"So, Jim, what was Hicks like?"
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."
me guess, Army through and through? Crew cut, dreams of battle?"
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.
him, didn't you?"
"How did you...?"
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..
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...
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
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."
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."
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
damn!" Blair slapped his forehead, then pushed his hair back, shaking his
"What's the matter, Chief?"
Wednesday, right?" He looked at Jim questioningly.
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.
Sandburg. Teaching or taking?" Jim locked the truck, then followed Blair
"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."
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."
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
Jim held his breath.
"Margaret, great. You've got the notes?"
"Hang on, let me go to the computer."
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.