This Man - Ceares
“This man-–along with his partner--not only has one of the highest solve rates in the state, but he provided invaluable help to the FBI in tracking and capturing the Cascade Falls killer. He helped develop the CPD community liaison program, and has published several award winning pieces on police/civilian interaction. He is a credit to the city and to this department. I’m proud to present the Cascade Police Officer of the Year, Detective Blair Sandburg.” A multitude of flashing bulbs caught the Mayor’s effusive smile as he shook hands with the tuxedo clad man standing next to him.
Blair waited for the clapping to die down, with a small grin at the loudly cheering Major Crimes table. He leaned into the microphone. “ Ten years ago, if you'd asked me where I'd be right now, my wildest imagination wouldn't have included this. It's been a winding road, but a worth while journey." He looked over, his eyes meeting Jim's. "One I wouldn't change--not given the destination." He paused for a moment and then his eyes swept the room. "I’m honored to accept this award, and proud to be a part of this brotherhood--and to serve and protect our brotherhood of man. to the Mayor, and the City of Cascade, to my partner and my family in Major Crimes, and my fellow policemen I say, thank you.”
Jim stared up at the stage with pride and admiration. Blair had taken a place in the department and made it his own. He’d put up with the nasty comments and hostility and proved that he belonged--more than that, he proved that he deserved to be there--that they were lucky to have him there. Gradually the mistrust and dislike fell away and the rest of the department came to appreciate him the way that Major Crimes already did. Most importantly, to Jim anyway, was that it was all done at his Sentinel’s side. The first time he'd seen Blair--in his office, not when he pulled that Dr. McKay crap--he could never have imagined that the guy standing in front of him, who seemed to be the antithesis of everything Jim thought was important, would become the most important thing in his life.
He stood back and watched as Blair stepped down from the podium and was instantly surrounded by well wishers. He smiled and shook hands and barely winced at the forcefully given back slaps and arm punches of congratulations by men twice his size. Blair glanced around until their eyes met again and he smiled, shrugging slightly.
Jim felt his stomach clench a little as he thought about losing Blair--thought about the day, coming home didn't mean coming home to him, but to a bigger version of the empty life he'd had before Blair.
A few years before, Blair had started making noises about the problems with a man his age living under the stairs. He was getting tired of doing the ‘Harry Potter’ thing as he put it. A week later Jim had put the blueprints for the vacant corner loft on the table next to Blair at breakfast. It was a two bedroom-two bath, with a breakfast nook, office space and built-in bookcases along one wall. With both of their salaries, and a nice down payment from selling 307, they could pull it off. Blair’s name on the deed didn’t guarantee that he’d stay, but Jim was pretty sure it meant that no matter what, he’d always come back.
At least he had been until their conversation a few days ago over breakfast.
“So Chief, you’ve been distracted lately. What’s on your mind?”
Blair looked up from his eggs, “Huh? Oh, Jessie invited me to her family’s for Christmas.”
Jim stilled. Blair had been seeing Jessie for a few months. That in itself wasn’t so unusual anymore. Blair as he got older, went for quality over quantity. Jessie was smart, funny and beautiful with long red hair, big blue eyes and an effervescent laugh. She reminded Jim of a young Naomi actually. The 'meeting the family for Christmas dinner' thing, that was serious though. That was upping the level of the relationship--saying they were more than just casual--saying the by next year, Blair could be part of the family.
“So are you going?” Blair’s silent contemplation over the past few days told Jim that he was taking the invitation seriously as well. A tight ball of anxiety formed in his gut as he waited for Blair's decision.
Serious eyes met his, asking for something he didn’t know if he could give. He remained silent and Blair shook his head slightly, looking away. “I… don’t know yet.”
It had been a reprieve, but Jim didn’t know for how long. There had been, maybe always, the possibility of more between them. It was right there, floating just under the surface, bobbing up at moments, only to be pushed back down again due to the chaos that was included in being friends, partners, roommates and Sentinel and Guide. They could have forced it, but Jim knew Blair was waiting on him to make the first move, and he had been, not so much complacent, as reluctant to change things between them. God knows he didn't have the best track record with love, and taking that step was frightening when it could mess up everything they already had. Watching Blair make his way over to him, Jim realized he didn't really have a choice anymore, not if he wanted to keep Blair. He also knew time was slipping away. If he was going to make a move, it had better be soon.
The party at Joe’s Tavern later that evening was much rowdier. They were combining their annual Christmas party with Blair’s celebration and a few pre-arranged cabs let the libation flow freely.
Jim had a few beers, but nothing near enough to make him drunk. He noticed Blair had been nursing one beer for nearly an hour, and his constant grin didn’t quite mask the disappointment in his eyes. He also noticed that Jessie was nowhere to be seen. He didn’t know what that meant, if it meant anything at all.
The jingle of the bell signaled Joe’s door opening, and Jim looked over to see who was crashing an essentially private party. A flash of vibrant color and a light flowed into the room. Naomi drew more eyes to the door, as she paused for a moment, eyes searching. Blair looked up and Jim had to catch his breath as his partner seemed to light from within.
She smiled and almost floated through the crowd toward them. Leaving a few dazed expressions in her wake. “Oh honey! I’m so, so sorry I didn’t make it for the ceremony, but we ran into some bad weather, and Filio had to land at a different airport. We drove the rest of the way here. Oh congratulations baby!” She had her arms wrapped around him now and Jim was pleased to see that the joy and pride on her face was genuine. It had taken Naomi a while to adjust to Blair being a cop, and even though she visited and called more frequently now that she had ‘processed’, Jim knew her disapproval bothered Blair.
He was on the receiving end of his own hug, as were Simon and Joel, both of whom Naomi had gotten close to when she realized their status as surrogate fathers to Blair. After spending a few minutes talking to Blair she grabbed a glass of wine, and melted into the crowd, providing some eye opening for those who hadn’t met her.
Jim slid back into the booth next to Blair, who was practically humming with happiness. “I didn’t know Naomi was coming, Chief.”
“I wasn’t sure she would. I sent her an invitation, but you know…”Blair shrugged, trailing off. The happiness buzz dimmed slightly, and Jim cursed himself.
“She’s really proud of you--and she should be. You done good, Chief.”
Bright eyes met his. “Thanks, Jim. It has been a long road.”
Jim nodded. He took a swallow of beer and a deep breath for courage. “I know. It’s meant a lot to have you traveling beside me on it.” He met Blair’s eyes to find them questioning and hopeful on his.
“It’s meant everything Blair. I know that you already have one invitation for the holidays, and I understand if you plan on accepting, but I wanted to offer-to ask…I’d like it if you spent the holidays with me.” He looked down, fiddling nervously with the label on his beer. They spent Christmas together every year, and every other holiday for that matter, but Jim knew that Blair would know what he was asking. A hand over his, stilling it, drew his eyes back to his partner’s face.
“I’m not. Accepting Jessie’s offer I mean. That’s why she’s not here tonight. I realized I was holding out for another offer and whether I got it or not, it wasn’t fair to her to be my second choice.”
Jim flipped his hand over, linking his fingers with Blair’s, secure in the knowledge that he was Blair’s first choice. They sat like that, quietly, hands locked, as the party started to break up. The ones that were sober enough to remember that the party had a dual purpose came over to say goodbye to Blair before leaving. A few sharp glances came at the notice of the joined hands, but there was mostly little or no response. Jim knew; primarily from overheard conversations, that most of the department had assumed they were a couple years ago. Purchasing the new loft together just cemented that idea.
Naomi joined them, her usual glow seemingly magnified. Between her and Blair, Jim was surprised the room wasn’t blinded. She placed her own hand briefly over the two of theirs. Acceptance, acknowledgement or blessing, Jim wasn’t sure which, but the gesture was enough.
“I’m going to head out, Blair. I’m exhausted. I’ve been traveling all day. I’ll be here for at least a week though, honey, so we’ll have lots of time to catch up.”
Blair nodded. "Okay. You still have your key to the loft right?”
”Yes, but I’m staying with a friend this trip.”
“Naomi, you don’t have to do that you know you’re always welcome in the loft.”
She smiled at Jim, eyes warm. ”No, of course I know that, but I want to spend some time with my friend as well.”
“Oh, oh yeah sure. I didn’t know you had a friend in Cascade.” Blair grinned at her. The emphasis he put on friend made it clear what kind of friend he thought it was. Jim was always amazed by Blair's blase attitude in regards to his mother's love life. Just the thought of going there with his own dad made him shudder.
“You don’t know everything about your mother young man.”
Simon came up with his coat and Naomi’s. “You ready to leave, Naomi?”
“Oh Simon, that’s okay we can drop her off…I actually haven’t had that much to drink.”
“You didn’t tell them?”
“I was--well…” There was a slight flush on her cheeks as she met Simon’s eyes.
Simon shook his head with an affectionate sigh. “Obfuscating. Like mother like son. “
“What’s going on?” Jim had started to figure it out, but Blair was still looking between the two of them in confusion.
“Simon is the friend I’m staying with.”
“What! You and Simon…Mom!” He looked wide-eyed between the two of them ,and Jim's own surprise turned to smothered laughter.
Naomi leaned over and placed a hand across Blair’s lips. “We’ll talk about it tomorrow sweetie.” She kissed him on the forehead and headed for the door.
Simon held up a hand to forestall any comments. “You heard your Mother, Sandburg. Tomorrow. By the way, good job, kid.” He followed behind Naomi, leaving Blair and Jim sitting at the table, mouths open.
A few more people came by, and Joel sat with them a while. At some point, Jim realized he was having a good time, the best he'd had in a while. He also realized that all the tension and sense of wrongness he'd been carrying around with him the last little while was gone. In its place, he felt settled, content. He'd thought the problem had been Jessie, but she'd just been a symptom.
Blair leaned in to him, bumping their shoulders lightly together. "So, you ready to go home, Big Guy?"
If it wasn't sappy and huge cliche, he'd have said he was already home. "Yeah, definitely."
Jim expected to be nervous, to have the normal first time jitters and fumbles, but instead, later that night, as he lay down beside Blair, he felt like it had always been this way. As Blair’s strong hands touched him with joy, it was a touch he’d felt a thousand times before-anchoring him, comforting him, supporting him; as Blair's lips touched his shoulder, his throat, and finally, finally his lips-- he realized he knew Blair’s mouth by heart even though this was the first time he had tasted it; as he wrapped himself in the comfort, safety and love he'd yearned for his whole life--the love that had been waiting for him to reach out and take it. Jim wondered how he could have been afraid of this. Afraid of Blair, the man who held his heart.
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Acknowledgments: : Thanks to Felicia as always for the beta, and introducing me to the Sentinel.