"You once said you wanted a Cascade PD insignia tattoo." Jim dipped the brush into the small can of white trim paint he was holding. He looked back up just as Blair ducked, twisting his upper body and pulling at both sleeves at the same time. Before Jim could react, Blair had pulled another Houdini and was free of the sweatshirt, pulling it over his head and lunging forward at the same time. He slammed into Jim, tackling him and sending them both to the floor. The paint can fell to the side, spilling its contents all over the plastic, leaving a large, white puddle. The brush was still in Jim's right hand, so he tried to bring it around as Blair was rolling off of him. Before he could reach around, Blair had Jim's wrist in both of his hands and was trying to wrestle the brush away. He let go of the brush and flipped over at the same instant, reaching around with his left hand to retrieve it. Blair had started to get up as Jim rolled, and was trying to scramble out the door. Jim managed to grab both of Blair's legs before he could stand, and pulled him back down to the floor. He knew he had strength over his smaller partner, but Blair was quick, and twisted both legs free long enough to lunge forward and reach the larger gallon of paint from the other side of the room.
Jim hurried to his feet as Blair was standing, lifting the half full gallon of paint and grinning back at him. "You know, Jim, we need to have a talk."
Jim stopped, raising one eyebrow and keeping both eyes on the paint Blair held poised to launch into the air at any moment. "Oh...?"
"Yeah. About this "might makes right" problem you have," Blair said, adjusting his grip on the paint.
Jim laughed, gazing at the far wall for a moment and shaking his head. "Problem, Chief? I don't have any problems."
Blair shook his head. "Oh, Jim, I think you do. You see, when you want something, you get it. You either handcuff me to the bed, or nail my shirt to the wall..."
"That's my shirt, Chief," Jim corrected, still grinning.
"Fine, your shirt. The point is..."
"The point is, Sandburg, I'm stronger than you, faster than you, and just plain quicker than you." At that, Jim lunged, grabbing for the paint as he slammed into Blair With one hand on Blair's shirt to keep him from hitting the ground too hard, the other hand went for the paint can. Blair proved his speed once again, and sent the can flying straight up as he fell, knocked off-balance by the impact of Jim's body. They both fell, keeping an eye on the paint as the can now flew up, unencumbered, then down, tipping as it descended.
Jim ducked his head as the can came down, instinctively covering Blair's face with one arm, but the can inverted before hitting, spilling it's contents directly onto the back of Jim's head, as the can itself landed next to the two of them. Paint quickly oozed over Jim and onto Blair's head as he tried to duck under the larger man. Blair started laughing immediately, so Jim ran his hands across his neck, sweeping the excess paint off of his head and neck and flicking it onto Blair as he lay on the floor, still laughing.
"I think we can call this one a draw," Jim said as he raised himself to his knees, still flicking paint. "Okay, Chief?"
Blair's laughter continued, and he shook his head as the paint dripped down his long hair. "Yeah, Jim. A draw."
Jim got to his feet, feeling the paint ooze down the back of his neck with slick coolness. He reached out a hand and pulled Blair to his feet. "This time, I get the shower first," he said, gazing down at his paint-soaked partner. Blair just nodded and reached up to wring his hair, trying to stop the dripping. Jim was relieved and pleased that Blair hadn't been intimidated by this little paint fight, as he had the last time. And, they both seemed to be on the same track, for once. He flicked the last of the dripping paint off of his hands, towards Blair, and walked across the hall to the bathroom, turning on the water as he stripped. Stepping into the shower, he could hear Blair moving around in the bedroom, hopefully cleaning up after their mess. Jim let the hot water run over his head, closing his eyes against the flow of paint as it cascaded down his face. Once the runoff seemed clear, he picked up the soap and scrubbed off the last of the paint and sweat, smiling to himself as he recalled the speed with which he was able to secure both of Blair's sleeves to the closet door, holding his partner in place long enough to get him to listen, and lower that wall. As he finished up, he realized the water was turning cold. The small house had a matching water heater, rivaling the one in the loft that Jim was sorely tempted to replace with a larger unit.
He toweled off, listening for Blair who was still in the bedroom, gathering up the plastic from the floor.
"Hey, Chief, you'd better set those pots on the stove to heat some water," he called through the open bathroom door.
"Oh Jim, don't tell me you used all the hot water." Blair moaned.
Jim laughed lightly to himself, "Just get some water boiling, we'll get you cleaned up." He continued to dry off as Blair walked past the door, shooting him a dirty look before walking into the kitchen. He heard pots being filled with water, then crossed the hall to find dry clothes and another towel. After changing and picking up the last of the painting supplies, he walked out to the kitchen where three pots were beginning to come to a boil. Blair was standing in the kitchen, turning the knobs of the gas stove off. His hair was matted down with white paint, mostly contained within the ponytail he had put his hair into before they started working. He had removed the sweatshirt, and was just pulling off his t-shirt as Jim entered the kitchen.
"Oh man, what is it with you and paint, anyway?" Blair asked as he pulled the t-shirt over his head.
Jim shook his head, noting that the paint covering his partner was only on his head and neck. "Come on, Chief, hang over the sink." He walked up to the pots and tested each one for temperature. Blair obliged, taking his hair out of its ponytail. Jim picked up the first pot and poured it slowly over Blair's head, making sure the water and paint drained off of him and into the sink. "You know, if you'd just learn to lighten up now and again, these little paint fights wouldn't be necessary."
"Lighten up?" Blair turned and took a face full of water.
Jim chuckled, "Yeah, lighten up. You take things way too seriously, Sandburg." Jim finished with that pot, found some soap and handed it to Blair. "What was with all those questions last night, anyway?"
Jim stood to the side while Blair worked the paint out of his hair and neck. "Nothing, really Jim."
The paint came out easily with the scrubbing, so Jim reached over for the next pot of warm water and poured it over Blair's hair while he leaned into the sink. "Nothing. You ask me about Carolyn, and the army. You've been worried about Simon and what he said the other day. Come on, Chief, I spilled my guts, now it's your turn." He finished with the pot and stepped back, tossing Blair a towel as he stood up.
"Okay, okay." Blair took the towel and ran it over his hair, rubbing out the worst of the water. When he finished, he held the towel, drying his hands and shrugging a little. "I just, ah, got to thinking, about what I was doing and all." He stopped, tossing the towel over to the couch. "You know, I thought when I found you, I could study you for a few weeks, get you into the lab for tests and see what the range of your Sentinel abilities were...." He shrugged again, looking at the floor and spreading both hands. "I just never thought this would turn into a...well, a new life." Blair stopped and raised his eyes to meet Jim's. "But, that's what it feels like."
Jim nodded, leaning back against the stove. "And, what do you think about this new life of yours?"
Blair laughed a little and looked around the room, shaking his head. "It's different," he said. "But I..." He shrugged again and sighed. "I like it."
Jim smiled, watching Blair. He was admitting to Jim, and to himself, that maybe, just maybe, there was more to life than hopping around the globe, spending three months with one obscure tribe after another, then moving on as soon as it got too familiar.
Blair ran his hands through his still-wet hair and glanced around. "I like the excitement, I like watching you work. You have this totally different way of looking at things, that I may not always understand..." Blair glanced back up at Jim, eyebrows raised. "But..well, I admire you, Jim."
Blair had to look away when he said that, and shuffled his feet a little, looking unsure. Jim smiled, nodding slowly. "Thanks, Chief. You're not too bad yourself." He reached out and cuffed Blair on the back of the head, "Come on, how about we shoot some hoops before heading out to unload this dump."
Blair tried to duck under
Jim's hand, but wasn't quick enough. He laughed and nodded, "Sure."
Blair was up by three, but was beginning to tire, and Jim seemed to know it. At basketball, they were pretty evenly matched. Jim had the height, but Blair had long since learned to make up for it with a good jump shot. They had been playing for nearly an hour, and Blair had the ball, dribbling to the far end of the long driveway where the truck had been parked in order to leave them plenty of room to play.
"You're looking tired, partner." Jim said, reaching out in an attempt to steal the ball.
Blair pulled back, dribbling out of Jim's range. "Not me, man." He made a move, rushing to the left and ducking around Jim's outstretched arm. He ran to the front of the house, grabbing the ball with both hands and leaping into the air to avoid Jim as he came around from behind, trying to block his shot. The ball flew straight, but bounced off of the old metal rim and landed to the left, where Jim was waiting to retrieve it.
"Like the excitement, huh?" Jim teased as he grabbed the ball. He dribbled halfway down the drive and spun around. "Like watching me work?" He moved forward. "Keep an eye on this move, partner."
Blair didn't skip a beat, but rushed to block his next toss. That time the ball went in, and Jim exclaimed in triumph. Blair caught the ball before it bounced onto the sparse front lawn, and turned to face Jim.
"Eight/ten," he announced.
Jim was smiling. "Almost got you."
Blair nodded, then moved to start back up the driveway. Jim held out a hand.
"Hang on, Chief." Jim was turning his head, a look of concentration spreading over his face.
"What's up, Jim?" Blair stopped dribbling the ball, and stood, facing his partner.
"I smell something," Jim said, turning his head again. "Smells like gas."
"What, like in the truck?"
Jim shook his head, wrinkling his nose. "No, more like...fuel oil." Jim grabbed Blair's arm and pulled, forcing him towards the truck, away from the house. "Move!"
Blair didn't hesitate, but followed Jim as he rushed for the far end of the driveway, pulling Blair along by the shirt collar. Just as they reached the truck, there was a thundering like none Blair had heard before, immediately followed by what felt like a huge fist, slamming into his back and propelling him into the truck.
"Sandburg!" Blair heard Jim's voice pierce the drumming in his ears as he shook his head. "Sandburg, answer me!" He opened his eyes and saw Jim, sitting next to him on the pavement, in front of the truck.
"I'm fine." Blair realized he was being asked a question and nodded his head. He shook his head once more and looked past Jim, at the burning mass that just moments ago had been a small house on the beach. "Oh, Jim." He realized then what the thundering had been, and the source of the shock wave that had sent both him and Jim into the truck. His head cleared quickly, and he noticed Jim still squinting and shaking his own head. "Oh God, Jim. The house. What the hell happened?"
Jim turned, seeing the house for the first time, and shook his head. "Gas leak. I smelled it, but when I realized what it was, I could hear that old clock starting to chime inside. It was sparking as the chimes struck." He turned back to Blair. "Are you all right?"
Blair nodded, then got to his feet as Jim stood. "Yeah, I'm fine. But Jim, the house." Neighbors were gathering now, all shouting and pointing at the burning relic. Small shards of burned lumber littered the lawn, but none of the neighboring homes seemed affected at all. In the distance could be heard approaching sirens. And closer, laughter. Blair turned and looked at Jim. He was laughing. "Jim...?"
Jim shook his head, smiling and looking back at Blair. "Well, I guess painting was a real waste of time."
Blair laughed shortly and looked around. "Jim, you okay man?" His partner was still laughing, shaking his head. "Jim, the house just blew up." Surely he was in shock or something. Maybe he hit his head on the truck? People were staring now, and Jim kept laughing. "Jim?"
"Ah, this is just perfect. Ted would have loved it," Jim said, slowly letting his laughter die off. "Carolyn isn't going to believe it, though."
his head, slapping Jim gently on the back. "Yeah well, if I were you man,
I wouldn't mention it."
It didn't take long for the fire trucks that arrived to put out the smoldering remains of the little house. Most of which had blown out harmlessly to the beach, leaving only a small lump of glowing lumber and heap of ashes. Blair was relieved that they had packed their small belongings back into the truck prior to their game, having intended to drive into town afterward and find a realtor. After some explanations to the fire chief, and a few of the neighbors, they were on their way into the small town bordering the tourist section of the beach. After a few hours of paperwork and more explanations. Jim was able to sell the property to the agency, contingent upon the insurance settlement, and counted himself lucky in the end.
"Well, that was a relaxing weekend. Thanks, Jim." Blair said as they drove out of town and onto the highway that would take them back to Cascade.
"Hey, don't knock it, Sandburg. I think it was pretty productive."
"Productive?" Blair asked, incredulously. "You nailed my shirt to the wall..."
"My shirt, actually."
"Fine, your shirt, but I was in it, Jim." Blair replied, pointing at his own chest to emphasize his point. "Then, you start another paint fight, use all the hot water, and blow up a house some guy left you in his will that you came out here to restore." He shook his head when Jim started to smile his cocky, sideways grin. "You call that a productive weekend?"
"Yeah," Jim replied, glancing at him for a moment. "I settled the house, which I had been putting off for too long."
"You blew it up, Jim."
Jim tilted his head to the side, shrugging. "Well, it's settled, isn't it?"
Blair rolled his eyes and nodded dramatically. "Oh yeah, it's settled, Jim."
"I told you about what really happened in Peru, like I had meant to," Jim continued. "And, I got through that thick skull of yours. Right?" He turned to Blair again and watched him until he nodded.
Jim returned his gaze to the road and shrugged. "A productive weekend," He said, smiling.
"I tell you what," Blair turned in the seat so he could face Jim more. "Next time you want to talk, how about you just lock the door to the loft, and we'll sit down and talk. Maybe have a cup of tea, hash a few things out. Then hit a movie or something? No handcuffs, no nails. No need to blow anything up."
Jim laughed, nodding. "Okay Chief, if you think you can handle it."
Blair shook his head, glancing out the window. "I think I can handle it." He said, turning back to Jim. "What about the house? Will there be a problem with the explosion, and the insurance?"
Jim shrugged, glancing at him for a second. "I dunno. Maybe. We'll find out sooner or later, I suppose." He started to grin again and Blair looked at him suspiciously.
"What do you mean?"
Jim laughed. "I put Carolyn's name down as the contact person."
Blair stared at his partner as he continued to laugh. "You what?"
"I put Carolyn's name down as the contact person. For the insurance." He glanced at Blair, then back to the road. "Hey, Ted was her uncle, not mine." He shrugged. "Besides, if anyone ever needed to lighten up, it's her."
Blair laughed and shook his head. He could comment on that. He could agree with Jim, having had some contact with Carolyn himself. But, he thought maybe Jim was enjoying himself enough. There was no need for Blair to add anything. Besides, he was no expert on relationships himself. The truth seemed to get him in just as much trouble with women as his embellishments often did.
"So, you going to see Christine next weekend?" Jim asked.
Blair shrugged. "I'm not sure, man. I seem to get in trouble no matter what I say with her."
Jim shook his head. "You know, Sandburg, you have to find that right combination of truth and embellishment when you deal with women."
Blair looked at him, puzzled. "Jim, I thought you said it was truth, honesty, and commitment?"
Jim chuckled and shoot his head again,
glancing at Blair. "You've got a lot to learn about women, Chief. It's a
good thing we've got plenty of time."
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