as noble--selfless. Maybe it makes her sexier somehow. At best, her cover can't last forever.

Mike Hurley's descent into all this crap is really tragic. He was basically a good person, but life just took some horrible turns and he found himself doing something...unthinkable. In his grief about his niece, he probably didn't even see it as wrong. It hurt Jim a lot to see him as a dirty cop...I could tell Jim really cared deeply about that guy. Sometimes Jim's so damned quiet with his feelings that people don't even notice at first that he's having them. But I notice.

I'm getting tired of seeing death and grief all around me. It's amazing how even the coldest gang member can lose it and hold the body of someone he loves in his arms and scream out in agony. I mean, I wonder how many people he's put six feet under and how many relatives or friends or lovers he's caused to kneel on the unyielding cement somewhere, cradling a dead loved one... But grief is the great equalizer. We all feel it, and it can rip out a gang banger's heart the same as it does a housewife's, or a cop's... I wonder how Jim would react if somebody shot me? I remember Danny much pain. Would he cry out like that for me? Would he hold what was left of me and cry? Would he vow revenge? Or would he feel kind of bad and then just move on? He's strong. I don't pride myself that he couldn't live without me. I wonder if he'd miss me a lot?




I knew as soon as I heard that they wanted to put Jim on one of those true crime cop shows, it was going to be trouble. He bristled just at the very thought of some video camera following him around. I know he just about shoved mine down my throat the first time I pulled it out. I never aimed that baby at him again...he was major league pissed. In a way, I don't blame him. He's not a lab rat and the camera made him feel like one.

About the reporter. Another nice-looking blonde who's got her eye on Jim. Why should that even surprise me? I can't read Jim. I mean, he sort of flirts with these women, sometimes he goes out with one...but it never moves beyond that. He's usually home by midnight or before, and sometimes we have a snack if I'm still up reading--and I always try to be. He'll tell me where he took her, or a little about her life and what she told him about herself, but he's always noncommittal--like, she's nice, but he doesn't know if they'll actually see each other again. And generally they don't. I wonder why that is?

Sometimes I listen to him talking about taking her to a nice restaurant and maybe a movie--a couple times he's taken a lady to something nice, like a play or a symphony concert. I picture what it would be like if he took me out like that. I mean we eat together all the time, and we've even caught a couple movies together. But it was a "guy thing"--burgers and fries and an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie.

It didn't help matters when he came into my bedroom at dawn, put his hand over my mouth and then leaned over me like he was going to kiss me. I thought I was either dreaming, or I was dead and this was heaven, or God had finally granted me a miracle and Jim was hot for me. Turns out he just wanted to shush me. I'd have preferred he used his mouth, but instead, he stifled any sound with his hand and then leaned in close to press his lips against one upraised finger.

Oh. Be quiet. I can do that. Shit, I couldn't breathe anyway.

I've always heard that God helps those who help themselves. So I asked Jim out on a date. Not in so many words, but I got tickets to see "Cats" when it played at the Cascade Pavilion, and asked Jim if he'd like to go. He made some joke about standing in for whatever girl turned me down flat, and I told him I bought the tickets for us. He looked kind of happy and puzzled at the same time, so I said I just figured he'd been working a lot of overtime lately and the break might do him good. He seemed really pleased, and even went along with getting dressed up and going someplace really classy for dinner. I treated. I was taking him out on a date whether he realized it or not.

We ate at DaVinci's, a really expensive, upscale Italian place not too far from the Pavilion. Most of the crowd there were going to the show. Most of them were couples, or groups of couples, but that didn't seem to bother Jim.

The play was okay. The production that came here to Cascade wasn't the quality of the original Broadway production, but it was fun anyway. Besides, I got to sit close to Jim in the dark for two hours. He got restless in the confined seats and put one of those long arms along the back of my seat. I tried not to ooze over closer to him, but I guess I probably did from time to time. We whispered back and forth about the play sometimes, and went out for the champagne they were selling at intermission. Jim ran into a city councilman he knew who gave us a couple of strange looks, but Jim calmly introduced me and made small talk about the play and before long it was time to go back inside.

I had insisted on taking a cab from the loft to DaVinci's, and we were able to walk from there to the Pavilion. I wanted us to be able to drink wine or champagne or whatever and not have to worry about running into one of Jim's pals with a breathalyzer. We walked leisurely back to DaVinci's, but instead of hailing a cab, Jim suggested we go in and have a nightcap. I thought it sounded great. He introduced me to Bailey's Irish Creme, a liqueur that is essentially like chocolate milk that really kicks your ass. It was great. We had more than one, and talked about everything. That's what's so amazing with Jim and me. We can say absolutely nothing and just be comfortable being together or we can talk non-stop for hours and not run out of stuff to talk about. Maybe we've both just led full lives...I don't know. Anyway, feeling no pain, we left DaVinci's when they threw us out, and started walking in the general direction of the loft. Jim seemed in no hurry to end the evening, and I was living a fantasy. I didn't care if my coach did turn into a pumpkin and I woke up in rags in the morning--this night was worth everything.

About four blocks into our somewhat aimless walk, Jim decided he should start singing "Memory" from the play. He has a nice voice. I thought I should join in, so here we were, walking down this dark street at two in the morning, belting out show tunes at the tops of our lungs. I know we were a little tanked, but it was more than that. It was like we had created some little hole in reality and climbed through it into an alternate universe. I don't know if I've ever seen Jim that relaxed, or having quite that much fun without keeping one part of himself alert or on guard. I think I pack of armed felons could have crept up behind us and killed us both before he noticed anything. God, it was great to see him that loosened up.

We had run through every show tune we both knew and were getting tired by the time we ended up in front of DaVinci's again. Momentarily dismayed, we finally looked at each other and burst out laughing. I'm not sure the cabbie wanted to stop and pick up the two laughing drunks who were melodramatically flagging him down from the sidewalk, but thankfully he did, and we made it home in one piece.

Jim thanked me for the play and dinner, said he had a great time, and headed up to his room still humming something from "Cats". My fancy clothes turned back into rags, my coach and horses turned into a pumpkin and rats, and I went to my room and lay there replaying the night in my mind. All I can't give him that he needs is sex, and God knows he could have the best I could give him of that if he wanted it. I love him so much... I couldn't hold back the tears, but I muffled them, and Jim was drunk, and therefore probably in a dead sleep by then. He didn't come downstairs, so he probably didn't hear me.

I remembered a few words from a rock song I used to love by the Macauley-Schenker Group (who went by the name MSG long before it became such a talked-about food ingredient): "...I'm so high if I fall I'm gonna die..." Maybe I climbed a little too high with Jim this time. This crash hurt bad. But then again, he didn't mention Wendy Hawthorne's name again. I can fantasize that I was too much competition for her, can't I?






What makes a pretty girl from decent people turn into a prostitute? How do you do it for money like that, and detach so easily? I mean, I've had sex just for the physical sensations, without a lot of emotion. Still, I can't understand how someone can be so damn clinical and cold about something so...personal. I sort of like Amber. I tried not to judge her, but she called it right when she said I did judge her.

A million things ran through my mind when that guy turned and aimed the gun and fired. Will the vest work? What if he's got hollowpoints, or armor-piercing bullets? What if I die? Will it hurt? Will it be instant? The speed of the brain is like, so remarkable! All this stuff conscious thoughts before the impact hit me and I was flat on my back. I thought the bullets *did* pierce the vest, it hurt so bad. I think I passed out, because the next thing I knew, Jim was there, all concerned and gentle and comforting. If he said everything was okay, then I trusted him, and I took a deep breath, confident for the first time since I was hit that my lungs wouldn't collapse or fill up with blood from the gaping holes in my insides.

He helped me out to the truck, called everything in to Simon, assuring him I was okay--just winded and shaken up a little. Simon is okay. He's good to Jim, and he's accepted me--well, pretty much. I still push his buttons, sometimes on purpose, sometimes just by being around...but he's an okay guy.

When we got home, Jim took off my jacket and shirt and the vest and inspected the damage. All along, he was talking in calming tones about the case and then he'd say something about somebody he knew who took a plug at close range in a vest and just like him, I'd be okay. And he said I'd done fine...had nothing to be ashamed of. He taped my ribs, though he figured they were just bruised. He knew I wanted something put on my boo-boo so to speak, to make me feel like it was significant enough to floor me like that. Then he was all buddy-buddy again, slapping me on the back--where he knew it wouldn't really hurt my bruising--and going on with life as usual.

I wish there was someone I could ask about this. The whole time we worked this case, I felt like Jim was the one who was jealous every time I looked at anything female. Okay, I admit my jaw dropped in that strip joint. I don't go to those places ordinarily, and seeing all those naked asses swinging around at eye level kind of threw me a little. But it was like he didn't want me to look at them. What'd he expect me to do? Ignore it? Besides, I haven't had any in weeks. Maybe it's months. I don't know, and ordinarily I don't care, but I was so damned horny right then that I would have gone to the men's room and jerked off if I thought I could get away with it. Fantasizing about Jim was great, but I was in serious painful deprivation here. Kind of like a dieter in the Fanny Farmer Candy Store. The girl with the dirigibles for breasts who showed us to the office wasn't easy to ignore either. But here again is Jim, actually turning my head away. What do you want me to do, big guy? Leer at you? Love to, but you'd kick my ass from here to Borneo. Or would you? He sternly warned me about keeping things professional with Amber, and he seemed genuinely pissed that I had a woman in the apartment before he knew it was case related. Ever since our date, it just feels like he treats me differently. And this whole fit of slapping my hands every time I reached for the cookie jar during this case really makes me wonder. I try to avoid thinking like that, because I know how much it's gonna hurt when I come down from the fantasy and realize he was just being cranky and he doesn't care who I sleep with.

Amber gave me this big sloppy kiss and then sauntered down the hall. Was that supposed to seduce me? Give me a hard-on? Was I supposed to care? I know it makes me a hypocrite to judge her--I'm supposed to be this liberal, easy-going neo-hippie but it still makes me feel crawly. I don't think I could ever sleep with someone who sold it for money. I'd feel like she was just doing me some kind of free professional service--like those places that offer to clean three rooms of carpeting in your house to get your future business. I'm glad she's okay, and off to live her own life. She did serve the purpose of seemingly making Jim crazy. It was a fun fantasy while it lasted. I think he's got a date tonight with somebody from the DA's office.

I'm going to go make some tea and sandwiches. Maybe if I'm lucky, this'll be another early one and we can have a little time together before he turns in.




Which one am I again, red or blue? Shit. I was looking for my lunch to grab on my way out the door and he's got our stuff in color-coded Tupperware. ANAL RETENTIVE!!!!! My friends on AOL informed me that I "shout" too much in my e-mails and even in the chat rooms. I'm trying to stop that, but sometimes something needs capitals, and that did. God, he pisses me off sometimes. Packing up my stuff, lecturing me on how long my fucking notes have been on the shelf...or was it the TV? I don't know. All I know is that before Mr. Clean threw everything in a carton, I had some order to that stuff. Now I don't know where the hell anything is.

I can't stay too mad at Jim. I mean, he pissed me off at first, but then I started listening between the lines. He's inviting me to stay in his life permanently. I'm not an annoying houseguest anymore. I live there, so I have to obey all these house rules because he's *nesting* with me. He's embracing me (figuratively, dammit!) as part of his life, and this was his way of telling me I wasn't a guest anymore. I was home.

I'm the only idiot I know who gets all misty-eyed opening up his lunch because the Tupperware container makes me feel loved. I could be crazy, (many people have considered this a very real possibility) but I think that Jim was jealous of me getting friendly with Maggie. Granted, she was a crook, but we didn't know that at first. Jim seemed to want to move me out of there and away from her as soon as I started something up with her--we were talking books, and then suddenly Jim wants to be on the move. Right then.

And what the hell was he doing with that shower thing? I mean, he's running around naked, showering, toweling off--hasn't the man ever heard of closing a door? If I didn't know better, I'd say he was purposely flirting with me--and like anything else he does, Jim wouldn't flirt halfway. He'd just toss the merchandise out there and watch me drool. Knowing Jim, he's just comfortable with me and doesn't care if I see him naked. Hell, I keep forgetting, he was in the military then the police--he's been in how many locker rooms running around like that with how many other guys? Why would he be inhibited in front of me?

He really hovered over me when I got thumped on the head with that radio tower. Man, that hurt. I'm so frigging sick of headaches. If my eyes don't do it to me from too much reading and computer time, somebody clocks me and I can't see straight for a week. But he was real protective of me, and he wouldn't let me come along with him when he started exploring.

I think I lost ten years off my life when I saw him in that vat of oil--and ten more each time he went under. I kept thinking that he'd die and I never told him how much I love him--we bickered about Tupperware the last time we had a conversation privately. But somehow when he was running around naked just didn't seem like the time to profess my undying love.

He got through his fear of the water--and very well, I might add. I think he was a little bit glad to see me, and later that night, he said he was really proud of me for having stayed on board the rig and stopped the bomb. I felt ten feet tall. He said that took courage, guts, and selflessness. I don't know about that, but it made him proud of me, and that makes anything worth it.




All my life, my mother gave me speeches about "detach with love" right before she dumped me for several weeks--sometimes months--with some friend or relative who really didn't want me but owed her a favor. I don't mean to sound harsh about Naomi. She is the way she is, and I know she loves me. I love her too--very much. She's my mom. She wasn't ready for a kid when she had me--I don't think she ever would have been ready. She's a free spirit, she should have always been free to fly wherever the wind carried her. And generally speaking, she was. Maybe that's part of why I treasure so much what I have here with Jim. I never had it before. It's called HOME. Someplace I don't get moved out of, someplace that isn't temporary. Just like those beautiful French doors he bought for my room. He said it was because he though the curtain looked tacky and maybe this would block out some of that God-awful music I played in there. But I know it was more than that. And I love him for it.

Anyway, of all the times for Naomi to visit and play interfering mother, this was the worst. I get involved in one of Jim's cases and have to go undercover--against my better judgement--and here comes Mom. I was so embarrassed at what she said in front of Jim and Simon. I mean, it was incredibly awful just having my mother burst into Simon's office and start yelling about my being in danger as if I were a six-year-old. When I was six, one of her boyfriends laced my milk with a hallucinogenic drug just to see what kind of trip I'd have. But now that I'm a man, she's worried that I'm in danger. To have her tell me, in front of them, that I wasn't cut out for police work made me feel about three feet tall. Jim was strangely silent. I was mentally pleading with him to stand up for me, say something. Simon did it instead. He really stuck up for me, made me feel like part of the team. It was tough watching her storm out of that office, but then I've seen her retreating back a lot in my life. I should be used to it. Maybe it's because as adults, we've been good friends. Now that she doesn't have to haul me around with her and explain me away, she can enjoy me a little. Since I started college at 16, we've been great friends.

But she came around, and she got involved in the operation--did a hell of a job, too. Quite a lady, my mom. Maybe someday I'll get through all her layers too--and really figure her out. Jim's seen the photo album. I was a pretty happy kid overall. I don't mean to always sound so tragic. I'm typical I guess--we usually pick out the bad stuff our parents did or the things they didn't do that we thought they should have done and that's the part of our childhood that stands out. I had my little games I played, my make-believe friends, and Naomi could be an enchanting companion for a kid--she explained things in magical ways, never did or said anything truly boring, and she taught me the openness you need to drift in and out of a whole slew of different cultures and mingle with the natives.

I still wonder sometimes why Jim didn't say anything in Simon's office. But then, he knew I was jumpy about the case, so maybe he thought this was an out I could take under the guise of not upsetting my mother. Maybe he just figured she wouldn't listen to him anyway.




I was thinking about asking Jim to go out with me again--he only sees it as an evening out for two friends. I can live my fantasy and he has fun and kicks back. A good combination. This time, he asked me to go out. I didn't think much of it at first--some cop's retirement party. But we got dressed up for it, and most of the guys were there with wives and girlfriends. And Jim walks in with me. Everybody knows me, so nobody really made anything out of it. They probably figured, rightly so, that Jim was just letting me come because it would give me a chance to do something socially with these people. But I wonder. I mean, here are all these couples again, and here I am with Jim. He's touching my arm or leaning close to tell me something...

And while I was riding the tide, loving every minute of it, Maya shows up. Aside from putting my heart through a meat grinder, she has rotten timing.

So Maya's back and she needs help. So Blair the Bozo does his chivalry routine, volunteering Jim right along with me, to fix her fucked up life. Maybe we owed it to her since we fucked it up. Or rather I did. Jim was doing his job. I was lying to her. Using her. It hurt to see her again. It hurt to say good-bye the last time and know I'd never see her again. Most of all, it hurt that she was using me--but from the standpoint of Karma--it fit. I used her, lied to her. And it came back full circle.

Maya was the last woman I truly loved. She was my one last chance to "be normal". After she slipped away, hurt me so damned badly, I turned to Jim even more. I was so raw after Maya, like an open wound. Jim chasing Jane around sniffing her pheromones almost wiped me out. I had leaned on him so much, and loved him so much by then... But that's over and in the past. All of it. Seeing Maya again was an odd experience. I'm glad she's gone. It never could have worked. I think Maya loves Maya most of all, and in the end, she'll be okay. She'll take care of herself. She'll use the people she has to, and she'll survive. I hope she really does find happiness. She had a rough start in life, and it's pretty hard to hold against her anything she does. Her life has been hard...tragic. So after Maya left, and Jim and I made our hasty exit from the scene, we stopped at a quiet little bar for a beer. He seemed to know I needed something more than just going back to the loft right away. And I did have something else on my mind. When Maya's uncle grabbed us, his goons were going to burn me with a blow torch unless we told them where Maya was. I know I was yelling at Jim not to say anything. I know he said something to Gustavo about him being a dead man if he touched me. But that's just talk when somebody's got you outnumbered and overpowered. I wanted to know why Jim didn't say *something* to buy some time. I mean, I could feel the heat from that flame getting close...I was scared shitless. So after a couple of beers, I asked him what he was going to do back there if I hadn't spoken up when I did about "Uncle Gustavo". He said he was going to tell them something phony about her whereabouts. He claimed he was never going to let me get hurt. Why did I say claimed? I believe him. It just bothered me he could be so damned cool. But then he probably saw worse in Covert Ops. Jim's seen a lot of horrible things in his life, and he's suffered a lot. Maybe in ways I'll never know.

If Gustavo's men had burned me, I think Jim probably would have snapped the old bastard's neck at the next opportunity.






One thing our society never seems to outgrow no matter how advanced it gets is hate. Nasty, undistilled, meaningless hate. Racial hate. Ethnic hate. Socioeconomic prejudice. Homophobia. Yeah, we're a real evolved society. If your skin is the wrong color, or you worship in the wrong type of building, you are subject to violence. Churches. What kind of...of monster blows up a church? A house of God. I mean, I don't think of myself as really religious or anything, but there's something sacred about a place where people come together to give praise to their God, whoever He might be. It's a place of peace and love--not war and hate.

I can understand the outrage the black community felt at what they perceived as a white system that didn't care. But Jim cared. Simon cared. Joel cared. I cared. And it's over. No more bombings--at least not from that one single maniac. But there's always another one waiting to fill the void.

I wonder if someday we'll be able to judge each other without meaningless prejudices? Hire the right person for the job, not fill a quota mandated by a law. Live side by side contentedly, not cringe if a family of another race moves in next door. I hope so. When that happens, we will have reached a new stage in Evolution. I hope I'm alive to see it.

I asked Jim to go with me to a concert. He looked terrified at the word "concert" coming from me. When he found out it was the Cascade Symphony doing Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, he actually blew his beer through his nose laughing. And believe me, that hurts. He was pissed as soon as he could get his face straight again. Try blowing beer through your nose with enhanced senses. Poor guy.

When he recovered, decided I hadn't purposely tried to make him blow beer out his nostrils, he said it sounded like fun.

The Cascade Symphony Orchestra is never going to put the New York Philharmonic out of business. They did well, though, and it was another nice evening among the society of Cascade. But mostly, it was another nice evening of sitting with Jim, loving it when he'd lean over and whisper about how differently he could hear the music now. How he was focusing on one instrument he particularly liked...he *is* a magic man.

This time we had a late dinner after the concert (very European, huh?) and it was great. We ate Chinese this time at the Emperor's Palace. It was a good distance from the auditorium, so it was almost deserted by ten o'clock at night. We talked and laughed and ate, and Jim seemed happy sitting so close to me in the curved booth that we almost touched. We swapped our food back and forth, trying a little of everything. We ate like pigs, and then took off on another one of our walks. This time, we weren't singing show tunes or staggering around shit-faced. We really talked. About work, about life, about the meaning of things...we were all the way back to the loft before we realized we'd never bothered to hail a cab. With tired legs, we flopped on the couch and talked a little about Jim's heightened hearing and planned a few more experiments with music--of his choosing.

I woke up about four a.m., with my head pillowed on Jim's thigh and him slumped bonelessly in one corner of the couch, sound asleep. I lay there for another hour, awake, treasuring the sensation. I must've dozed off again, because the next time I came to, I was lying by myself on the couch, the throw over me and a note on the coffee table that Jim had been called in. He also thanked me for great evening and suggested we do it again the next weekend--his treat. I held the note the way I'd've liked to hold Jim, and drowsed lazily for another couple of hours before starting the day. These little pieces of love would be enough to live on. And if they ended someday, if he fell in love, it would break my heart, but I'd have my box with our ticket stubs from "Cats" and the symphony, our fortunes from the Chinese restaurant, and this note. I know I can't say it right out to you, but, I love you, Jim, with all my heart. I always will.






They say some people have a death wish. I have to be one of those people. Am I not the Einstein who fixed Jim up with Margaret? I didn't actually mean to. I mean, I like Margaret and so we call each other once in a while, besides seeing each other around the campus. (Margaret is the resident Archive genius in the library.) She called for me one time when I wasn't home and started visiting with Jim--she's very friendly, likes to meet new people. If I had said to Jim that I was dating her or that I wanted to make a move on her, he would have backed off right away. But, brain-boy that I am, I told the truth--"Oh, no, we're just friends." So every time she called to tell me she'd found something I was after in the Archives or that my interlibrary loan had come in, she'd chat with Jim if he answered the phone. Then he wanted to meet her.

God smiled on me. They didn't seem to ignite. I mean, they talked, but Jim didn't seem excited about it after she left. I went out and sulked around the nearest business district after she got there. I ended up sitting in the back of a movie theater and pouting my way through a double feature. When I got home, Margaret was gone and Jim was asleep on the couch with the TV going. He's still a little winded from the Golden--hell, so am I. Even now I'm not as energetic as I should be. I feel kind of sluggish and heavy and like I want to sleep all the time.

I don't know where to even begin talking about the whole Golden situation. When Jim lost his sight like that, I was really afraid for him. I mean, don't get me wrong, someone with four other sentinel-quality senses to navigate would probably be better able to compensate than your average sightless person, but that doesn't change how horrible it would be to be blinded. Jim takes things very stoically. He was scared though, and all I could do was stay with him all the time so he felt he had a pair of eyes to "borrow" when he needed to know what was going on visually.

Normally I would have been rejoicing for any cause that gave me an excuse to sleep in the same bed with Jim--but to calm his fright because he was only able to see this surreal gold light was an exception. He was tossing and turning up there in his bed, and I was sitting in the living room, reading. I knew he was about to go nuts. I finally went up and sat on the bed and talked to him for a while. He admitted to being afraid, and then it just kind of all poured out--all the things he was afraid he'd never see again and all the things he hadn't seen that he might never see... His eyes filled but he didn't cry--at least not audibly. He caught a couple of stray tears that had the audacity to slip out from under his controls. The doctors didn't give us a lot of hope, and certainly no guarantees that his sight would return.

I didn't know at first how he'd react to me curling up next to him and putting my head on his shoulder, but he moved and jostled me until he got his arm around me and kept talking. I knew he needed something to hold onto in that mass of golden shapelessness where he was floating. He'd felt cut off, like he was drifting...I know that's how I'd feel. And I remember when I was afraid at night and screaming with nightmares after the whole run-in with Lash--Jim never pulled the whole macho bit with me. He held me when I was afraid and he sat with me until I went to sleep--he was there for me every way he could. I just wanted to return the favor. Jim's so much larger and stronger and better trained to handle physical combat situations than I am. But he really looks to me to steer things sometimes. And if ever he needed his guide, it was when he was robbed of one of his most fundamental and necessary senses.

I started coaching him on his breathing, giving him something else to focus on besides his fear. It wasn't long before he was asleep. When he woke up, I was still there. I had been awake for an hour or so, and I debated going downstairs so he wouldn't feel uneasy or embarrassed in front of me about our sleeping arrangements the night before, but then I figured that he might feel scared or disoriented in the morning when he first opened his eyes to...a mass of gold light and nothing else. I was right. He wasn't uneasy around me at all. We talked about focusing on his other senses, did a few dumb little experiments with making him listen to something I was doing and describe it. But it made him feel better, more in control.

I'm still floored by the way he trusted me to watch his back--and his front and both sides--on this case. My heart just about stopped when he made that meet--thank God for laser pointers!! Hah! That was beyond cool. I can see the headlines now in the Rainier campus paper: "Anthro Nerd Overpowers Drug Lords With Laser Pointer". I've been using my brains to outwit bullies all my life, so this wasn't much different. Except it was life and death, and it was Jim's life. But it worked out well, so I'm grateful to whatever deity made it happen.

I never expected to eat the pizza from hell and go berserk. What's really scary is I don't remember--still--doing any of the stuff Jim said I did. Not that he was accusatory or anything. I had to drag it out of him. I'm just beyond relieved that no one was hurt--and it makes my guts turn inside out to think I might have shot Jim. He said he was never afraid of that--that he trusted me, knew I wouldn't kill anybody.

The weird thing is, I remember having nightmares--or thinking they were nightmares but they were really what was going on--but I remember thinking these horrible, flaming figures were after me--like people on fire all around me. And they'd come out of the floors and the walls and nothing could stop them. See, when you have nightmares you don't think of something logical like a giant firehose--of course, I used that on gunmen before, so in my world, I guess using a gun to fight fire would fit right in. Anyway, I remember thinking I had to do something to stop these things, and I thought about protecting Jim, sort of in the back of my mind, because I knew he was blind and needed my help. So I'm firing at the ones who get closest to me, and all of a sudden Jim's there, babbling on about the back echo trick or something, and I wasn't totally processing what he was saying, but I knew he wanted the gun...and I just knew how tired I was feeling and how scared I was and Jim was there, and that's all I cared. I handed him the gun, and I remember him catching me when I fell and holding me until everything went black.

The next few days are just a jumble of images. But always, Jim was a constant, and I knew when he left me. I also know now that he had to leave once in awhile to catch the guys who did it. I remember him talking to me. A lot. He held my hand most of the time, but I couldn't get my brain to connect with my hands to let him know I knew he was there. I was very afraid then. I thought maybe I had been in some sort of accident and was brain damaged or paralyzed because I couldn't make my body respond to my mind at all. But I could feel some things--which is a definite disadvantage when certain nurses think you're out of it. I'll leave the graphic details to the imagination.

But Jim talked to me, telling me that everything would be okay, that I shouldn't be afraid, but that I had to work hard to come back, to wake up. There was fear in his voice, though. I know he didn't know if I ever would wake up completely, or if I did, if I'd be a blithering invalid with the IQ of a squash. For the first time, I even felt like if that happened, I wouldn't be alone. I knew as I listened to all the hushed, concerned words that I was going to be taken care of no matter what happened. That calmed me down a lot.

This is going to sound like a bad version of Sleeping Beauty, but you know what brought me around? Jim kissed me. No shit. I mean, not on the lips or anything, but he kissed my forehead late the last night I was "unconscious", and then he leaned down real close to my ear and whispered, "I love you, Blair. And I need you to come back." Then he stroked my hair and kissed my forehead again. And I knew his presence was there right beside me all night.

I woke up with the sunrise in the morning. I knew his eyes were getting better because he saw me wake up from where he was slumped in the chair. They had taken me off the respirator the day before because my vital sign had all improved and I was breathing steadily on my own and had a strong, healthy heartbeat. The only thing messing me up was being unconscious, and I guess Jim sweat some real bullets worrying about brain damage. As if in a chorus, we both spoke at the same time.

"You're awake!"

"You can see!" Then we laughed, both weakly since he was tired and I was still semi-drugged. He came and sat on the bed, and for a moment I thought he was going to kiss me again. But he didn't. He took my hand in both of his and then reached up and laid a hand on my cheek.

"You gave me a hell of a scare, Chief," he said, his voice very strained. My arms were working again, so I raised my other hand up and touched his face briefly. I couldn't hold it there long. "I...I came back like you asked, Jim. I love you, too." That was all it took, and he was crying. It was like a spring that let loose. He carefully pulled me right up off the bed into his arms and hung on for dear life. One arm was pretty trapped by the IVs, but I had one free one that hooked around his neck and squeezed back. The other sort of clutched on with a tired hand to his sleeve. For that moment, I'd have eaten twelve Golden-laced pizzas and died happy. I didn't kid myself that Jim was about to toss me back on the bed and ravish me or anything, but I knew for sure how much he loved me--and that was the thing that was, indeed, GOLDEN.




You know, sometimes it feels like our lives move from the sublime to the ridiculous. It wasn't that long ago that Jim couldn't see. The next hurdle we had to overcome was that he could hear *everything* at top volume. I mean, he yelled at me for *writing* too loud! Poor guy. I know he was going bananas, and I didn't blame him. He had a constant headache from the symphony of sounds that were competing for his full attention.

I was really proud of myself for coming up with those white noise generators--the little ones. The big one wasn't too hard to come by. But those little generators came from a professor doing a study at Rainier in sleep disorders. I had to weave him a story that would have put Hemingway to shame to get him to part with those pricey little things. But he ultimately did, and wrote them off as a loss on his grant's expense account. That friend of mine who can't sleep whose husband won't permit a white noise machine in the bedroom who dozed off at the wheel and nearly killed herself and her two small children would be eternally grateful. But as I see it, I was lying for a worthy cause. I certainly couldn't explain the truth, and I just couldn't stand to see Jim suffer anymore, let alone risk his life on the job with his whacked out hearing.

He popped them in and they worked and he went back to his paperwork. I know this sounds really petty here, but I worked damned hard to get those stupid things, and I was really psyched about it. I could even handle him forgetting to say thanks, but the way he responded to me when I prodded him for a simple thank you really hurt. I know he loves me and that I'm important to him--it just hurts sometimes when he blows me off like that.

As if to add insult to injury, he went out with Sheila and didn't come home all night. I know that staying out all night with a woman wouldn't be Jim's idea of a way to hurt *me*, but it did. He's almost always come home early, and I could smugly think to myself that he might go out with them but he came home to me. Not this time, and I was unsettled. When I walked out and she was fixing him breakfast--ugh. I wanted to...well, I don't know what I wanted to do exactly, but there's Jim all relaxed and nonchalant, tying his shoes. I tried to play the role of "nudge-wink", but I don't think he bought it, because he explained to me that nothing happened between them and that all they'd done was talk all night before he fell asleep on her couch. Why he told me that, I don't know. I mean, it was as if he knew I needed to hear that nothing happened.

I was obviously territorial, I know, and I'm kind of embarrassed about it. I mean, I did all but beat on my chest and drag Jim back to my cave in front of her. I plunked myself between them at the table and started serving Jim the food *she* cooked--but she was in *my* fucking territory!! I fix breakfast for Jim in the morning, and I usually serve it, and dammit, if she had already done the cooking, she bloody well wasn't going to dish it up too. Is that selfish, childish, petulant and just plain ridiculous or what? Yeah, probably. But that's how I felt. I did all but yell "He's mine, dammit!" And the truth is, he isn't. He's my best friend, and I know he loves me because he said so. But he's not my lover and I have no claims on him.

Of course after I make a complete ass out of myself, I find out she's engaged. I had this overpowering urge to dance around the hallway of the station singing "happy, happy, joy, joy" and claim it was a delayed trip from the Golden. But I refrained, though I was dancing inside and feeling completely, sappily happy.

Oh, yeah, I taught Jim this cool trick for piggy-backing his senses. But who gives a shit about that? I've got a dissertation to talk about that in. Of course it did help Jim save Sheila's life, and now that I know she's engaged to someone else, I can be real benevolent about her. Of course, she *was* the hard-nosed bitch than wanted to hang Jim out to dry for Pendergrass's death...but we all make dumb mistakes, and she seemed to want to make it right.

And she's taken! Yes! One more landmine safely averted.




While I was worrying about Jim's hearing and predatory female IA cops, I stood Sam up. Not smart. You know, it's hard to get into this whole dating thing when you don't really care. But that's not the women's fault and I do feel badly about standing her up. I feel even worse because it's somebody that works at the station. Honestly, dating her was dumb. If I don't try to get some, it'll be all over the station that I'm a fake. If I do, and she takes me up on it, I feel like a creep because I know it's just a meaningless charade. I mean, physically, I can't say the thought of sex with Sam isn't kind of nice, but while I think she's smart and pretty and all that, I don't love her, and I never will. She just about incinerated me with some kind of accelerant when Jim and I went in to talk to her about the fires. Jim laughed it off afterwards, but he looked kind of unhappy with what she'd done at first. Quite frankly, it pissed me off even more when I thought about it later. I could've caught my hair on fire or gotten my face or hands burned. It was a dangerous, mean-spirited trick. I guess maybe I shouldn't worry too much about hurting Sam. She obviously isn't a terribly sweet person under the surface. I made a big joke out of it with Jim. Gotta play the role.

Jim hit if off really well with Deborah Reeves--well, not at first, but she seemed to kind of grow on him. He had dinner with her and her father. Said he had a nice time, but then he found that Sexwax stuff with the old man's surfboard, and considering his obsession and know-how with fire, it set Jim on a thought path that made him wary of getting too close to her. It's a damn shame her father had to die. He was really a good man, and ironically, those suits he made were all that saved Jim and Deborah from the fire. I don't even want to remember what it felt like to see that building go up like a Roman candle and know Jim was in there...and how hot it was going to get, and how fast it burned.

I've been having more and more trouble with my eyes lately--you know, the computer monitor giving me eye-strain headaches, reading giving me headaches--basically, life giving me a headache. I knew I was way overdue to see the optometrist, but I spent most of my ready cash on a new software program for my computer at the office and then a research grant I was counting on fell through and left me with the bills for a pile of rare books I'd bought for the project. I just couldn't pay out for new glasses or even the damned eye appointment.

Jim knew I was having a lot of headaches, but he always marvels at how much I use my eyes and don't have them fall out in my lap while I'm working, so it didn't catch his attention too much. I guess when he came in from work and I was laid out on the couch with a warm washcloth over my face for about the third day in a row, he zeroed in on what the problem was. I told him I figured I needed new glasses, and told him why I hadn't gotten any. I didn't tell him so he'd pay for it. I really didn't want to tell him because I figured he would. I was totally thrown by what he ended up doing. First, he insisted I go see an opthamologist. The guy at the quickie joint in the mall wasn't good enough in Jim's opinion. So I made an appointment with one and then Jim went with me *and* helped my pick out frames. Of course at first he was picking all these horrible, nerdy-looking ones and making me try them on. It took me six pairs of frames before I smelled a rat and his jaw twitched at just the wrong time and gave him away. He finally ended up sitting there giving me honest opinions, and it was the first time I had fun getting new glasses.

Well, that wasn't what floored me. He started questioning me about whether or not I had health insurance, and why didn't I have vision and dental and all that. I tried to explain that there weren't many fellowships out there with full benefit packages. The department had paid for any of my mishaps since I've been with Jim, since I've always gotten hurt while I was "observing". I told him I couldn't afford it and just didn't have it because I was generally pretty healthy. The next thing I know, he's shoving these forms under my nose from, like, the best possible insurance you can get and making me fill them out. He wouldn't take no for an answer. So now I have dental, vision, and health coverage that does all but pay me for breathing. He said he figured that without it, I was probably as conscientious about going to the dentist and the doctor as I was about having my eyes checked.

I was speechless. I don't think he expected me to cry over an envelope of insurance coverage, but that's what I did. He hugged me, thinking I was insane, probably. Nobody's ever taken care of me like that before. I mean, Naomi has always given me her love and the best she had to offer as a parent--more as a friend--but nobody's ever *looked out* for me before. Nobody's ever cared if I had health insurance or if I was protected in case I needed anything major. I don't think Naomi herself ever has had insurance. She might now. When hippies age, they do things like buy insurance. But then she didn't worry about it for me because she didn't worry for herself.

But Jim worries. He's paying out insurance premiums to take care of my eyes and my teeth and my medical check ups. I said I would try to take over the payments, but he's having none of it. He told me to just worry about bailing myself out of the rare books bill and my usual expenses and he could handle the insurance.

Sometimes the biggest demonstrations of love come in the oddest forms.






I almost lost Jim. One minute we were planning our fishing trip, joking around about my fishing spear, and the next minute, he had vanished. I felt so helpless to find him. I knew Simon would react just the way he did when I called. But when those guys opened fire one me, I was sure I was dead. It was...well, it must be kind of like how Jim relies on me sometimes. It was like without him, nobody listened to me. I had to get myself arrested before I could get some help. Then there was talk of finding Jim's truck and a car with a body in heart froze right there in my chest. I mean, even if it wasn't Jim's body, they had killed the guy he was with. That wasn't a good sign. Those bastards really trashed the loft. I didn't know what they were looking for, but I knew I had to get it cleaned up for Jim. I mean, it helped me hold onto the hope that he'd be back to care if the loft was messy. The first thing I did was put away the stuff that meant the most to Jim--his medals, some photos, his personal papers. I'm really glad my disks were locked in my desk in my office at the U. I forgot to throw the disk box in my backpack before I left, or they would have been here and I don't think finding out Jim had a roommate who was horny for him would have made his stay with the captors more pleasant. As it was, my box with the ticket stubs and the notes from Jim had been dumped out on my bed. But what did those tell anyone? I actually saved most of the notes Jim's ever written to me. The ones where he says something...meaningful somehow.

I really lost it when I saw those. If Joel heard me drop on my knees in that room and sob like my heart was being ripped out, he had the courtesy to leave me to it. As if by some miracle, they had left one of Jim's shirts in my room. I don't know why, unless they were going through the pocket and just carried it down with them, or maybe it had been in the hamper in the bathroom. I don't know. I just know it smelled like Jim--his cologne, and the smell that's unique to every person. I curled up on the bed with that shirt and my pile of notes and cried for a long time. None of this was looking good and no one was letting me participate in anything. I was just being treated like some half-wit who hadn't picked up anything from spending all these months tailing a cop. I felt helpless and desperate and scared and alone and like the only real family I ever had had just been ripped away from me.

Well, crying on the bed never gets you anywhere, so I straightened up my room and then wiped my face, blew my nose, smoothed up my hair and started on plan B--getting past Joel.

I did help, but I feel lousy about getting Jack Kelso in the line of fire. But he gave us some vital leads.

I should have known Jim would live through the impossible. Man, he's like, so amazing! I'm never going to learn every little thing he can do if I study him for eternity. It was strangely awkward when we got back together and went home. He thanked me for cleaning up the loft, since Simon had told him it was trashed at one point. He was exhausted and just wanted a shower, food and bed. I cooked him some stir fry while he showered. His stomach was a little tensed up, so he'd asked for something light. I served him the dinner, and resisted the urge to throw my arms around him and hold on and tell him how glad I was he was alive and how much I loved him. I figured he'd had enough teary-eyed declarations of love from me to last him awhile, so I kept the conversation light. He apologized for eating and running, but he was worn out and needed rest. He went upstairs and before long, he was dead to the world.

I tossed and turned for a half hour or so in my own bed, and feeling totally rattled by everything that had happened, I got up and went upstairs. Jim was sleeping when I first got there, but he stirred soon enough, and saw me standing there staring at him. He blinked and looked at me for a minute, and I guess something his acute senses could pick up about my heartbeat or my pulse or my scent or my *something* said what I couldn't say. He scooted over and held up the covers, and I climbed in without a second's hesitation. I rolled onto my side and he spooned himself around behind me.

"Think you can sleep now?" he asked me in this really soft, gentle voice. I snuggled into the warmth of his arms and smiled.

"For about a week," I muttered before I dozed off. I think I heard him laugh a little.




I don't think I'll ever completely understand people. Maybe that's what makes Anthropology so damned fascinating to me. What I've just been through, and the kaleidoscope of human relationships and emotions and principles and lack thereof--ugh. It just makes me feel like if I thought I had a handle on what makes the human race tick, I was way off.

I think the nature of evil--I'm not talking devils and pitchforks now, but of the dark side of human nature--is something no one can ever fully explain. People do such inexplicable things to each other. Out of greed, some nut traps five people in an elevator and uses them as human bargaining chips. I tried to think this thing backwards and forwards, and decide if "Galileo" only wanted money or if it was revenge for the way his father-in-law treated him (probably with complete justification, but it still pissed him off). I have to vote for greed alone. If he'd really wanted revenge, he'd have just dropped the elevator or killed his wife, whom he didn't love anyway. The revenge was just icing on the cake for him.

Then of course there's the phenomenon of people in crisis pulling together. But that doesn't surprise me. For every crazy bastard with an evil agenda, there are about a thousand good, decent people out there. I was trapped in that elevator with four of them. Yeah, I even include Caitlin. She was misguided and wrong and blinded by her love for that jerk she married...I feel sorry for her kid. He or she has some challenges to face with a messed up confused mother--and a hardass grandfather. I know there's some lofty principle about not giving in to terrorists, but I know I couldn't watch someone I loved in that kind of danger and not give everything I had to stop it.

The first drop took us totally by surprise. The second wasn't much better. It was the worst sensation...worse almost than free-falling. I tried not to think of how high in the building we were. The mental picture of the elevator shaft was so not something I wanted to dwell on. I have to admit that in the middle of all that horror, I loved that Jim yelled to me--just me--and sounded almost frantic trying to find out if I was okay after that second drop. I bumped my head when we stopped, and I was a little shaken up and winded, so it took me a minute to process what he was saying and get my head together to answer.

I knew how hard he was working to save all of us, but I wished I could have kept him on the cell phone the whole time. I kept thinking that if this was my last hour or so on earth, I had a lot of stuff to say to him--and he'd be the person I'd want to spend my last hour with.

Instead I spent it doing the Macarena with four strangers in a stalled elevator. When I die, I won't be able to claim I've led an ordinary life.

Somebody in the elevator was telling me I was a hero--one even yelled that she loved me. I guess anybody that drops a bomb away from you at the last minute looks pretty damn good to you. I think we all worked together--we kept each other sane, supported each other...I was just lucky enough to have a cell phone and know the cops. And having one of the other people turn out to be a maintenance guy who just happened to be carrying a blow torch was pretty damn handy too. One of us in that elevator sure had good karma to pull that one off.

When I first got out of that damn car, I was really drained. I wanted to see Jim. He wasn't right there. I don't know why that upset me so much...I guess I was just shaky as hell and wanted him there. I took a few pats on the back from the other cops and Taggert and his bomb squad guys, and then ducked into the nearest men's room and threw up. I hate heights, and I got a real good look down that elevator shaft... By the second wave of vomiting, somebody came in, and pretty soon I heard Jim tapping on the door of the stall I was in. Have you ever tried to answer someone when you're in the middle of puking? It's like your throat's kind of closed? Someone asks if you're all right, and you want so bad to say "Hell yes, I feel great, that's why I'm tossing my intestinal tract into the john." But all you manage is "yeah".

I hadn't latched the door, so Jim just pushed it open and squatted behind me where I was hanging over the head and pulled my hair out of the way while I finished up. When the wave passed, I leaned back against him and he was busily wiping my mouth and chin off with a wad of toilet paper. "Sorry," I croaked out, still raw in the throat.

"Nothing to apologize for, Chief. You did great in there." He was just crouched there now, holding me against him, letting me catch my breath. "Try to relax, pal." He felt me tense up again, and I thought I was going to have to go through it all again. But my stomach calmed down as I did, and Jim let me have the time I needed before he started pulling me back up on my feet. When he did, I was marginally mobile. My legs felt like jelly.

"Delayed reaction, I guess," I said. I was embarrassed to fall apart like this. I'd done pretty well up to that point.

"Think you can make it now?" Jim asked gently. I felt better, and he was there. I felt like I could handle anything.

"Yeah, I'm okay now." I straightened up and walked out of there on my own, and we were joking about the whole thing on the way out to the truck. But I knew it was like that fragile, false veneer of humor when you're too freaked out by something to really face it head-on.

We got home pretty fast. Simon let Jim off the hook for the paperwork until the next morning. He'd given him a verbal run down on his part of the operation, and I guess Simon figured we'd both be frazzled enough to need some down time.

A rush of adrenaline must be similar to great sex. I mean, both leave you sort of boneless and sleepy. That's how I felt by the time I got home. Jim took my jacket for me and I just crashed face down on the couch and didn't move. My stomach was still raw and fluttery and I was just plain wiped out.

Jim didn't get on me about not taking my shoes off before I got up on the couch. He just sat down on the end of the couch and took them off for me.

"How's the stomach?" he asked. His voice was quiet and a little strained. My stocking feet were still in his lap, and his hands were very softly resting on my ankles.

"Kinda lousy. I'm just really tired, man." I wriggled onto my side facing the back of the couch. I was so damned tired. The middle of the day, and I was flattened right out.

Jim covered me with the throw, and then put my feet down gently on the cushion as he stood up to leave me to my nap. He paused near the end of the couch were my head was, and the next thing I knew, he reached down and smoothed a little of my hair away from my face.

"That was a close one, Chief. Too damn close."

"It was a pretty good scare, wasn't it?" I responded, rallying a little and grabbing his hand as it moved away. I just held on for a minute, and he squeezed back.

"Yeah." It was little more than a whisper. Then he pulled his hand away and headed upstairs to his room.

I slept for a while, and when I woke up, Jim was sitting on the other couch, reading a book. "Anything good?" I asked, deciding I was ready to rejoin the living. I also understood so well Jim's need to be near me. I'd felt the same way after he was kidnapped to the point that I slept in his bed the first night he was home. I didn't know how close he really wanted to be to me, so I got up and then sat down close to him.

"Don't know really. I've just sort of stared at it." He looked down at me and gave me one of those million-dollar smiles. God, I'd do anything to get one of those. "I'm glad you're okay." "Oh, come on, man--was there ever a doubt?" I joked, and we both laughed. Jim flopped an arm around me and squeezed my shoulders a little.

"I'm damn proud of the way you handled yourself in there, Chief."



"Thanks." I just soaked up sitting there with Jim for a while before we both decided we'd take showers and fix some dinner. My stomach felt okay, and we were both relaxed. It was good to be home.




I've always been impressed with the courage of people who live under oppression. And also for those who pack up and move to another country to find something better. I mean, it takes a measure of courage to just leave the town you live in or even your state...but your whole way of life--man, that's awesome. I've lived with other peoples in other cultures, but it's always only been a temporary thing, and most often they knew I was a visitor, and a lot of times were cutting me slack or treating me like a guest because of it. That isn't the case for immigrants when they arrive in a new country. They're more like uninvited company that never goes home--the receiving society puts up with them but doesn't really welcome them.

Micki is a case in point. She is a profile in courage. She runs a newspaper, looks after her sister--hell, when Sergei was dying, she held up more calmly than I did. But then I would imagine death isn't a stranger to her. Not that it is to me either, really, but I haven't been with a lot of people when they died, and I haven't ever been with anyone while they died as the result of being shot right in front of me. I was positive I was next. Why that guy left me and didn't shoot me too is beyond me. I'm just grateful he didn't.

Jim liked Micki--maybe respected her more than anything else. He didn't seem to ignite with her. I can't say I feel badly about that.

I felt really useful on this case. I figured out the connection with Sergei's last name and where he came from and the nuclear weapons, I found the connection to The Dread...I think this was the first time Simon really paid attention to one of my "stories without a purpose". And I'm glad things turned out well for the girls. Katrina's going to get her treatment, and hopefully she'll have a chance to recover and lead a healthy, normal life.

I got an article published in a major journal this week. I was really pumped--especially since it was based on some old notes I've had kicking around since my undergrad days about a tribe of headhunters I studied during a junior-year expedition. I was so psyched. When Jim managed to peel me off the ceiling, he offered to treat me to dinner to celebrate--not WonderBurger or the usual take-out joints, but someplace really expensive. My choice.

I would write publication-quality articles weekly if I thought it would get me one of those dinner invitations every time.

We ended up at the same restaurant we went to after the symphony concert--the Emperor's Palace. I like the food there, but mostly I like the seating arrangements. They have these really neat curved booths--I probably mentioned that before. They're kind of like the ones you see in the old movies--one big seat shaped like half a donut with a table in the middle. Anyway, Jim is sort of like a heat-seeking missile--he seems to gravitate toward the people in his space, especially toward me. So if we're in one of those booths, he sits close to me and we end up trying each other's food--it's the closest thing to a romantic evening I can get away with.

I talked about the headhunters--Jim is like, so good for my ego. I don't know if I'm all that interesting, but when I start telling a story he's all ears. I know he gets impatient with me when we're working and I go off on a tangent, but when it's just us and we're relaxed, he really seems interested. "Do you ever miss it?" he asked, poking through his wor shu gai with his chopsticks. "The headhunters?" I asked, not exactly sure what he was driving at.

"No," he said, laughing a little. He kept his focus on the plate. "Traveling--all those new must get bored here." He sounded almost afraid of my answer, as if he were inwardly flinching, waiting for me to announce that I was about to launch on a celebratory trip to see the headhunters again.

"I like being here," I replied quickly.

"I just mean that it can't be all that interesting--I mean, you've studied just about every quirk of my senses."

"You've got plenty of quirks to keep me busy, Jim."

"I don't understand how you can go from living with all those different cultures and experiencing all those new things and seeing all those exciting places to sitting around Cascade with a brngcp," he mumbled.

"A what?"

"A boring cop like me. I know there's the sentinel thing, but you must have almost enough for your dissertation by now." I would have felt threatened by this conversation with Jim a few months earlier, but now I could see it was his fear of me just packing up and taking off someday that was behind it--not some desire to get the pesky houseguest out of his hair. With all that had grown between us--the depth of our friendship and all the things Jim had done to show me I was just about the center of his life, how could I ever leave? I mean, when I chose him over Borneo, I thought we had that straight. But he probably thought I had a lot more research to do on him and that it was part of why I was still around. What did Carolyn feed him anyway that made him so sure he was boring?

"You're not boring, Jim. You're steady, subtle and deep. There's a difference."

"I'm what?" Now I was getting the confused look that I absolutely adore. The wrinkled up face like he smells something bad.

"Well, you're steady--dependable, loyal--always there for me. And you're subtle--you don't make big splashes but you show the people in your life that they're important in a lot of little ways--and some big ways too--but it's not always the obvious stuff. And there's a lot worth knowing beneath the surface, but it takes a little digging. But it is so worthwhile to do it, man." I smiled at his speechlessness. "Some people are just boring, but some people get written off that way because they're not surface people. You've got layers, Jim. But each one--" I broke off, totally embarrassed. I had said way more than I planned to, but Jim was sitting there hanging on every word. I've heard the saying "in for a penny, in for a pound", so I went for it. "Each one is interesting in a quiet sort of way, and there's something...very special underneath all of them that's very worth the effort. And if somewhere along the line, someone gave you the idea you were boring, it was because they never took the time to listen to you."

I expected him to recover with a smart remark or to refute something I was saying. But he didn't. We both knew Carolyn had at some point made him feel like he was boring and uninteresting and not enough to hold a mate. He didn't have to tell me that. He never talks about his family much, but I get the feeling nobody worked real hard on building his self-image there either. Jim is so remarkably beautiful, in body and soul, and he doesn't see it. He doesn't let people in easily, and when he does, that person can squash him very easily. And with his military background and a cold, unfulfilling marriage, the soft, gentle parts of Jim had been hidden under a few layers of shell. I was under all those layers right at this moment, and I thought it was a good idea to take the opportunity to do a little healing.

"Jim, I'm here because...because you're the most special friend I've ever had. Because I want to be with you. I told you it was about friendship when I turned down that Borneo thing, and I meant it. See, Cascade's got one thing that no other tribe or village or settlement does--and that's you." I prayed for one of the solicitous servers to appear at that moment, but fate was letting me really twist in the wind here. I'd essentially laid my soul out naked on the table--well, not naked--it still had a fig leaf over its privates because there was one key element I wasn't about to risk verbalizing.

"I don't know what to say, Chief." He took a gulp of his wine. I was probably about the same color as the red tablecloth. I couldn't look up. I didn't know if Jim would think I was a total sap, or if he'd really take it to heart and handle it. "I guess I never said it at the time, Blair, but I'm glad you decided to stick around." He reached over and squeezed my hand.

And of course, about fifteen seconds too late, the waiter shows up while we're holding hands and Jim just about turns fuscia and slides his hand back under the table.




My life seems to just keep getting more bizarre. First, one of the janitors at the U is murdered--bitten to death by spiders. Ugh. You'd think that would be enough. But no, I have to get stuck advising the prodigy from hell. I was never as obnoxious as that kid. I don't care what Buckner said. And now he's dead too. And my beautiful, wonderful, undependable Corvair...that's dead too. I really treasured that car. I know I should let it go--it's just a *thing*. When I saw it laid up at that construction site, I didn't know what I wanted to do first--kill Alec or sit down in the street and bawl. Both, actually, and preferably in that order.

Alec was scared, and running for his life with good reason. I know that now. Is it dumb to miss a car? I miss it. I feel like I lost a friend. I got through a lot of good and bad times with that car. It was a classic.

Jim went to six garages with me--not one, not two, but six. I don't know if he'd have investigated a doctor's opinion that thoroughly. He patiently carted me around town while I described the car's "injuries" to each garage's top guy. All told me the same thing. Scrap it and start over.

I bought the car from an old man who was liquidating his household and going into a nursing home. He loved that car. He had bought it brand new in 1962, when he was in his late forties. He kept that car up like nothing you've ever seen. He babied that car. It just about killed him to sell it. He had a big collectors' price tag on it too. I fell in love with it. I had driven absolute *clunkers* before that. But this was a flawless beauty. With an old engine and lots of little quirks. I test drove it, mainly out of curiosity. It was too rich for my blood. I finally confessed to the guy that I didn't see any possible way to afford it. He knew I was nuts over it. I practically *caressed* the sides of it.

He asked me how much I was asking for the clunker I was driving--a bright blue Chevy Impala with huge weeping sores of rust, no hubcaps and more unpredictable springs in the seats than I want to discuss. I laughed and said I'd be lucky to get $400 out of that rolling piece of junk. He asked me how much I was planning to spend. I said I had about $1,000 in the bank and I figured I could get a real small loan. He did some mental math and told me if I could get $2500 together, it was mine. I told him I'd be back with a check if I had to sell a kidney. He laughed at that and told me he'd take the "For Sale" sign off it and park it in the garage again.

Getting his baby adopted into a good home meant more to him that a fat check from some rich kid who'd burn up the engine racing it around or from a collector who'd keep it in a garage somewhere. He wanted someone to love it with a passion, and I did. That was in 1994.

Jim never asked why I was being such a big baby about the whole thing. He just went along for the ride. After the sixth garage, I got back in the Expedition and he asked me where we were going next. The guy took a whole day off for this. I just shook my head and said we might as well go home.

"Same verdict, huh?"

"Yeah." I nodded. I'd never have another '62 Corvair. And somehow, it felt like that old man's legacy was dying with it. Tears came. Boy did I feel stupid.

"Hey, we'll find you another set of wheels, Chief." Jim rested a hand on my shoulder. I felt so ridiculous. But to me that was like someone saying "we'll find you an extra friend to replace the one you lost".

"I don't want another car," I said, giving into the urge to turn this into a full-blown, teary-eyed scene.

"I know you loved the car but it can't be fixed. You're going to have to accept that and move on." Jim seemed incredulous that I was throwing this tantrum over a car and that he was dignifying it. I felt duly embarrassed. But I still cried and I still refused his offers to stop at a rental place so I could get something temporary.

When we got back to the loft, I closed myself up in my room, finished my crying jag, wondering idly if old Mr. Holt was still alive.

The whole issue of Alec and the spiders? Something else I'd just as soon forget. He opted to go home and be a normal kid instead of an outcast prodigy. Must be nice to have that choice. Yes, I'm feeling sorry for myself here. It's my fucking diary so I can wallow in as much self-pity as I want. It's not bad enough I had tarantulas all over my body, my car's dead and Jim thinks I'm neurotic now. I had to make an ass out of myself trying to rollerblade around the campus. The wheels spent more time pointing upward than pointing downward. I can't believe I'm saying this, but maybe I'm too damned old for that crap.

This has been a week they don't make a Prozac pill big enough to handle.

I finally told Jim about Mr. Holt, and he seemed to understand a little better why I had gone so ballistic, even if he doesn't understand why I'd rather hitch rides with him or walk than get another car this soon. Between that and my spider nightmares, I've tested his patience a lot lately. I sometimes think I have nightmares as a sublimated attempt to get hugs from Jim. I mean, if I'm screaming like a banshee, he comes running downstairs and tries to wake me up and ends up with one or both arms around me to calm me down. I would never tell him this because he'd refuse to let me hang out with him on the job anymore, but all this violence and shooting and...and weird shit that goes on in his world makes me so damned jumpy that I'm a basket case on the inside half the time. I think that's why I have nightmares sometimes. It's hard to put all that crap out of your mind and sleep.




I have to hand it to Naomi. She will never be a dull, ordinary woman. She will probably never be drawn to dull, ordinary men. Leave it to her to show up with Charlie Spring just as a major kidnapping case starts absorbing the Major Crimes division. Not that I'm saying it's a bad thing--it was a good thing, I guess. If Spring hadn't been a publicity monger and if the working relationship had been more fluid between him and the cops...well, the important thing is that the little girl is home safely with her parents. I didn't mean to really let that little dig slip out to my mother about parents staying together. I mean, she is who she is. I don't think she could ever be tied down to one man. She probably shouldn't be. Elton John said it best: "butterflies are free to fly". Naomi's kind of a butterfly--definitely beautiful, going where the wind carries her. I still would like to know who my dad was. I don't know if she doesn't know or just isn't talking. But I'd love to just *know*. I wouldn't go bother him or anything. I'd like to see what he looks like, hear him talk... Well, that's another subject, and one that's kind of a dead horse.

I hope she finds someone a little less conniving than Spring. I mean, the man has his good sides and everything, but he deceived her big time. I don't like that. She's an honest person, and she deserves the same in return.

They're gone now, headed back to LA.

No, I don't have a new car. Yes, Jim's stopped asking about it.

It could just be wishful thinking, but it seems like Jim's sort of stopped dating. I mean, he never did a whole lot of it, but ever since our talk at the Emperor's Palace, it seems like he isn't seeing anybody. And he takes me places more and more. We've been to a couple of movies, a number of different restaurants that are more upscale than what we usually went to together, and he's less inclined to throw me out of the living room with my laptop so he can crank up the ball games on TV. It feels like we got closer that night, and almost like I'm in his life as an SO instead of just a roomie. I wonder sometimes how he'd react if I made a move. Maybe something just as simple as trying to cuddle with him on the couch. Nothing hot and wild. He doesn't seem to mind being close to me. Sam and I went to a party together last weekend. It wasn't my idea. After all that time of pursuing her, she perversely decides now that I'm not pond scum and invites me to a surprise party for a friend of hers. It was an okay party--lots of loud music, dancing and free champagne. It was a 30th birthday party. I guess it isn't the most flattering thing to point out to your date that you aren't at the big 3-0 yet when she just told you she graduated from high school with the guest of honor. To be honest, I'm trying to piss her off, but not real obviously. I can't in front of Jim and the rest of the guys at the station. She's gotta just start deciding I'm Mr. Wrong. It's sending all the wrong messages to Jim. He's just about stopped dating, and now I'm getting lucky with Sam. Well, not lucky. I think she thinks I have some kind of impotence problem now since I gave her this chaste, close-mouthed kiss at her door and mumbled something about an early class and ran like hell. Who teaches an early class on Sunday morning?

Truthfully? Sunday is Jim's weekend day off. If I get up early enough, I make him coffee and take it and a couple of donuts upstairs with the paper. Which means I usually end up sitting Indian-style on the bed reading with him. It's the one time he rescinds all the anal house rules and eats in bed and spreads the paper out and just spends a lazy couple of hours rifling through it and sharing it with me. It's one of my favorite things in the world. And if I'm too tired, I might miss it. Can't very well have Sam telling that around the station, can I?

I wonder if living a lie qualifies you for several lifetimes of bad karma?




Standing Sam up a second time just about put the final nails in the coffin of our doomed relationship. I was supposed to take her out for dinner and a movie--nothing fancy, just a run-of-the-mill date. Anyhow, I purposely blew it off. I felt lousy about doing it, but this thing with Sam never should have started, and sure as hell should have stopped before now. But she worked at the station, for crying out loud! How was I supposed to get out of it gracefully?

She forgave me. First she attacked me in front of Jim and half the station, calling me everything under the sun. I had to make it look good, like I wanted her to forgive me, so I came up with some story about an overwrought student and an all night counseling was one of my better on-the-spot lies. She bought it--and told me what a great guy I was to have taken such a personal interest in this poor, distressed student.

I *really* hated playing that whole game with blowing off her birthday. She had dropped all sorts of little hints about when it was--it seemed very important to her that I remembered it. But my back was against the wall. If I told her I didn't want to see her anymore--gave her the slip--I'd have a bunch of the guys at the station down on me because everyone not only respects Sam's talents in Forensics, they like her. So I just had to piss her off enough so she'd dump me.

When I started shopping for the late present, I hated trying to act in front of Jim like I wanted her back. He said "I thought you and Sam were history." Shit. He even sort of sounded like he didn't feel all that badly about it--like maybe he was even a little disappointed that it *wasn't* history. But I played the game.

When I showed up with the present, she didn't accept it. She was hurt, and angry, and I didn't blame her. Then I did something on the way out that I don't really think was unconscious on my part--or if it was, it was one hell of a Freudian slip. I purposely touched Jim on the side, which I knew was like pressing a button for him to return the touch. I wanted her to see it, and maybe to draw some conclusions from it. Maybe partly to end her interest in me once and for all and maybe partly to make my lousy treatment of her not hurt so damned much. If she thought I was leading this double life, really in love with Jim, she might figure that what I had done to her wasn't personal. Talk about juggling double lives. Poor Gordon Abbott. And his wife and kid. That was such a tangled mess. He thought they were dead, they thought he was dead--a family just ripped apart by the ambitions of law enforcement. I feel sorry for Jim for the guilt he has to walk around with for having lured Abbot into the jaws of the feds. It wasn't his fault really. Jim has a pesky thing known as a conscience, and it nags at him when he does his duty. Duty doesn't always have a conscience. It's obedient and efficient, just like the men who participated in the wholesale murder of Jews during the Nazi reign of terror. Were all those people individually that evil or were they just devoted to their "duty" and able to put their consciences aside? This is the part of the police and military hierarchical structure that I can't handle. You do your duty, follow orders--you don't think and decide for yourself. And this was an occasion where Jim did his duty, fully within the ethical guidelines of his job as a cop. But his conscience waited in the weeds and punished him later. He could really only work with someone ethical and decent like Simon. He couldn't follow immoral orders. And if he ever did, I don't think he's the same Jim anymore.

I couldn't believe the sight of that poor bastard that got killed with the belt sander. Geesh, is there no end to people's inhumanity to each other? Torture has always made my stomach flip inside out.

We chased after a car that kidnapped Abbot's kid. Jim did the most amazing thing. We took this really bad corner at warp speed, and all of a sudden, one of those big arms just shoots out and presses me back into the seat. Wow. That little act of protectiveness just melted me.

I wonder if Jim'll remember my birthday in a couple of weeks?




I can't believe he remembered--and what he got me. I've been complaining about my eyes again. And no, I don't need more glasses. But the constant staring at the laptop monitor is hard on my eyes. It always has been. At home, it's worse because I have to read my stuff off the monitor if I'm trying to edit or evaluate something. I can't print it off and give my eyes a break from the glare and do it the old way--with a red pen and a hard copy. I would have never guessed Jim was paying attention to that dilemma. I now have this really nice little laser printer sitting on the desk in my room. No fanfare, nothing. He just put it there, out of the box, all hooked up with a big blue bow on top of it and a card that just said "Happy Birthday, Chief".

I was floored. I hoped he'd remember it--maybe get me a funny card or something--but I never dreamed he'd do something like that.

Makes me realize just how lucky I am when I see what kind of crap poor people take just to get by. I've got this really nice roof over my head, somebody who cares about me, any major need I have met and exceeded...and here are people who have to deal with leaky pipes, malfunctioning heat, housing in general disrepair--and try to organize rent strikes because some fat cat won't do his duty and fix his own damned buildings.

We had spent most of the day trudging around and seeing all this up close and personal before we got home and I found my present. Maybe it was the contrast of what a cushy, secure, wonderful environment I had compared to theirs that made me appreciate it so much more. Or maybe it was the thoughtfulness behind it. Jim can't stand seeing me in pain or unhappy or miserable in any way. He does something about it--to fix it.

He was sitting unsuspectingly at the kitchen table, looking over the paperwork on the case, when he was attacked from behind. I didn't care how manly or normal it was. I just came up behind him and threw my arms around his neck and hung on. He just laughed a little and reached up to pat my arms that had him in a sort of headlock and said, "I guess that means it's compatible with your laptop." I didn't realize I was still hanging on and not responding until he complained.

"Hey, Sandburg, nothing personal but I'd like my windpipe back," he said in sort of a strained voice.

"Sorry." I withdrew as if I'd been scalded. I knew I overreacted to the gift and made an idiot out of myself, but I couldn't help it.

"Better go get dressed--we'll be late for the reservations," Jim announced, checking his watch.


"Yeah, you know--an appointment to eat? Reservations."

"Oh, right. Um, what's wrong with what I've got on?" I was fishing now. I was wearing jeans and a couple of flannel shirts. Jim was in a pair of dress pants and a dark shirt--he could just throw a sportcoat over it and be dressed up.

"Nothing if we were going to WonderBurger."

"Okay. I'll be right out." I dashed back into my room, figuring I wasn't getting any more out of him.

We went to the Wilmington Hotel downtown. It's like the classiest place in Cascade. But we didn't go into the main dining room. We went farther down the hall until we were getting into the area where the banquet rooms are. Jim stopped all of a sudden and opened the door to this one room. It was totally dark--and I was getting suspicious of just exactly what he was up to. Would that he wanted to compromise my virtue by ravishing me in a dark banquet room. No such luck. The lights came up and the big crowd of people yelled "SURPRISE!!" I just about passed out. Nobody's ever given me a surprise party before, and as I scanned the crowd with this stupid look on my face, I was stunned at the faces I saw. There were tons of people from the University--students, faculty, staff people I knew--and at the same time there was most of the Major Crimes division, plus a whole bunch of other people I saw everyday at the station.

"How did you know who...?" I turned to Jim, and I knew my face was just about due to split in half I was smiling so hard.

"Your student assistant makes one hell of a great accomplice," he explained as Jennifer hurried up to me from the crowd and hugged me. Now that's not what it sounds like--she's been with me since I got to Rainier and is about due to graduate. And she's engaged to a really great guy in the Biology Department. We truly *are* just friends.

It was a great party. There was a DJ, all sorts of food, champagne and a monster cake with sparklers for candles. Man, I've never *been* to such a great party before, let alone been the guest of honor. It was beyond awesome have my two worlds crashing together like that in one place--all my friends from the U and all the people that had become or were becoming my friends at the station. Somehow the lunch I had treated Jim and Simon to for Jim's birthday seemed real chintzy. But I didn't know back then how he liked to celebrate his birthday. I still imagined he'd choose something more subtle than this for himself, but he pegged me just right in figuring I'd love it.

The party lasted into the small hours of the morning, which wasn't good since we all had work the next day. But I could handle being sleepy and having Jim a little cranky for a day or so for that party. He gets cranky when he's sleep deprived, but then who doesn't? But the party was incredible. I'll never forget it as long as I live. Especially getting Simon, Joel, Ryf, Brown, Jim and myself in a line doing "the train". We laughed so hard we were missing half the moves, but it was hilarious. On the way home, I didn't know exactly how to thank Jim. I'd just had the most amazing, mind-blowing birthday I'd ever had in my entire life.

"That party was awesome!" I figured since I felt so damned excited and keyed up, I'd share it.

"It did turn out pretty well, didn't it?" Jim responded with a smile.

"I never had a birthday party before." I hadn't planned on throwing that one out there, but it just came out. I mean, Naomi always did something really special for me--either something I really wanted or she took me someplace nice or maybe even on a little trip somewhere. She still never misses sending me a card and a present, no matter where she is. This time it was an Indian bracelet from one of the marketplaces in New Mexico. She's living with a real estate developer down there at the moment. I think he'd like to marry her--but I have this sneaking suspicion she's going to be back on the move again soon. But I was never really popular in school, and we tended to be free spirits--loners. And Naomi wasn't exactly accepted by the PTA crowd. I think sometimes other kids' mothers thought she was a hippie or a druggie and their kids weren't safe with us. Plus, she had kind of a revolving door of boyfriends, so with that word out, it made us part of the "lunatic fringe" so to speak. Not the arrangement conducive for planning birthday parties.

"Never?" Jim seemed appalled at that. I gave him a capsule version of the explanation. "Well, my old man wasn't big on them either. Some of my friends in high school threw one during my sophomore year, and I had a couple in college, and one at the precinct not long before Jack Pendergrass disappeared."

"This was the best birthday I ever had, Jim." It was only fair he should know. He deserved to hear that.

"I'm glad you had a good time, Chief," he answered with a little smile, keeping his eyes on the road.




So much has happened in the last couple of weeks...I just don't know where to start.

I got shot. That's a big part of all of it. See, I rode with Jim in this convoy transporting a guy named Quinn--a dangerous psycho banana--when all of a sudden as if out of nowhere there's all this machine gun fire. The Expedition really got shot to hell. I thought it would be totaled out. But that's not when I got shot. Quinn and his goons took Simon hostage. Jim was in an impossible situation. He couldn't shoot Quinn without getting Simon killed. So we had to watch while Quinn loaded him into the helicopter and took off.

Jim and I took the hike from hell through the woods in the rain trying to find him. To add insult to injury, there was this cute blonde fed giving Jim the eye before we started out. I ended up making a date with her--I figured if she'd sign up to go out with me, she couldn't be too interested in Jim. Yes! Luckily, the doctor vetoed my doing anything besides sitting with my leg propped up for long beyond when I was supposed to go out with her. Too bad (ha ha). But I'm getting ahead of myself here. Anyway, as if it weren't bad enough to be following a nut like Quinn, we ended up getting chased by two crazy mountain men with automatics. We had to jump I-don't-want-to-remember-how-far into a raging river to get away from them. We lost all our extra ammo. I got banged on the head pretty hard, but luckily we were both alive, and Jim was uninjured.

So we kept hiking. I finally dropped from exhaustion and my throbbing head--I found out later at the hospital that between the two blows I took--yeah, there was another one later--I had a mild concussion. So Jim went on without me. He had a fix on Simon and didn't want to lose the trail. I must've dozed off, because a while later, I heard movement, and got up to check it out. And got knocked out. Again. Shit, I'm getting sick of that. Anyway, when I came to, it was morning, and here are these two guys standing over me. The gun-toting mountain men. I told them Jim had drowned. I figured it might buy him some time. I've gotta say, I really was terrified. It still gives me shivers to think how close I came to buying it at point-blank range. I was getting all set to beg, but there wasn't much point. If they hadn't started fighting among themselves about killing me, I'd be dead right now. I made a run for it, even though my head felt like it was going to explode.

I was running so hard and so fast and I was so damned scared that I literally did run right into Jim. I was never so glad to see anybody. I just started babbling at him a mile a minute. He quieted me down and listened, and when he was satisfied I wasn't being followed, he led me over to a couple of big boulders and sat me down and looked at my head.

"That guy was going to just shoot me--in cold blood," I finally said while he was probing the swelling on the side of my head. I was cold and wet and scared and hurting and I just wanted Jim to do something to make it better.

"He ended up shooting his friend instead, huh?" Jim pulled out a handkerchief and wiped off my face. It was a small comfort since it was raining again anyway, but it helped.

"I thought it was all over." I was still out of breath and my legs were cramping from the run. I don't know how far I ran. I just know I made tracks and didn't look back--raw adrenaline.

"I shouldn't have left you." He sat next to me and put his arm around me. He was as wet as I was, but it felt warmer there anyway, and safe. I snuggled in against him and he put the other arm around me and just sat there letting me get my breath. "Just calm down, Chief. Everything's going to be okay." He started rubbing my back and patting me a little.

"I'm sorry I'm such a...a millstone around your neck on this trip. I thought I could do better." I was so damned tired. I just wanted to pass out right there.

"You're doing fine, partner. Just fine. I haven't gotten knocked on the head twice either since this started. You've had a few more setbacks." He was quiet a minute, just holding me. I almost fell asleep. "I couldn't protect Brody, and I haven't done a hell of a lot better with you."

"My getting hurt wasn't your fault, Jim."

"I let you come with me and then I left you alone when you were injured and you damn near got shot in cold blood."

"You did what you thought was best--and you were worried about Simon."

"I should have taken care of you first. Simon and I are both cops--you aren't. Even from the standpoint of duty, it was a bad call. Let alone from the standpoint of friendship."

"I'm not mad."

"You wouldn't be." He gave me a little squeeze and then moved away. "We've gotta get moving, Chief. Think you can make it?"

"Yeah, I'll be okay now."

So we started trudging along again, and soon Jim picked up Simon's trail again. But he slowed his pace and kept me within arm's reach.

We found Simon, and thought everything was going to finally get straightened out, when my old pal Rooker pops up and there's all this gunfire and the next thing I knew, this white-hot pain ripped through my leg and Simon and Jim were dragging me into an old mine for cover. Simon was really nice to me while Jim was trying to find us a safe way out. He kept talking with me, and he was just really supportive. I've never been shot before, and I hope I don't have to get shot again. It sucks, man. There is just nothing to be said for being shot. Well, almost nothing.

I thought being shot would be the worst part of the trip. Next I was treated to the airlift from hell. They didn't want to drug me because of the head injury and Jim didn't want to risk taking me out by car because it would be a long, rough ride, and I had already lost enough blood to suit him. So it was up, up and away. Heights again. I'm just glad I was messy and wet enough that no one knew the difference if I wet my pants on the take off. I don't know what I thought Jim was going to do about it, but I was screaming his name. I guess I wanted him to jump on the helicopter rudder like he did chasing Kincaid and either make them stop or at least hang there and keep me company. I don't know. I had a head injury and I was scared shitless. I don't know what I wanted. I wanted Jim. The next time I saw him, I was in the hospital, clean, warm and dry with a few gallons of pain-killers in my system. But Jim was the best medicine. He came in and sat on the bed--not in the chair--and took a hold of my hand while he talked tome. I must have been drifting in and out because I only remember snippets of what he was talking about. And when he thought I was totally asleep, he stood up to leave. Before he did, he leaned down and kissed my forehead.

"Love you, Chief. Sleep tight." And he was gone.

And in that moment, I knew he wasn't talking about brotherly love. I don't know why. At first I thought it was just wishful thinking, but when I came out of the drug-induced sleep and he was there, watching me expectantly, I knew I was right. It was love as in "you're the one I love"--not you're a great roommate or a helpful partner or a good guide--it was real love.

I knew he was hiding behind the thought that I'd slept through it, and maybe he wasn't ready to face the music of saying it when I was awake. I'd caught him once before in the hospital, after the Golden. I didn't want him to think I played dead and then sprang up and quoted what he said to me when he thought I was out of it. I figure, when the time is right, he'll tell me when I'm conscious. That hasn't really happened yet. But it will. I know it. Now I just have to rescind all my stupid womanizing stories. I had to tell him the diary story was a crock of shit. Like I'd let anyone read this?

Jim took me home with my crutches and my painkillers and my limited mobility and took care of me. He took time off work--which he usually won't do unless he's either in traction or the precinct is closed down. Like never.

For the first couple of days I was home, I was pretty weak. I had lost a lot of blood from the shooting, and I still seemed to get dizzy without a lot of effort. The crutches looked insurmountable sometimes, but I rarely had to use them. Jim knew how lousy I felt, so he'd carry me between my room and the living room. He didn't flinch at changing the dressing or helping me get to the bathroom (which is not something I love having somebody help with). He fixed my food, and even rented one of those tables like they use with hospital beds so I could sit propped up in bed or on the couch and use my laptop. I can't balance it on my legs right now, obviously. He did everything without making anything out of it. And he did it all slowly, patiently and gently, like it was the only thing in the world he cared about doing.

He's already planning how much of my physical therapy he can do for me or at least participate in. I'd like that. If someone has to inflict pain on me, I'd rather it was Jim. I know it won't be more than necessary from him, and I trust him. And he gives the best TLC hugs in the world.

I finally told him I'd made up the diary story just to cover for the fact I got dumped because I wasn't interested in going to bed with her. He nearly blew his pasta all over the table. He gulped a little wine to recover, and I was laughing. I told him that contrary to popular belief, I didn't sleep with every woman I met. And because I wasn't interested, she got ticked off and ended it.

He seemed happy about that.

So now I have a few weeks on crutches and some ugly PT to look forward to, but I've been treated like recuperating royalty so far. And now that I know what I know about Jim's feelings for me...I can wait forever with a smile on my face. Because I know he's going to have to come around soon--when I'm conscious, hopefully!




If only life were like a diary. I sort of skim-read my last entry before starting this one, and I see that I've effectively glossed over all the pain and misery of getting my leg back in shape. Well, I have no hidden desire to go back and wallow in those details. There is one thing that came out of all of it that I *do* treasure--and that was the way Jim helped me through it. The emotional support was a lot right there. I mean, there's something scary about an injury that screws up one of your vital limbs--it's like, you have all these fears that you're going to be somehow partially disabled for life. You can't picture it ever being normal again. Jim really reassured me a lot. Plus, he dogged the physical therapist until he learned every maneuver that an amateur could learn, and did most of the work with me at home. It wasn't all that bad--I think it took a little longer because Jim wasn't willing to inflict as much pain on me as the therapist would have, but the results are just as good and it was a lot of nice, intimate time to spend together. My leg still gets tired faster than it used to, but it's getting stronger every day. Nobody can detect a limp anymore, and I usually forget about it myself until I'm on my feet all day.

A little whining can usually still get me a sympathetic look and a massage. I wonder if I could get shot in some other non-fatal spot... Strike that. I'd much rather get touchy-feely with Jim when all my parts are working, if you get my drift.

For as long as I've known Jim and as close as we are, I never knew he had a brother. I knew his mother died when he was very young--so I guess that would have made Stephen like, a toddler. I knew by deduction his father raised them--but I also figured out he was estranged from his father when he just about took my head off when I tried to press him into calling him over the holidays last year. Jim doesn't talk unless he wants to--it's probably part of that Covert Ops training--no matter how hard the enemy works at dragging it out of you, you keep quiet. So I didn't pressure him. He seemed unhappy about it somehow, but I figured someday he'd tell me. A few days ago he did. I think I'll always treasure that moment--maybe more than any other we've ever shared. We didn't even touch each other, but there was something so intensely...intimate about it. Jim doesn't talk that openly about the things that hurt him, or the things that are buried under the surface. He just...doesn't. But he opened up to me, trusted me, told me about his father and his brother, and about the dysfunctional way the old son of a bitch raised them. I'm sorry. I know I'm talking about Jim's father here, but that's how I feel. It helps me understand why this beautiful, loving, giving, interesting man is buried under so many thick protective layers. Jim must have been a wonderful child--God, what I wouldn't give to meet that child. Before his father made him a competitor, and the army taught him to be tough and the police force shattered any of his other illusions. But that spirit is still under there. It's badly injured, but it isn't broken. And it ventures out within the safety of our relationship more often than it does in any other setting.

I don't blame Stephen for what he did. He was a victim just like Jim. And I think maybe I helped Jim to see that. Children can be as rebellious as they want, but the bottom line is that they want their parents' approval. I always wanted Naomi's, and sometimes, if she was with a guy for a long time, it started to matter a little if I had his too. Stephen was desperate, and he was even younger than Jim--and he made a dumb mistake. He let Jim pay the price, but kids also don't have a fully developed set of ethics as teenagers. Jim must have had a damn fine set of them because he didn't point a finger at his brother. He let him have the prize he'd worked so deviously to earn, and Jim left in his father's disgrace.

I'm glad Jim and Stephen reconciled enough to be friends. Stephen seems like a nice guy, though a little snootier and more uptight than Jim. But then, he spent more time in the good graces of the father from hell. I'd like to get to know him better. If he's got even a tenth of the wonderful qualities that Jim has hidden under the surface, he's more than worth knowing. Old Franklin had guts, putting himself in as a decoy like that. But I understood it. If anyone had killed Jim--God, especially after being friends for all those years--I'd have been climbing the walls to get the bastard. Little Stogie is probably never going to be a big winner, but he sort of got me accepted into the inner circle. I mean, my betting a different horse didn't make any points, but now that I share my predictions with the Cigar Club, nobody wants to go the track without me. Those cigars are nasty things. Geesh. Worse than the last peace pipe I smoked. Of course, I think that had a few feel-good elements in it, if you know what I mean. I probably didn't notice the aftertaste too much. But the camaraderie is worth a lot, and I don't think I'll get cancer from half a cigar every couple of months.

So has Jim professed his undying love yet? Not exactly. But I know I've been let into probably the most personal little corner of his past, and for him, that's more significant than a whole greenhouse full of roses or all the books of love poems in the world.




Can you picture going to sleep one day and waking up eight years later? Man, that is *so* surreal. I really felt for Stacy--I mean technically, that's not even her real name. That has to be so scary for her--all that lost time, no parents, no family. I hope she keeps in touch with us. I know it's not the same thing, but Jim and I were her first friends in her new life, and maybe it'll feel less like drifting in the desert if she has even that little connection. Jim got a letter from her almost as soon as she settled into her new school. Why does this not surprise me? She had it bad for him. Like I'm one to criticize. I've been carrying a torch for what, a year and a half now?

I've got to quit feeling so damned insecure every time a female goes near Jim. I mean, even with Stacy--I didn't like her having a crush on him. Jim probably thought I was jealous or maybe a little slighted because I had tried so hard to reach her and it ended up being Jim she fell for. I just wish I could have the freedom to run up to Jim and jump into his arms like she did and hold on--but for as much touching as Jim does, and as well as he's accepted me invading his personal space when I have, I still don't feel free to touch him that much. It's like I kind of wait for him to come to me.

Jim helped me find another car. He really backed off the subject for a long time, but a couple weeks ago he came slamming through the door of my office announcing "I FOUND IT!!" Well, I had a stuffed shirt faculty member in there with me at the moment, and poor Jim--he looked so flustered and embarrassed trying to back out of my office. I suddenly decided no puffed up old turkey was worth deflating Jim's enthusiasm--I mean, how many times does he burst into a room with a big sappy smile on his face all excited about something? I motioned him to come in and introduced him to Dr. Benton. They exchanged a couple of strained pleasantries, and when Benton could see Jim wasn't going anywhere, he finished his business with me and politely acknowledged Jim as he left. You know, Jim has opened his whole world to me--all his friends, coworkers...I don't want him to feel uneasy in any part of mine.

A 1962 Volvo. It was perfect!! Jim was right. It was weird, off beat, unique--and it was being sold by a guy who collected cars and had to lose part of his collection due to hard times. The price was right, and with my insurance money from the Corvair and a small loan from the bank, I was in business. Did I mention what a totally cool friend Jim is?

Summer is just around the corner. All the beautiful things spring does are happening--trees have leaves again, flowers are popping up, the air is getting mild...yeah, I love springtime. I really love all the seasons, but for different things.

I was really excited at first when Jim mentioned taking a drive up to a lake and just relaxing, getting his head together. Then he gently pointed out that he was planning to go alone. Jim hasn't gone anywhere alone hardly since I moved in. Maybe that's what's wrong. Maybe he's sick of me in his face morning, noon, and night jabbering at him. He was really worried I was hurt or angry. I assured him I wasn't. I felt like someone had just cut out my heart and handed it to me, but I think I acted well enough to even fool a sentinel. He *has* seemed a little restless and irritable lately. Maybe he needs the time away.

He left at dawn yesterday, before I got up. He left me a note. It more or less said that he'd be gone a week or so, and that he'd call me when he got to his destination to let me know where he could be reached. I don't know if he didn't want me to know where he was going or if he didn't know himself.

I hate being here without Jim. The loft is so damned empty, and quiet. I spend as much time as I can at the U, but with it being May, and one semester ending and summer classes not in full swing yet, I don't have much to do. I always have my dissertation, but that's an ugly, stressful project I've put on the back burner. Not that I can get away with it for long. I changed my subject. I was surprised my committee didn't throw me out on my ass. But I convinced them I just didn't have the data to back up my original thesis on sentinels, so they approved my new thesis on the relationship between family structure and internal violence in pre-civilized societies. Everyone's endlessly debating whether or not the "destruction" of the traditional American family is the cause of all the violence and every other rotten thing that happens in our society. I was raised by a single parent and I'm not an axe murderer, so quite frankly, I'd like to lay that tired old debate to rest once and for all--if it doesn't hold true in cultures that don't have guns or drugs or the media or whatever, then it's not an across-the-board human behavioral issue.

Why did I trash my sentinel project? Because I'm in love with Jim and he's nobody's damned guinea pig. Not even mine. He's my whole life, my favorite person, the one I love most in the world--I won't use him to get my Ph.D. and I sure as hell won't betray him by exposing him to the world as a sentinel. And when I get my doctorate, I want to turn to Jim and say "I love you, and I've been with you all this time because of that--not because of this."

I wish he hadn't gone on his vacation alone. I don't blame him. I just get so lonely here. I miss him. And it hurts a little that his idea of a vacation was time away from all the stuff that was getting on his nerves--and I was included in that clump of shit. I know it's immature. I just wanted to go with him. I thought maybe if we were up at a lake together, away from everything...maybe we'd...get together. Maybe more walls would come down and he'd finally tell me he loved me when he knew I was awake to hear it.

Getting late. I'm tired. I've surfed the 'net most of the evening to stay sane. My eyes are burning. I hope Jim comes home soon. I miss him. It's just...empty here without him. Empty here inside where my heart usually is. I know it's with him, instead of here with me. I'm just...I don't know. I hate this...




Jim laid the thin 3-ring notebook aside on Blair's bed. He felt adequately guilty for having pried into the secret musings of his guide's soul. But Blair had been missing for three days now, and it was all his fault. The damned solitary trip. How many miles into the trip had it taken before he'd known it was a mistake? Five? Ten? At least fifty before he admitted it to himself. And still, he'd traveled into the Canadian countryside to a remote spot with no phones to contemplate the meaning of life. He'd gone to the nearby town and placed a call after a couple of days, having thoughtlessly forgotten his promise to Blair to let him know where he was. That had started the quest. No answer at the loft. No answer at Blair's office. Simon hadn't seen or heard from him--and even agreed to go over and check out the loft to be sure Blair wasn't sick or injured in there. Blair was just plain gone, and his car was still parked out front.

Not being nearly as anal about tidiness as Jim, Blair's clothes were not easy to analyze to figure if he'd taken anything with him and left voluntarily. There was no note, and with Jim due to call, it wasn't likely this was a planned trip.

Jim slumped back on the bed as the myriad of thoughts and images from the diary swirled around in his mind. Blair loved him so much--and *that way*. And the last time they'd been together, he'd rejected Blair. At least, that's how Blair felt. Even deeper inside than he was willing to probe to write in his diary, Blair felt rejected. He was just another irritant in Jim's life. The momentary anguish on that expressive face came back too clearly to Jim's mind. Blair recovered quickly, and prattled on about all this paperwork he could catch up on--but Jim leaving him behind had broken his heart.

Blair was all around him here. His scent, his belongings, his...essence. The diary had taken Jim into the inner recesses of Blair's mind, and had made him privy to all of the other man's desires, emotions, fears... In his way, he'd come home from his ill-conceived trip and raped Blair--at least psychologically. He had taken things he was never meant to have in reading that diary. Things that would have all been handed to him freely if he'd just taken that precious face in his hands and said "I love you". Now he might never have that chance. After two solid days of searching, even with an APB out--Blair hadn't been found. The Major Crimes division staff were all participating, even if they were assigned staggering caseloads. Blair was one of them now--no one had been able to fully escape that endearing little hairball that traveled with Jim as if he were physically connected.

Hairball. There's a nickname for him. Can't wait to see his reaction to that one... Jim laughed for a moment, and then it dissolved into tears as he lay there with his head on Blair's pillow, soaking up the scent of his missing partner.

Blair had seen the Expedition parked out front, but it looked like Jim was bedded down for the night already. It was late, after midnight. He tried to hold his heart down in his chest. He was so glad that Jim was back. It had been even more miserable and more lonely at the monastery and treating the monks to an earful of his pitiful crying two nights in a row wasn't helping him any. He'd felt like part of him had been cut away when Jim left, and now it was miraculously glued back on. He entered the loft stealthily. He was right. As the windows had appeared from below, everything was dark. Jim must be sleeping. Sneaking into the apartment past a sleeping sentinel was never easy, but Blair had gotten pretty good at it.

He stopped short when he found Jim curled up on his bed, his face buried in Blair's pillow. On the cheek that was visible, tears were drying. He hadn't even rallied to the sounds of Blair's arrival. The notebook that contained Blair's printed off diary pages was on the foot of the bed. He knows everything now... But why the tears?

"Jim?" He knelt by the bed and whispered to his friend. "Jim, it's me. Come on, wake up for me, huh?" He ran a gentle hand over Jim's shoulder. The large man stirred and started a little, stunned beyond words at the presence of his guide, reveling in the sight of the faint little smile on his face. He lurched forward and grabbed Blair, pulling him on top of him and clutching him almost frantically with both arms tightly around him.

"Where the hell were you? Why is your car out front?" he growled, squeezing Blair almost painfully.

"I was at St. Sebastian's--I needed to think. Brother Jeremy was in town getting supplies, so I hitched ride back with him. Jim--what's the matter? What're you doing here? I thought you were going to be gone all week." Blair tried to gracefully ignore the fact he could barely breathe. His face was buried against Jim's neck and his body was pinned effectively by those two powerful arms. "Did you ever hear of leaving a note?" Jim lightly swatted at the back of Blair's head. "For whom? The dust bunnies? Jim, you were gone for the week. I didn't think you'd even know I'd been gone."

"I'm sorry, Chief. I'm sorry about that damn trip."

"Ah, Jim, I hate to be rude but my nose is mashed against your neck and I can't breathe." "Sorry, pal." Jim loosened his hold a little and Blair pulled up, still resting essentially on top of Jim with his hands on the broad shoulders.

"I got lonely here and I had some thinking to do, so I went for a retreat. But that was worse so I came home."

"Blair, I...I read the diary."

"I gathered." Blair's felt the blush creeping up to color his face. Jim reached up and stroked the pink cheeks.

"I'm sorry. I had no right. I was just so damned...worried about you, and I missed you. Thank God you're okay." He pulled Blair back down for a gentler hug this time. He felt the smaller body nest comfortably against him.

"I'm glad you read it. I should have just said some of that stuff straight out to you, but I couldn't handle...I...I wouldn't have been able to stand it if you had been repulsed by me, or...or if you laughed at me."

"I love you, you bonehead. Why would I laugh at you? And if you knew how I felt, or thought you knew, why didn't you say something? That's why I went away to think. I thought you weren't interested in all the signals I thought I was sending out."

"I thought...sometimes I'd think that's what you were trying to say but I...then I'd think it was wishful thinking. You read the diary. You know what I thought."

"You sure do a hell of a lot of thinking, don't you?" Jim teased gently, the became serious. "That night we went to see 'Cats'? That was one of the most incredible nights of my life. I think I might have really lost it right then. I thought you were sending me a signal, but then nothing else happened."

"I thought I was just living out a fantasy. I never dreamed...God, Jim, I love you so much." "You never mentioned in your diary--am I...the first man?"

"Yeah. First, last and only." Blair fastened a hand on Jim's blue shirt and snuggled closer. Suddenly he felt like he could sleep for a week.

"I better call Simon. The whole friggin' PD is hunting for my little lost hairball." He kissed the top of Blair's head and laughed as the other raised up and shot him an indignant look.

"Your little lost what?"

"My precious, beloved, treasured, beautiful little lost...hairball." Jim burst out laughing, the rumbling vibrating Blair as he still rested partially on top of his friend.

"Hairball, huh?" Blair repeated with feigned menace in his voice.

"My gorgeous, sexy, brilliant hairball?" Jim said, still chortling. It was too contagious for Blair to hold out any longer. He joined Jim in the relaxing sensation of laughter.

"You better call Simon" Blair rolled off Jim and reached out a hand to pull the other man up to his feet. Jim tugged on it and Blair landed right back on top of him.

"I'm not done with you yet." Jim took on a stern tone. "There's the little matter of you taking off without leaving me a note. What am I gonna do with you? I thought one of the house rules had something to do with leaving notes, Chief." He kissed the end of Blair's nose.

"You should probably punish me severely for that infraction." Blair was nuzzling his neck. He started at the sharp smack to his rear from Jim. "Hey, that hurt!"

"I'm not kidding. Don't take off on me like that again--you scared the shit out of me. You hear me?" He caressed the spot he'd swatted as he spoke.

"You're gonna have to kiss it and make it better, big guy." Jim could feel soft lips traveling up his neck and along his jaw.

"You're impossible," he concluded with a chortle, tangling his hand into Blair's curls. "Now I really have to call Simon while I still can." Jim referred to the very obvious erection that had been poking Blair in the thigh since the smaller man had launched his lip voyage up Jim's neck. "Come on, hairball--before the Canadian Mounted Police get dragged into the search party."

"Oh, Siiiimon!" Blair called in a sing-song voice, starting to unbutton Jim's shirt. "Simon, I'm home!" he hollered again, then pulled Jim's shirt far enough open to fasten his mouth to the left nipple.

"Aw man, you're killin' me here."

"I called Simon. Now shut up and let me get some. I've been waiting almost two freakin' years for this." Blair moved to the other nipple.

"Yelling doesn't...oh, damn, you're good at that." Jim reeled at the sensation, bucking up against Blair. "Blair, I need to call him on the phone."

"You want to talk on the phone now?" Blair asked breathlessly, then trailed his tongue down the center of Jim's chest all the way down to his stomach.

"What's a few more minutes?" Jim yanked Blair's head down and captured his mouth, exploring it with a passionate roughness.

A flurry of flustered hands made short shrift of clothing, sending buttons flying and destroying zippers. Finally skin to skin, they began a sort of frenzied humping against each other, too close to the edge from the novelty of this new intimacy to last very long. With mingled cries, they came together, slumping in a tangle of sweaty limbs.

And then the bed collapsed.

Both stared at each other, panting furiously, flushed and winded from a mind-blowing orgasm. Jim's jaw twitched a little, and that ignited the twinkle in Blair's eyes.

Within moments the ruins of the little bed were shaking with shared laughter.