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by Kristine Williams

Part 7

"So, Jim, what was Hicks like?"

Blair's voice was quiet, and Jim picked up on it, grateful for his partner's concern as well as his undaunted persistence. "A lot like you." He laughed lightly, remembering. "And just about as opposite as you can get."

"Let me guess, Army through and through? Crew cut, dreams of battle?"

Jim nodded and then laughed again when Blair shuddered. "Yeah, he was career all right. Just like his father before him. He was a good kid. Young, enthusiastic, full of life." Jim paused, drinking his beer.

"You trained him, didn't you?"

"How did you...?"

"I read it in the report. There was some background information on the other members of your team." Blair paused. "That must have been hard for you."

God. "Yeah. He'd lost his brother during the Gulf War, and latched on to me during training. I saw his potential, and his need for a role model, and took him on."

"Just like Danny Choi?"

Jim's hand stopped halfway to his mouth, holding the bottle there for a moment in limbo. "Yeah, like Danny." He forced his hand to move and swallowed back against the lump forming in his chest. And he died, just like Danny. In my arms.

"I'm flattered, then." Blair said quietly, fingering the label on his bottle.

Hicks had meant a lot to Jim, so did Danny. And they'd both died in his arms. But Blair meant more to him than either of them could have, and he'd been in danger out there, in the jungle. When Danny died, it hurt. If Blair died...if Blair died..

"It's more than that, partner. Danny and Hicks, they meant something. They were special." He looked at Blair, trying to get him to meet his gaze. "But you, you're different." Blair was looking at him, eyebrows creased. Sitting there, like that, he looked very small and just a little afraid. "Blair, what we have can't even be described. I've known that for some time. But being out there, remembering Hicks just...just seemed to bring something home like never before." He paused and took a drink, wondering how you put such an impossible relationship into understandable terms? "Sandburg, when Hicks died, it tore me up for many reasons. And Danny, well, we were close. But out there, it was like I was completely out of control. There was nothing I could do to stop that plane, and from one instant to the next, you could have been killed. It's not like we were in Cascade, on the job, where I have at least some control. I just---I've known this for some time, but these past few days just...I just knew that---that if I lost you I'd..." He faltered, wondering if he was even remotely conveying what...

"Me, too, Jim." Blair said quietly. He laughed a little, fingering the bottle again. "Hell, if you were anyone else, I'd have taken off running and never looked back."

Jim reached out then, placing a hand on Blair's shoulder, a hand that wasn't flinched from. Silently, they reassured each other.

"Hey, lets get some sleep, huh? Simon's coming out tomorrow to pick us up." Jim stood then, finishing his beer before walking back inside.

"I don't know, Jim. I'm disappointed." Blair tossed his empty into the waste basket then crossed the room to his bed. "I mean, we jumped out of a plane to find him in Peru."

Jim laughed, shaking his head as he took off his shoes. "Don't push it, Chief. At least he flew down. And, we caught him getting a search team ready."

"Yeah, well, a guy can dream."

The next morning, Captain Banks drove into town in a rented, air conditioned jeep. Jim could practically hear Blair's thoughts--comparing Simon's choice of transportation to jumping from a plane into a jungle--and placed a silencing hand on the back of his partner's neck as he ushered him into the backseat of the jeep. After shutting the door on the dirty look he received, he climbed into the front.

The ride back to Chiautla was comfortable, and filled with Simon's rendition of what Jim and Blair had put him through, disappearing like that. Two hours later, they were boarding a small, but decidedly newer plane that would take them to Mexico City. Jim made sure he was behind Blair as they climbed the short steps and found seats. He was proud when his partner said nothing about getting back on a plane, but he couldn't miss the rise in Blair's heartrate as he took a seat and buckled in.

The flight to Mexico City was quick and smooth. They quickly changed to a 747 for the longer flight home. The rows on that flight were three seats deep, and Simon insisted on the aisle for his longer legs. Blair took the window, but immediately pulled the shade down, and Jim folded himself in between the two. He was able to occupy his mind with the last of Jack Kelso's book, while Blair returned to his journal entries with what appeared to be renewed vigor, only stopping now and again to flex tired fingers.

Simon complained bitterly about having not planned to be on this trip the way they did, and being without any reading material. He was reduced to watching the in-flight movie barely visible from where they sat. By the time they landed, midnight in Cascade, Jim decided jumping from a plane in Peru had been the easier rescue.

They walked wearily through the airport parking lot, finding Simon's car just a few rows from Jim's.

"You take tomorrow off, but I need you back at the Station Thursday."

"Right, sir." They got in and followed Simon down the winding exit ramp, then headed for home.

"Oh, damn!" Blair slapped his forehead, then pushed his hair back, shaking his head.

"What's the matter, Chief?"

"Today's Wednesday, right?" He looked at Jim questioningly.

"Used to be. I think it's after midnight now. Why?" Jim glanced at Blair as he pulled up outside the loft.

"I missed a class tonight." Blair gathered up his pack and opened the door, still mumbling to himself.

"Relax, Sandburg. Teaching or taking?" Jim locked the truck, then followed Blair upstairs.

"Taking." He waited beside the door while Jim unlocked it, still shaking his head.

"Maybe you can get the notes from someone."

"Yeah." Blair tossed his pack into his room, then seemed to perk up a bit. "Yeah."

Jim laughed, shrugging off his coat. "Well, partner, you're on your own where that's concerned. I'm going to bed."

Blair was still contemplating something and nodded absently. "Yeah, good night, Jim."

Jim sighed, vaguely aware of his surroundings. He knew he was comfortable, and slowly waking up, but he also knew he wasn't needed anywhere this morning. Which meant he could sleep in, finally. He rolled over onto his back, remembering the solar massage of so long ago. The sun was out, he could sense the lightness through closed eyes. Maybe it was too early? Or maybe...there it was! Must have been a cloud. Jim sighed deeply and worked more of the blanket off his back, letting the suns rays work their magic. Two nights on the jungle ground, followed by a night on the worst hotel bed he could recall, and way too many hours on a plane, did wonders for building up a sore back.

A soreness the sun was now working out with loving care. Golden fingers once again massaged tired muscle and warm skin. Jim pressed his face into the pillow, enjoying the sensations with full tactile advantage. He slowly became aware of Blair's presence downstairs, once again writing in his notebooks on the couch. This time, he was determined not to look at the clock. In fact, he felt no need to roll over at all, seeing as how the sun showed no signs of leaving. He was just drifting off when the phone rang.


Jim held his breath.

"Margaret, great. You've got the notes?"


"Hang on, let me go to the computer."

Jim sighed again, pulled more of the blanket off his bare back, and drifted happily back to sleep under the watchful eye of his golden masseuse.



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