Word For Word
Jim looked at the single word on the card of the single red rose resting on his desk. He'd been gone for exactly one hundred twenty seconds - enough time to go to the break room and get a cup of coffee, and in that time, someone had placed the perfect flower diagonally across his neat stack of files. He looked again at the word. 'I've'. Well, what the hell did that mean? It was Valentine's Day, so the rose wasn't unusual, but he didn't have anything resembling a significant other. He hadn't even had a date in quite a while, come to think of it. That, of course, begged the question of where it had come from. The word was in a graceful script, but he didn't recognize the handwriting. He stared at it, turned the thorny stem over in his hand and sniffed the velvety petals. They were deeply scented and he smiled in spite of his confusion. Shrugging, he set the rose back on his desk, and decided that he would put it in a cup or something later. For now, the little plastic tube of water attached to it would keep it hydrated until he took a break.
While Jim was on the phone speaking to a contact person with info on a suspect, a second rose appeared, along with a couple of pieces of mail for him. He glanced absently at the square white card, with the word 'Waited' written on it. He frowned briefly, but then quickly turned his attention back to his phone call.
By the time the third perfectly formed and richly colored rose graced his desk, Jim saw that he was beginning to attract some attention. As was often the case, it was Detective Brown that was ready with a comment, calling across the room.
"What 'cha got goin' on over there, Jim? How many valentines you got, man?"
"I think just one, H, but they don't say who it is," Jim said, indicating the flowers as he stood to retrieve a document from the printer tray. "I was thinking maybe it was you."
A few people overhearing the conversation laughed good-naturedly and looked back at Brown for his comeback, "Naw, man, I got enough problems with my own valentine than to try to be dealin' with you. You might want to check with that sidekick of yours, though," Henri said, chuckling, enjoying himself, "he's been looking awfully desperate lately!"
The room roared, Jim grinned, flipped him off and sat back in his chair. Henri clutched his chest, pretending to be injured by the gesture, then everyone went back to work. Jim glanced around the room, and when he was certain he was no longer the center of attention, he picked up the rose and looked at the card.
'Forever', it said.
He sniffed it automatically and realized with some surprise that Henri's smart-assed comment might actually have some merit. Was it possible? Could Blair really be sending him valentine roses? He laughed to himself at the unlikelihood of that, and resumed his work, secretly thrilled that someone wanted to make his day special.
At 11:45, Captain Banks called him into his office and sent him out on an assignment. The work kept him busy and active, asking questions, checking scenes, following up on leads and tying up loose ends. There were no high-speed chases or drawn weapons, but he didn't have to sit behind a desk for eight hours, for which he was grateful.
He passed a card store overwrought with pink and red decorations while he was out and thought again about the roses. He was puzzled still. Every woman he could think of, with very few exceptions, either had a boyfriend or husband. He discovered that he was actually slightly annoyed; didn't 'secret admirers' go out with high school? Wasn't he of an age where one made dates with prospective love interests? Must he play this guessing game? He laughed aloud. "Jesus, Ellison," he said to the inside of his truck, "you're lucky anyone would want to give roses to your grumpy ass."
Polishing off a couple of spring rolls, he returned to the station and pulled into the garage. By his calculation, the roses were arriving every hour, so there should be three more at his desk and he was curious to know what they said. The moment he stepped off the elevator, Detective Rafe let him know he was at least on the right track.
"You're going to have to open your own shop soon, Jim," he said, grinning as he got onto the same elevator Jim was exiting.
Jim walked to his desk. Sure enough, there were three more lined up in a row, directly in front of his chair. Someone had also put the first three in a tall vase, allowing for the long stems, and they were already beginning to open up nicely. Whoever said that only women appreciate roses certainly didn't know what they were talking about. Jim sat down and picked up the flowers one by one, beginning with the one on the left, assuming they had been put in order.
Well, now things were getting interesting. This was no longer just a cutesey 'Will you be my valentine?' thing, this was something else entirely. Whoever this person was, she (*he*? His mind supplied helpfully) *was* setting up a date, it was just sort of a *blind* one. Jim was no longer annoyed, he was now thoroughly intrigued. His cop-cum-military mind threw up the 'ax murderer luring me into a trap' theory, but he dismissed that, deciding that even if that were the case, he should be more than able to discover it well before things got ugly.
He'd been thinking that this person was someone he would have no interest in, but what if he were wrong? What if she were someone he found himself attracted to, someone he hadn't even thought about? The roses said 'I've waited forever'. That meant it was someone he knew, and had probably known for a while. 'Forever' was a relative term, though. She could mean months, years, hell, even days if she was that intense. Maybe she saw him walking down the street and just had to have him. He laughed aloud at that and found himself laughing more as he continued to make up bizarre stories about how all this came about. Some of his co-workers glanced at him as he chuckled, but he didn't care. He still had it. He may have his faults, but damn it, someone thought enough of him to go to an awful lot of trouble on this Valentine's Day. That was enough to make him cheerfully ignore the curious looks.
As the roses continued to arrive and the day came to a close, Jim was warding off a headache as he wondered and worried about whom his mystery date would be. He had exhausted all the possibilities he could think of and had finally decided that if it really were Blair, this wouldn't be a problem at all. He loved Blair, found him attractive, trusted him, was amused by him, knew the best and worst about him... they'd be perfect together, actually. He wondered why he hadn't ever really given it serious thought before now. Well, likely because he and Blair were friends, colleagues, subject/researcher, not prospective lovers. And maybe he hoped it was him because on this particular holiday, the idea of dating someone else made him feel a little... well, empty, if he were being honest. But though he'd never actually dated another man, he figured it couldn't be all that different from what he and Blair already had. Well, sure it would be different, but.... Well, it didn't matter, did it? The chances of it really being him were more than remote, so he gathered his nine roses, grabbed his coat and headed for his truck to go home for a quick shower. Time to face the music.
'I've waited forever. Hilton. #1024. 7:30pm. Your devoted admirer.'
At the hotel room door, he paused and automatically sent his senses into the room. He heard soft music and one heartbeat, and smelled candle wax, food and the luscious perfume of roses.
"This must be the place," he mumbled as he wondered again who it was he was about to gently reject. Or not. He sighed and shook his head, thinking again about Sandburg, but he didn't detect his guide in the room, so that idea was finally tossed. Another brief smile touched his lips as he thought about the concept. The more inconceivable it seemed, the more he wished it were true.
"Best to get this over with," he thought. He raised his hand and knocked solidly on the door. Immediately, he heard the carpet-muffled footsteps come closer and he steeled himself.
He was not at all prepared to see... Rhonda. The friendly Major Crimes secretary was dressed to the nines looking truly lovely, and Jim couldn't believe.... It was Rhonda?? He forced himself to say hello, too confused to say anything else. He could've sworn she was one of the 'boyfriend' ones.
She looked up at him and smiled pleasantly. "I really wish I had a camera right now," she said with a little giggle. "Come in, Jim. Happy Valentine's Day." She stood aside and then shut the door behind him as he stepped into the cozy room.
His sense of smell was verified by the presence of several lit candles, and a table set for two with silver dishes and a globe-like centerpiece of closely cropped roses in red and creamy yellow. The room was tasteful and in full seduction mode - from the chilled bottle of champagne to the platter of huge chocolate covered strawberries next to it. He looked back at her and remained silently stunned.
"I see that you're shocked, but I'm not sure if it's me or the dress," Rhonda said lightly, laughing, and Jim noticed that she seemed strangely at ease. "Do you like it? I bought it especially for tonight."
"Uh," Jim answered, looking at the pale gold strapless number but not really seeing it, "it's beautiful, Rhonda," he rubbed his hand across his mouth, "I, ah... I really don't know what to say here!" he said with a self-conscious laugh.
She walked close to him and put a hand on his shoulder. "Say you won't make any hasty judgments or decisions tonight," she smiled, looking steadily at him. "Say you'll listen to your heart and that you'll be kind."
He nodded with a sincere smile. "I will, Rhonda. I promise."
She gave him a nod of acceptance, then she touched his cheek briefly before returning her hand to his shoulder. "Jim, you know I've always liked you," she began. "As long as we've worked together, I've liked and respected you, and admired your professionalism and compassion. To me, you epitomize what a good police officer should be and I'm proud to consider you a friend."
Jim smiled and nodded, the sinking feeling in his stomach growing with each compliment from his blonde co-worker. How was he ever going to tell her that as much as he liked her, he just wasn't interested in dating her? He was considering that when she spoke again.
"But, it's not me."
He looked at her with a frown, and though he knew in his heart what she was saying, it somehow wasn't registering. He shook his head quickly and blinked.
"I'm sorry. What exactly do you mean it's not you?"
"I mean," she said gesturing to the room, "that this is not from me, nor were the roses you got at work today." She smiled at the surprise, confusion and panic chasing each other across his face. "You see, Jim, as much as I like you, I'm simply a decoy."
Behind him, Jim heard the opening of a door that blended so well into the wall, he hadn't even seen it. This door led to an adjoining room, and out of that room walked Blair Sandburg. Jim stared, speechless, at his smiling but clearly apprehensive partner. He felt a slow grin creep across his face as he took in Blair's subdued, yet dressy appearance and knew with complete certainty that he was right; this *would* be much easier.
"Sorry for the deception, Jim," Rhonda said as she walked to the closet to retrieve her coat, "but Blair said you'd smell him a mile away."
Jim laughed, never taking his eyes off the other man. "I bet he did," he replied. Blair laughed as well and Jim could see him beginning to relax as they shared the private joke.
Picking up her purse, she glanced between the two of them and moved toward the door. "Well, gentlemen," she began, smiling at Jim who looked at her for the first time since Blair had entered the room. "I have a date, so I will leave you to your evening."
"You do look sensational, Rhonda," Jim said, helping her with her coat. "Did you really just buy the dress for tonight?"
"Yeah, just not for you," she answered with a wink.
All three of them laughed and Blair moved towards her, reaching out for a hug. Jim went to hang up his coat.
"Thank you," he murmured near her ear, "I owe you one."
She gave him a squeeze and spoke into his hair, "Glad I could help," she said, then whispered, "good luck."
Jim hid a smile and watched as Blair blushed slightly at the comment. She released him and turned to Jim, opening her arms.
"I'll see you at the station, huh?"
"Okay. Enjoy the rest of your vacation and have a great time tonight."
She stepped away from him and smiled, passing her eyes from one handsome face to the other. "Yeah, you, too. Goodnight," she said as she opened the door.
"'Night, Rhonda," Blair said, just as Jim was saying, "Take care, Rhonda," and shut the door behind her.
Jim continued to look at the door, then he turned to Blair who was looking a bit more uneasy now that they were alone.
"I never knew you were such a romantic, Chief," he said, breaking the silence.
"Well," Blair began slowly, "I guess I've never really had anyone bring it out before. Not like this anyway," he added, laughing nervously. "Did you know it was me?"
Jim took a step toward him and shook his head.
"You didn't even suspect?"
Standing mere inches in front of Blair, Jim grinned and shook his head again, "Nope. I mean, the thought crossed my mind, but I didn't really think it would be you. H said it might be you."
Blair's eyes went wide, "Are you serious?" he asked, clearly worried. "Did he really say that?"
Jim rolled his eyes. "Yeah, but he was just givin' me shit about the roses. Won't he be shocked."
"Well, I mean I expect people will find out eventually, but I'd like to have a little time before the whole of Major Crimes finds out!" he laughed and Jim joined him. When they'd stopped, Blair asked quietly, "How do you feel about it, Jim?"
Jim tilted his head, pondering, then shrugged and answered truthfully, "Flattered. Happy," Blair smiled. "Lucky," Blair looked away shyly and bit his lip. "Honored," Jim finished in a near whisper.
"Wow," Blair answered. "All that?"
"Yeah, all that," he nodded. He paused briefly, then, keeping the earnest expression, he said, "I'm also feeling hungry, Sandburg. Can we eat now?"
With a wounded look, Blair hit Jim's right shoulder with the heel of his hand. At Jim's laugh, his face relaxed a bit and offered up a small smile, but didn't quite lose all traces of irritation. "Trust you to ruin a moment thinking of your fucking stomach," he huffed.
"Hey," Jim countered, pointing to the table with his thumb, "you're the one with the lobster and prime rib over there. Don't blame me if the blueberry muffin at breakfast and Chinese at lunch wore off hours ago!"
Blair gave in and laughed, shaking his head. "Okay, all right, we'll eat. Jeez." He walked toward the table muttering, "Try to seduce somebody and all they want is food!"
Jim laughed quietly and followed him. They'd only gone a couple of steps when Blair turned around.
"You know," he said quickly, "before we have dinner, you can at least tell me...." he stopped and sighed, then moved so that he was again directly in front of Jim. "At least tell me if it worked. I don't want to have done all this for nothing," he smiled entreatingly.
Jim took hold of Blair's elbows as he kissed his forehead, then slid his hands down until they grasped Blair's, conveying his emotions through that single touch. He lowered his head and kissed Blair's mouth slowly and gently, shuddering at the feel of his partner's moist breath on his lips. The kiss was brief, but spoke of a promising future as he pulled away and touched Blair's lips with the absolute tip of his tongue - light as a feather, heavy as love.
"It did and you didn't, Blair," Jim said soothingly, wrapping his arms around his guide's shoulders and feeling strong hands on his own back. "But I'd still love you even if you'd just given me a post-it note."
Blair smiled and said into Jim's neck, "That's sweet, Jim. Should I send the food back, then?"
Jim stroked Blair's hair and purred, "You do, and I'll break your arm."
Blair let him go and laughed, "Come on, then, let's eat."
They got to the table, finally, laughing and uncovering the artistic and aromatic meal. Just before they sat down, Blair picked up Jim's hand and slowly kissed the underside of his wrist, making his own promise to the man who had changed his life.
"By the way, I love you, too."