"What do we do when we find it, Jim?"
"We see who took the call, and pay them a visit on Monday."
Blair frowned. "Why Monday? There's still some time tonight, assuming we find anything."
"Because they'll expect us *tonight*. Monday, on the *other* hand...Anyway, we need to get home in time to get ready." Jim turned to his computer. The sheet listed call signs. He would have to match car to call sign, and cop to car.
"Get ready for *what?*"
"For the party tonight, sweetcheeks." Jim looked up, puzzled. "You don't know about that? Right. How *could* you know?" He snapped his fingers. "It's something we do on Stonewall. It began in the..."
"Hi. You guys busy?" Dave Michaelson walked up to the desk.
Jim glared at him. "Just a *bit*, girlfriend." He shook his head. "You got news?"
Dave sat on the corner of Jim's desk. "Yeah. I spoke to my contact in the Terror Kings. He's willing to have a meet tomorrow. We just need to set up time and place and number. He wants to know how many so he can have parity."
Blair snorted. "He didn't really say 'parity', did he?"
Dave grinned. "Yeah, he did. I think he's on a word a day thing. How many? The two of you, me...are we bringing the detective from homicide?"
"Not if *I* can help it, sugar. Just us three."
Blair frowned. "What about Matt Green?"
"Who's Matt Green?" Dave looked at Blair.
"He's a Vice cop. I think he needs to be involved in this...he went to the funeral today. Look, the guy has had his hands tied every where he's worked."
Dave and Jim looked at each other. "I trust Blair's instincts. Call him, sugar."
Dave nodded. "I wouldn't mind having an extra man with us."
"While you're at it, tell him about the party."
"I *would* if I *knew* anything, James."
"Party?" Dave looked from one to the other.
"Yeah." Blair dialed Matt's extension. "Hi...want to do something? Yeah...we've arranged a meet with the gang...Terror Kings...want to go? Dave Michaelson...nice guy...yeah...Tomorrow...get back to you on time...okay. Take care."
He turned to face Jim. "Okay...what's the deal about this party thing, man?"
Jim pressed his lips together. "It's a *thing* we do. There was a time when funerals happened every week...sometimes more often. They became *the* social outlet, you know? *Too* depressing, and you kept looking at people and wondering who was next. So Rich opened his club on Friday nights. No cover, no act, free food and half price booze. It was a tradition for a long time. Guys and some girls would even play music for free. Kept us sane during a real bad time."
Blair blinked in confusion. "But...two Fridays ago we were at the club..."
"This was before he opened Purple, and, well, things got better. Less people getting sick, and the ones who are sick aren't dying so much. Rich renovated and the parties kinda stopped, but there has to be one for Freddie. And we *have* to go."
Michaelson stared at them in amusement. "I'll let you guys argue this one out. I'll leave a message with the time and place. Tell you what...give me this Matt Green's number and I'll call him, too."
Blair nodded and gave him a card. Dave nodded and waved as he left the room.
"Jimmy, darling, you look *fabulous*." Rich whistled.
"You like?" Jim twirled, modeling his shades of white outfit - white boots, white jeans, white silk t-shirt, white *leather* overshirt. Blair had been amazed at that one, but it was beautiful. None of the whites were the same, but the effect was startling. His eyes glowed with the contrast.
"You're probably the only one here who'd keep it all *that* clean, girlfriend." Automatically, Blair looked down at his own burgundy silk shirt. Nope, he hadn't spilled anything on it...yet.
"It's been a *long* time since you've had one of *these* things, Rich."
"We had one just a few weeks ago, Jimmy." There was an edge to the clubowner's voice.
Blair looked up in surprise, in time to see Jim frown. "No one told me anything about it."
"You were probably *busy* that night with your *straight* friends." The edge was sharper now.
"What are you trying to say, *darling*?"
"Oh, *please*, Jimmy. You have an entire *life* out there. You just come here to *play*."
"Do you really *think* that?" Jim put his hand on his hip.
Rich rolled his eyes. "You still work *Major Crimes*. I see your name in the paper *all* the time. And you *do* hang out in suburbia."
"So did Freddie and Melly. Just because..."
"And that little *boyfriend* of yours...trust *you* to get a straight boy."
"Hey! Rich, I am *not* straight."
"Coulda fooled me, Professor. I *read* that paper of yours...the one about two closed societies. Now that you got your data, when you going to dump Jimmy here?"
Blair froze for a moment. Then he carefully put his wineglass down and walked over to Rich. Jim put a hand on his shoulder, but Blair shrugged it off.
"You think I'm going to dump Jim?"
"I know all about you biboys. I got fooled by a couple just like you, trying to have it both ways. You'll find some girl and get married. You won't be able to handle the pressure."
Blair tossed his head. "You don't *know* about pressure, Rich. No one believes we exist - either we're gays fooling ourselves or we're straight guys being curious. The cops think I'm a moonlighting professor, the academics don't why I want that macho crap. But you know something, Richiegirl? I don't give a damn. Why not? Because I have *Jim.*"
"Yeah, she's just *perfect* for you. Can pass as your straight roomie or as your girlfriend."
"Do you think I care? I fell in love with Jim when he was Mr. Straight Arrow, and I was too dumb to see behind his mask. And he *never* plays it straight anymore. He doesn't even pretend in *court*."
Rich looked at Jim, who nodded. "I didn't know how *hard* it was to pretend until I stopped."
"And what, Rich?" Blair glared at him.
"And what *is* your point, Blair?"
"He's *here*. We may *live* by the bay, but he's *here*. He's taken, we've taken, our boss has taken...so much." He turned to his lover and touched his arm. "I *know* about those fights, James. I know just where you got those bruises."
"Why didn't you *say*?" Jim stared at Blair.
"Same reason I didn't tell you about my arguments. Guys trying *for my own good* to get me to break up with you. Colleagues, other cops...friends. I didn't want you to worry. Same reason Simon kept his battles secret.
"And if you didn't want to tell me, I understood. It made me crazy sometimes, but I understood. It doesn't *matter* if we don't spend our time here...we're *here*." He directed that last back at Rich.
"But *you* can leave whenever you want. You can find yourself a wife and be as straight as you want." Rich glared at him.
"I *am* as straight as I want." Blair stopped and took a deep breath. He gestured with his hands. "Look, I've *never* lived the straight life. I don't even know what the hell it is, except that it's *not* me. And if it doesn't have Jim, I don't want it."
"I *tried* that, Rich. You see Carolyn anywhere?" Jim finally said something.
"Look, I'm sorry. All I know is that you are *still* living in that loft in straightland, and *still* working for the cops and they have done damnall for us."
"And no one bothered to tell *us* that, either. Maybe...maybe if we'd *known*..."
"Right, Jimmy. Sure. Like your knowing *now* will make a difference."
"Maybe it will. Or maybe we'll quit and sell the loft and move back *here*, or...darling, I think maybe *this* is the *wrong* time and place. Look at Miss Melly." Rich and Blair turned. Mel was staring at them, tears in his eyes.
"God, we're *idiots*. I'm sorry, darlings. It's just...it's been so *bad* here, and you weren't doing *anything*. We really thought you *knew*."
"We were idiots *again*, Rich. And...you were right. We came here to *play*, not work."
"Huggies?" Rich spread his arms. Blair hid his wince as he and Jim allowed themselves to be wrapped up.
After extricating himself, Blair left the two men to kiss and make up and began to wander the crowd. As he did, a new face caught his eye. He meandered to the corner of the bar.
"Matt? What are *you* doing here?"
Matt Green turned around, startled. He was dressed for the party in an open white shirt and leather jeans, but he still looked out of place.
"Blair? I should have known you'd be here."
"Mel and Freddie were friends of ours. Of course we're here. What's your excuse?"
Matt blinked. "You sound like you want me to leave."
"If you'd have asked, I'd have told you not to come, man. *Jim* can handle the heat because he's, well, *Jim*."
Matt shrugged. "I don't care. I wanted to pay my respects for Freddie." His words were defiant, but his tone was resigned.
Blair shook his head. "Let's find a seat, guy. I think we need to talk." He led Matt to a small table filled with empty glasses. Matt took one of the chairs and turned it around, straddling the back. Blair took the other and found a clean place on the table to lean.
"What's wrong?"
"Yeah, right."
"Can't a guy go to a party for a friend?"
"Not here. Not someone who works for the Vice *you* told me about. Not someone who's ready to jump out of his skin when someone looks in his direction...or tries to touch him." To demonstrate, Blair brushed against Matt's hand. Matt flinched.
"I'm sorry. I've never...I mean, on duty or something, but never by myself...this is weird."
"So why are you here?"
"I don't know...for Freddie, I guess. And...Blair, how did you *know*?"
'Oh, no.' Blair knew exactly what Matt was asking. "Know what?"
"That...that you liked, well, guys?" Yes, that was it.
'Be careful, Sandburg.' Blair thought about his answer. "When I started to dread showering after gym class."
"You were in high school? Oh, God. What about girls? When did...?"
"I'm bi, Matt. I like girls and guys about equally. And I didn't *do* anything about it, not really, until I was finished with college." He stifled a sigh. 'Oh, that expedition...love in the jungle with anyone who crooked a finger or said yes...' He'd have thought those memories would be pleasant, not desperate.
"But you *knew*. You had no doubts in your mind?"
Blair shook his head. "I knew what was playing in my mind at night."
"Lucky guy." Matt bit his lip and turned away.
"Not where I was. Being bi does not mean you get twice as many chances for a Saturday night date. It means...it means confusion."
Matt's eyes lit up. "I know confusion. Why am I telling you this? I just met you *today*."
Blair shrugged. "You needed to talk."
He nodded and closed his eyes. "I'm twenty-seven years old, Blair. I should *know* if I like boys or girls, or both or...or...or *sheep*. I look at girls and *something* happens but I'm not sure what; I look at guys and something different happens, and you don't want to know what...plays in my mind at night. And I don't know..."
"Have you ever...?"
Matt blushed. "I've...tried. With girls. Nothing. I was ready to die of embarrassment. But...guys? The idea..."
"Maybe it is sheep, man."
"*Don't* joke about it. This is...I'd rather be *gay* than not know. I'm in *hell*, Blair."
"I'm sorry. Look...some people think *I'm* confused. Pick one side or the other, you know?"
"But you *did* pick. You're with *him*." Matt looked at the center of the room, where Jim was being dipped by Lady Eve, who was back in drag.
"Some would say I didn't pick...the fact of the matter is I fell in love with James Ellison, who's a guy. Most of the time." Blair laughed as Jim executed a neat curtsey. "I fell for the person, not his clothes or his mannerisms. And it's not the same, is it?"
Matt shook his head.
"I wish I could help. The only thing I can say is that there are other people like you - confused. And there is nothing wrong with you."
Matt shrugged. "I've never talked about it before, you know? There was no one I could trust...thanks, Blair." He reached out a hand. Blair grinned and took it. "See you tomorrow at the meet?"
"Dave talked to you?"
He nodded. "Playground by the big high school. 10AM."
"I'm going home, I think. I don't belong here."
"Not right now." Blair smiled. "But maybe Jim and I will have you over for dinner when this is all over."
"I'd like that. Bye!"
"Bye!" Blair watched Matt walk to the club's door and wave. Then he turned back to the dance floor, and walked up to a certain couple.
He tapped one on his shoulder. "May I cut in?"
Jim grinned, nodded and relinquished Lady Eve to Blair's arms. Eve smiled brilliantly and flirted as he led Blair around for several turns, until the music changed.
He went from partner to partner, sometimes leading, sometimes being led, sometimes taking turns, losing himself in the music. He did one waltz with Melly, staring into his grief-filled eyes, and then the music became slow and easy, and he found himself swaying in Jim's arms.
After that, there was nothing to do but kiss Melly goodbye and hug Evie and get in the truck and drive home.
And when they got to bed, Blair made love to Jim with an urgency he hadn't felt in a long time. He had to show Jim what he felt, how much he needed him. He also needed to try to forget the pain and loneliness in Melly and Matt's eyes, and how they bore straight into his soul.
Instead, they filled his dreams that night as he slept holding Jim as tightly as he could.
For a wonder, the next day dawned bright and clear. It even felt almost like summer - not bad for August. Blair decided he could get by on one long sleeved shirt.
They drove up to the school at about a quarter to ten, and parked the car in the teacher's lot. As they got out, two more cars pulled in - a minivan and a Saturn.
"Hey, Jim, betcha..." Sure enough, Dave got out of the van while Matt maneuvered his long legs out of the Saturn.
Blair introduced Matt to the other two. He didn't miss either Jim's sharp glance at Matt or the way Matt stared at Dave, despite the dark glasses they were all wearing against the almost unnaturally bright sun.
Dave, oblivious to all by-play, shook Matt's hand in greeting. "I'm glad to meet you, Detective."
Matt bit his lip. "Good to meet you, sir." Was Matt blushing? Blair didn't have time to consider this when three young men, boys really, came sauntering up, halting at the entrance to the playground. A fourth stood behind them, on the sidewalk.
They were dressed in the latest gangwear - designer polo shirts and oversized jeans, glowing bright green and black.
"Yo, Mr. Michaelson! These the dudes you want us to meet?" The biggest one gestured to the others.
Go to Part 6.