Jim entered the building and made his way down the long hallway,
looking for room 112. It was nearly 10pm and the University corridors were deserted
except for those few still in the late night class he was looking for. There was
an open door at the far end and he could hear Blair's voice echoing down the hall.
"Okay, for those of you not going up to the research station for the month,
Professor Kinyon will be back on Monday if you need to contact her. And be sure
to have your ID when you get there. Remember, you'll be in Canada while you're
on the island."
Jim stopped looking for numbers and followed Blair's voice.
As he approached the door it struck him just how professional Blair sounded in
there, substituting for a sick Professor Kinyon. He was reminded of his housemate's
position at the University, and recognized a small sense of pride in himself.
He knew he wasn't responsible for Blair's experience as a teaching fellow, but
he had seen a lot of changes in his friend since they first met, and he knew they
were all for the better. Except the housebreaking. That, they were still working
"That's it for tonight. Thank you, and again, Professor Kinyon will
be back on Monday."
Jim waited until most of the students had filed out
before entering the lecture room. He found Blair standing behind the podium, gathering
papers while three students were asking questions. Jim stepped over to the wall
and waited, watching the three young, attractive women as they listened to Blair's
answer. Satisfied, two of them left, leaving one that Jim remembered seeing before,
Emily something. She was tall, even in the flat tennis shoes she wore. Her skin-
tight jeans did much to add to the illusion of height, as did the long, flowing
blonde hair. Of course, standing next to Blair helped as well.
can't talk you in to coming up with us? Not even for the weekend?"
ears perked up at the mention of the weekend and he paid closer attention, having
his own plans for his housemate that weekend.
"No. I don't think so."
Blair finished stuffing papers into his bag and flung it over one shoulder, glancing
over at Jim. "It's not really my area. Besides, you broke my heart, remember?"
Emily laughed lightly, rolling her eyes. "Yeah, well. It was bound to
happen some time." She lifted her own book bag over one shoulder and glanced
across the room at Jim, smiling slightly. "Okay. Well, if you change your
mind, Kenny and I will be up there for the month. Come on up for a visit."
Blair nodded, smiling as she walked out of the room. "Hey Jim, thanks
for coming. My car should be ready by Monday."
Jim pushed himself off
the wall he'd been leaning against and slapped Blair on the back, pushing him
out the door. "No problem, Chief. I had some errands to run for this weekend's
Blair flipped the light switch as they left the room,
"Yep." Jim kept his hand on Blair's shoulder
to keep him moving down the corridor. "That little science experiment of
yours that you called dinner the other day left smoke stains on the walls."
Blair tried to stop and look at Jim, but the hand on his shoulder kept him
moving. "Smoke stains? Jim, come on, I cleaned that up."
at the end of the hall now and Jim pushed the doors open, still gripping Blair's
shoulder. "Sure, you cleaned up the mess in the kitchen. You cleaned the
pots. You cleaned the floor. You even got those bits of that green stuff off the
ceiling." They approached the truck and Jim let go of Blair. "But the
billowing black cloud left stains on the walls."
He climbed into the truck,
eyeing his partner who was reluctantly getting in from the passenger side. Blair
looked like he was going to say something, then stopped. He nearly laughed, but
he was trying to make a point. He had known Blair would most likely be making
something strange for dinner that night, as Jim had a date and wouldn't be home
until late. He'd caught sight of several items in the refrigerator that he couldn't
identify, but since their talk about house rules, he knew Blair would have it
cleaned up before he got back. What he didn't know was that his kitchen was going
to be turned into a smoking inferno. By the time he came home, the bulk of the
black cloud had been vented into the hallway, setting off every smoke alarm in
the building, and causing two fire trucks to pull up right in front of Jim as
he was parking. Luckily for all concerned, it was merely smoke. Billowing black
smoke. But no fire.
Jim had made Blair stay up the entire night cleaning the
mess. He'd almost had to stay at a hotel that night, but after a few hours with
all the windows open and fans going, the smell had cleared out enough for him
to sleep, as long as he focused on anything but his sense of smell. Blair was
still scraping 'things' from the floor when he got up the next morning. Luckily
for both of them, Blair had a class to teach that afternoon, and Jim was going
to be in conferences all day to learn the new fingerprinting computer network
the Precinct had just installed. It had taken Jim the entire day to calm down.
But, as clean as Blair had managed to get the loft, there was still a noticeable
blackness on the walls that just wouldn't come off. So, they were going to paint
"Okay Chief. Help me unload the truck. We can get started covering
and taping tonight."
"Tonight?" Blair started to open his door,
then looked back at Jim.
"Tonight." Jim replied, climbing out of
the truck. He was smiling a little when he walked around to the back and pulled
down the tail gate. "It'll just take an hour or so to get everything ready.
Is there a problem?"
"No. No, not at all." Blair raised his
eyebrows and tried to smile as he grabbed a can of paint and the buckets Jim had
picked up for the soap and water. "No problem."
He picked up two
rolls of plastic sheeting and the bag of masking tape, then took the last can
of paint and followed Blair up the stairs. He had calmed down about the mess after
that first day, but he was letting his friend assume full blame for as long as
he could. The worse the memory, the less likely it was to happen again. Blair
had even spent the entire next night in his room, giving Jim full control over
the television for the evening. But now, it was time to finish up and move on
to the next crisis.
Jim fished his keys out of his pocket and opened the door,
letting Blair go inside first. They deposited their painting and cleaning supplies
and Jim sent Blair back down to the truck for the pans and brushes while he unrolled
the plastic. He was just beginning to pull the bookcases out from the walls when
"We're doing the whole loft? Not just the kitchen?"
Blair asked, looking around the living room.
"Yep. Painting the kitchen
and scrubbing down these brick walls." Jim replied. "Give me a hand
here." He didn't want to empty the bookcase just to move it a few feet from
the wall. Blair came over and helped move the shelves. Then they pulled the rest
of the furniture away from any walls or corners that would be scrubbed, and covered
everything in plastic, taping the edges down against the bottom of the walls.
"Hey Jim, I know you talked about covering the furniture with plastic,
"Watch it Chief. With you in the house, don't think I haven't
considered covering this whole place up before." He tossed Blair a roll of
masking tape. "Now, go around the kitchen, and tape over the wood trim."
Blair looked as if he was going to say something and Jim cut him off. "Listen,
a few hours work beforehand will make the work tomorrow a lot easier. Trust me."
Blair caught the tape and rolled his eyes, but did as he was told. Jim did
the same in the living room, taping over the outlets and anything he didn't want
to get soaked. Then he worked his way around, stopping at the stairs to his bedroom.
The ceiling fan had kept most of the smoke away from the upper level, so he wasn't
going to paint his room. Blair's room, with the advantage of a door Jim had been
forced to put up in an effort to soundproof his housemate's living quarters, was
similarly spared. By the time they finished, it was midnight. There was a good
storm brewing outside, and Jim sat down on the plastic-covered couch, watching
the rain come down.
"Toss me a beer, Chief." He heard the refrigerator
door open and close, then Blair joined him in the living room, handing him the
bottle before falling down into the chair opposite him with his own in hand. "Now,
that's the hard part. Tomorrow, we can concentrate on cleaning, and not worry
about a mess."
Blair made a face and took a long pull from the beer, looking
around the plastic covered room. "You know, Jim. I could have gotten some
students to come over, get this done in one day."
Jim laughed, shaking
his head. "No way. Uhuh. One of you is all this place can handle. I don't
trust a job that can be done for pizza and beer."
Blair nodded, raising
his eyebrows in his best 'Okay, insults. I can take it.' but said nothing. Lightening
flashed outside and Jim turned his hearing down in anticipation of the thunder.
He didn't mind storms, even enjoyed them. But he had been caught once or twice
trying to listen for something when thunder struck, and the headache that action
produced took more than a few aspirin to clear. Blair seemed uncharacteristically
quiet that night, even with the guilt he was still dealing with over the mess
in the loft.
"So, what was that girl...what's her name? Emily isn't it?
What was she talking about that she wanted you to join her this weekend for?"
"She's going up to the research station for a month, on Puffin Island
in the Canadian San Juans. The University has a shared interest there, studying
some native Indian tribes in the region." he took another drink and looked
outside at the rain. "They found a wreck out there, just off shore. Some
big sailing vessel from the old Alaskan gold rush days. They've been diving around,
finding artifacts and such, from the wreck." He paused, looking around the
loft. "Some of the students are heading up for a month, researching the period,
cataloguing finds, stuff like that."
"Sounds interesting. So, that's
Blair just nodded.
"Whatever happened between
you two?" Jim asked, knowing if he didn't, Blair would never say. He still
seemed to take these simple romances far too seriously.
"She dumped me.
Simple as that." Blair replied, finishing his beer.
"Simple as that?"
"No hard feelings? No broken hearts? Nothing you need
to get off your chest?"
"Nope. Thanks Jim." Blair stood. "I'm
turning in. I guess we paint tomorrow?"
"Yep. Bright and early."
Jim watched Blair walk down the hall after tossing his empty beer bottle away.
He had heard Blair tell Emily she had broken his heart, but whether that was true
or not, he couldn't tell. His friend tended to clam up when the subject got too
difficult for him. As much as he wanted Jim to open up about the smallest detail,
getting Blair to talk could be like pulling teeth sometimes.
Jim finished his
beer and went to bed, listening to the rain falling outside, and wondering how
Blair was going to make breakfast with the kitchen all taped up and covered over.
By the time he woke, he could smell the eggs cooking. Jim came downstairs and
found Blair in the kitchen. Somehow he had managed to uncover enough to fix eggs
and coffee and was dishing them up. Still making up for it huh? Well, in about
a week, maybe I'll let you stop.
"Hey Chief. You ready to get to
work?" Jim paused on his way to the bathroom long enough to take a quick
drink of hot coffee.
"Ready as I'll ever be." Blair replied, glancing
around. "You want brush, or roller?"
"Brush. I'll be out in
a few." Jim took his time in the shower, then shaved and put on the sweats
he had carried down with him. Blair was quiet all through breakfast, and Jim was
planning their attack. "Okay Chief, time to get to work." He stood and
stretched, letting Blair clear the dishes. "We'll start with the brick, then
move on to painting. You get the roller, I'll do the detail work."
Blair found a bucket and poured water into it, adding soap, then moved out to
the far end of the loft and started scrubbing. They worked for several hours in
silence, except for the occasional 'you missed a spot'.
By mid-afternoon they
had finished the bulk of the loft, and Jim allowed Blair to take a brush and work
the detailed areas next to the cupboards and floor boards with the green paint
he preferred. Jim stepped back to take a look at their work and stepped in something
damp. He was wearing socks, and hadn't been sticking to the plastic as much as
Blair was in his bare feet, but now when he lifted his right foot, a green paint
brush came up with it.
"Sandburg, is this yours?"
and looked at Jim's foot. "Oh God, Jim I'm sorry." Jim reached down
and pulled the brush from his foot. "Oh man, I am really sorry."
could almost believe him, if it weren't for the laughter punctuating each sentence.
It was the first sign of life from his house mate all weekend. Well, if that's
what it takes... "Sorry? Sorry, huh?"
"Man, Jim, I really
am. I thought I set that up on the counter. It must have fallen down." Blair
was still laughing, but trying not to.
"Sure. Sure you are." He reached
out and took Blair's right hand. "Here you go." Blair held out his hand
for the brush, and Jim slapped it down, bristles first, into this palm.
looked at his hand, with the dripping green paint oozing through his fingers.
His laughter change to a look of shock and surprise. "Yeah." He set
the brush down on the counter, and patted Jim on the back. "Thanks Jim."
Jim laughed a little and looked at the ceiling for just a moment, then back
down to Blair. "You know Sandburg, if it's a fight you're looking for, you're
"You think so?"
Jim calmly tipped the small
can of green paint he was holding down the front of Blair's shirt. "I know
so." Blair was taken aback just long enough for Jim to grab the discarded
brush and touch his nose with it. "Missed a spot."
That was all it
took for Blair to realize Jim was serious about not being serious. He reached
for the roller he had used in the living room and Jim grabbed the handle, pulling
him into the main room. Jim was running backwards, trying to get Blair out into
the living room, and forgot they had moved most of the furniture. He hit the plastic
covered couch and fell backwards, bringing Blair and the dripping roller with
him. Blair recovered before falling over, and let the paint roller go along with
Jim, causing it to land square in his face as he hit the floor.
the roller off his face and glared at Blair, who was standing farther back, both
"Hey, I didn't do anything."
"No? Well, I'm
gonna." Jim leapt to his feet and charged. Blair tried to run down the hallway
but his bare feet got stuck on the plastic and Jim caught up to him easily, grabbing
him around the waist with one arm while reaching for the paint can with the other.
He flipped Blair over and onto the floor, face up, then held the gallon pail over
his body, menacingly. "New house rules. No more cooking with any ingredients
I can't pronounce."
Blair lay on the floor, looking up at Jim and the
can of paint. "Now, come on Jim, I told you I was sorry. It was an accident."
Jim tipped the can. "Whose house is this?"
Blair hesitated and
Jim tipped the paint farther over. "Yours. It's yours, Jim."
smiled. "And who makes the house rules?"
Blair swallowed, looking
at the paint. "You make the rules, Jim."
Jim started to set the paint can down, but his sock covered foot slipped on the
plastic, and some paint sloshed out just as he moved the can, landing square on
Blair's head as he was getting up.
They both froze for a moment. Jim really
hadn't meant for that to happen, but seeing Blair, as he sat on the floor looking
stunned, dripping in green paint, was too much. He started to laugh, then held
out his hand to pull his friend up. "Hey, sorry about that." Blair glared
at him and he laughed again. "No, I'm serious Chief, that one was an accident."
Blair wasn't taking his hand, so he reached down and pulled him up with two handfuls
of shirt. "Truce?"
Blair was looking at him, eyebrows raised, paint
dripping down his face. "Now, you want a truce?"
Jim was going to
reply when they heard the phone. "Truce," he said, glancing around.
"Where'd you put the phone?"
Blair was trying to keep paint from
running into his eyes as he stood there. "I haven't touched the phone since
yesterday. It's over there." He gestured towards the kitchen counter.
searched, following the ring. "You taped it down." He found the phone
under several layers of plastic. "Go get the extension in your room, quick."
He tossed a towel to Blair, "And don't drip in there, there's no plastic."
Blair caught the towel and glared at Jim, but said nothing as he hurried into
his room to answer the phone.
Jim was still laughing when he heard Blair reach
the phone and answer it. He'd known his friend would be a little surprised by
a paint fight, surprised enough to give Jim a definite advantage. He glanced around
at the small mess, satisfied that it had all been entirely contained by plastic.
It had been worth it to snap Blair out of whatever was getting him down this weekend.
The mess that was made from the kitchen accident couldn't have been keeping him
depressed. Blair usually shrugged those off right after Jim vented, which he had
done and finished with two days ago. The phone call was obviously not for him,
so Jim examined the kitchen for any missed spots, then began to close up the unspilled
paint. After sealing each gallon, he started to gather up the brushes and rollers,
occasionally stepping in a puddle of paint. He had to stop twice and stretch,
trying to ease the kink between his shoulders that had been there all week. He
considered asking Blair for a back rub, but he didn't think his friend would feel
comfortable with the request. By the time he gathered all their tools, Blair was
coming out of his room, slowly.
"What's up Chief?" Jim wasn't really
looking at him, having his arms full of dirty rags.
Blair kept walking until
he reached the living room, then he just stopped and looked around, still wiping
paint from his hands.
Jim looked up and saw his face, and the look of helplessness
there. "Blair, what's up?" Something was obviously wrong. Even through
the paint still dripping from his hair, his friend's face was pale.
was...um, Professor Kinyon." he replied, glancing around as if he was looking
for something. "The University called her. There's been an accident at the
research station." He paused again and Jim walked over to him.
Blair looked up at him, "A diving accident. They said
Emily's dead." He looked away and tossed the rag he was holding onto the
pile Jim had gathered. "They need someone from the University to go up there...and
uh, bring her back. Professor Kinyon can't make it, and she asked me to go."
Blair had stopped, and Jim saw the puzzled look on his face. "What about
"They're in Europe. The University is contacting them
now, but they won't make it over here for a while. There's paperwork to do, for
customs." Blair reached up to push his hair back, but stopped when he realized
there was still wet paint there. "I need to get up there, and make arrangements."
He turned to walk back down the hall, then stopped and turned around again. "Jim,
I don't know what to do."
Jim had been listening, waiting for reality
to hit his friend. When it did, he was ready. Jim reached out and put both hands
on his shoulders. "Take it easy Chief. Go take a shower, get cleaned up.
I can make arrangements to get you up there, but at this late hour, it'll probably
be tomorrow. Just let me make a few phone calls. Okay?"
Blair nodded slowly,
"Yeah, okay. Thanks Jim."
Jim patted his shoulders then spun him
around. "Go on, and don't use all the hot water."