Dedicated with love to Betagoddess, who left us too soon.
"What's this?" Blair
picked up an envelope, light and thin, and read
the date scrawled across it. "Looks like your handwriting."
Jim took it from him and turned it over. The flap had been tucked in, not sealed, and he eased it out and peered inside.
Wordlessly, he passed it back to Blair, who leaned back against the wall with a small grunt of discomfort and then shook the contents of the envelope into his hand.
Jim raised his eyebrows and let them say 'You have got to be kidding me' for him. Blair chuckled, turning the twist of hair bound by a prosaic piece of string between his fingers. "Okay, if you kept it all these years, I guess it'd better be mine, though I don't remember it being this color."
Jim took the lock of hair and held it up to the light from the window, pale and fitful this late on a winter day. "It wasn't. It's faded a little."
That earned him a mildly skeptical look. "Come on, Jim; it's been years. Even you can't recall a shade that accurately."
"Oh ye of little faith." Jim stroked the curl against his face, assessing its texture against his jaw, his lips, comparing it to memories. "It's you. I know."
"That verges on romantic," Blair remarked dryly. "Want me to check you for a fever?"
Jim grinned at him. "That depends on where you plan to insert the thermometer, babe."
The smile he got was wicked enough to make him wonder just how much it would matter if they didn't get the cabin packed up before nightfall. One last time making love to Blair on a bed whose creaks were as much part of their lovemaking as the wind soughing through the forest outside or their soft, urgent grunts and gasps. One last time...
Of course, the bedding had been packed and the mattress was bare, so maybe not.
Jim stood with some difficulty and reached down to help Blair up, bestowing a kiss on the smooth, bare head, fringed with gray hair around the edges, curling irrepressibly. Jim's own silvered hair had receded so far, no further, which was a source of secret satisfaction he had a feeling Blair was only too aware of and tolerant about.
They were getting older. It happened.
"So you saved it," Blair said, pursuing the subject. "Why?"
Jim honestly couldn't remember his exact motivation in detail, but that was never an answer Blair would accept, insisting that the knowledge was in Jim's brain somewhere and just needed to be dug out. Which sounded painful and usually was. He went for something as close to the truth as he could get.
"A memento, Chief; that's not so out there, is it? You've still got ticket stubs from Jags games we went to twenty years ago, for God's sake." Jim pointed an accusing finger at the trash bag where the tickets had been tossed, along with one hell of a lot of other rubbish.
"They weren't saved; they were just still in the jacket pocket because I forgot to take them out; there's a difference."
"Like you forgot to give that jacket back to Goodwill. Face it, Chief; you're a packrat."
"Maybe I am, but you didn't answer my question."
"I just --" Jim stopped, still, after all these years, uncomfortable with admitting to Blair just how besotted he was. The day was stressful enough as it was, with yet another chapter of their life ending and a new one not yet begun. Blair waited, patient for once, his expression encouraging.
Okay. He could do this. It was Blair, Blair who knew him, mind and body. He could tell Blair.
"You'd cut your hair before, but it always grew back, so it wasn't a big deal. Hair. It grows. Then I started to notice that each time you'd let it grow a little less before you went to Len's for a trim and I realized you were going to cut it short one day and that would be it. No more long hair. And I -- I liked it long. So I snipped some off when you were asleep one day, just on impulse, and, yeah, I know that's weird, but it was years ago, so don't give me a hard time about it, okay?"
"Wow," Blair said after a moment, quietly contemplative. He glanced up at Jim, a glint of blue, amused, appreciative. "Every time I think I know Jim Ellison inside and out, you find a way to remind me that I don't."
"Wouldn't want to get boring," Jim said, a sweet, warm relief filling him. God, he'd really been bottling up that drop of guilt; it felt good to spill it out and have Blair absorb it. "Predictability's death on romance." He held out his arms and Blair obliged him with a hug, fitting himself to Jim's frame so that Jim could feel Blair's heart beating, a strong push-thump, reassuring on so many levels.
"So," Blair murmured against Jim's neck, nuzzling the skin there with a clear intent that made Jim think again of beds and last times, "I guess now I know who left that bottle of hair restorer on my desk."
"That was Henri," Jim said, throwing his friend to the wolves without hesitation. "Or maybe Simon. Possibly Rafe."
"Liar," Blair said and led Jim toward the bedroom and the bare, soft bed.
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