Chapter Four

Jim carried the radio to the interrogation room. He could hear Blair grumbling behind him, muttering about above and beyond the call of duty and his meager salary. Jim, knowing Blair couldn't see him, just grinned.

"And I know you're smiling, James. Just remember who you're going home with."

"Yes, dear." He exchanged the radio for the bag of food so that he could set things out properly while Blair found an outlet for the box and tuned it to the AM talk station.

They sat through a couple of commercials and the top of the hour news and weather report while eating the sandwiches.

"Arrgh!" Blair dabbed at some fallen homous with a napkin. "How do you manage it?"

Jim licked his fingers neatly. "Do what?"

"Eat falafels with french fries and extra homous in head to toe silk and not spill a drop?"

"Talent, darling. Talent."

"Riiight." Jim watched him finish his pita, licking away sauce from the corners of his mouth. Jim loved Blair's mouth. It was so talented in so many areas....

"Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. This is Adam Hunter on Hunter's Arrow, shooting straight to the truth." Blair's lips narrowed to a hard, angry line.

"Calm down, Chief." Jim took Blair's hand. "It's only words."

"Yeah, right. Words." His nails dug into Jim's palm. Jim just smiled at him. "And since I worship the first amendment, I can't even ask to get his...words...off the air."

"...more violence in our schools. When will it end, do you ask? When will our precious children be safe in their classrooms or on the streets? When will this country realize how bad things have become? When we *all* stand together and protest the media and the violence it shows to our children. We owe it to them to make our airways pure..."

"Looks like he doesn't share your religion, sweetcheeks." Jim took a sip of his coffee.

"Damn right he doesn't." Blair tore his hand free and began pacing the room, occasionally making remarks about the various people who called in to pay homage to the great Dr. Hunter. Jim stayed seated, and tried to listen to Hunter's words, but found them hard to absorb.

After an hour, he was ready to give up. Hunter had said nothing useful, and it didn't look like he was. "Blair, maybe..."

"Jim...listen."

He concentrated. "...professor. This young man had been given many gifts - health, good looks, a brilliant, incisive mind, a promising career. Yet, when we spoke, the only thing in his heart was anger. His heart was hard and it was closed to anything I could say. He could have and should have what he, what all of us deserve...peace and joy and love, but he rejected all of it in favor of his anger..."

"How *dare* he!" Jim jumped up from his seat. "How can that...that *man* say those hateful, *horrid* things about *you*? I...I...I want to scratch his *eyes* out....I want to...Simon has to hear who we're..."

Blair stood against the wall, his eyes wide open. "Jim...Jim...James! Calm down! Now!"

"How can you be so calm? He's *lying* about you! He met you for *five* minutes and he's *lying* about you!"

"...owe it to our sons and our daughters to show them that anger is not the way, to make the most of the gifts God has given them, to keep their hearts open and loving..."

Jim found himself enfolded in Blair's arms. "It's okay, James. I'm not insulted. Calm down."

"I'm sorry, Chief. I *know* what sort of a heart you have. I know it's kind and loving and...that horrid man!"

"....Hunter, I pray you can reach that poor boy. Under your guidance, he could..."

"You're the only one who counts. He's nothing at all."

"...I can do for him until he opens his own heart, dear lady..."

Jim nodded, but he was still angry. How dare the man do this? Hold up *his* Blair as an example of...of...what *was* the man thinking?

"You okay?" Blair stood back and looked at him.

"Oh, yes." He let go of Blair and sat down. "My *mind* is in a whirl, though. You never met him before, have you, darling?"

"Believe me. If I did, you would have known." Blair grinned. "You would have heard about it all night."

"He's only met you for five minutes, then. And, darling, while *I* find you endlessly fascinating...ow!"

"Like that hurt." Blair grinned and kissed the place on Jim's shoulder he'd just tapped.

"Anyway, as I was saying before you became *violent*, why is *Hunter* so taken with you?"

"He wants to make a convert?"

"I don't *think* so. His *callers* are bringing in religion. *He* didn't. And, *anyway*, he'd do it in private, not confront you in public like this. He has to know you'd be listening. It doesn't make *sense*. Something is just *off* here."

Blair shrugged. "Who knows how men like that think? He saw a couple of guys he thought were gay, and he can't pick on you because you're helping him."

"So are *you*."

Jim's mind refused to think about the phrase "he thought were gay".

"You're the cop, man. And that's the other thing. How could he talk about you without mentioning that you're a cop? And that would queer everything with the blackmailers."

"So why talk about either of us? It doesn't make a *bit* of sense. Listen to them now."

"....to change his ways. Nothing he decides now needs to be permanent..."

Blair frowned. "What the hell is he talking about?"

"See what I mean? He's talking about you but he has no reason to do it. And I do *not* like it. It's as if he's *trying* to make you angry."

"Too late for that, man. He made me angry *years* ago. This isn't going to do it. But it's working for *you*."

"He's trying to *hurt* you. Of course I'm upset. Oh, God. He's *praying* for you." Jim saw red.

"Oh, God. He is. He actually *is*. I'm being *prayed* for on national radio. I gotta tell my mom."

Jim could only stare at his partner in amazement. "You are insane. You are being *insulted* on the air, and you want to tell your mother?"

"I'm not being insulted. It's a compliment. I got under that guy's skin. Cool! And, I know I can't. It'll blow the case. But when it's over..." Blair grinned.

Jim shook his head. "You *are* insane."

"That's why you love me." Blair's smile just set his heart racing. "He's signing off now."

"And this has been the Hunter's Arrow, straight to the truth. I wish you all God's blessing this day, and until next time. Good-bye."

"That torture's over." Jim stood and stretched. "Did you ever find anything about that organization before?"

"Not a thing. I'd better get back to it before we lose the rest of the day."

"Oh, yes."

"Maybe I'll put in some overtime or something."

"Not a bad idea, darl...you *can't*."

Blair stared at him. "No?"

"We almost *forgot*. Dinner with the girls tonight." And they were supposed to bring the dessert. Jim just knew he wouldn't have time to bake.

"Oh, my God. Marble cake, right? Wanna pick up a mix?"

"We'll get something from Collette's. Besides, it doesn't take that much longer to make from scratch. As you would know if you *ever* baked." He grinned. Blair hated to measure *anything*.

Blair grinned at him and began to expand on the pleasures of cooking by feel all the way to the bullpen. Jim made a perfunctory comment or two, but Blair was so adorable when he chattered on that mostly he watched and listened. Blair created entire menus from clear air as he called up search engine after search engine, looking for the initials.

Two hours later, they were standing in Simon's office. "We've had no luck at all, Captain."

"Search was fruitless...oh. Sorry."

"You are not sorry in the *least*, my dear." Indeed, Simon was doing his best not to grin.

"He's been waiting all day to say that." Blair glared at him, not quite hiding his own smile.

"I plead the fifth." Simon mock-growled. He took what information they had and sent them home early, which was exactly what Jim was hoping would happen.

He mixed up a cake while Blair showered and shaved and then told him to listen for the timer while he got himself ready for a night with the girls. Tonight, he'd be *himself*. Ah. The khakis were pressed. He'd wear them with the new white t-shirt and the blue striped vest. He carefully added eyeliner and decided his current earring matched well-enough. Fabulous. He blew a kiss to his reflection in the three-way mirror.

Blair was just putting the layers of cake on the cooling racks. Jim stopped to admire the view. Blair was wearing a darker pair of khakis, wrinkled but clean, and a red plaid shirt tucked in - also unpressed.

"I am going to *have* to teach you to use an iron, sweetcheeks."

He turned and smiled. "No way, man." Jim watched his eyes sweep up and down.

He pirouetted. "Like what you see, lover?"

Blair said nothing. Instead, he began pulling cocoa and confectioner's sugar from the cabinet. "Why don't I make the frosting?"

"Darling?"

"You look wonderful, James. As ever. But we need to get this done - the guys are expecting us in an hour, and it'll take forty-five minutes just to get there."

Jim blinked in confusion. Last night, Blair was all over him. Tonight, he was getting out butter and the handmixer. "Darling?"

"Yes, James?" He began measuring - measuring! - the ingredients for chocolate frosting.

"You all right? I mean, if you're tired or something, I can call Melly and cancel. She'll be disappointed, but she knows how hard you work..."

"I'm fine. Besides, it's his birthday. I couldn't hurt his feelings like that." He turned on the handmixer.

By some miracle, he didn't get any powdered sugar or cocoa on his clothes. Even so, Jim insisted on taking over the frosting detail while Blair hunted out the cake carrier. Their hands touched when Blair handed the carrier to him, and for a minute, there was that smile, and Blair kissed him on the cheek.

Jim locked the cake securely in the carrier. Blair was just tired.

When this was over, they'd go on a vacation someplace.

Just the two of them.

**********************

"Jimmy, darling! You look fabulous in that vest!" Melly greeted them at the door with open arms. She was wearing a gold brocade smoking jacket and dark wool pants. "Just let me take that piece of temptation from you, child. Oh, you look just as delicious. Doesn't he, Evie?"

Evie, behind him, intercepted the cake carrier before Melly could take it from Blair. She looked lovely and casual in a sweater and denim skirt. The drag queen had practically moved in after Melly's long term lover had been murdered. "He does, Miss Melly. He does. You are such a selfish girl, Jimmy, keeping this scrumptious boy from the rest of us."

Jim grinned and hugged both of them. "Would you?"

Blair rolled his eyes at all of them as he embraced his hostesses and let himself be kissed. "You guys are just too much. Can I help with anything?"

"Oh, no, darling boy. I have it all under control. You and Miss Jimmy here keep Melly company while I get dinner."

"You sure? I make a mean salad dressing."

"Jimmy love, you trust me alone with him?"

"No. But I trust Blair. And I trust that *you* remember I'm armed." Jim smiled. "Melly and I will just have a bit of girl talk in the living room." He took Melly's hand and escorted her in.

"Where's my kitty cat, darling?"

"Buster is in my bedroom, along with his litter box. Now, don't pout, dear. You know what happens around him." Jim nodded as he took his own seat. "And I *hate* it when you wheeze. It's frightening, and poor Blair just gets beside himself."

"I just wish..." He shook his head. Melly was right. "So...I've been out of touch. Again. *Dish.* "

"Oh, I have the *best* gossip. For one thing, *Rich* is seeing someone *so* closeted *I* was surprised, and you *know* how good *my* gaydar is..." Jim only half listened to her. He kept some of his attention focused on the kitchen, where Blair was chatting about Melly and local politics with Evie as they got dinner together.

Evie stuck her tongue out at Melly, before taking Jim and all salad dishes into the kitchen.

She began dishing food into serving bowls. Jim took a spoon and a platter and did the same. He took stock of the offerings. "Chicken. Vegetables. No potatoes. Nothing fried."

"We're going easy on the fat and carbohydrates. That's what her doctor said."

"Her numbers really are that bad?"

Evie, not looking at Jim, nodded. "Worse, actually. I've been *trying*, Jimmy. I really have. And that cat has been a help, for when I *can't* be here. But...she and Freddy...they'd been together for thirty years. You know? I mean, that was longer than my...my real parents."

Jim nodded. "Mine didn't last half that long. They were divorced before I was ten."

"You know, I always thought they'd outlive all of us. I certainly thought they'd outlive *me*." Evie put a bunch of parsley on the dish of steamed carrots.

"How are you? How are *your* numbers?"

Finally, she turned to look at him. Her makeup was streaked with tears. "I'm good. My T-cell count is high. Not a symptom at all. I'm practically rattling with all those pills, but I'm good."

Jim bit his lip and wrapped his arms around her. "Just keep rattling, girl."

"Hey! Some of us are hungry out here!"

They broke apart, laughing. "Thanks, Jimmy. I needed that." They each picked a couple of serving dishes and went back out into the dining room.

On to Chapter Five.