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Cows and Conversation

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“What’s your favourite flavour, Chief?”

“What, of ice cream?”

“No, oatmeal. Of course, ice cream, Sandburg. You’ve been staring at that store the whole time we’ve been waiting for this jackass in front of us to finish parallel parking. You can’t tell me you’re not interested. In ice cream.”

“Well, it’s not often you see a giant cow, even a plastic one, on the streets of a major North American city. Only in Vancouver, I think. But, now that you bring it up, a cone sounds like a pretty good idea. I’ll have jamocha almond fudge, two scoops.”

“OK. And, if you’re really good in the store, I’ll take your picture with the cow.”

“Ha ha, Jim.”

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“Wow, look at this, Chief. T-shirts, towels, mugs, calenders, everything with cows on it.”

“The store is called ‘Cows’, Jim. I think that’s a clue to their theme.”

“Watch it, Sandburg. There’s two scoops of mocha almond fudge riding on how well you treat me in the next ten minutes.”

“Excuse me while I go get the massage oil and condoms, Jim...Jim? Jim!?”

“Hmm?”

“You’re touching my hair.”

“Um, I… I’m sorry. I just... Your comment was suddenly a little more than I could handle. I won’t do it again, Blair. I promise. Can we move on here? I only put a quarter in the meter.”

“Sure, Jim, whatever you say. So, what flavour are you getting?”

-----------------

“Hey, Jim?"

"Hmm?"

"How long have you wanted to fuck me?”

“What!?” Jim hit the brakes hard. “Shit! All over the dash! I knew there was a reason I forbid you to have food in the car. How am I gonna get Rocky Road and Oreo mint out of leather?”

“Jim.”

“I know, Chief, I know. We’ll talk, okay? Just give me a minute or two, alright?”

“No problem, man.”

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Jim was silent until the two entered their downtown Vancouver hotel room.

“I think I should get myself another room for the night, Sandburg.”

“No way, man. You’re not gonna get away from this discussion. It’s been too long coming as it is.”

“I don’t agree. It’s not as if we’ve never talked about our relationship. We both decided that it was complicated enough to work together and also be roommates and friends. It would be crazy to risk all that we have for some hot sex.”

“I know, Jim, and I would still agree if I thought we were simply talking about desire. But it’s so much more now.”

“What?”

“It’s not only about lust, Jim, and you know it. It’s about love.” Jim was silent. “Why is it so hard for you to admit this? I know you love me, and I’m willing to admit that I love you. With all my heart I love you. In the past three years we’ve managed to negotiate every barrier in front of us because we did it together. We can make it past this one too if we’re together”

“Blair, no. You don’t understand.”

“Then tell me. Help me get it.”

“Do you remember the day Inchacha died? You admitted that you have been dragging your feet on finishing your dissertation. That you could have been finished a year before?”

“Sure.” Blair squirmed on the couch, uncomfortable with the direction Jim was heading.

“When you told me that, my first reaction was utter happiness, and my reaction disgusted me. I’ve known for a long time that you were deliberately moving slowly to put your thesis together. You’re too smart for there to be any other reason for your lack of progress. But instead of encouraging you to finish your degree, and find a teaching position somewhere and get on with your life, I’ve been holding you back.

"I’m so selfish that I put my desire to be with you ahead of your future. And that’s been my behaviour as someone who calls himself your friend. If we were lovers, I’d try to control you even worse than that. I know I would. And what about when you finish your Ph.D., and you have to apply for jobs? I don’t want you to limit your job search because of me. You deserve the best. But every time I think about talking to you about this, my selfishness overcomes me and I just stay silent.”

The sheer volume of speech form the normally taciturn Jim laid Blair himself speechless for a moment. Blair was silent for so long that Jim risked a quick glance. His partner was looking straight into Jim’s eyes, willing Jim to listen and understand.

“Jim, control has always been a factor in our relationship. But I’m as guilty of it as you are, if not more so. Just in different ways. I’m the one who moved into your loft, ‘just for a few days’, and never left. I’m the one who hardly pays any rent, and who, despite your house rules, has practically redecorated your entire living space. And how about the way I insinuated myself into your workplace and tried to pretend like I knew *something* about sentinels when I really knew bupkis? How can you possibly sit there and feel guilty about wanting to keep me around when I’ve done so much to make you resent me, when I’ve risked both our lives for a damned degree to hang on a wall somewhere?

“My decision to delay finishing my degree was my own. You were responsible for it only by being someone I want to spend the rest of my life with.”

Jim was silent for so long that Blair thought he might refuse to reply to Blair’s arguments, might ignore Blair’s declaration of love, as if that would make it go away. Finally, Jim rose from his place. Taking Blair’s hand, he sat beside him, and looked into Blair’s eyes. A minute or more passed while Blair returned the look, sending love with every fibre of his being.

Finally, Jim broke the contact, blinking his eyes rapidly as if to remove an obstruction, and spoke.

“I love you, too, Chief. I love you so much. But, I don’t know if I should do this. I don’t know if I can”

“Do what, Jim? Be gay? Um, bisexual?” Blair tried to keep eye contact with Jim, even though the other man’s whispered confession had just about caused his heart to stop beating. His efforts weren’t helped by knowing that Jim heard the erratic rhythm.

“No. I wrapped my head around that when I had to deal with my reaction to seeing you naked on the rig. No. It’s not me, it’s you, Chief.” At Blair’s bewildered and slightly hurt stare, Jim hurried on. “I mean, look. You, you’re smart, not just smart, but brilliant. And funny. And so incredibly beautiful. Don’t shake your head. You know damn well how hot I think you are.” Jim smiled momentarily at the hot flush which swept his Guide’s features, then continued.

“But you’re also really, really *young* in some wonderful sense. Don’t get mad at me, Chief. Hear me out. Yes, you’re 28, an adult in all senses of the word. You’ve traveled to every continent, you’ve seen initiation rites, studied ancient and modern aboriginal tribes, and God knows what else. You’ve followed me into situations that other cops would have run from.

"But, despite all that, you are still an *innocent*. You are naive, Chief, in the best, most purest sense of the word. And I never want you to change. You believe the best in people. You go out of your way to help them, to make their lives better. And then there’s me. I’m not like that. I’m conservative and staid, and I don’t trust other people easily, even the people I’ve sworn to help as an officer of the law. And the closer you get to me, the more you risk becoming like me, a cynical old cop.” Jim stopped talking, and the silence that followed was cut only by his harsh breathing.

Blair sat beside him, his only movement the reflexive contractions of his hand squeezing Jim’s. Finally, he spoke, and there was a shaky attempt at laughter underlining his words.

“You never quit playing the role of my Blessed Protector, do you?”

“What?”

“All this time, that’s what you’ve been doing, you know. Trying to protect me from yourself. From what you see as the dangers a relationship with you holds for me. From the danger you think *you* pose to me. How can you call yourself selfish when you’ve spent so much time torturing yourself with thoughts like this? Get one thing straight right now, Jim Ellison. I am safest when I’m with you. My heart is safe, my love is safe, my soul is safe, as long as I give them to you for safekeeping. Because you will never take them for granted, and you will never treat them unfeelingly. Never.”

Blair’s voice rang through room, his conviction searing through Jim’s doubts and fears.

“Chief, I-”

“No, Jim, I’m not finished yet. You know, in all the times that I’ve trusted someone who has turned out to be undeserving of it, you have never made me feel stupid, even when the results put us in danger, and even when you were angry with me. I trust you to respect and cherish me, even if you don’t trust yourself. If you don’t want to spend your life with me because you don’t love me, that’s one thing. If you don’t love me, there’s nothing more to be said. We’ll go back to being friends and partners. (Somehow.) But, if you love me half as much as I think you do, half as much as I love you, then anything but a full commitment to each other is just wasting time, you know?”

Blair waited anxiously for Jim’s decision. Intellectually, he knew that no final decisions had to be made today. They had last spoken of this months ago, and no real problems had arisen between them from their avoidance of the topic. But something inside Blair tugged at him, whispering to him that if he didn’t force the issue today while they were in Vancouver, away from the pressures of life and work in Cascade, he would not have the courage to raise it again for a long time.

“Blair. Chief. I do love you. Forever. And I want to commit to that love, to you. But, there’s one thing that just occurred to me, and I don’t know if there’s any way around this one.”

“What?” Blair’s voice was small and slightly fearful, but still strong.

“Do you realize, we’ve never even kissed, Chief? We’ve lived together for three years. We’ve known for months that we had feelings for each other. We’ve even seen each other naked. And we’ve never kissed.”

Unnoticed by Jim, who was sketching the outline of his and Blair’s entwined hands with his eyes, Blair’s expression shifted from stunned amazement to sheer relief to sly cunning. He schooled his features into an approximation of serious consideration just in time to meet Jim’s raised glance.

“You know, you’re right. Maybe we’re blowing this all out of proportion. I bet we don’t even really want each other very badly. We should probably wait a while before we, um, consummate our union. Just to be on the safe side.”

“Huh?”

Blair pulled his hand out of Jim’s grasp and rose from the couch. Moving toward the bathroom, he tossed over his shoulder, “On the other hand, I never was much for delayed gratification. Care to join me in a shower?”

“Huh?”

Blair paused, and turned. “Come here, Big Guy.”

Jim shook off the gloom that had briefly surrounded him, and rose to join his guide in the bathroom doorway. Blair leaned back until the door jamb was supporting most of his weight. Jim loomed over him, causing a shiver to wend up his spine as he recalled the first time Jim had been this close to him, on the day they met.

“Let’s make some new memories, Jim.”

 

End