Allergic Reactions by Escargoat

Allergic Reactions - Escargoat

It was pathetic. Detective James Ellison was reduced to sighing like some love sick, hysterical teenager as he wandered about collecting random items into his shopping basket.

It had all started out so innocently. Shortly after the Switchman case, he had developed strange allergies. The doctors seemed to think that it had something to do with the chemicals that he had inhaled when the abandoned building that he was staking out had exploded. Soon after that, most of his clothes had started to bother him, and he had developed peculiar reactions to some of his favorite foods.

As if that wasn’t enough, he also developed strange responses to the cleaning products that he typically used at home, so he had been forced to hunt down something that didn’t make his eyes sting to the point that he heard voices.

He would’ve toughed it out except for the fact that his doctor had looked positively stricken when he had explained his symptoms. The doctor had repeatedly stressed how dangerous his condition was, as he had written out prescriptions for the five different horse pills that Jim now had to swallow every morning.

He personally didn’t think they were helping any as he still had the occasional flare up from just being out in the world, but he’d be damned if he was going to tell the doctors that and get put on medical leave.

His home though was an area that he could control, and that meant getting rid of any harsh chemicals. That, in turn, translated into searching around Cascade looking for alternatives. The little shop over on Fourth Avenue had a good laundry detergent, even if it was scented with natural lavender fragrance. The whole foods co-op on Briston had a good dish soap if he pretended to like apple blossom.

But Whole Being Natural Foods, ah, now there was a store that he could shop at. He purchased his generic, unscented household cleaner there. There wasn’t anything truly special about it. In fact, it was available at both of the other stores he frequented. It was actually cheaper at one and frequently on sale at the other.

But neither one of those places had ‘the clerk’ working for them. ‘The clerk’ was the subject of most of the teasing that Jim’s co-workers subjected him to nowadays. That, Jim figured, was probably because they would feel guilty if they ribbed him about his organic diet and organic clothing. Although, Jim would prefer that they at least picked on him about the clothing. The un-dyed, all natural fabrics might be comfortable for him to wear, but there were only so many shades of oatmeal that a man should own, and he had the allotment of at least ten platoons. Sure there were naturally dyed fabrics, but having to replace so many items had already cost him enough money. He didn’t want to be paying even more so that he could have some variety in his wardrobe.

If he couldn’t laugh at the leaf that he’d been forced to turn over, at least somebody should. But no, his coworkers ribbed him about driving out of his way to go buy over-priced items so that he could have his two minutes of alone time with ‘the clerk.’

Truthfully, Jim could see the irony in his situation. He wasn’t buying clothes that would look better on him because they were more expensive, yet he was going out of his way to pay more money on items because he wanted to ogle a good looking man.

Pausing to debate the merits of almond versus rice milk, Jim leaned back a touch to see how the checkout line was going. If the line was too long, the cashier would no doubt hurry in order to please the customers. If it really got too long, then they might open two lanes, and Jim could end up being stuck with the crusty old lady who liked to talk about how Americans who die in foreign countries don’t decay as quickly as the natives because they eat so many preservatives.

The line was edging up to five people, so Jim began to make his way to the back of the store to peruse the bulk dried goods. Let the housewives get through the line and go on home. If he stood right between the lentils and the quinoa, he could catch a glimpse of the cashier in the surveillance mirror on the wall. It was distorted, of course, but Blair would look gorgeous in a funhouse mirror.

Ah, Blair Sandburg… for weeks Jim had only known him by his organic cotton, embroidered name tag. He had not been enamored of the man at first sight. Truthfully, he’d been a bit disdainful of the strange sideburns and the full lips had appeared out of place on a masculine face.

The disdain had lasted the sum total of however long it took for Jim to move from third in line to first. The first, “Did you find everything okay?” that the man uttered had put Jim down for the count.

Those luminous eyes had glittered up at him, that pouty mouth had smiled politely, and that voice… that voice had charmed his ears.

Despite all that, Jim made it a few weeks before resorting to his work computer to dig up information on Blair. Simple things like his last name, birth date, address, and work history, things that any good stalker should know. Not that he stalked the man per se. No, he only stopped by the store on a regular basis whenever Blair was working his shift.

Of course, his not quite approved background check on Blair was what tipped off his coworkers to his little infatuation. He supposed he was lucky. Simon had been oddly relieved that Jim was using the police department’s computers for personal research, and had let him get off with a ‘just between us’ reprimand and the teasing of the entire bullpen. Apparently they were all happy that Jim had some sort of libido left after the hives he’d been breaking out into - though how they had found out that those hives had migrated to his genitals, he did not want to know.

Given that they knew about his more personal injuries, it was surprising that none of them had figured out that Blair Sandburg wasn’t exactly a girl. At least, if they knew, they weren’t letting Jim know that they knew, and that was highly unlikely. The band of jokers that Jim worked with weren’t exactly what he would call circumspect. They were good about not leaking case information, but personal stuff was free flowing information.

Shaking his head, and grabbing a bag of pre-packaged split peas, Jim headed for the front of the store. The line had moved rather quickly, and he had his chance.

“Mr. Ellison,” Blair greeted him with the same warm tone that he talked to all the regulars with.

Jim smiled in recognition. He’d have said ‘hi’ back, but he was a bit tongue tied around Blair. Jim and words didn’t get along too well unless he was issuing orders or questioning suspects to begin with. Seriously crushing on another man was beyond his ability to handle verbally.

“Oh, hey, you really should try the unsweetened vanilla milk. Betsy says it works great with her bread recipe,” Blair commented as he punched the bar code number into the store’s old cash register.

“I don’t bake much.” Jim silently applauded himself on forming an entire sentence and not just staring at Blair the entire time. Poor guy probably thought Jim was a Neanderthal or mentally deranged or something.

“Oh, that’s too bad. I mean, I love this store, but their baked goods are way over priced if you can make them yourself. Don’t tell them I told you that. I need to keep the job for cash,” Blair confided with a conspiring whisper and a saucy grin.

“I won’t,” was Jim’s witty reply, and he kicked himself heartily for it.

“Good, good. You have your member number handy?” Blair asked as he pulled out a worn binder from under the shelf.

“Seven, seven, three, one,” Jim recited from memory.

“Ah there you are,” Blair mumbled as he began to scribble down the amount of Jim’s newest purchase. “Hey, you haven’t redeemed your free class yet,” he chided as he perused Jim’s membership points.

“Yeah, well, I’m not big into aligning my chakra through essential oils,” Jim mumbled.

Blair laughed at that and shook his head. “How about a class on how to reuse commonly disposed items then? You obviously care about the environment,” he said as he gestured to Jim’s latest box of bathroom scrub.

“I don’t know. I have a pretty heavy work schedule.” Jim hesitated. He really didn’t want to go to some boring class. The Chopec had taught him plenty about how to reuse items and reduce waste, and he’d kept up those practices even after he had returned from Peru. On the other hand, Blair was talking to him, and an actual conversation with the man was a gift to be treasured.

“Oh, man, it’s not like a college class or anything. You’re not going to have to take a test. Besides, I’m a great teacher,” Blair cajoled.

And really, it wasn’t fair to put that kind of food in front of a starving man.

“Okay, you convinced me. Where do I sign up?” Jim asked.

“Right here, man you are so going to love it,” Blair bubbled excitedly.

Jim’s face reflected his doubt.

“Well, ‘love’ might be an exaggeration, but it’ll be fun, I swear.”

“I’m sure it will,” Jim said with as much earnestness as he could. It came out sounding a lot throatier than he intended, and Sandburg’s face seemed to flush a little bit as the cashier looked down at the appointment book.

Jim cleared his throat and smiled uneasily. “Well, I guess I’ll, uh, be seeing you. Umm, where’s the class being held at again?”

“The Memorial Center. Tuesday at seven,” Blair replied, all traces of his momentary embarrassment gone.

“Okay, well, uh, bye then,” Jim stuttered as he almost shoved his check at Blair before racing out the door with his packages.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Blair almost hit his head against the cash register in mortification. God he was the worst kind of pond scum. Cajoling some innocent customer into coming to his class just so that he could get paid for teaching it was something that Naomi would sternly lecture him about. If only he’d been paid a flat fee for teaching the class, he wouldn’t have been tempted to increase the enrollment.

Instead he was getting paid a small percentage per head for each person that signed up and paid for the class. Ellison’s enrollment would not earn him any money directly, but once word leaked out that the buff man had signed up for Blair’s class, the remaining slots would fill up with the various admirers that he had somewhat obliviously picked up.

Thursday nights used to be incredibly slow around the store. It was one of the reasons that Blair had been able to get the shift. Nobody liked working when the place was dead; including Blair, but the pay was the same. His teaching stipend would allow him enough money for rent and food. But he still needed gas and car repair money at the very least, and there were simple luxuries to consider as well - things like date money or new clothes money or finding a new used television that didn’t have a screen that periodically flashed green.

Then, oh then, one James Ellison started shopping, and the women started showing up in droves to watch as the muscled man prowled the aisles in his loose fitting, loose woven khaki pants. Ellison had to be some sort of earth naturalist as far as Blair could tell. He was never in anything that had been dyed and only rarely wore clothes whose fibers had been bleached. His body was sculpted to perfection, and he bought only organic produce, eschewing the health foods that contained any type of unnatural ingredients.

It seemed that he believed in keeping the earth and his body in their best, natural shape. And while Blair couldn’t speak for Mother Earth, he could certainly form an opinion about what the earth mothers thought of Ellison. If there had been some sort of market for drool, he’d have made a fortune by now, and that was just the women.

And hey, he wasn’t judging them either. It had been a long while since he’d taken a swing on the other side, but you didn’t need to be gay to realize that James J. Ellison was one fine looking man. Enjoy the female form though he did, Blair wasn’t exactly opposed to taking an occasional look at more delectable members of the male gender.

Of course his furtive glances in his favorite customer’s direction also carried a bit of envy. As far as he could tell, Ellison’s only flaw was his receding hairline. Otherwise, the man was fucking gorgeous and probably capable of getting anybody he wanted.

Shaking his head, Blair cracked open the member book and carefully logged in Ellison’s recent purchase totals so that the man would earn his bonus shopping points. What was done was done. He had already conned Ellison into going to the class. Now all Blair had to do was attempt to relieve himself of the bad karma that decision would bring.

~~~~~~~~~~

Jim shifted uneasily on the small meeting room's unforgiving metal folding chair. He’d picked a seat in the front for two reasons. The first was practicality. People tended to shy away from sitting in the front row of anything. If Jim’s joiners were smaller in number, then his allergies would not be as overwhelmed by the scents of their various perfumes and chemicals. The second reason was more selfish. Simply put, he wanted to ogle as much of Sandburg as possible, and people presented obstacles to his line of vision.

“Ellison, man, I’m glad you made it,” Blair’s voice bubbled from the back of the room where he was struggling with a large, cardboard box and a backpack.

Ever the gentleman, Jim was instantly on his feet and in seconds was taking the box away from Blair.

“Oh, hey thanks. Man, I had no idea how heavy that was going to be to carry. I, uh, guess that you don’t have a problem that way,” Blair added on to the end of his sentence sheepishly.

Jim opened his mouth to make a witty retort, but found himself sneezing instead.

“Oh, oh, I’m so sorry. I forgot you had allergies. There are some scented candle remnants in there that weren’t exactly the all natural ones that the store sells.”

Jim sneezed again, but shifted the box away from Sandburg’s grasping hands. “I can handle it, Chief. Just give me a second to get used to them.”

“No way, man, you…”

“I said I’ve got it,” Jim snapped and then instantly regretted it. Snarling at the guy was hardly going to charm him.

“Whoa. I get the message. You big alpha male, me, uh smaller less alpha male,” Blair quipped easily. At least, Jim hoped that was a quip and not some inside joke that natural foods people used.

Uncertain of how he was supposed to reply, Jim decided to favor an old standard – changing the subject. “How did you know that I have allergies?”

“It was a pretty logical assumption. You’re really careful to read the ingredients list of everything you buy. You come with red, irritated eyes and you sneeze a lot, and the first time I saw you? You were totally walking the walk of a man who was… sore. Of course, at the time I figured you were one of those guys that liked it a little more to the rough side, but now that I know you better I can guess that you were having some kind of skin reaction,” Blair rambled as he began walking towards the front so that he could set up his displays.

Jim just stared blankly at him with a slightly shocked look on his face. Blair blushed in response.

“Sorry. It’s just sometimes my mouth gets ahead of me. I know that bringing up your sex life is completely inappropriate. I didn’t mean anything by it,” Blair babbled nervously.

Jim cut off the apology by making a ‘halt’ gesture with his right hand, keeping the box he still carried aloft by balancing it on his left hip.

“I’m not upset, but I had that rash before I ever met you,” Jim stated as his eyes narrowed in suspicion.

Blair’s cheeks didn’t lose any of their red hue, but his lips did twist up in amusement. “I saw you at the co-op over on Briston. You kind of stand out in a crowd.”

“Shopping at the co-op? Isn’t that a bit disloyal?” Jim asked with a teasing tone as his body relaxed from its paranoid cop state.

“Maybe, but they are like way cheaper in price. Speaking of which, you should really buy your cleaner there. They have much better pricing.”

Jim chuckled and placed the box down on the foldout table where Blair had placed his backpack. “You’re not very good at representing the company; are you?”

“I believe in doing the best for the people,” Blair responded easily as he began to unpack his box, taking care to place the offending candles as far away from Jim as possible.

“A noble sentiment,” Jim intoned somberly.

“You’re making fun of me.”

“I’m worried for your financial future,” Jim said before he realized that it was a completely dumb thing to say to a barely casual acquaintance.

Blair, however, just grinned at him. “Man, you are something else. You really do care, don’t you? I mean, lots of people say that they care, and they do in some abstract way, but you actually are concerned. I can see it in that little wrinkle in your forehead.

Jim nodded uncomfortably in response to Blair’s misguided praise. Jim cared because his hormones had decided to fixate on the younger man. That was hardly an altruistic motivation, but Jim was still a guy, and he knew that the dating game didn’t favor complete honesty until you get very close to being married, and you have to disclose certain things that will lead to a ‘Why didn’t you tell me that!’ fight.

“So why are you here so early? Not that I’m not happy to see you here, but you didn’t seem all that thrilled about signing up in the first place.”

I wanted to spend as much time around you as possible, Jim’s mind immediately replied. Jim was at that moment very grateful that his father had instilled in him the virtue of keeping one’s mouth shut and not saying the first thing that comes to one’s mind.

“I got off work early, so I figured I’d just wait here,” he lied easily.

“Cool, cool. You make the coffee too?”

“Yeah, the lady at the help desk said that they usually put a pot on for the classes being held here, so I volunteered to make it as long as I was waiting. I hope that’s okay.”

Blair smiled at him, “No, no it’s great. The world could use more people like that, you know? We’re all too caught up in the rat race. We don’t stop to think about helping out others as much as we should.”

Jim just gave an amiable shrug in response to the praise and began to fiddle with the items on the table.

“So what is all of this stuff?”

“Just things I had around my place. Some of it I have suggestions for, others only vague ideas. Half of the point of the class is encouraging members to find their own ways of reusing their items. For example, the candles are actually remnants from ones that I burned. There is nothing left of them except for some wax, but if you buy a new wick and melt compatible scents together, you can make a new candle.”

“I think I’ll skip that one,” Jim murmured in reply.

Blair laughed, but the other class members started to arrive, so any further conversation was cut short.

~~~~~~~~~

Jim cracked one eye open and was immediately assaulted by the brightness of the room. It wouldn’t have normally bothered him as the morning light often beamed down on him through the skylight. Problem was that it was evening and dusk had long since started to set in. The only remnant of the sun left on the horizon was the dusky orange of the sunset slowly melding into a mellow purple.

God damn he hated it when his allergies acted up. One attack and his eyes burned and reported colors that weren’t there. He supposed that he should be thankful it wasn’t one of the worse attacks that he’d had. Those sometimes left him tasting things that he hadn’t eaten, or left his ears ringing with half remembered sounds.

Rolling over, he looked at his alarm clock. If he hurried, he could make Blair Sandburg’s little class. He could skip it, but it was the last session of the series, and after that he’d have to go back to his weekly shopping trips on Thursdays to get his Blair fix. It was also a small matter of pride. He had not missed one session of the class, and he liked perfection.

So, he could stay home and combat the pain he was experiencing in relative peace, or he could go battle the various sights and smells of the class so that he could bask in the presence of a man who while friendly, barely knew that Jim existed.

Grunting, he pushed himself up out of his bed. Who was he kidding anyway?

~~~~~~~~~

Blair nervously rearranged the little ‘graduation’ diplomas that he had brought with him. He’d carefully reused different pieces of paper to create collages with the class information on them. A couple of his friends said that the lettering on some of them looked like a ransom note, but he wanted to reinforce the importance of the class that these people had just taken. What better way than to say that it was important enough information that you could get a certificate for completion?

He was a bit nervous about giving Ellison his. He’d told the man that the class wasn’t like a college class, and although he’d been truthful about there being no tests, certificates and diplomas pretty much made a good correlation to more traditional schooling.

As the minutes ticked by, Blair’s anxiety started to notch up for a different reason. Jim was always early for class. Always. And he’d always been so helpful. He’d moved around tables and chairs without a word of complaint, and he’d often hung around after class to help clean up when the group had worked on projects together. Blair had made an extra little thank you gift to give, but did not want to give it to Jim in front of the whole class. Singling out one person as special would be rude.

Not that it looked like Blair was going to have the opportunity to be rude…

Reluctantly, he took one final glance at the clock, and started the class. Soon he was as engrossed in his subject matter as he always was, and almost forgot about the fact that Jim had not shown up. It wasn’t until he saw a shadow shift over in the corner of the room that he realized that the occupancy of said room had grown by one.

Sitting alongside the wall, far away from anybody else, Ellison was watching Blair demonstrate his final project. Blair was irrationally pleased to see him there even if the other man had chosen not to doff his floppy tan hat and sunglasses.

When it came time to hand out the makeshift diplomas, Jim seemed reluctant to come up and trailed far behind the second to last person in the line. When he was handed his, he stared at the piece of paper for a while, but to Blair’s relief an amused smile crossed the man’s lips after a short while.

“Though for a second that you were handing me a ransom note there.”

“Yeah, yeah like I haven’t heard that one before,” Blair kidded gently as he waited for the other class members grab their things and filter out the door. He needed them to leave before he gave the ‘special’ gift to Jim.

Thankfully, the other man seemed reluctant to leave, so Blair attempted to keep the conversation going.

“I thought you weren’t coming for a while there.”

“My allergies acted up,” Jim said with a vague hand motion to wave away the concern.

“Which explains the glasses, but what about the hat? I’d think that it would make you more uncomfortable,” Blair continued the conversation without acknowledging Jim’s attempt to divert it.

“Look, Sandburg, I like you a lot, okay? But I’m not exactly comfortable discussing my condition.”

“Hey, no, I hear you. I do, but I know tons of people in different alternative healing, well, schools of thought I guess you could call them. If what you’re doing isn’t working for you, I could maybe suggest some other therapies that you could try. My mom knows…”

“I appreciate your concern here, but I don’t want to go running around trying a hundred different remedies that could just as easily kill me as not. I’ve got a system that works,” Jim interrupted a little bit defensively.

Blair began to open his mouth to protest, but Jim raised his hand up in a ‘stop’ sign.

“I mean it, Chief,” he stated firmly.

Blair wasn’t exactly interested in ceasing his queries into Ellison’s health issues, but he was smart enough to realize that he shouldn’t push the issue at that very moment. Searching his brain for a suitable topic, he found one almost instantly.

“Why do you call me that? ‘Chief’?”

Jim shrugged. “It’s just a nickname, Chief,” he said as slight smile tugged at his lips.

“Well I suppose as long as you’ve granted me my own special name, I should give you your own special gift,” Blair smoothly, or so he thought, segued as he pulled a small box out of his backpack.

Jim felt his heart stutter in his chest for a moment at the shy smile that accompanied Sandburg’s actions and words.

“It isn’t much, but you were a real help to me these past couple of weeks. You so didn’t have to do that, especially after I kind of talked you into it in the first place, so I thought that I should get you something by way of thank you. Unfortunately, my car is in the shop, and I don’t exactly have spare cash sitting around,” Blair rambled as he shifted a poorly wrapped package from one hand to the other in his nervousness.

“Yeah, I didn’t guess that when you had a job as a cashier or anything,” Jim teased lightly.

“Figured that out did you? Look, I’m just saying, this isn’t the nicest of gifts, and if you don’t want it, I can totally understand why, I mean…”

Jim snatched the box out of the fidgeting hands and began tugging at the ribbon that held a misshaped piece of cloth around the gift.

“Nice wrapping job,” he commented as he worked on the knots in the ribbon.

”Well, I figured that you’re into the natural products, and the class was about reusing items. So I figured that you’d like a touch of ingenuity on the wrapping.”

“That and you didn’t want to have to pay for some wrapping paper and tape?” Jim guessed as the ribbon finally let go.

“That too.”

The battered cardboard box that held Jim’s present wasn’t taped shut or held together by the Gordian knots that Sandburg had used to wrap the package, so the lid flaps came open very easily. Reaching in, Jim’s fingers slid across a smooth finish. His fingers grasped the object and pulled it out so that he could inspect it.

It was an oval shaped stone that was polished smooth and rounded on the top, but flat on the bottom. The black color of the stone was intercut with a couple of white bands.

“Onyx?” he asked as he turned the stone in his hands.

“Sardonyx actually, because of the white in it.”

“I can’t take this from you. It has got to be worth something,” Jim said as he tried to put it back in Blair’s hands.

“Hey, no – seriously, I’m not going to miss it. In fact, I’m like totally regifting it here, and I can’t just go selling something that somebody gave me as a gift.”

“But you can give it to somebody else?” Jim queried.

“Yeah, well, you know onyx is supposed to absorb negativity and promote happiness, which I’m totally for, but there’s sort of a bad connotation for me personally with that thing.”

“So you’re giving me a cursed, regifted stone?”

“No, no not cursed, but see… I kind of broke up with this girl who thought we were more serious than we were. She leaves that on my doorstep informing me that I should try it out because it’s supposed to lower your libido and help you break bad habits like breaking women’s hearts.”

“So you’re regifting me a stone that is supposed to kill my sex drive?” Jim clarified skeptically.

“No, no. I’m sure that you’ll be fine. Besides, it’s sardonyx, remember? There have got to be some other mystical connections to it because of that. In fact, I’m pretty sure that the positives way outweigh the negatives. Plus, if you take it, then it lessens my load on the way home,” Blair pointed out with a cheesy grin that was supposed to look charming. And it would have. On a two-year-old.

“Yeah, I can see where the extra couple of ounces might just tip you over there, Chief,” Jim said, amused by the look even though he wasn’t won over by it.

“You’re a life saver,” Blair shot back as he clasped his hands over his chest in an exaggerated pose of adoring thankfulness.

“Although, come to think of it, I should give you something. You did talk me into taking this class after all.”

Blair laughed. “Anybody ever tell you that you’re a hard man to give a gift to? I’m getting paid to teach this class, man. I don’t need any more thanks.”

“Need, no. Deserve, yes. How about dinner? I mean, you said that you uh, were running a little short on cash, and that your car is in the shop. A free meal would be good, right? Not, uh, I’m not, that is…”

“You’re not trying to ask me out on a date?” Blair’s voice was tinged with a hint of disappointment as he finished Jim’s sentence for him.

Mentally he berated himself for wishing actually had been hoping that it was a date invitation, and forced himself to smile benignly while waiting for Jim’s response.

~~~~~~~~~~

Jim froze as he caught the inflection in Blair’s voice. It was one thing to admire and dream from afar. It was quite another to get close to catching your dream. There were days when his allergies acted up that he truly thought he was losing it. The doctors had expressed concern that his body’s attempts to fight off phantom invaders were causing the strange hallucinations of voices that he sometimes heard.

On those days, there was little that he could focus on to make himself want to continue his existence. The temptation to just let himself be drugged into a stupor and put on medical disability loomed over him like a false friend offering comfort. It was then that he held on to his hopes with all that he had, refusing to let himself let go of his life. One of those hopes was Blair Sandburg. He’d envision being with the other man, talking to him, stealing sweet kisses from him…

But Jim was a practical man, and he knew that fantasy and reality never met up with each other. The Blair of his dreams was probably drastically different from reality. And although he was certain that Sandburg was a good person at heart, that didn’t mean that he wasn’t full of faults, and those faults combined with Jim’s own had a good chance of ruining whatever chance of a relationship that was there.

Jim wasn’t sure if he could live with losing one of his dreams, but he also wasn’t sure if he could live with having a dream tainted by the lingering doubt of ‘what could have been.’

A minute, uncomfortable shift from Sandburg alerted Jim to the fact that his mind had taken him away from their conversation for longer than he’d been aware. Simon said that he’d been doing that a lot lately. The doctors said that it was a side effect of one of his allergy medications.

“Well,” Jim hesitated as he tried desperately to make up his mind, “that depends on whether or not you want it to be a date.”

Blair’s face flushed for a second, “You asking me out?”

“No, I’m making a fool of myself apparently,” he bit out, suddenly irritated with his entire life, and Blair made a handy target.

“Hey, hey,” Blair said soothingly as his hand shot out to grab Jim’s arm to keep him from leaving. “I didn’t say ‘no.’”

“Forget it, Chief. I misread some signals is all. Don’t feel sorry for me.”

“I said that I didn’t say, ‘no.’” Blair reiterated patiently.

“You didn’t say ‘yes’ either.”

“What, so not saying ‘yes’ means that I’m all anti-dinner plans? ‘Cause if that’s the case you’re going to be bringing me someplace really nice, and fun, because I don’t put up with this kind of black and white thinking from people without some serious benefits.”

“You’re saying ‘yes’ then?” Jim asked as bewilderment stole across what features were not obscured by his hat and glasses.

“No, I’m not, and I’m not going to now. You pissed me off, but I’m the forgiving sort.”

“So, I’m not taking you to dinner?”

“You so don’t track well. You’re taking me to dinner. I’m just not giving you the satisfaction of hearing me accept your invitation.”

“Oh. Well in that case you should know that I can’t fulfill the ‘really nice’ qualifications at the moment.”

“Backing out on the deal already?”

“Not backing out, just… Look I can’t go into a place like that right now. They generally want you to take your hat off.”

“Which brings me back to my earlier question of why you have one on.”

Jim heaved a sigh, and his shoulders slumped a bit. “Don’t overreact, okay?”

“Man, why do people ever say stuff like that? I mean, if it needs a disclaimer like that, I’m probably going to have a strong reaction no matter what I promised. So all I’ve done is made myself a liar by making a promise to not do what I just did.”

Jim bit back an exasperated sound and just yanked his hat off, clenching his eyes shut so that he didn’t have to see the other man’s face. Blair’s horrified gasp informed him that although the other man was apparently freaking, he was making an attempt at controlling his reaction.

Forcing his eyes back, open, his first sight was that of Blair’s hand hovering uncertainly over one of the welts that adorned Jim’s scalp.

“Wha…”

“Part of it was my skin reacting, the rest was my own fingers,” Jim interrupted him with a clinical tone. “It’ll go away in a couple days.”

Blair dropped his hand back down to his side.

“I’ll be fine,” Jim reassured him.

“Yeah,” Blair’s tone informed Jim that he didn’t buy that line one bit. “So where are you taking me then?”

The sudden dropping of the subject surprised Jim, so his mouth bypassed his brain and offered, “Wonderburger?”

“A first date and you want to take me to a place that serves heart attacks in waxed paper wrappings? Do you know how bad that is for you?”

“Only food I have problems with is the spicy stuff. Besides, shouldn’t you be a little less picky?”

“Hey, you asked me out, remember? I have a right to be picky. Besides, as long as you’ve got the gas, I know this nice little diner on the outskirts of town…”

~~~~~~~~~~

Blair stared at himself critically in the slightly cloudy, old mirror that hung in his bathroom. Under shirt, or no undershirt, that was the question that preoccupied him. Tonight was the night, the big night, the night where he finally got into one James Ellison’s pants.

He didn’t normally think of himself as a patient man, so each date after their first had been one date too many as far as his dick was concerned. That wasn’t to say that he regretted the time that he’d spent with Jim. It was just that Blair’s typical dates tended to consist of boring conversations covering up the fact that they were both just there to have a socially acceptable excuse to go somewhere and screw their brains out.

Not that he didn’t have the highest respect for most of the people he dated, he did. They were honest and upfront about only wanting to have some carnal fun, and so was he.

But Jim, Jim had been a different story the first time that Blair had laid eyes on the man. He’d always been a puzzle to Blair, and the puzzle had only grown more complex each time that the Jim crossed Blair’s path. Add to that the fact that the man was smart, witty, an ardent Jags fan, and gorgeous as hell, and you had yourself a winning combination. At least, it was damn near perfect for Blair’s tastes.

Sure the male thing would be a detriment as far as society went, but Jim seemed to be worth it.

The man himself though had been infuriatingly virginal about sex. It wasn’t that he was inexperienced, that much Blair had been able to worm out of him. And it wasn’t that he didn’t want it or didn’t want Blair. The evidence of that particular little fact had been showing up on occasion since their third date. Which, Blair’s libido sullenly reminded him, was like eons ago.

Shaking his head to clear it from his ponderings, he reluctantly grabbed his undershirt to tug it on. It would be one more hindrance to getting naked with Jim, but the effect that it had for presenting cleaner lines under his shirt made him look more desirable. At least he’d been told that by a few of his girlfriends, and as the plan was to get a little nookie from his… boyfriend, he needed all the edge he could get.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Jim took a deep breath and stared into his bathroom mirror. Turning his face this way and that, he carefully checked the closeness of his shave. The bruise from the pimp that had decided to take a swing at Jim in interrogation had mostly faded, and Jim sent a prayer of thanks to whoever was listening that Blair had been busy with school functions for the past week. Explaining the existence of that injury would have required either some very damnable lying, or a discussion that was going to be nearly as painful.

Although, he really needed to face the facts, tonight was the night. He was going to have to come clean to Blair and hope that the man’s capacity for forgiveness extended to cops who may have slightly colored the truth in order to get closer to pretty anthropologists.

While he wouldn’t say that the deception was intentional or malevolent, the result of it had the potential to be just as damaging. Truthfully, Jim would give not anything, but a lot, to have a redo of their second date, the one that Blair had asked him on when he’d been driving the younger man home from their impromptu one right after their first one.

Sandburg had dragged him off to some hole in the wall ethnic restaurant. Surrounded by orange and pink beaded silk tapestries, Blair had told story after story about his free-loving mother and her crusades against everything from big, exploitive corporations, to the pigs who ran rampant over the ‘little’ people with their jackboots and police badges.

It was after a particularly vehement tale about a local sheriff and his bigotry that Blair had suddenly switched the topic. Now that they’d been seeing each other for a while, Jim had gotten used to Blair’s seemingly random subject changes, but back then he had been wrong footed and just a little bit scared about scaring off his new beau. So when Blair had suddenly reminded Jim that he’d never told Blair what he did for a living, Jim had mumbled that he worked for the city - which was true, but not exactly truthful.

He hated himself for making that mistake, because now he had oh so much more to lose. He really, truly cared for Blair after being with him. Back then it was just the promise of what could be. Now he actually held that promise in his hands, and it was killing him that one moment of weakness back in the day could yank that future right out of his grasp.

Straightening himself up, he looked straight into his own eyes in the glassy reflection. He needed to do this. Letting it go on as long as he had was a mistake, and letting it go on any further would be a crime.

It was time to own up.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Yeah. Yeah, right there baby. No, nonononono… Blair’s mind complained even though his lips were too uncoordinated to form anything more than a disconsolate whimper.

“We need to talk,” Jim’s breathy voice buzzed next to Blair’s ear.

Now, normally Blair would’ve liked that declaration. Talking was good. He liked talking. It was one of his favorite pastimes. But at the moment he wanted a little more action and a little less distraction.

He’d been happily surprised when Jim had suggested halfway through dinner that they go back to his place after they finished. As far as Blair was concerned, it was just one part of his plan that he didn’t have to initiate. Talking Jim into going somewhere private had been at the top of his game plan, and Jim had neatly taken care of that for him.

Once they were ensconced in Jim’s strangely aseptic place, he’d commenced with the second part of his plan. While they’d enjoyed a beer on the small balcony that overlooked the city, Blair had not so subtly encroached in Jim’s personal space. He’d long ago learned that Jim had a fascination with his hair. Maybe it was because of his own increasing lack of it, or maybe it was just that he liked it. Blair really didn’t care about the reason.

It had been increasingly frustrating to keep Jim’s attention focused on his attempted seduction. The taller man had kept edging away every time that their mutual attraction began to flare up between them. That space combined with their height differential made certain leading touches very difficult to casually slip in. To Blair’s great consternation, they had both made it through their beers, and still no serious interaction had started.

As Jim had been bending over to toss their empty bottles into his recycling bin, Blair had made the executive decision to scrap the seduction plans and go on a frontal assault. As soon as Jim had straightened up and turned in Blair’s direction, Sandburg almost threw himself into the man’s arms.

Jim’s mouth had been open in preparation to say some damn thing or the other, so getting his tongue into said mouth was ridiculously easy.

Whatever had been bugging his soon to be lover all night had been swept away on a mutual wave of passion as Jim had taken over the kiss, shoved Blair’s ass up on the counter, and proceeded to snuffle, nip, and lick at Blair’s ears and neck.

At least, he had up until the moment that he’d decided that they needed to engage in conversation. God, what man could engage in conversation when he was horny anyway?

“No talking,” Blair sternly commanded as he roughly pulled Jim back to him so that that could share another kiss.

Jim obliged, but pulled away again.

“Blair,” he began.

“No. Talking.” Blair reiterated as he got a better grasp on Jim.

“But…”

Blair almost groaned in frustration, but he was a better man than that. And it was hardly like Jim was being seduced against his will. Guys didn’t get erections like that so quickly because they were just a little horny.

Determined to derail whatever thoughts were going through his boyfriend’s head, Blair scooted forward and slid off of the counter while keeping his grip on Jim. The result was that his whole front dragged satisfyingly against Jim’s as gravity pulled him downwards.

Damn that felt good, and if Jim’s whimper was anything to go by, he concurred with Blair’s assessment.

Not giving up his suddenly gained edge, he tugged Jim’s head down for another kiss with one hand while he sneaked the other up under the hem of Jim’s loose fitting taupe shirt.

For a while the only sounds that filled the spacious apartment were soft sucking ones as they traded tongues and swapped saliva. Blair started to entertain thoughts of swapping more personal fluids when he felt Jim stiffen and begin to pull away again.

Not willing to have yet another attempt at talking interfere with his sexual satisfaction, Blair simply pushed his tongue harder into Jim’s mouth and gave a sharp tug to the nipple that he’d been caressing through the thin cotton of Jim’s undershirt.

Instead of relenting though, Jim just stiffened further and a strange, uncomfortable sounding groan echoed in the loft. Blair backed away then. He might be single minded in his quest, but he didn’t do things that his partners didn’t want him too.

Reluctantly, he opened his eyes so that he could look into Jim’s eyes and ask him what was wrong. That plan fell through when he realized that the other man’s eyes were squeezed tightly shut, and even if they weren’t, he wouldn’t be looking into them anyway as Jim had turned his head to the side giving Blair an excellent view of his almost perfect profile.

The red streaks that carried down to Jim’s neck were hot to the touch, and for a second Blair wasn’t sure if they were caused by anger, excitement, or simply a badly timed allergic reaction to something.

A second later, he realized that it wasn’t any of those three options. It was good, old fashioned mortification. The wet spot on Jim’s khaki pants was plainly visible in the well lit kitchen.

“Wow,” Blair dumbly commented. Sure he’d been with women who could get really close to orgasm because you played with their nipples, but they’d usually been at it for a while before that could happen, and they still needed something extra to put them over.

Jim whimpered in response and began to pull away in shame.

“Hey, hey now,” Blair soothed instantly.

“Don’t,” Jim bit out in a surly voice.

“Don’t what? It’s obviously natural for you. There is nothing to be ashamed about here.”

Jim’s infuriated eyes snapped open then. “Natural? This is not natural, Sandburg. This is, is… How would you feel if you were shooting before you even got your shirt off?”

Well, okay, Blair could see his point there. “I hear you, but Jim, it is fine.”

“No, it isn’t. I’d hoped that these goddamned allergies would leave me with some sort of, of life. Now look at me! I can’t even have sex because my skin is too sensitive.”

“So? We just have to be creative is all. It’s just like everything else; we just have to find what works for you and what doesn’t.”

“I don’t want to find a solution. I want it to go away,” Jim sulked as he turned to lean against the counter, crossing his legs in an attempt to hide part of the spreading stain.

“If wishes were horses, man. Look, why don’t we go upstairs and get undressed?”

“You want to get naked now?” The disbelief in Jim’s voice was magnified by the look on his face.

“Well, why not? You’re still damn fine looking, and I’d like to see the whole package.”

“You still want to… After I…”

“Hey, I’m a gentleman you know. I usually try to take care of my partners first. It’s just a timing thing, really.”

Jim shook his head as amusement crept in and displaced some of his embarrassment.

Seeing the look on Jim’s face ease, Blair prayed fervently that Jim was about to decide that it really wasn’t fair to leave his poor boyfriend hanging without a little relief.

Without a word, Jim patted Blair on the shoulder and began his trek towards the stairs that lead to his bedroom. Blair’s eyes automatically focused on his ass as Jim began to ascend before he quickly followed.

Inwardly, Blair was doing the happy dance. He’d gotten the nookie train back on track, at least for himself. And if he wasn’t mistaken, the combined sensitivity of Jim’s skin and his lack of recent sexual activity made a second go round for the other man a definite possibility if not a certainty.

Given Jim’s chagrin at his premature ejaculation, Blair was surprised at how easily his partner rid himself of his clothes. It wasn’t exactly as tantalizing as Blair had fantasized it would be to see that finely honed body methodically remove its coverings, but he really couldn’t argue with the results.

Unlike most men who had such ripped physiques, Jim’s underwear line wasn’t a drastic demarcation of white skin next to tanned. Blair guessed that was as much a reaction to Jim’s allergies as anything else. The great outdoors had a plethora of flora and fauna that could cause a reaction and a tanning salon would be filled with all sorts of chemicals. While Jim could never avoid anything entirely, he was already taking as many steps as possible to eliminate all unnecessary exposures.

Or maybe Jim was just concerned about skin cancer. He’d have to ask sometime when they weren’t about to take care of more serious business.

Jim’s manhood swung very gently as he walked towards Blair, his groin glistening slightly from the wet residue of his release.

“You’re still clothed,” he whispered softly as he began to tug at Blair’s buttons.

Well, they couldn’t have that, now could they?

It seemed like both seconds and ages that it took to divest Blair of his garments, but soon he was as naked as Jim, if just a bit more aroused.

To Blair’s surprise, Jim didn’t automatically look down and ogle the goodies. Instead he kept methodically stroking his fingers through the tangle of chest hair, petting at the soft skin underneath.

“Jim?”

“You’re so beautiful,” he responded dazedly.

Blair blushed at the compliment before scolding himself for acting like some school girl. He had a mission to accomplish here.

“I’m also very virile,” he teased as he tugged one of Jim’s hands downwards towards more interesting parts.

Apparently Jim’s fingers liked the coarse hair and puckered skin down on his balls as much as they liked what was up on his chest because they started up with the exact same stroking rhythm with just a touch more force.

A moan escaped Blair’s lips, and he leaned forward to rest against his taller lover’s chest.

“Feel good?” Jim’s voice had adopted a sultry purr completely erasing the memory of the angry mortification of earlier.

“Mmmm,” Blair responded incoherently as he thrust his hips forward a bit.

“Wanna go try out the bed?” Jim suggested as Blair began to lean against him more in an attempt to get more friction.

“Sounds like a plan,” Blair agreed even as he stayed exactly where he was.

“You gonna make me do all the work here, Chief?”

“Sounds like an even better plan,” Blair replied impishly.

“You just remember you asked for this,” Jim warned before he quickly disentangled his fingers from Blair’s groin and tossed the shorter man over his shoulder. With a couple of strides, he came to the edge of the bed and dropped his lover down on its infuriatingly beige coverlet.

Blair shot a wicked grin up at Jim. “Got a little bit of caveman in you, huh?”

“Learn something new every day,” Jim quipped as he crawled up next to him.

“Yeah? Well why don’t you teach me a few things then?” Blair asked as he began to stroke at the soft penis that now rested against Jim’s thigh.

“I think I can manage that,” Jim growled as his own hand finally wrapped loosely around Blair’s shaft.

The soft strokes were tantalizing, if not completely satisfying, but Blair wasn’t about to complain. The longer Jim took on him, the better the chances of getting a second round in.

“You got lube?”

Jim’s hand froze, and Blair automatically began to try to explain himself, “It’s okay if it is a thing for you. I mean, I thought that you said that it wasn’t, but I could be mistaken, and if you want to wait we can just…”

Jim silenced his rambling with a short kiss.

“It’s not a thing. I just… I have problems with latex sometimes. Much as I’d love to be with you that way, break outs down there aren’t exactly pleasant,” Jim clarified.

Blair smiled slightly. “I can totally get that.”

“But that doesn’t mean that we can’t… do other things,” Jim suggested hopefully.

Blair grinned. “You’re very right on that count, my friend. But we could still use lube. Unless you have reactions to that too?”

“The brand I used to use, yes. But I don’t seem to have problems with aloe vera gels. Not the best lube, but…” Jim trailed off as he dug a tube out from his bedside table.

“Sold me on it man,” Blair said as he grabbed the tube out of Jim’s hand.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Things had gotten a little hazy after that point. Blair remembered helping Jim smear the stuff over their groins, and he thought that Jim started to get his second wind while they were experimenting with mutual frottage, but he could’ve been mistaken about that.

What he did remember was that Jim seemed to be rather content no matter who was on top, and the man seemed to absolutely adore giving a good blow job. Although, adore might be too easy a word. Addicted to it seemed a better description.

As far as Blair was concerned, it was a great addiction for his boyfriend to have, because Jim could suck, and that tongue of his… God, it might not be the most nimble at expressing his thoughts with words, but it certainly knew its way around a cock. He was definitely not inexperienced.

The only regret that Blair had was that he still hadn’t given Jim a proper orgasm. And he really didn’t have a defense for the second time. If Jim’s nipples were sensitive enough to send him into orbit, then it should’ve made sense that his prostate would as well. And it had.

One moment Jim was happily writhing against Blair’s slippery invading fingers, the next he was creating a pretty magnificent wet spot on the bed.

Blair was man enough to admit that the reaction had been a great ego boost even if his more civilized brain told him that he should pay more attention to his lover’s erection.

Of course, now that it was Saturday morning, chances were good that Jim would be ready to go again. And Blair didn’t exactly have urgent matters to attend elsewhere…

Shifting his position slightly so that he could stealthily straddle his lover without waking him up, Blair’s hand slid underneath the pillow that Jim’s head rested on.

It encountered something cold and metallic. Horrified, Blair tugged on the item, and his stomach sank as he realized that there was indeed a gun in bed with them.

“WHAT THE HELL!” he shouted as he flung the object on to the mattress and hopped out of bed to stare at it.

Jim’s eyes blinked open in confusion. “Chief?”

“What are you… What is that… You’ve got a fucking gun under your pillow!”

Jim’s eyes focused on the piece sitting next to him.

“Hey, it’s okay.”

“Okay, okay? You could’ve blown my head off last night. And not the fun way if you get my drift.”

“Relax. The safety is on.”

“The safety is on? The safety is on? Do you have any idea how much danger a loaded gun is?”

“Actually, I know quite a bit about how dangerous guns are,” Jim informed him as he got out of bed, apparently unconcerned about getting dressed for this particular fight.

“Why do you even have that anyway? Are you in some sort of trouble? Are you being threatened? You didn’t get involved with crime did you?”

“I’m not in trouble, at least, not that I know of at the moment. But I’m not exactly well liked by some more influential people.” Jim tried to explain.

“You mean that you’ve pissed some of the city officials off? Man, I know that government is corrupt, but enough to warrant having a gun?” Blair’s voice sounded strident as he tried to keep from completely losing it.

Jim sighed and rubbed a hand across his forehead. “Look, I was going to try to tell you this last night, but you kept interrupting me. I… Look, I work for the city, but I’m sort of not exactly a white collar guy.”

“What? You do road construction or something? No wait, you don’t have the tan lines to go with that. Garbage disposal? You think that I would care about that?”

“No, Chief. Look - I’m a cop, okay? A detective actually.”

Blair’s mouth gaped open and closed for a few minutes before he finally whispered, “A cop? A GAY cop? What the hell man? Don’t you think you could’ve told me this? Did you think I’m the type of guy who’s going to hide in the closet?”

“I never said that I wanted you to hide anywhere,” Jim pointed out, although his volume was much closer to roaring than calmly making a point. His jaw clenched, and his mouth took on a distinct frown that irritated Blair. Like Jim was the hurt party…

“And I’m supposed to believe that you wouldn’t want that? God, I’m so fucking stupid,” Blair snarled as he began to snatch his clothes up from the floor.

“Blair? Ah, come on, don’t do this. I tried to tell you last night, but you didn’t want to talk.”

“What? So this is my fault now?”

“No. I’m not saying that, I just… I was going to tell you, okay?”

“No, not okay. Not even remotely close to okay. How the hell am I supposed to process this? You’re in one of the biggest closed societies in the Western world, and they don’t take kindly to gay boys running around. Never mind the fact that you lied to me,” he huffed as he gave up on finding his shorts and just pulled his jeans on. “I can’t even imagine what Naomi would say,” he muttered as he began to shove his bare feet into his boots.

“Blair,” Jim’s tone softened with worry.

“What? What do you want from me here?” Blair asked as he pulled his over shirt on and shoved his socks into his back pocket.

“I… I just want you to stay.”

“Well, I don’t think I can do that for you. This is too much, you know?”

“I know I should’ve… I’m not the bad guy here,” Jim pointed out desperately as he followed Blair down the stairs.

“You let me believe a lie about you.”

“Is that so unforgiveable? I wasn’t hiding a wife and three kids here.”

“No, you aren’t. At least not that I know of. I… I need time to process this, Jim. I need some space.” Blair forced a note of finality into his tone as he stared evenly at Jim for a moment.

Jim nodded woodenly, and Blair could suddenly see the police officer in him. Blank eyes and a granite façade appeared where there had been pain, desperation, and frustration a minute before.

“I’ll drive you home.” Jim whispered flatly.

“You’re not even dressed,” Blair pointed out. “Don’t worry about it. I can make my own way home.”

Before Jim had a chance to respond, Blair shut the door in his face.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Jim closed his eyes and rubbed at his temples in frustration. The damn bullpen was buzzing today, and when it buzzed the overhead lights seemed to sing right along.

“Jim still cranky?” he heard Rafe ask Rhonda.

“Worse than my Gramma’s pet poodle, and that dog bites everybody,” Rhonda whispered back.

“Word is that he got dumped,” Henri chimed in.

“Dumped? Dumped by who? I thought he was practically an invalid when he wasn’t at work,” Rhonda queried.

“Well my girlfriend’s aunt works at this diner over by Rainier, says Jim was meeting a brunette there about once a week during lunch hours. Then, a couple of weeks ago, he just stopped showing up,” Henri supplied eagerly.

Not wanting to hear his relationship with Blair talked about any more than it already had been, Jim pushed himself to his feet so that he could glare wholeheartedly at the inconsiderate folk choosing to gossip about him within earshot.

To his surprise, the three people in question were huddled together on the other side of the room.

Great, now he was paranoid. He’d seen the three of them together, and his mind decided that they must be talking about how he fucked up his relationship with Blair. Fantastic. Next he’d be imagining that Simon and Joel were discussing his poor sexual performance instead of the new hostage situation techniques that they were actually meeting about.

Plopping back down into his chair, he forced himself back to working on his paperwork.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Frustrated, Blair slammed his notebook down on his erstwhile coffee table. He hated his dissertation. He really did. Was it too much to ask to find just one sentinel? Really? In the grand scheme of the cosmos, was it so bad to ask for one sentinel to traipse through Blair Sandburg’s life so that he could earn his Ph.D.?

A beeping from his alarm clock informed him that he had another fifteen minutes that he could wallow in self pity before he had to go work his shift at Whole Being Natural Foods. Wasn’t that a pleasant thought? Another night of listening to women come in trying to find some miracle weight loss supplement and men coming in trying to find some miracle sex drive pill.

And hey, why not an eight hour shift of torture revolving around the realization that Jim wasn’t going to be coming in because of their terrible fight.

Resting his head on the back of his dilapidated sofa, Blair threw himself a pity party. Damn, but he missed Jim something awful. His infuriating silences, his annoying little smirks, his intelligent conversation, that great, big… okay so he really didn’t need to think about Jim’s body right now because his own body hadn’t yet quit complaining about losing its conjugal rights.

He was man enough to admit that he hadn’t handled Jim’s revelation all that well. He could accept that. He could also accept the fact that cop or not, Jim just plain old did it for him. In fact, Blair had the sneaking suspicion that he might be the tiniest bit in love with the other man. That really made the whole mess more complicated because while Blair had lots of experience in breaking up, he had almost none in making up.

Jim hadn’t even tried calling for the past two weeks, so chances were good that he didn’t want to make up. And why should he? For all of his allergies and idiosyncrasies, the man was completely gorgeous. He would never have problems finding a willing companion for the evening.

Blair’s stomach clenched at the thought of Jim spending the night in somebody else’s bed. Somebody better looking, somebody more female, somebody…

Jim’s allergic to latex, Blair reminded himself. Plus, it had taken him forever to get in Jim’s pants. Just because he fucked it all up the next morning, Jim probably hadn’t gone out the very same night prowling for some new sex toy.

It was just a matter of time before he did though, but there wasn’t anything that Blair could really do about that. He’d given up his rights.

Morosely, he hauled himself off of his couch and went to go get ready for work.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Jim stared at the drawer that he had pulled open. The colors contained in it had almost blinded him for a moment, and he cursed his mind for playing such obvious psychological tricks on him. Blue jeans and black tee shirts were hardly colorful garb. They were just… not beige. Carefully, he dug through the items and quickly located his newest black shirt and his oldest jeans.

Blair still hadn’t attempted to make contact, and it appeared that, “I need some space,” was quickly turning into, “It was nice while it lasted.”

Jim didn’t want that. His whole life had been thrown out the window when he developed his damn allergies, and his love life had been a disaster long before that. Enough was enough. He was tired of waiting it out. He was tired of always being the one who lost. He’d let enough lovers walk away from him, and this time he was going to go down swinging.

Problem was, in order to fight dirty, he was going to have to grovel. He was probably going to have to grovel a lot more than his pride would want him to grovel. And he was going to have to appeal to any part of Blair Sandburg that still wanted him.

That was where the clothes came in. Tight shirts and ass hugging jeans had never failed to work whenever Jim went looking for a date. The chances of regaining some of Blair’s interest for a moment versus the chances of having one mother of a rash seemed to favor the rash, but sacrifices had to made in order to achieve his objective.

Having already made up his mind, Jim took a deep breath and started to get dressed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Blair tried not to look bored as he lounged against the cashier station waiting for Mrs. Mulroney to finish ‘seductively’ fingering the organic cucumbers and just buy one already. The night was taking forever to end. That shouldn’t have surprised him, because it was pretty much like every night since he’d broken up with Jim.

The annoying little brass bell above the entry way tinkled, and Blair turned to make certain it wasn’t one of the more unsavory types who liked to come in and try to make trouble with the ‘hippies’ in the store.

He wasn’t too proud to admit that he ogled the view for longer than appropriate when his eyes focused on the new customer. The man was ripped, that much was evident from the way that his shirt not so much clung to his form as made love to it. The man’s soft, worn jeans just seemed to mold over his hips, and if God hated Blair as much as he figured He did at the moment, the jeans were probably kept up by a very fine ass in the back.

Aware that he’d been staring, Blair jerked his eyes away before they got a good view of the man’s face. He’d seen enough of the chiseled cheekbones and well defined chin to know that the man was… Jim?

Hastily, Blair turned back in the direction of the door only to find himself nose to chest with a very nice set of pecs.

“So I’m thinking that I want a refund on this stone, Sandburg. My happiness has tanked, I’m full of negativity, and I’m horny as hell,” Jim informed him as he waved the oval in front of Blair’s face.

“Yeah?” Blair squeaked even as he cursed himself for not having the brain power to beg Jim for a second chance to have their fight, and end it happily this time.

“Yeah.”

“So, uh, what kind of refund you looking for?” Blair managed to ask.

“I’m thinking that you could maybe have dinner with me?” Jim’s bravado cracked a little bit as he made his request, and his voice wavered just a tad.

“I, I think that I need a little more than a stone to do that,” Blair said softly.

Jim’s face started to show some strain and worry at Blair’s words.

“Do you know what is you’d need?”

“Yeah, I do,” Blair informed him certainly.

“What?”

“A kiss.”

Jim shook his head like he didn’t quite believe it could be that simple. “A kiss?”

“Right here, right now in front of the cameras, my coworkers, and Mrs. Mulroney,” Blair confirmed. “Make it good, and I won’t even make you take me to dinner.”

Jim shifted his weight around, but he really didn’t hesitate.

Gently he put his hands on either side of Blair’s face and tilted his head up. With great precision, he rested his lips against his estranged lover’s. Then, without warning, he opened his mouth and pushed his tongue out of his own mouth to make entreaty to Blair’s mouth.

The world faded as he became reacquainted with the welcome taste of Blair. The world also came back into vibrant color as Blair’s coworker’s started applauding, and Mrs. Mulroney slammed the door with a disgusted grunt and a comment about the faggot cashier contaminating the produce.

“I, uh, guess I’ll see you later?” Jim asked tentatively trying to ignore the presence of other people intruding on their reunion.

“Or I could just go home with you right now and take care of that rash I see peeking out of your shirt collar. We just got in this great hypoallergenic rub. Should work wonders on that. And it works just about everywhere,” Blair purred.

Jim tensed and shot uncomfortable glances at the virtual strangers who were now openly staring at the couple. Blair forced himself to stay calm and accepting. It was good for their relationship for Jim to start coming to terms with the fact that people were going to, at a minimum, stare at them.

Jim shook his head a little bit and shifted his focus back on Blair. “You have to finish work, Chief,” he gently reminded the man in his arms.

“Joey, you can cover my shift for the rest of the night, can’t you?” Blair called without taking his eyes off of Jim’s face.

“‘Can,’ yeah. ‘Will,’ depends on whether or not you have enough money to bribe me so that you can go off and have monkey sex while I stay here and make eye love to the watermelons.”

Mentally, Blair decided that he wanted to use that gun of Jim’s on his coworker. They had serious making up to do, and the little twerp was angling for money that he knew full well Blair didn’t have to spend.

“Here,” Jim said as he shoved a hundred in the man’s direction, “and don’t get greedy and ask for more.”

Blair grinned at Jim for a second before turning to look at Joey, “Better listen to my boyfriend, Joe. He’s a cop.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Ooooh, yeah,” Jim commented as Blair rubbed more cream on to the detective’s belly button.

“You didn’t have to wear that shirt, you know. I’m like, way easy when it comes to physical appearances. It’s the insides that I’m tough on,” Blair chided as he surveyed his handy work looking for any spots that he'd missed.

“Wasn’t going to take any chances, besides, do you think I didn’t notice the way that you were practically drooling at the store?”

“Yeah, speaking of the store, what made you so sure that I was going to buy that ‘returning the stone’ bit?”

“Honestly? I thought you'd punch me or something. Plan was to make you feel guilty, and then grovel like hell.”

“Spoken like a true officer of the law. Always thinking about the violent solutions,” Blair lamented as he began to spread the cream lower.

“Hey, Chief, no rash down there,” Jim mock complained.

“So I noticed, and might I tell you that wearing your regular underwear was a very good idea. Rashes down there…” Blair drifted off with a shudder.

“Oh, I know. Believe me, I know. But you would’ve been worth it. I would’ve gone commando if I thought that it would’ve tipped the scales in my favor.”

“You are such a guy.”

“And so are you,” Jim responded as he leaned up to steal another kiss.

“Really? What gave me away? Was it the hair?” Blair teased when his lips were released.

“Personally, I think it was Mr. Happy down there, but don’t tell him that. He seems pretty content in his ignorance,” Jim whispered conspiratorially.

“He could be a lot happier,” Blair suggested.

Jim sighed and pushed himself up into a sitting position. “In a minute. There’s something that I have to tell you first.”

Blair tensed and reminded himself to stay calm and not overreact. “I want you to know that I’m freaking out on the inside here.”

“It’s not anything you don’t already know, or at least partially know. It’s just that my allergies are a lot worse than you might think they are. You’ve seen the way that my skin reacts; you know that I can’t handle spicy foods, and that sometimes my eyes get sensitive to light. What you don’t know is that sometimes it gets so bad that I hear things that aren’t there, or I swear that I can smell the donuts from the squad room down the hall. The doctors don’t really agree on what causes it. They’re pretty sure I’m not crazy though. They think it’s a chemical reaction in my brain or maybe a minor swelling that occurs in conjunction with one of my attacks.”

Blair stared dumbfounded at Jim for a moment.

“I’m serious, Chief. They say that my sanity is intact, if a little worse for wear because of the stress. There’s nothing to worry about,” Jim hastened to reassure his lover.

“I, man,” Blair’s face split into a shining grin. “Jim, did I ever explain to you what my dissertation is about?”

The end

Back to the Slashdex

Many thanks to Mab for beta reading this for me. Of course, all errors that you see are mine because I sort of played with it afterwards… Thank you to Patt for the cover art.