"So," Simon Banks said, "we need someone who knows enough about running numbers to sound like they know what they're talking about. Someone young, but with some street smarts." He stared pointedly at Blair.
"I could do it," Blair said. "I mean, I helped out with the Jags scam, right?"
"No." Jim shook his head, his jaw squaring tensely.
"Why not?" Blair asked, swiveling his chair to look at Jim in surprise. "I've gone undercover before, and I do know the drill."
"Too dangerous," Jim replied. He crossed his arms over his chest and sat back as though the decision was made.
"Well, it's police work," Blair rebutted. "It's always dangerous."
"Look, sir," Jim leaned forward, resting his hands on the table, and looked at Simon, "I know Gabretti. If Sandburg's cover is blown, he's a dead man." He shook his head again. "Not this time. We can find someone else."
"Just about everyone else at the PD is known to Gabretti," Simon said morosely. "The guy's got so much happening - gambling, prostitution, drugs, protection - pretty much every department's had dealings with him."
"So we bring in someone from outside Cascade, or, as much as I hate to say it, the Feds," Jim suggested.
"No time," Simon replied. "Jim, the kid handled himself pretty well with Glimmerman, and like he said, it's not the first time he's gone undercover for us. Besides, you'll be on the outside, listening in. As soon as Sandburg gives the word, you take Gabretti out."
"I don't like it," Jim said, shaking his head.
Blair reached out and touched Jim's forearm. "You want to tell me what this is about? I mean, I've been working with the PD for two years now. You've never had any problem before asking me to go undercover for you."
Jim glanced at him for the briefest moment then looked away. "You're not a cop, Sandburg. Simon's said it often enough. This one's too dangerous." He pushed back his chair and stood. "Sorry, sir. Find someone else." He turned and left the room, leaving Blair staring after him in open-mouthed astonishment.
Simon sighed and picked up his cigar. "Sorry, Sandburg, I'll check with Seattle, see who they've got."
Simon raised an eyebrow. "No?"
Blair held up a hand. "Just let me go talk to Jim. Give me ten minutes."
"If you can't change his mind, I'm phoning Seattle PD," Simon said decisively.
"What? Now Jim's my mother? I thought you made these decisions, Simon -"
"I do!" Simon boomed. "That's why it says 'Captain' on my door." He threw his cigar into the ashtray. "But if Jim doesn't want you doing this, I trust his judgment, and I won't go against it where you're concerned. And that's 'sir' when we're in my office, Sandburg."
"Sorry. sir." Blair felt duly chastised. "I just want to know why he's so against this. With Maya, he practically begged me to go undercover."
"I'm sure he has his reasons."
"Yeah, well, he can at least tell me what they are before making my decisions for me." Blair stood and left the room, going in search of his partner.
He found Jim in the break room, snagging a candy bar from the machine. He closed the door and leaned against it, crossing his arms over his chest. "You want to tell me what that was about?"
Jim looked at the candy bar then sighed and tossed it onto the table. "You want some coffee?"
"I want you to talk to me." Blair stepped forward and grabbed Jim's arm, pulling him around to face him. "What's up?"
"Like I said, I know Gabretti, Chief. You're lucky you didn't get to see the number he did on the last guy who double-crossed him. It's just too dangerous and I'm sick of Simon using you as a convenience whenever something like this comes up. He's the first one to remind you you're not a cop -"
"He's not the only one," Blair said, "but as I recall, you didn't have a problem with Maya -"
"That was different!" Jim pulled his arm from Blair's grip. "As soon as I realized how dangerous it was getting, I told you to get out."
"And I chose to stay. Don't remind me, Jim. It wasn't exactly my most shining moment. But that doesn't explain why you're so determined about this. You saved my ass that time, and if anything happens - not that it will, if I have anything to do with it - you'll save it again." Blair reached out and picked up the candy bar, handing it to Jim. "So, now tell me the real reason."
Jim stared at him for a moment then sighed. "I just have a feeling that something's going to go wrong."
"That's it? A gut instinct or." Blair trailed off. As was always the case when it came to getting Jim to talk about his feelings, it was like pulling teeth.
"You can call it instinct if you want. It's." Jim threw his hands up in the air. "I can't describe it. I just know."
"Jim, I trust you to keep me safe," Blair said. "The last thing I want is to end up as one of Gabretti's trophies, but if I don't do this and Gabretti gets away -"
"I know." Jim closed his eyes for a moment then opened them and stared at Blair. "Okay, but we do it my way, by the letter or I pull the plug on it now, and let Seattle or the Feds handle Gabretti."
"Since when have we ever done it any way but your way?" Blair griped, but he held up his hands in surrender. "You got it. Your rules."
At least I'm walking out of this alive. Blair glanced over at Jim and tried to surreptitiously shift in his seat to alleviate the pain in his arm. If Jim noticed the movement, he didn't say anything, just kept his steely glare on the road.
Finally, Blair couldn't take the silence any longer. "At least we got Gabretti, right? Bastard's gonna go away for a long time." Jim's jaw just clenched even tighter and Blair swore he was going to break a tooth. "Jim? Come on, it all worked out. I was able to raise the alarm in plenty of time and you caught the sorry son of a bitch red-handed."
Jim turned to look at Blair, or rather, glared. "Not before you almost got your throat cut," he said tightly.
Blair shrugged one shoulder. "Just a flesh wound. You heard the doctor."
"It could have been your throat. That's what Gabretti was aiming for when I came in."
Blair gave Jim a wan smile. "Great timing, man. And that shot was perfect."
Jim's gaze was fixed back on the road. "It's not funny, Sandburg. I warned you Gabretti was an evil bastard."
Blair deflated at his words. "Yeah, I know. And it was closer than I ever want it to be again." He reached out and rested his hand over Jim's on the steering wheel. "Pull over."
Jim looked at Blair, his brow furrowed with what Blair hoped was concern, and he knew Jim was checking him out. "You gonna be sick?" Jim asked.
"No, at least, not yet." He had to admit that his arm was throbbing like a mother, and just the thought of what Gabretti was going to do seconds before Jim came bursting through the warehouse door was enough to have his stomach doing a slow roll. "Just stop, for a minute."
Jim sighed, but did as Blair asked, pulling into a parking space in front of a small grocery store. He turned off the engine and sat ramrod straight, his eyes still staring out the windscreen, his face looking as though it was carved from stone.
"I'm sorry," Blair said. "You were right. This case was way too big for someone as inexperienced as me. Simon and I should have listened to you. I should have told Simon I couldn't do it. Instead, my ego took over, because this was one time Simon actually wanted me to act like a cop. And honestly? I really thought I could handle it." He rubbed at his forehead. There was a big lump over his left eye and he just knew he was going to have the mother of all black eyes in the morning. "Lucky for me, you didn't have the same confidence in my abilities, huh? Else I'd be sporting concrete sneakers by now."
Jim's shoulders slumped a little and then he reached out and ghosted a finger over the bandage wrapped around Blair's upper arm. "I'm sorry too," he said.
"Because if I didn't give you so many opportunities to doubt yourself, you probably wouldn't jump feet-first into every assignment that comes up." Jim reached out and cupped Blair's chin, tilting his head up. He stroked a thumb gently over the lump on Blair's forehead. Leaning forward, he pressed his lips against Blair's, and Blair went with it, wrapping his arms around Jim, taking the comfort and apology offered and returning it.
He pulled back and cupped Jim's face in his hands, pressing a gentle kiss to Jim's mouth. "Do you trust me?" Jim nodded and Blair smiled. "Okay. That's all I need to know. In future, if you say no, I won't argue. Good enough?"
Jim frowned. "Normally, yes, but I know you, Sandburg. Next time something like this comes up, we'll go through the same routine."
Blair shook his head then leaned over and wrapped his arms around his lover's waist, squeezing tightly. "No, we won't," he whispered, his throat tight, remembering the feel of cold steel against his neck. "I saw the intent in Gabretti's eyes tonight. He would have killed me without blinking if you hadn't arrived when you did." He shivered. "Reminded me of Lash."
Jim wrapped an arm about his shoulders and hugged him gently. "Lash is dead, Gabretti's going to be in prison for the rest of his life, Chief. You're here, I'm here. That's about as good as life gets."