A Sneeze of Roses

by Jane Davitt

Jim wrinkled his nose, staring with curt disapproval at the roses he'd just signed for. Yellow and pink roses for Blair, all velvet-curled petals smelling of summer and sunlight, a rich, dense scent soaking the air.

They were already in a vase and he plunked it down on the table and studied the card. A florist had written 'Thank you for last night' in copperplate and Jim felt a sneeze coming on just picturing what Blair had done to earn a dozen roses.

Had anyone, man or woman, ever sent him flowers the morning after the night before? No. That meant that it was a deeply suspect action, probably the work of a besotted, deluded woman who didn't realize that when Blair said he'd call, he meant he'd call someone else. Someone new. Someone who, sadly, wasn't Jim.

Lips thin, Jim went in search of the ideal spot for the vase on the balcony, where a particularly high wind might solve the twin problems of pollen and his jealousy by stripping the stems bare or maybe knocking the vase over. Blair found him out there and -- of course, naturally -- spotted the card immediately.

"Aw, that's so sweet of her," he said, a maudlin look on his face. "She really didn't need to do that."

Jim noticed a bruise on Blair's neck, darkly purple around a ragged scratch and felt a surge of possessiveness that was rooted in concern, not something more ignoble. "Chief, if this is her way of apologizing for getting rough --"


Jim pointed in silence at Blair's neck and raised his eyebrows.

"Oh, that's nothing," Blair said with a nervous smile, as if Jim's expression was particularly forbidding, which Jim was sure it wasn't. Much. "You should see the other guys. Heh. Heheh -- okay, not funny. I get it."

Jim gave him a perplexed frown. Something was wrong. "Who sent them?" he demanded, cutting through Blair's babbling. "And why?"

"Mrs. Henderson downstairs," Blair said. "Some assholes were hassling her on the corner for spare change and getting rough with her so I, ah, put the fear of God into them. " There was a quiet pride in his voice, but he smirked, flexing his biceps and ruining the modest hero impression. "I guess she wanted to say thank you with flowers." Blair gestured at the vase before Jim could ask the dozen questions fighting to be first out of his mouth. Blair, fighting? On the street? What the hell? "What're they doing out here? Oh…pollen, right? They're making you sneeze? Look, leave them here and I'll take them to my office after lunch."

Jim took a deep breath and ruthlessly quelled the tickle in his nose. Mrs. Henderson was in her late sixties and a sweetheart but she could've been a harridan and he wouldn't have cared. Relief made him magnanimous. "No, it's okay," he said, picking up the vase and already planning what table they'd look best on. "They don't bother me at all. I like roses."

"Really?" Blair asked doubtfully.

"Really," Jim said and turned his attention to Blair. "Now, about this fight --"

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