Working Relationship

Debra Fran Baker

dfbaker@panix.com


He threaded his fingers through the long curls, reveling both in their softness and in his freedom to do so. The man in his arms shivered with pleasure and pressed himself closer.

"Happy to be here, Blair?"

"Oh, man. I can't believe how lucky I was to meet you, Timmy"

*****

Earlier that day.

"Excuse me?"

The rich, unfamiliar voice made Tim Bayliss look up from his book and right into a big pair of blue-green eyes. Those eyes were set like jewels in a purely masculine face that would have rivaled any angel's, and that face was framed by a fall of long, soft curls. Tim thought he could drown in those eyes. He was stuck dumb by this vision of male beauty.

"Excuse me? Are you Detective Bayliss?"

"Uh...uh, yeah. I'm Tim...Tim Bayliss."

Oh, God, that smile was blindingly lovely. The vision stuck out a hand. Tim took it. It was solid and real. "Hi. I'm Blair Sandburg. This is my partner, Detective Jim Ellison. We're from the Cascade PD. We called you...that bomber?"

Tim managed to look beyond Blair and focus on the man standing far too closely next to Blair - Ellison. He was a vision all his own...a human sculpture with piercing blue eyes who towered over his smaller partner.

*Oh, God, Timmy. You are seriously smitten but no way could you compete with this god.*

Both men were wearing jeans and brightly colored plaid shirts that not only brought out their eyes, but made them stand out even more among the dull suits in the squad room.

"You couldn't *pay* me to live in Cascade." Munch grinned sardonically from his desk. "I'm surprised you have any buildings standing in your city at all. What are you? Bomber central?"

Ellison turned to him. Tim could hear volumes of menace in his quiet voice. "Well, detective, it looks like at least one of our bombers has found a home right here."

"Detective Munch. And please, take him back."

Ellison looked at him again. "We will, Detective Munch. You can bet on it."

To Tim's surprise, Munch backed down.

Then he took a look at Ellison's eyes.

He'd have backed down, too.

"Detective Bayliss..."

"Tim."

Ellison nodded. "I'm Jim. Perhaps we should report to your shift commander? We need to explain some things to him."

"Uh...sure." Tim fumbled to his feet, dropping the folder he was studying on the floor. Blair immediately bent to help him. Their hands met, and there was that smile again. Maybe he *could* compete?

He led the pair (were they a pair? Ellison walked only inches away from Blair, but Blair...Blair was practically flirting with him. Oh, God, he was touching Tim's arm...) to Gee's office.

"Lieutenant Giardello, these are our colleagues from Cascade, Washington, Detectives Jim Ellison and Blair Sandburg." He was very proud of himself for keeping his voice steady.

Neither man blinked an eye when they saw that the Sicilian name came attached to someone the color of espresso. But they did seem nervous about something.

"Actually..." Both men spoke at the same time. Ellison looked at Blair and deferred to him with his own brilliant smile. If this was the type of man they grew in the Northwest, Tim wondered why Ballard ever left Seattle.

"Actually, lieutenant, I'm not a detective." He laughed nervously. "I'm not even a cop. I'm an anthropologist."

"Then why are you present in my office, Mister..."

"Sandburg. Blair Sandburg. Uh...that's not so easy to explain...It's sort of complicated."

"I'm all ears, Mr. Sandburg."

"Sir, if I may? He's my partner. We've been working together for three years now. We have the full knowledge and support of my captain. Sandburg's been with me on this case since the beginning."

"Lieutenant, I assure you...."

"What is your captain's phone number, Detective Ellison? Would I find him in his office at this hour?"

Ellison fished card out of his pocket. "Captain Banks is waiting for your call, sir." He and Blair shared another grin.

"Captain Banks? This is Lt. Giardello of Baltimore Homicide. Yes, they're right here, decorating my office. Tell me about this "anthropologist." All right...well...Yes, I understand, captain. Yes, very well. Thank you for your time, Captain. Yes, I'll keep you informed."

He looked at the pair. "Your captain informs me that while Mr. Sandburg is not a police officer, he is indeed Detective Ellison's partner. He also informs me that you are an effective team in the field, and that you, Mr. Sandburg, can handle yourself in a dangerous situation without either losing your head or getting in the way."

"Absolutely, Lieutenant. I am *not* hero material."

"That's not strictly true, but Blair doesn't look for trouble and he's good when it finds him. He's the best partner I've ever worked with."

"Mostly, I stay by the car and call for back up. I do *not* carry a weapon or a badge."

"That, too, your captain informed me of. I will accept this partnership, but you are to take all precautions and you will not forget you are not a police officer."

"I never do, Lieutenant."

"Very well. Normally, with a bomber like this, it would be what we call a redball, with the media clamoring and politicians making speeches, and everyone working on the one case, but this bomber seems to be different. He seems to like *little* booms. The buildings stay up, and so far, only one man had been killed - the security guard in the first building bombed in Baltimore. That's where my department comes in. We want to keep it out of the media as much as possible."

"I understand, sir." Jim nodded.

"Dismissed. And get that bomber out of my city."

"Okay, Tim, where do we begin?"

"Did you bring your files with you?" The three men left the office together.

They sat down at Tim's desk, who made damned sure that Blair was between them. They spread out their combined case files, Blair taking theirs from his backpack.

They worked together for several hours, picking apart leads and evidence and trying to figure why he might have moved to Baltimore and started bombing there. Tim was quite impressed with Blair's knowledge of explosives. Blair just grinned and called it an occupational hazard.

Partway through, someone else called out for lunch orders. To Tim's surprise and delight, his and Blair's were the only vegetarian orders.

"I'm not a vegetarian precisely, Tim, but I try to watch my diet. I'd eat less meat than I do, but caveman over there doesn't think it's a meal unless some animal died for it. Preferably one with fur or feather, not scales." He shot Jim a grin.

"You know I liked that lasagna you made when your mother was visiting, Chief."

Tim blinked. Were they living together? It sounded that way. Hell, it sounded like they were married. But if that was the case, why was Blair's foot pressing against his?

Experimentally, he moved his own foot. There it was again. More than just the foot. That was Blair's knee. This didn't make any sense. No one in their right mind would cheat on Ellison, and Blair was clearly sane.

Tim stole a look at him. Blair gave him a wink, and Ellison, who was poring over a photograph, seemed utterly oblivious.

Then Blair slipped on his glasses...which made him sexier, if anything, and leaned over Ellison's arm and began talking to him in this even, measured voice.

Tim checked...it was an aerial view of an unfamiliar city. Must have been Cascade. Pretty place.

"What are you guys doing?"

"Oh...Tim...we're retracing the course of the bombings in Cascade. See the pattern? This is the Richardson Building right here, then two blocks over and one down is the First Cascade Bank Building. Two more blocks over and one up is the Rainier Insurance Building - great bomb insurance, by the way - and all were bombed three days apart, starting with the Richardson Building.

"Then, four days later, he bombed this building...then four days later this one, four blocks away, until he made a square."

"Did he make any threats?"

"No. That's the surprising part. He asked for no money, made no threats at all. Most bombers, even those who enjoy it for its own sake, ask for money or leave notes or something. He just bombed." Ellison looked honestly confused.

"Okay. We have two bombings in Baltimore, and it's the same signature. They were five days apart, and tomorrow is the fifth day. Where is he likely to strike next?"

"Do you have an aerial view or a building map of the city available?"

"I can buy one."

"I'll go with you, Tim." Blair smiled at him.

"Good idea, Sandburg. I need some coffee, anyway. Bring me back a cup?"

"Sure thing, Jim."

Tim and Blair stood up and Tim stretched. Blair looked up at him, the afternoon light glistening off his soft curls. Tim became grateful for loose suit pants.

*Timmy, Timmy, you could be taking your life in your hands. If these two aren't a couple, something doesn't make sense.*

But the man was so beautiful and he obviously didn't care what Ellison thought. Tim walked very close to Blair as they descended the stairs to the street.

"There's a bookstore that sells decent maps not too far from here. Why don't we walk?"

"Sounds good to me, man. I could use some exercise."

Tim was amazed at how easy it was to walk next to him, even though he was decidedly short for a man. And, as they began to chat, how easy it was to talk to him.

Blair did not make fun of his Zen beliefs. In fact, he was both supportive and knowledgeable. Tim watched his expressive face as he talked about his experiences all over the world, his hands dancing in the sunlight.

And when those hands weren't dancing, they were touching him...his arm, his shoulder, his back, his waist. And his eyes glowed and his smile outshone the sun.

Tim had never seen a man like him before, and while he was now comfortable in his sexuality, he'd never felt quite so much...simple lust as well as so much...liking. He wasn't going to call it love, not yet. But he definitely felt desire.

They found the bookstore and a map with buildings, and managed not to get lost in the Eastern religions section.

Then they stopped at the Waterfront for Jim's coffee.

"You own this place, Tim?"

"Yep. Well, me, Munch, Meldrick Lewis and the bank."

"That is *so* cool. No cop in Cascade owns a bar."

"We have a great kitchen, too."

"Maybe Jim and I should try it while we're here."

"Absolutely. First meal is on the house. Unless..."

Tim took a deep breath and looked around.

"Yes, Tim?"

"Maybe...maybe...would you join me for dinner tonight? Just you, not Jim?"

"Yes! It's a date...right?" He smiled even brighter then.

"It's a date, if that Neanderthal you're with let's you go."

"Jim has no say in my social life." Blair grinned at him. "I know what we look like, but we are *not* together. I have my own room. Man will not get a clue."

"Okay. Okay. Okay...seven o'clock?"

"Sure. Pick me up at my hotel."

They walked back across the street, determinedly *not* holding hands. Tim wasn't exactly in the closet, but there was no need to advertise it.

When they got back to the squadroom, there was Jim, looking perfectly happy. Someone had already found him an aerial map of the city and he was ready to start tracing patterns.

They spent the afternoon tracing polygons on the photographs and the buildings map, and comparing them with the shapes on the Cascade photograph. Tim was amazed at how sharp Jim's vision was. He didn't even need a magnifying glass to see tiny details.

They finally got the distances and angles and types of buildings satisfactorily defined so that they could figure out where it was most probable he'd strike next. The bombs were tiny, so it was likely he'd just carry it in.

"Or she, Tim."

"What?"

Blair grinned. "We've had female bombers. In fact, our first case was a female bomber. Remember the Switchman, Jim?"

Jim smiled. "I'll never forget her, Chief." He turned to Tim. "I think we got a lot done, Bayliss. Maybe we should go talk to your lieutenant?"

"That's probably a good idea." Tim looked around. The night shift was filtering in and the day shift was clearing things away.

Giardello was also pleased at their progress, and promised them as much back up as they required the next day.

"Excellent work, gentlemen. I must thank your captain. However...there is one matter. I'm sure it hasn't escaped your notice that Homicide has a dress code?"

Jim and Blair looked at each other. Tim had to turn away to hide his laughter.

"No, sir."

"No, it hasn't, or no, it has?"

Ellison shrugged. "I noticed most of the men were wearing suits, but I thought it was an East Coast custom."

"I cannot ask you to fully comply, since I'm aware you are living out of suitcases. However, if you have any pants other than jeans available to you, I would be most...gratified if you wore them. I would be still more gratified if you wore ties, but I know that might not be possible."

Ellison and Blair nodded. "No problem, sir. We understand."

"Then depart, my guests and my true soldier. Tomorrow, we shall catch a bomber."

Tim led a bemused pair out of the office, and walked them to their rental car. He winked at Blair before he drove off.

*****

Jim stared at Bayliss as his car disappeared. He didn't understand his reaction to him at all. He was a nice enough guy, if somewhat intense, and clearly a good cop. Yet, there was something about him Jim just didn't like. He couldn't place. Hell, Sandburg seemed to like him just fine.

"Jim, we should get to the hotel room."

He nodded, and gestured to the rental. "We should be there in a few minutes."

As soon as they got to the room, Sandburg jumped out of his clothes and into the shower. He came out freshly shaved, dried his hair so it curled and put on a pure blue silk shirt over Dockers.

"What's going on here, Chief? We're just going to order room service, right?"

"Uh, maybe you are, Jim, but I have a date for dinner."

"Fast work, Casanova. Should I wait up for you?"

Blair thought for a moment. "I don't know. I'll call if I won't be back."

Jim controlled the wave of jealousy that crashed over him. Another evening where Blair would be spending his time with someone else, another night when his Chief might be holding someone else in his arms.

Jim damned himself for a coward once again.

*Jimmy, you idiot. You could have said something in the hospital, or when we came back from Sierra Verde, but no, and he's found some woman again.*

"When's your date?"

"I'm being picked up at seven. Oh, my God, it's seven now. How do I look?"

*Perfect. Beautiful. Too good for her.* "You look just fine, Chief. I'll walk you down."

Blair stood still a moment. Then, "Sure. I think that's a great idea."

"Who is your date? We spent the entire day with that Bayliss..." Blair bit his lip.

"Well, uh, Jim..."

"You're dating *Bayliss*? You're dating a *man*? Since when do you date men?"

Blair looked at him in confusion.

"Since *always*, man. I thought you knew I was bi. I mean, that remark about the table leg sort of implied it. Granted, I mostly date women, but there's been a couple of guys since we met."

Jim just stood.

"Jim, I gotta go. We'll talk later, okay? I'll go down by myself."

Blair grabbed his room key and his wallet and left the room.

*Okay, big guy. Now what are you going to do? You've completely run out of excuses, and he's off with another man. Your Chief, your Blair, is out with a guy and you're stuck with room service.* No wonder he didn't like Bayliss.

Jim sat down on one of the beds and played with the remote, trying to find a sporting event of some kind, but not really seeing the screen.

**********

Blair looked absolutely incredible. His hair was clean and shining, and his blue shirt brought out his eyes. If only he were smiling.

"Blair? What's wrong?"

"Nothing, Timmy. Jim figured out I was going out with you. He's sort of in shock."

"He doesn't know you're gay?"

"Bi, actually. I thought he did." Blair got into Tim's car, and leaned over to nuzzle at his neck.

"So, Timmy, where are we going?" ********** Jim watched the door close behind his partner and listened first for the elevator and then for the sound of car doors. Sandburg was gone on his date. His date with a *man*.

How did he miss that? He certainly knew the difference between men and women's scents. He thought about it.

After Lash, Blair almost never brought a date home. If it didn't work out or something, he'd go home early and there'd be nothing to smell except for maybe cigarette smoke or perfume. If it did, he might well not see Blair until the next day, by which time all scent would be gone. If he'd ever cared to notice, which he'd never did.

And now he was out with that local cop.

*You are such a fool, Jimmy.*

*********


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