A Better Offer - Marion
You think you know a person, then one day a ‘pod’ takes their place. That’s the way it seemed with Jim. I didn’t notice straight away that he was freezing me out, but once I did, I did what I always do where he’s concerned. I observed, then asked, then argued, which, naturally, led to intense angry blow-ups and one or the other of us walking out to cool down. After that, he buttoned up tight – which was more than I could take.
Oh, I loved the guy. I’d dealt with that realignment of my life some time ago, and with it the fact that he would always love me as a kind of kid brother, not exactly the way I wanted his love or the way I loved him.
But the silent treatment was too much for me. The place I looked on as my sanctuary was now a minefield, and I felt like an interloper for the first time. No matter what I tried – and some of my tricks to get him to open up where pretty under-handed – he just wouldn’t tell me what I’d done or what was wrong. Simon didn’t know. Jim’s doctor wouldn’t discuss him with me, except to say Jim was not ill.
Boy, did that get me some nasty remarks when Jim found out!
But, even then, he never asked me to leave. It was my decision to go. I held out for a good while, but this unpleasant atmosphere was destroying Jim too. Once I admitted that to myself, there was only one option; I had to leave, and not just leave Jim, but leave Cascade too. As if in some cosmic conformation of that decision, a job offer arrived in the form of a post at Arizona State University, far enough away for Jim to think twice before coming after me – if he even wanted to.
Barely holding it together, I left when I knew he wouldn’t be around the loft. I left him a note, coward that I am, and packed what I could. The note told him I’d send for my stuff when I had somewhere to stay. I wasn’t hiding from him… I was running away.
Just my luck he picked that day to come home early just as my car was pulling away. I didn’t stop. I turned off my phone; part of me not wanting him to talk me out of it, part of me wondering if he would even try. I took the scenic route to the airport. I’d given myself plenty of time, but now I didn’t want to sit in the departure lounge on edge, wondering if Jim’d turn up.
Just my luck too that my car would break down on the way!
I managed to pull to the side of the road and turned on my phone to call Triple A. Before I had a chance to, it rang. I knew who it was, but I phoned the break-down service first, then answered Jim’s call.
“What do you want to say, Jim?”
There was a moment of silence on the other end, then…
“God, you sound like Caro.”
“Gee, thanks. Is that it?”
Jim sighed. “Just come back, please? Let’s talk this through.”
“What’s to talk about?”
“Jim,” I tried to be reasonable. “Friendships, they ebb and flow, like all relationships. Maybe ours has gone past the close stage and we need space away from each other in order to keep that friendship.”
“You don’t really believe that any more than I do.”
“Then why have you been shutting me out? I can’t help you if I don’t know what the problem is and you won’t tell me.” God, now I did sound like his ex!
“What if I tell you there isn’t a problem?”
I sighed. “That would just show how many steps backward we’ve gone.”
“Jim, just let go, please? I’ll speak to you when I get settled. Detach with… love, okay.” My voice broke on the last two words. I should have put the phone down right there and then, but I still wanted to hear his voice, for him to finally give me a reason to go back. It was pathetic, I know.
“No, it’s not okay, damn it! I need you.”
“For what, Jim?”
“For… the sentinel thing, for everything!”
“Not good enough, Jim. You haven’t needed me for that for ages now. You’ve surpassed all the tests I can guide you through. But thanks for trying.” Somehow I knew he was near, almost like my own senses were tingling. And there was still no sign of that damn tow truck.
“Don’t you hang up on me, Sandburg. I can see you and we will talk about this.”
“Fuck you, Ellison!” I was out of my car now, almost shaking with emotion, as, sure enough, I watched his truck pull up.
“I do need you, Blair. I need you with every fiber of my being. You are not leaving me.”
I wasn’t sure I was hearing right. My heart was pounding and I didn’t know if I wanted to run or stand my ground. Jim stormed out the truck, still talking to me on his phone.
“Yes, you heard me right. I love you, you little shit!”
And my phone fell from my hand as he pulled me into a kiss, right there on the road and in broad daylight. I couldn’t believe it and automatically tensed up. He misread my tension and started to pull away, but no way was I having that! I pulled him so close you couldn’t get a hair between us and made sure he knew we were both on the same page.
When we separated he looked as stunned at the intensity of that moment as I was. That was when I noticed the AAA truck had pulled up behind Jim’s.
We stood, waiting awkwardly, unable to talk about that kiss and what it meant, while the mechanic checked things over. Finally the guy decided he couldn’t fix it there and he’d take my car and me to a garage where he could do something with it to get me to my destination. All I could think right then was that it was fate.
Jim took my luggage out of the trunk and put it in his truck. He said he’d follow on behind and take me home once all the paperwork was done. I bristled a little at his assumption that I was going back to the loft with him, but why deny it, that was the place I truly wanted to be. And I agreed with Jim, we needed to talk. If, after that things didn’t work out, I could always catch a later flight to Arizona…
My car was hoisted up with the crane and I sat in the cab waiting for the driver. It was quiet in there, which was just as well because my mind was in turmoil. As we set off, I noticed a picture hanging up over his mirror.
“She looks like a lovely lady. How long you been married?”
“Twenty-four years, and she is.” His face softened. “Don’t know how she puts up with me at times.”
I took a good look at him. He looked to be coming up to fifty and had little wrinkles around his eyes, like Jim’s.
“May I ask you, how did you know she was the one?”
He glanced at me quickly. “She was the only one who’d have me.” He chuckled. “For a long time, I didn’t. Then I realized I couldn’t imagine life without her in it, and if I didn’t make an honest woman of her, someone else would. I really, really didn’t like that idea, so I asked and she accepted. You married?”
“No, never met anyone I felt like that about, until…”
“Is that what the argument was about?”
“Back there, you and your…” his words trailed off.
I laughed. “I don’t know what to call him either! We’ve been friends for years, but I thought it was time to put some space between us. Now, I think maybe I was wrong.”
He cleared his throat. “Look, it’s not my place to say nothing, but if he is abusing you, or applying some kinda force to make you stay…”
“What? Oh, no, nothing like that.”
“Oh… good. I mean, even in a situation like yours, I’m sure there are places for guys who are being victimized or some such… Oh shucks! You get me?”
He was blushing and it took me a moment to work out why. Then I smiled inwardly. This guy was concerned that my ‘big bad boyfriend’ was roughing me up. I could just visualize what he thought he saw as his tow truck pulled up. Add to that the vibes we must have been giving off as we waited for him to check the car over. He’d totally got the wrong end of the stick.
“No, he’s one of the good guys. He’d cut out his heart before he hurt me,” I said.
Except Jim had hurt me, not physically, as my new protector obviously imagined, but he’d sure put a dent in my heart with that cold treatment. Now I thought about it, that was one of Jim’s coping mechanisms; shut people out if you are going to be hurt by them. Better still; don’t let them in in the first place! Enough people told me that in the beginning. “That Ellison is a cold bastard. Great cop, and will pull all the stops out, but a loner, distant.” Yet he’d let me right in, let me see the lonely, compassionate man underneath. I guess that made him feel vulnerable, just as I felt around him.
God, we really did need to talk!
I was so lost in thought, I didn’t even notice we’d arrived at the garage until the door of the truck slammed as the mechanic got out.
I filled in the paperwork while Jim watched, leaning against the door of his truck with his arms crossed over his chest, a guarded look on his face.
The ride back to 852 Prospect was done in an uneasy silence, at least I felt uneasy, and Jim just kept his eyes on the road. His knuckles were white, though, from gripping the steering wheel. By the end of that journey I’d thought of a number of ways to broach the subject – and discarded them all.
The silence continued in the elevator up to the loft and it was beginning to make me feel even more on edge.
Once inside, Jim threw his keys in the basket by the door and went across to the balcony. I guessed it was up to me to say something. No surprise there.
“So, you think you love me.” Not, I admit, the most dazzling start to this conversation but, as I mentioned, I hadn’t been able to come up with anything better.
Jim turned around to face me. “I know I love you,” he declared, emphatically.
“Then this has been all about you deciding what to do with that little factoid? All this silent treatment has been you processing?” I tried to keep the anger out of my voice, but couldn’t help the snide tone creeping in.
Jim ran his hand over his head. “I’ve never really looked at another guy before you. I needed to sort things out in my head. I thought… I guess… if I put some distance between us, I could decide if this was some sort of weird Sentinel thing or…”
“Or you finally catching the clue bus.”
He laughed. “Yeah, I guess.” Then he sighed. “Instead I drove you away.”
“Now you’ve decided you love me and want a physical relationship with me?”
Jim looked shocked. “Chief… Blair, if I’m reading this wrong, just kill me now! I thought you felt the same way.”
I hastened to reassure him. Hey, I love the guy, so shoot me. “I do. I just need for you to be absolutely sure about how you feel before we do anything. I don’t want you to freak out on me afterwards.”
“That goes both ways, Chief. What about you, huh? Will you freak out on me?”
I shook my head. “I’ve had long enough to believe that I won’t.” I paused. “So, you’ve never done anything with another guy?”
He shrugged. “I’ve received the odd blowjob, or a wank. I’ve tried ‘hunt the prostate’ with my fingers. You?”
“About the same.” I blushed, something I thought I’d gotten out of in my early teens. “I’ve been experimenting with dildos, pleasuring myself, thinking of you.”
Jim had moved closer. Was it wishful thinking on my part or did his voice sound husky?
“You like that image?” I looked up at his now heavy-lidded eyes. Oh yes, he was turned on by the idea.
He nodded slowly.
I was suddenly nervous. “We don’t have to leap straight into anal sex.” Okay, so they were poorly chosen words, but then I was panicky. “Some men never go there,” I continued. “They don’t like being penetrated.”
“Suppose I want you to?”
He had this lazy, sexy grin that sent a shiver down my spine and across to my groin.
“What? Put my tab A into your slot B?”
I suddenly felt breathless. “I think I may just cream my pants.”
“I turn you on that much?”
Jim was close enough for me to pull him against my body, showing him just how turned on I was.
“That show you?” His own package was satisfyingly erect and solid against me.
“Blair…” he whispered before bending down to kiss me, his fingers threading through my hair, holding me firmly in place, his body melding against mine, wonderfully hard everywhere it counted.
“God, Jim…” I mumbled as he moved his lips to my neck, one of my hot spots.
After that we fumbled, groped, tugged and pulled, all the while trying to keep our mouths fused together. Neither of us got our jeans completely off, just open, cocks out and handled, before we came, gasping, almost at the same moment.
For a long minute, we stood, supporting one another, breathing heavily, but then I had to know that Jim was still okay with this. I pulled back to look at his face and relaxed as I saw nothing but pure joy there. He leaned forward to kiss me again, this time with a tender gentleness. “I do love you,” he whispered.
“I love you too.”
With great reluctance, I slowly stepped away from his warmth and went over to the phone, dialing the number by memory.
“Who are you calling?” he asked, frowning.
“The university in Arizona.” I heard the phone being picked up at the other end. “Professor Murray, please.” Jim’s body broadcast his anxiety to me, but he waited to see what I was going to say.
“Professor? Blair Sandburg. I’m sorry; I won’t be able to accept the post you offered.” I looked at Jim’s face as the tension left him. “I’ve had a better offer,” I said, smiling at my lover. I don’t remember what the professor replied, something about in writing; my attention was focused on Jim as he came close. I fumbled the receiver back in place.
“You sure?” he asked, rubbing my arms as though I was cold.
“Absolutely.” I pulled him to me and kissed him soundly.
“I promise to make sure you never, ever regret that,” he mumbled against my lips.
“Oh, I’ll hold you to that.” I grinned, just before I let my own passion take over.
You know, you think you know a person, and then one wonderful day, he reveals a side to him that you never knew existed. I have no doubt that we’ll still have arguments; people in love do. You can’t live in each other’s pockets without the odd… disagreement, but now I know we’ll weather any storms.
Did I say he was a pod person? Well, I was wrong. This is the real, solid, irritating, maddening, beautiful Jim Ellison, and he’s all mine.
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Acknowledgments: Thank you to Nicci Mac for the lovely cover art and I'd like to thank Nancy and Sheila. Nat keeps me 'American'.