"I've been here a month now."
"Five weeks, two days," Jim corrected.
"Man, you're detail orientated," Blair complained, clashing the dishes in the sink in a way that made Jim wince. "Is that a Sentinel thing?"
"No, it's a cop thing. Details matter. Look, if you want to dry instead…"
"Huh? No, I'm good. My hands are cold, anyway; the water's warming them up."
"Are you trying to hint that I keep the place cold? Is this a dig about me being too cheap to turn the thermostat up?"
"Compared to the warehouse, this is a tropical paradise," Blair assured him. "I'm just feeling the chill. I walked back from the book store and I left my gloves there, I think."
"I'm guessing there's a pretty owner and you want the excuse to go back and chat her up?" Jim said dryly. "Did I leave my gloves and by the way, how about dinner?"
"Smooth line," Blair said, rolling his eyes. "It's a mystery to me why I don't have to fight my way through the crowd of women lining up outside the door to date you."
Jim snapped the tea towel against Blair's ass. "Less talk, more scrubbing. And don't put that dish to dry yet; it's still got egg on it."
Blair held the dish up and squinted at it. "Where?"
It was a streak a mile wide as far as Jim's eyes were concerned, and he was fairly certain that Blair could see it too, so he settled for pointing. Blair sighed and submerged the dish again. "You're no fun."
"Sorry about that. I'll break into song later; that should make you smile." Jim swirled the towel inside a glass. "And, yeah, okay, you've been here a while; so?"
"So you like me being here?" Blair's voice was just a little too carefully casual. Jim felt his body respond to that, going to full alert. Stupid, really; it was just Blair being a good guest, making sure that he hadn't outstayed his welcome. Hopefully.
"You give the place that lived-in look, Chief. If we lived in a dive." Jim chuckled at the indignant glare Blair gave him and softened the dig. " Just pick up after yourself a bit more, and we're good."
Jim nodded, relaxing a little. Feeling magnanimous, he threw the kid a bone. "Yeah, I like having you around, to tell the truth. Took me a while to adjust, maybe, but I'm used to company, after all. I went from living in barracks to living with Carolyn and it's been quiet since she moved out."
Blair relaxed too, his breath leaving him in a relieved rush. "That's good. That's great."
Blair took his hands out of the water, soap bubbles clinging to them like white gloves. He smiled at Jim, his eyes warm and bright. "We're officially living together."
"I've been holding off on doing all the address changing stuff just in case you kicked me out, but now…"
Jim frowned. "You're still using the warehouse address?"
Blair looked off into the distance and made a vague sound. "Kinda."
"Sandburg." Sometimes, you just had to be firm with him.
Blair shrugged airily. "I wasn't there long. And I wasn't at Andy's long before that. Just hanging out until his girlfriend got back from a dig in Mexico. And before that…"
"I get it, I get it," Jim said, waving him quiet. "You make sure everything's up to date, you hear me?"
"Using this address?" Blair asked, like he just wanted to be absolutely certain.
Something about the questioning, anxious look in Blair's eyes made Jim soften. "Sure," he said gruffly. "This is where you live, right?" Moved by a sudden impulse, he stuck out his hand. "Shake on it?"
Blair dried his hands on the towel that Jim was holding and held out his arms. "What are you, my bank manager? Let's hug on that, roomie."
"That's 'landlord'," Jim corrected, snatching back his hand. Boundaries. Time to set some. "And no offence, but I don't hug men."
Blair's arms didn't drop. "Yeah, you do. I've seen you. That guy we bumped into at that bar. The one you used to go to school with."
Jim cleared his throat. "That's different. I hadn't seen Bill for years. It was a -- a --"
"A manly hug," Blair supplied.
Jim nodded helplessly. It sounded stupid put like that.
"Like this," Blair continued and stepped forward, strong arms going around Jim, squeezing him, a hand slapping his back firmly, one, two, three times. Blair moved back and raised his eyebrows.
"Yeah, I guess." Jim felt sweat prickle the back of his neck. Blair was right; he kept it way too hot in here.
"And you were worried I'd give you a hug that was a little less macho and a little more..." Blair wrinkled his nose and lowered his voice to a conspiratorial whisper. "Gay?"
Jim choked, a mouthful of spit going down the wrong way. "Sandburg!"
"I mean," Blair went on, sarcasm heavy in his voice, "the two of us are working together, living together, socializing together…We've saved each other's lives, we know each other's deepest, darkest secrets -- well, I know yours, anyway. I guess men like us have to be careful not to give the wrong impression."
"There is no wrong impression," Jim protested. "And don't twist this to make me seem like a jerk, okay? I'm just not into hugging as a way of communicating. My dad was more into handshakes." He scowled at Blair. "Why did you want to hug me?"
"To say thanks," Blair said simply. "I got hugged a lot growing up. Naomi -- that's my mom --always said a day without hugging was like a day without sun."
"Welcome to Cascade," Jim said. "The rainiest city in the world."
"That's not funny," Blair said. He stared at Jim for a moment and then sighed and gestured at the sink. "The rest need to soak. I'll do them later."
Jim watched Blair walk out of arm's reach, going, going, gone, and shivered suddenly, sensing something disappearing that maybe he wasn't sure he wanted yet, but he was certain he didn't want to lose. "Wait."
Three strides took him level with Blair, whose head was drooping like an unwatered flower, kept in the dark.
"Yeah?" Blair replied, his voice flat, dull.
Jim cleared his throat. "Why don't you and I -- just this once, I mean, don't get the idea I want to make a habit of it -- why don't we hug on it?"
Blair turned and put his arms around Jim, flowing close like water, his arms a supporting circle, his head finding a place to rest against Jim's chest. Jim felt the thud of Blair's heartbeat like a pat against his skin, felt Blair's slow exhalation like a caress. His arms rose, gathered Blair closer.
Then Blair released him, too soon, before Jim had time to decide what do with his hands, trembling from the effort of keeping still. He glanced up, his expression thoughtful. "Thanks."
Not trusting himself to speak, Jim nodded. Words crowded his throat, filled his mouth, but until he knew how to finish his question, he couldn't ask it.
Chief? Why don't you
and I --
So many ways to finish that.
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