When Pigs Fly
Climbing up out of the first crystal clear day the city had seen
in weeks, the plane banked sharply, dipping its left wing as it curved gracefully back
from over the ocean toward the city. The young man in seat 3A stared out the window,
blindly watching the water of the bay give way first to residential neighborhoods with
gray and black roofed houses nestled among the rich deep green of the evergreens then that
view was replaced by the stark lines of the business district with its combination of old
and new buildings straining upward as if there was some wild desire in their concrete
hearts to be with the plane flying free in the heavens.
His mind half numb, the dull blue eyes idly identified the landmarks as the plane passed over them. The new Green Street Bridge that had replaced the one damaged in that very first case. God, it seemed like a lifetime ago. There was the Wilkenson Building where his fear of heights had really suffered a little by being dropped five floors at a time in an elevator controlled by a madman. It had taken him awhile before small-enclosed spaces had felt comfortable again. He hadn't told anyone that, but he knew his roommate had figured it out from the small looks of concern and the gentle touches at the small of his back that were more frequent for a while after that day.
He found his eyes searching for the building he knew better than he knew any of the buildings on his campus, the Cascade Police Department with the large circle on the roof that outlined the helicopter landing pad. There was a helicopter sitting in the middle of the cross-hairs now but it was the silver and blue of the police department not the yellow one he'd been in when he'd threatened to shoot its pilot with a flare gun.
He'd had to do something, with his partner handcuffed to the skid and the pilot doing everything he could to throw him free. At the end of the long day, he'd taken his friend back to the loft and bandaged his wrist where the cuffs had actually cut into the delicate skin on the inside of his wrist; the weight of his body and then that of Kincaid had strained the muscles more than he'd let anyone know on the roof after it was over. Occasional nightmares still plagued him about that. Secret visions of his friend tumbling silently thousands of feet to the death waiting in the icy cold water of the harbor.
A small smile of remembered joy pulled at one side of his mouth. That was the first time he remembered trying to control his breathing around the Sentinel. The man had sat so quietly as he applied the salve and gauze to the cuts and scrapes then wrapped it all with an ace bandage. He'd been so aware of the intense gaze that never left his face the whole time he worked. His heartbeat had thudded along at near double its normal rate but he'd tried to cover it by talking non-stop about events of the day. He hadn't let himself think about anything else until he'd gotten back to the warehouse he called home then he'd closed the door, leaned his back against the cold steel and slid slowly to the floor where he'd sat with his face burning and his hands trembling. Not because of Kincaid and his little party but because he couldn't close his eyes without seeing the intensity of Jim Ellison's eyes on him.
The plane banked a little more and the hallowed halls of Rainier University came into sight and in spite of spending more years there than any other place in his life, he found himself leaning forward, his eyes hurriedly - almost frantically - searching out the route that led to the only place he'd ever really called home.
There was the TV station with all the satellite dishes on the roof and the bakery with its yellow delivery trucks and the gigantic loaf of bread on the automated billboard, a relic of the 50's, that showed huge slices of bread falling out of the open end of the bread bag. When the wind was just right, in the early morning hours, the smell of freshly baked bread reached all the way to the loft.
And there was the park next to the harbor. Almost there.
He sat up, pressing against the window for one last look And almost cried out in frustration as the plane righted itself then swung the other direction stealing his view of the city and replacing it with a blindingly blue sky.
He dropped back in his seat pressing his head back tight against the headrest. "Goodbye, Jim," he whispered around the lump in his throat as he fought the burn behind closed eyelids and the trembling that tightened his mouth.
The voice was just a little too loud as it reached him over the back of his seat and he stiffened, his hands gripping the edge of the cloth-covered seat. He didn't hear the response but evidently the speaker did because he continued speaking.
"No. You're right," the man said in a conversational tone. "You'd never guess it by looking, would you? But can you really tell something like that just by looking? Yeah, I used to think so too but I guess that just shows you how wrong you can be, doesn't it?"
He pressed further back into this seat for a different reason now, straining to hear the conversation. He couldn't hear the second voice at all but he didn't care about that one anyway.
"That's the first time I've actually said it." There was surprise and a little amusement in the rich tones. "I'm gay," the voice repeated easily as if trying it out. "I wasn't sure I could say it out loud. Until recently I wouldn't even allow myself to think it." There was a moment of silence. "What made me change my mind?" There was a heavy sigh. "You'd be surprised how easy it was when I realized I was losing the best thing that ever happened to me.
"What was it?" the voice asked as if repeating the question. The tone grew quietly intense, "It wasn't a what, it was a who. I fell in love. It took me a hell of a long time to realize that was what it was because the person I fell in love with was a man." A tenderness entered the voice. "A young man with long, brown hair that catches the light and turns into a thousand shades of red and gold and brown, that bounces when he moves." A small chuckle was heard. "And he's always moving. And he has the most astonishingly brilliant mind and can drag out facts and theories to fit any situation faster than a computer. And the amazing thing is, he's almost always right. And I never told him that." The voice dropped a little in regret. "I never told him how much I admire him and I never told him that I love him. And then he was leaving." Soul-wrenching sadness shook the strong voice. "He was leaving because there's only so long that even a strong heart like his can take loving, without being loved in return, before it shatters."
Pressed hard against the seat with his ear against the crack beside him, the young man had no trouble hearing the sudden intake of breath and he felt his heart rate speed up when he heard the unexpected lightness enter the voice behind him.
"So what changed it all? I'm glad you asked that. I discovered how really easy it was. All I had to do was admit the love. And when it finally soaked in that I was losing him, I found it was the easiest thing I'd ever done. I love Blair Sandburg."
In some totally unnecessary part of his mind, the young man felt the fabric tear where his fingernails were eating into the cushion and he realized he was holding his breath. And it didn't matter. Because the only thing that mattered was the voice behind him and what it was saying.
"And I hope he takes pity on a middle-aged, anal-retentive cop who was mistakenly trying to repress the one thing in his life that should be shouted from the roof of City Hall.
"Let me give you a little advice, my friend. If you're lucky, I mean really, really lucky, you may get one shot in your entire life at true love. It's that rare. More rare and more precious than anything else in the world. And you've probably got a better chance of seeing a pig fly then finding it. But if it comes your way, grab it. Grab it with both hands and hold on with everything you've got." The voice shook with the emotion behind the words. "It'll take you on the wildest, most gut-wrenching, soul-satisfying ride of your life. And you know what? The most important lesson I've learned is that it doesn't matter what kind of package it comes wrapped in. Whether it's six foot tall with creamy, white skin and a body to make Miss America envious or if it's five foot seven with the most incredible blue eyes and a mouth that was made for kissing. Even if he does snore."
A little choked snort was surprised from the man listening.
"I can't live without him in my life and to be perfectly honest, I don't want to try. I just hope I haven't waited too long to tell him he's my one true love."
The young man's right hand flew up to press against his chest where his heart was doing its best to pound its way right through his chest.
"Breathe, Chief," the voice instructed gently.
Scribbling frantically at the seatbelt that held him down, Sandburg's fingers finally popped the buckle and he spun around in his seat. Planting both knees in the floatable cushion, he raised up, his head slamming into the overhead compartment, hitting the orange flight attendant call button. He didn't hear the chime as he stared over the back of his seat into the very apprehensive blue eyes of the occupant of the aisle seat.
"Hello, Blair," Jim Ellison said softly. He shifted slightly in his seat when the younger man just stared without responding. "I, ahhh, I was just out at the airport and thought I'd head down to San Francisco. Maybe check out the wharf or something." His voice trailed off uncertainly as he stared into a pair of blue eyes filled with their own kind of apprehension and disbelief.
Blair Sandburg's eyes closed and a shiver shook through what had to be his soul because it felt that deep. Opening his eyes, he looked at the man in the window seat directly behind his.
"That's Mr. Jingleheimer-Schmidt," Ellison explained a little too quickly. "I was telling him about you." He swallowed. "About us," he added softly.
Sandburg's mouth quirked at the name and his eyes flicked momentarily toward his partner before turning back to the figure occupying the window seat. Easily eighty years old, of oriental ancestry, the man looked like a little prune. He sat with his head leaned against the window in what had to be an incredibly uncomfortable position, his mouth open slightly and his soft snoring competing with the tinny country and western voice that could be plainly heard emitting from the headset covering his ears. Obviously he hadn't heard anything Ellison had said.
"Does Simon know where you are, Jim?"
The cop blinked in surprise. "Simon?" he repeated as if he'd never heard the name.
"Simon Banks. Head of Major Crimes. Your boss."
"Ahhh, no. I, ahh, I guess I thought I'd probably call him from San Francisco," he explained lamely. "After we landed."
Sandburg continued to watch the sleeping man in 4A but his features lifted slightly and his eyes twinkled a little as he stared.
"Could I help you, sir?"
The soft voice caught both men by surprise and they turned in unison to stare blankly at the flight attendant standing in the aisle beside them. "You have your call button turned on," she explained, reaching to turn it off.
Sandburg ducked his head out of her way as he answered. "Sorry, I must have hit it accidentally. I, uh, I think we have everything under control." He watched as she headed back up the aisle.
"Have I waited too long, Blair?" Jim Ellison whispered, for the first time his voice showing his uncertainty.
Sandburg turned back to stare at the man who was his partner. After a moment, he dipped his head back at the wizened little old man in 4A. "John Jacob a good friend of yours, is he, Jim?" he asked with a grin.
Detective Jim Ellison stood at a pay phone on the domestic
concourse in San Francisco International Airport waiting for his call to go through. Had
any of the people rushing down the concourse cared to stop and take a closer look they
might have questioned the smile that split his handsome face. A smile of such magnitude
that they might have thought he'd just won the lottery. But he hadn't. If anyone had asked
him, he'd have said it wasn't anything so paltry. He'd won something much greater.
Standing beside him, bouncing lightly on his toes, with both hands shoved in the pockets
of his old brown coat, was that prize.
Ellison slid his hand under his partner's long dark curls, brushing the warm skin and was thrilled to feel the little goose bumps his touch ignited. He trailed his fingers across his partner's shoulder then on down the canvas sleeve of the coat, all the way to the coat pocket where he slipped his hand into the one nestled in the warm, dark space. Sandburg's fingers closed over his and squeezed and, if possible, the smile on Ellison's face widened even further.
"What?" he asked into the phone receiver. He leaned down into the grinning face of the man beside him, inhaling the scent he loved better than any other in the world. "Oh, hi, Simon. What can I do for you?"
In Cascade, Washington, Simon Banks pulled the telephone away from his ear and stared at it in astonishment. He'd been worried when word had gotten around that Blair Sandburg was leaving. They were his best team even if the kid wasn't a cop. "Ellison?" he demanded in his best captain's voice. "Where the hell are you?" He was pleased to hear the jump on the other end of the line and allowed himself a little smile of satisfaction. He hadn't lost it.
"I, ahhh, I was wondering if I could take the rest of the afternoon off, Captain," Ellison said. "And tomorrow." Staring down into blue eyes that held promises yet to fulfilled, Ellison's voice dropped slightly. "And maybe the day after."
Banks sighed. A very long-suffering sigh. "Jim, where are you?" he asked patiently.
He pulled the phone away from his ear to stare at it again. "San Francisco," he repeated. And he wasn't even surprised. Maybe he had lost it after all. "Is this work related?" he asked, with no hope at all that it was. He wasn't disappointed.
"Ahhh, no, sir. Not work related."
"Do I want to know what it is about?" But it was a rhetorical question and he didn't wait for an answer. He glanced around his deserted office as if he might be overheard. "Is this a Sentinel thing?" he hissed into the receiver.
"No, sir. Not a Sentinel thing."
Banks' eyes narrowed suspiciously. "Is it a Sandburg thing?" he asked like he really didn't want to hear the answer if it was.
Ellison's voice dropped into a long, low, lazy drawl. "Yeah. It's definitely a Sandburg thing."
"Then I don't want to know about it," Banks said wearily. "The Sentinel mess is bad enough, but toss Sandburg into the middle of it and you've just entered a whole 'nother dimension." He sighed. "Will you both be back to work on Monday?"
Ellison tore his eyes away from the face below his and took a deep breath, trying to clear his thoughts. "Yes, sir. I think we'll both be back on Monday. If not, I'll let you know." A movement caught his eye and he stared in open-mouth amazement. Across the wide stretch of polished marble was a gift store. He ducked his head to see better and with a grin started forward, still holding the receiver. A half step around his partner brought him to a sudden halt and in absent-minded confusion he looked down at the phone cord that tethered him to the wall. "Ahhh, Simon? I gotta go." He started to hang up the receiver then pulled it back to his ear. "What?" he asked absently. "Oh. I gotta go see a man about a pig."
Twenty minutes later the driver of a yellow taxi twisted his wheel to cut his cab over in front of an SUV and pulled to a stop in front of two men, ignoring the blaring horn. The taller man had something pink tucked under one arm, the other hand was lifted to hail the cab. The shorter man was looking up into the face of the other. Neither one of them was aware when he stopped. He shook his head. San Francisco. Not another city like it on the face of the earth. He popped the trunk, climbed from the car, swore at a passing bus and made his way around to the back of the cab. Placing the one small duffel that it seemed that both men were sharing into the trunk of his car, he started back around to the driver's side. Neither man had moved. He sighed, went back around to the passenger side, opened the rear door and waited. "Where to, sirs?" he asked. He suppressed a grin when they both jumped.
"Into the city," the taller man said. His eyes narrowed as he considered a destination. "The Sir Francis Drake."
"Jim?" the shorter man questioned, surprise in his voice.
Ellison stared down at the man standing now in the curve of his arm. "You only get one chance at first times, Chief. They should be memorable. The Drake," he told the driver again and they both climbed into the back seat.
"Yes, sir," the man said briskly. He slammed the passenger door and headed around the rear of his car with a smile. The Sir Francis Drake. This could mean a good tip. He climbed in behind the wheel, reached to start the meter and froze, staring down at the front passenger seat. His eyes rose to stare into his rear view mirror. The two men, sitting suspiciously close together in the middle of the back seat, stared back with matching blue eyes.
"That's TL Pigg," the larger man said in a tone that would take no argument. "He rides in the front."
"TL?" the driver said blankly.
The eyes of the shorter man twinkled with suppressed laughter. "Yeah. That's his name, True Love Pigg."
The driver looked back down. Sure enough, it was a winged pig sitting in the seat beside him, eight inches long with a wingspread of about eighteen inches. Its little fabric wings were spread, ready for flight. And he could swear there was a smile on its shiny little pink face. He gave a little snort and put his cab in gear and pulled out into the flow of traffic, ignoring the sound of the horn from the screaming-yellow hummer he'd cut off.
San Francisco. Not another city like it on the face of the earth. He grinned. "You gotta love it," he muttered under his breath.