Jim stopped by Blair’s door on his way upstairs and poked his head in. He quickly took in his partner, engrossed in whatever he was doing on his laptop, and then knocked softly on the doorframe.
“Hey,” he said.
Blair looked up and the blue screen reflected off one of the lenses of his glasses, giving him a rather Mr. Magoo-like appearance which made Jim smile inwardly. “Hey, Jim,” he answered, removing the glasses and rubbing his eyes. “You heading to bed?”
“Yeah, I think I’ll hit the hay. Looks like maybe you should, too, huh?”
“I think you’re right,” Blair said through a yawn. “This can all wait, I think.”
Jim nodded. “Listen, you have any plans for tomorrow?”
Blair leaned back and rested his head against the wall and closed his eyes. “Um,” he drew the word out as he slowly sifted through his memory and tried to find any commitments he’d made. Suddenly, his eyes popped open, “Oh, yeah. I’m supposed to meet some friends for a movie at 7:30. Hell if I remember what the movie is, but I remember I’m supposed to meet them at Dillon’s Bar.” He ran a tired hand through his hair and yawned again. “Why, what’s up?”
“You want to go apple picking?”
At this, Blair looked at Jim with a slightly incredulous expression. “Apple picking?”
“Yeah, maybe you’ve heard of it. You go to an orchard, get a basket…” Jim smirked as he made an ‘etc.’ gesture with his hand.
Blair shut his eyes again and laughed, “Yeah, yeah, thanks, wise guy. I just didn’t know you were into the do-it-yourself method.”
Jim replied dryly, “How do you think I got by in Peru, the 7-11?”
They both laughed and Blair began to shut down his computer. “Sure, man,” he said, “I’ll never say no to fresh picked apples. What time are we leavin’?”
“Well, there’s this great orchard up by the sound, I figured we’d go there,” Jim responded, shifting his weight as he leaned against the jamb. “I was thinking, maybe leaving around 9:00 or so, that would give us plenty of travel time, we’d be able to spend a decent amount of time there, and you’d still get back here early enough to meet your friends.”
Blair was nodding as he snapped the laptop closed. “Sounds like a plan.”
Jim smiled and tapped the frame once, “Good,” he said. “See you in the morning, then?”
“Will you have coffee ready?” Blair asked as he got off the bed and walked toward Jim.
Blair laid a quick hand on his shoulder and walked past him through the doorway on the way to the bathroom, “Then yes, I’ll see you in the morning.”
Jim laughed and turned toward his stairs. “Good night, Chief.”
“’Night, Jim,” Blair called from behind the door, his voice accompanied by the sound of running water.
Jim had bought bagels and muffins on his lunch break the day before, so after he poured coffee into two ceramic mugs and a thermos – sweetened and creamed to reach a compromise that both he and Blair could enjoy, he packed them, along with a small bowl of butter and some cheese. He figured what all they didn’t eat on the way would go perfectly with some fresh, crunchy apples.
He was halfway through his cup when Blair emerged from his room with his hair back and his eyes bright and clear. He was buttoning a heavy cotton shirt over a thermal Henley and walking slowly toward the kitchen. “Now, that’s a smell I’ll never get tired of waking up to,” he smiled, cautiously picking up the other cup and raising it to his lips with a nod of thanks. “Ah, that’s just perfect,” he sighed. “You about ready?”
Blair was definitely a morning person. Actually, Jim noticed that Blair had acquired - as Jim had - the skill of waking up and being coherent whenever he needed to be, no matter what time of day it was. He may not have been quite as talkative during some of the more bizarre hours, but his mind was as sharp as ever and he was usually game for an adventure - if it was of the fun variety, so much the better. Jim liked that about him. It made him feel like he not only had a friend in Blair, he had a comrade. Whether he was doing a stakeout, or seized with the need to head up to Canada in the middle of the night, he could count on Blair to be there next to him. They were partners in crime and Jim felt a sense of security that made him as uneasy as much as it pleased him.
“Yep. I’ve packed us a little breakfast to eat on the way, so I think we’re ready to hit the road.” Jim answered as he zipped up the insulated bag of food and put it on the table next to the thermos. He glanced at his watch, “We should make good time, it’s not raining and the fog lifted this morning.”
Blair nodded and sipped more of his cooling coffee. He set the mug down and began to tuck his shirt into his jeans. “That’s a good sign. How cold is it?”
“Well, the news said it was forty outside, but it’s a little warmer – maybe about forty-three or so.” Jim took one last drink, then set the empty mug in the sink. He looked at Blair who was chuckling and shaking his head as he finished his off, placing the cup next to Jim’s. “What?” Jim asked.
“Nothing,” Blair said with a shrug, “It’s just that after all this time, it still amazes me that you can do that.”
Jim smiled, “Yeah, well, every so often, it shocks the hell out of me, too.” He walked over to the coat rack and slipped into his jacket and picked up Blair’s. “Wanna grab the food?” he asked as he tossed the jacket over to him.
“Got it,” Blair answered, getting his arms in the sleeves and adjusting the layers underneath. He hitched the bag up over his shoulder and slid his finger into the thermos handle, swinging it as he walked to the door where Jim waited for him. “What are you carrying?”
Jim reached into his pocket and produced a folded and well-worn map of Washington. “The key,” he grinned.
“Ah,” Blair nodded with mock solemnity. “Of course.”
When they’d been driving along I-5 for a while and had passed Cascade’s city limits, Blair poured a cup of coffee into the thermos top and split a blueberry muffin, spreading both halves with some of the softened butter. Jim fussed with the radio dial, finally settling on an NPR broadcasting of What do You Know?, a show that both men liked and listened to on occasion. Blair handed Jim a napkin with one half of the bread on top of it as he took a careful sip of the coffee. When the station break came on the air and the announcer gave the local temperature of forty-three degrees, Blair smiled with the cup to his lips and debated saying something to Jim. He turned toward him to gauge his reaction, or at least to see if there would be one. Jim chewed his breakfast and watched the road, looking more at ease than Blair had seen him in a long time, completely oblivious to what the voice on the radio had said. Somehow, that made the whole thing even better, Blair thought, and he tore off a piece of the muffin.
Jim thought the day could not possibly be more beautiful – a perfect day for apple picking. The sun shone high and clear, the sky was blue and cloudless and the air was comfortably brisk. He watched the scenery go by, marveling as always at the beauty of the colors in the fall foliage. His mind wandered randomly to football games and thick wool sweaters, Halloween candy and number two pencils, and he smiled, a little melancholy since autumn always brought back memories of childhood. The particular one he’d chosen to revisit today was a pleasant one, but many of them weren’t. He decided not to dwell on those, though, and resolutely focused on the highway that was leading him to some of the best apples in the state.
“You want some coffee, Jim?” Blair asked as he poured a little more into the cup.
Jim glanced over quickly, and then turned back as he extended his hand towards Blair. “Yeah, I’ll take some, thanks.”
Blair slowly handed it to him, making sure Jim had a hold of it before letting it go. Jim drank some and continued to hold the cup in one hand while he drove with the other.
“So,” Blair said as he took another bite of his food, “did you go to orchards often as a kid? I mean, your dad didn’t strike me as the kind of guy who went for that sort of thing,” he took the coffee out of Jim’s hand and took a sip, then handed it back to him. “Seems a little rustic for him.”
Jim laughed. “Nah, Dad never set foot in an orchard as far as I know. Bud used to take me every year from the time I was about seven. When I got a little older, he took Stephen, too.” Jim was smiling, but his eyes became a little sad at the mention of his childhood mentor. “Every year, right about this time, he’d come and pick me up on a Saturday, we’d hop in his car and head up to the orchard and pick maybe thirty or forty pounds of apples. We’d walk through the trees and he’d explain to me the different types and what they were best for. I could barely remember them, but I loved walking with him. I loved the smell of the air and the feel of the ground as we walked. There would be other children with their parents, elementary school field trips, couples, all walking around with bags or bushel baskets. It was so calm and… natural, you know?” he glanced at Blair who watched him silently. “I mean, what could be any more natural that walking through trees and picking your food, right? Then, we’d go and get apple doughnuts and cider and then head to his sister’s house and watch movies or sports shows while she baked the best apple fritters in the world! Sally would get so mad because I’d spoil my dinner eating them on the way home!” he smiled at the memory. “She’d make other things with the apples, too, like sauce and butter, but her apple fritters were astounding. She sent me the recipe after Bud was killed, but I never made them. I’m not even sure where that recipe is, now.”
“Did you go any more after that?” Blair asked.
“No,” Jim answered, taking a drink, “I haven’t been in almost thirty years. For some reason, this year, I felt like going. Don’t know why, I guess I just… needed to take a little day trip. When I thought about it, it seemed like the perfect Saturday drive.”
Blair nodded in agreement and finished off his muffin half. “I did a lot of fruit picking myself when I was younger. Vegetables too, actually, it depended on where I was living. Oranges, apples, berries, corn, beans, I even picked potatoes once – now that’s a pain in the ass. And the back,” he laughed.
“Yeah,” Jim said, “I did my share of harvesting in Peru, but I always have a soft spot for apples. To me, they make the season. Of course, I like them all year, but they always represent autumn to me.”
“Autumn, to me, means pumpkins,” Blair said as he stared at a clump of burgundy-leaved trees.
Jim raised his hand in a ‘so-so’ gesture, “Well, yeah, pumpkins definitely are fall, but I’m sort of indifferent to them. Give me apple pie over pumpkin any day.”
“C’mon, Jim. A nice slice of pumpkin pie just out of the oven, a big dollop of whipped cream on top, you mean to tell me that does nothing for you?” Blair turned in his seat toward Jim and talked about the dessert with bright eyes.
“Chief, I’m tellin’ you, give me a big, thick slice of warm apple pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, maybe even a piece of cheese on the side, I’m a happy man.”
Blair laughed, “Aw, man, you are so old school!”
The two continued to laugh and talk, occasionally answering a question posed to someone on the radio show, and Blair got out a sesame bagel, split it in half and buttered both sides.
The orchard was smaller that Jim remembered it. The trees seemed shorter. Then again, upon closer inspection, he realized that the trees actually were shorter, discovering later that they were planted that way for easier harvesting. The prices had increased and the people running it were younger. But there was no mistaking the smell. The smell, the feel, even the sounds were the same. That sharp, identifiable aroma of fresh apples, as well as those being cooked, cut through the air and transported him back several years in a heartbeat. The hard earth under him made him feel like running, like he was a kid again. He found also that he could now easily discern the difference in the sounds of the big, boiling vats making apple butter, the presses making juice and the fryers cooking the doughnuts. His senses were pleasantly filled and he smiled at Blair as they gathered their white paper bags and began to peruse the rows of trees.
Jim actually looked ten years younger, Blair thought. Over the period of their friendship, he’d seen Jim participate in several activities that brought him enjoyment, and usually joined in with him – everything from fishing to attending ball games to playing a few holes on a golf course. The closest he’d seen Jim this peaceful was when they camped. He began to understand that Jim had a connection with nature that was much bigger than he’d realized. It was more than just nature, though, he thought as he watched his partner amble slowly, checking out the fruit to find the most perfectly ripe. It was a love of simplicity. Jim was uncomplicated and liked his life that way. And although none of this was actually new to Blair, having it presented to him so obviously and in such a different environment made it all so plain. He also could see that Jim loved and dearly missed Bud, even after all these years.
They spent a few hours there, picking apples here and there, but mostly just talking and enjoying being in the fresh air and in each other’s company. The farm had quite a selection of fruits and vegetables growing, including pears and pumpkins, which prompted Blair to pick up the earlier pie debate. When they finally headed back to the main entrance, Blair bought a pint of apple butter and Jim bought a quart of cider and they both paid for the fruit they’d picked, carrying two paper bags apiece. As they made their way to the truck, Jim suggested they stop somewhere and have a picnic. It had been nearly six hours since they’d had their on-the-road breakfast, and both men agreed that it was well past lunchtime.
Not far from the orchard, there was a spot that Jim had gone to once or twice to hike and he figured that would be a perfect place to park for an hour or so. It was quiet and secluded, a nice place to bring the day to a close. He turned off the highway and followed a narrow road until he came across another nearly invisible turn made of dirt and gravel. When he got to a clearing of sorts, he stopped and turned off the ignition, and then he and Blair began to set up a makeshift table in the bed of truck, settling down finally to a meal of apples and cheese, muffins and bagels with butter and apple butter and ice-cold cider. They lounged against the sides of the truck facing each other, Blair sitting Indian style and Jim sitting with one leg outstretched, the other bent. Time came to a halt for a while.
They talked incessantly, the way they always did when they were alone together outside of Cascade. It seemed as if the city’s restraints were lifted and they could talk freely, without all conversation revolving around work. They ate and shared things, and eventually, the conversation came back to Jim’s childhood and why visiting this orchard was so important to him. They talked about Bud and William, Stephen and Grace, even Sally. Jim spoke with sadness, disappointment and some regret, but without shame or self-pity. Blair looked at him as he talked, then rose up, leaned over the food and hugged him tightly, feeling embarrassed, terrified and elated all at once. With no plan or forethought whatsoever, Blair was about to do what he never really thought he’d be able or willing to do – he was about to tell Jim he loved him. He sat back down and looked at Jim’s shocked face.
“What was that for?”
Blair shrugged one shoulder, “I thought you could use it,” he answered simply with a small smile.
Jim began to gather and put away their picnic items and coolly replied, “Well, Chief, I appreciate the gesture, out of the blue as it was. But at the risk of sounding like an ungrateful jackass, I don’t want your sympathy.”
“Good, because that’s not what I’m offering you.”
Jim got to his knees and gave an acknowledging nod as he tossed apple cores and paper cups into an impromptu garbage bag. He was still briskly clearing out the truck bed when Blair spoke again.
“I feel a lot of things for you, Jim. Sorry is not one of them,” he said, his voice quiet but very clear. He sat and waited until Jim stopped and looked at him, determined not to move until he did. When Jim finally faced him, Blair held his gaze and smiled, then watched the light of understanding begin to dawn across his face.
It was the choice of words that did it for Jim, that and the utter sincerity in Blair’s voice. I feel a lot of things for you….’ echoed in Jim’s head. And, That’s not what I’m offering you seemed to imply that there was something else being offered. He felt the warmth from Blair’s body lingering like an extra jacket over his own coat. He also realized that the only other instances he’d noticed such a concentration of Blair’s scent were during times of crisis – times when they had been, by necessity, huddled so closely together as to be practically on top of one another. That little image popped vividly into his head and he found himself unwrapping his scarf, feeling hot and uncomfortable all of a sudden as he dropped his eyes.
“Jim?” Blair said, tilting his head slightly, seeking the tentative connection again. His heart sped up slightly and he had no idea what was running through Jim’s mind. He only knew that stability of his own mind was in question. He knew without doubt that this was the moment Jim would know the truth.
Jim shook his head slowly back and forth, still not looking at him. “Blair, you can’t mean that you….” Not after all these years. Don’t make me question myself after all these years.
Blair felt as if he were walking in a pitch-black room, steadfastly placing one foot in front of the other. “I can, Jim. That’s exactly what I mean.” He took a deep breath and muttered, “God, why today? Why now?”
“It’s as good a time as any. Isn’t it?” said Jim, raising his eyes back up to meet Blair’s.
Blair lifted his eyebrows, conceding with a nod. He leaned back against the wall of the truck and took another deep breath. “We’ve been friends a long time, right? I mean, not really that long, but a decent amount of time,” he smiled. “There are a lot of things about me that you know, many of them I’ve never told anyone. Some of the things I’ve never actually told you, but somehow, you know them. Obviously, there are things I know about you, but that’s…” he hesitated, “it’s more than the sentinel thing. I feel like we really know each other. Like, if we were each given tests about the other person, we would pass them without even thinking about it.”
Jim smiled and interjected, “Does everything always lead back to school for you?”
“Shut up and let me finish,” Blair answered, softening the comment with a grin. “We’ve been through a lot of shit together over these past years and have gotten out of some situations that I wasn’t so sure we’d get out of. We’re a pretty formidable team.” He paused and rubbed his hand across his mouth, debating whether to continue and knowing that he really didn’t have a choice, having come this far. “I trust you, Jim. I trust you with my life. I’m not talking about the fact that you’re a cop and have military training and senses that can protect me from harm,” he waved his hand, dismissing these things as ultimately unimportant, “I mean that I trust you - as a person - with everything I am. I feel safe with you. You are the one person in my life that I can truly be myself around without worrying that you might think less of me or that you’re watching to see what my faults are. For all the times you bust my chops, I feel like you really give a shit, you know?” he laughed and Jim did as well. “I’m falling hard for you, Jim. And the reason I put it like that is because it’s an ongoing process. Every day, I discover more and more to love about you and it feels so incredible. I respect you and I feel more like the man I want to be when I’m around you. Then, of course, there’s the attraction thing, which was practically there from day one, but it’s become something else entirely because of everything else I feel.
“Now, you can reject this if you need to. I know this must be some kind of shock. Or, maybe it isn’t, I don’t know. But if you don’t think this is what you want, I understand. I will still love and respect you as I always have, and will help you and be your partner. It’ll hurt, but I’ll get over it and won’t hold it against you. But I’d be lying if I said that I don’t want you to say yes to it and accept it. I want to create something with you that’s above and beyond the sentinel/guide or cop/partner dynamic. I know it’s a huge risk and could potentially be a mistake, but I think you’re worth it.” He smiled and rubbed his palms against his knees. “That’s it, I guess.”
Well, I’ll be damned. “I, uh… I don’t know what to say, Chief.” He finally got off his knees, sore from the ridges in the truck bed, and sat on the curve above the tire. “I’ve never had anyone say anything like that to me before.”
“Well, you’re the first person I’ve said it to. This is all knew to me, too, if it’s any consolation. What are you thinking?”
Jim shrugged and gave a short laugh, surprised for what he was about to say. “I’m thinking that you said almost verbatim what I’ve found myself thinking from time to time. The trust, the love and respect, all of it. Every once in a while, I think, ‘God, he’s perfect for me.’ But I decided a long time ago that it wasn’t for me. That life was not the life I was meant to live and entering into a relationship with you would not only be inappropriate, but wrong.”
Blair’s heart froze. He knew that this reaction was certainly a possibility, but he had no idea that it would feel like a physical blow. He’d almost rather have Jim say no flatly. Somehow, the idea that there had been interest was more devastating. He opened his mouth and managed to sound relatively normal.
“What, exactly, do you think would be inappropriate and wrong about it?”
“Well,” Jim began as if it were obvious, “besides your research, it – “
“Okay, stop right there,” Blair interrupted, a bit more aggressively than he intended. “It’s true that I’ve spent the better part of my life studying sentinels. It’s also true that I’m very close to finishing my formal student career by presenting a dissertation and that it is a very important part of my life. You, Jim Ellison, are more important to me than anything else. Do you understand what I’m saying? I love you, Jim, and yes, I want you in a way that doesn’t even begin to describe inappropriate in a researcher/subject relationship. The point is, I’m not only willing to give up that relationship and everything that goes with it, that’s what I want. If you want to say no, it has to be because you want to say no. Don’t use my education as an excuse, because it will never mean as much to me as you do. You also said something about it not being the life you were meant to live, are you talking about being gay?”
“Jesus, of course, Sandburg! What do you think I’m talking about?” Jim fired back. “You don’t find it odd that two straight men are discussing being a couple?”
“No, Jim, what I find odd is that two straight men have feelings for each other and can’t seem to do anything about it because one of them is too hung up on societal rules!”
“Oh, here we go….”
Blair was getting worked up, realizing that he was going to have to fight for this. “Balk if you want, but can you honestly tell me that you’d rather be with someone who doesn’t feel a fraction of what I feel for you just because that person is female? You tried it already, Jim, it didn’t work, remember?”
Jim looked at Blair dangerously, “Leave Carolyn out of this.”
“Jim, she’s already a part of it!” Blair’s voice had risen, unfazed by Jim’s threatening posture. “She loved you, but you couldn’t be yourself because you felt she wouldn’t understand, right? You were lost to her and she finally had enough. We already have the bond that you and she never came close to, Jim, we’ve just admitted that to each other.” He put his face into his hands and sighed as he looked back up. “I’m not stupid,” he said quietly. “I know this is a big deal, okay? I know I can’t ask you to just chuck all you know and believe in at the drop of a hat. What I’m saying is this: We love each other. We have trust, communication, respect and attraction. We have a foundation that many couples, regardless of their orientation, never achieve. I want to strengthen that foundation and build on it. I want to be your partner in all ways, Jim. After everything we’ve faced, we can face this. There’s nothing to be afraid or ashamed of. People will think it’s strange? Who the fuck cares what people think? This is about us and I want us to at least try. Can you do that?”
Jim looked at him for long seconds, not moving. The chilly wind blew a gust of apple-scented air under his collar and he shivered and blinked slowly. He took his scarf that he’d been holding and put it around the back of his neck and sighed. “Yeah. I can,” he said.
Blair smiled. “Good. Let’s go home.”
The ride back to Cascade was quiet, the air in the truck cab tense with unease. Neither man knew exactly what to say to the other, so they just didn’t say anything. Both of them thought about what they’d said to each other and how the mood of the day had changed so drastically. But the question was, what were they moving toward? Jim had said that he would try, but what did that mean? When would the trying start and what would it involve? Each of them thought these same things, though the other didn’t realize it. Finally, Jim’s curiosity got the best of him.
“I can practically hear your brain working, Chief. What are you thinking about?”
Blair sighed deeply and leaned his head back on the seat, shutting his eyes. “I’m wondering if I should’ve said anything,” he answered honestly.
“I’m glad you did. One of us had to.”
Blair turned his head and looked at Jim questioningly, “If what you said back there was true, you never would have said anything.”
“I might have,” Jim replied, with a slight shrug, “in a moment of weakness.”
Blair stared at him and smiled a slow, amused smile and shook his head. “Bullshit, Jim. You never would have in a million years and you know it.”
“Never’s a long time, Blair,” Jim said with a meaningful glance over at his partner. He then reached over and took Blair’s hand, giving it a squeeze. “I said I’d try and I will. All right? Just, give me some time.”
Blair, feeling giddy at the contact, squeezed back and asked, “How much?”
“At the very least, until we get home.”
They laughed and Blair held Jim’s hand the whole way back to Cascade, pleased that Jim seemed content to leave it that way.
When they returned to the loft, it was 6:00, enough time for Blair to take a shower and head right back out to meet his friends. “I’m not sure I want to go, Jim,” he said, hovering around his door. “I feel like we need to talk about this.”
Jim walked over to him and put his hands on his shoulders. “Listen, go out. See the movie. Have a drink afterwards. I think it would actually help if I… well, if I were alone for a while, you know? You hit me with a lot today and I think some time alone will help me figure things out.” Blair looked skeptical, but then smiled when Jim placed a light kiss on his forehead. “We’ll talk when you get home.”
Jim stored some of the apples in a big bowl on the dining table and put the rest in the refrigerator, along with the cider, apple butter and regular butter. They’d finished off the bread and cheese in the truck. When Blair was ready to leave, Jim told him again not to hurry, to stay and enjoy himself with his friends and that he’d see him later. Sighing, Blair grudgingly walked out the door and Jim sat on the sofa, staring silently at the blank television screen.
After a long while of that, he decided that he needed something to do. His thoughts always came clearer when he was active, so he headed down to the basement storage area, armed with an idea, a question and a possible answer. He returned triumphantly to the apartment fifteen minutes later, bearing a faded and creased slip of paper containing a recipe for which he began to pull ingredients. Like a child with a toy, an artist with a project or a man on a mission, he began to measure, pour, stir, peel and slice, until his mind broke down and mixed together his thoughts and feelings the same way his hands did with eggs and flour. He finally decided that, like the recipe, even though he was unfamiliar with the process of being with Blair, he somehow knew the outcome would be delicious. He smiled at the metaphor and waited for Blair to come home.
He was reading a book when Blair walked in, having decided to continue with the quiet theme of the day instead of watching TV – Saturday was a weak night for it anyway. He looked up and smiled, watching as Blair’s eyes went immediately to the table.
“Wow, something smells amazing, Jim,” he said as he hung up his jacket and scarf. “I could smell it all the way downstairs.”
Blair walked over to the source and Jim met him there, looking proudly at the little fried sugar covered bundles arranged on a plate.
“Are those what I think they are?”
Jim beamed, “Yep, apple fritters. When I thought about it, it seemed like I’d actually seen the recipe sometime since I’d lived here, but I wasn’t sure where. I was going a little crazy just sitting here, so I decided I’d go look for it,” he watched as Blair picked one up and gingerly took a bite, sticking his chin forward to avoid getting powdered sugar on his shirt. “Sure enough, it was in the second box I looked in. Well, how is it?”
Blair smiled, “It’s fantastic, Jim!” He took another bite. “Don’t ever lose that recipe again, man, these are great! I think… what was here name? The sister?”
Blair nodded and finished the treat, “Marie would be proud.” He took a napkin and wiped his hands and mouth. “You must have started right after I left.”
“Well, no, not right after. They’re not that hard, actually.” Jim could feel himself getting a little nervous. “So, how was the movie?”
A little sheepishly, he answered, “Well, I don’t really know, to tell you the truth.” He smiled sweetly at Jim. “I couldn’t exactly concentrate, you know? I had… a few things on my mind.”
“Like what?” Jim asked.
Though it was subtle, Blair recognized that tone. A tiny smile tugged at Jim’s mouth and Blair knew instantly that Jim had not only made up his mind, he was ready to do something about it. Acting on instinct and desire, Blair moved toward him and kissed his lips, keeping his hands at his sides and imbuing the kiss with as much non-threatening tenderness as he could. In seconds, Jim’s hands had come up to his neck, then inevitably into his hair, clutching it as Jim began to take the kiss over, working Blair’s mouth open and making him gasp in shock as he stroked Blair’s tongue with his.
Blair broke off quickly, but his hands had somehow made their way to Jim’s arms and he left them there, more to steady himself than anything else. “Shit!” he exclaimed, his eyes wild. “Were you savin’ that up, or something? Jesus….” He laughed uneasily, his heart beating madly, the desire from a few moments ago being synthesized into pure lust.
Jim put his forehead against Blair’s and chuckled while his fingers remained in his hair. “Carolyn once said to me that if I’d kissed her like that more often we’d still be married.”
“Yeah, well,” Blair replied breathlessly, “that’s enough to make me consider going out and getting a ring!” He pulled back slightly and looked into Jim’s face, so close to his own it made him dizzy. “Can we do that again?” he asked.
Jim smiled and pulled him in once more, moving more slowly but just as intently as Blair opened up to him and returned the kiss powerfully. Jim wondered at what point in their friendship could this had happened if he’d just said something, if he hadn’t been so afraid. But, he realized that it had to happen in its own time. There was no way he would’ve allowed his heart to be involved like it was now. Now he knew that Blair had been right in the back of the truck. Nothing mattered but this.
He pulled away slowly and put his cheek against Blair’s, then pulled him into a tight embrace. They stayed that way for a long while, listening, feeling. Jim kissed his hair and asked, “Will you sleep upstairs with me tonight?”
Blair leaned back until they were once again face-to-face. “Yeah, I’d love to,” he smiled. He traced the side of Jim’s face with the back of his fingers and added, “And, Jim?”
“Thanks for trying.”