Rating: mild R
Warnings references to sex and violence (gasp!)
Written for the Steve Walker art challenge, though I cheat and use several, because when I saw that there's a Montréal gallery showing his work, I couldn't resist. He had an exhibition at the Saint-Dizier gallery in 2001, and you can see the work from that here and the gallery itself here
Not quite sure where this came from. I'm supposed to be writing Starsky & Hutch. *sigh*
Summer in Montreal was surprisingly-or maybe not so surprisingly-like New Orleans, Jim reflected as he walked through the narrow cobblestoned streets of the Old Port with his partner. His preconceived notions about Canadian blandness were dissipating in the cacophony of color and noise and laughter that surrounded him. The annual jazz festival was in full swing; he could hear the mournful tones of a tenor sax wafting through the unexpectedly humid air. Tonight, Blair was determined to drag him to the fireworks display on the waterfront. It was hard to put a damper on the kid's vibratory enthusiasm, especially after what they'd been through recently.
And as for Canadians being polite-well, the first hour had pretty much finished that notion too, because once they got behind the wheel, the Quebeckers were out for your blood, no doubt about it. Blair joked about seeing stick figures painted on the side of a Porsche, like the proud imprints of kills on the nose of a World War II bomber. It had been more than an hour since Jim had yanked Blair out of the way of a speeding motorist; he could still feel the imprint of Blair's hand on the skin of his palm. He was torn between wanting to throttle the driver of that car and wanting to kiss him-on both cheeks.
It'd taken him about a day to figure out what the hell he was even doing here; the last few weeks, admittedly, had been a blur. A bloodstained blur, full of crime scenes and the desperate pursuit of a psycho who got off on abducting little girls and trussing them up like Christmas turkeys before torturing every last bit of their exuberant, innocent lives out of them. As soon as the bastard was arrested and the last report was typed, Blair'd gotten on the phone to Naomi and asked her where she was. If she'd been in Outer Mongolia, Jim figured Blair would have booked them two tickets on the next flight to Ulan Bator.
Not that Jim had any objections to Mongolia, but now that he was here, he had to admit he was glad Naomi's wandering nature had deposited her in this place at this time. It wasn't really that far from Cascade-hell, he could pick up a Big Mac anytime if he needed the reassurance-but it was different enough to make him feel like he'd managed to escape. There was a syncopated pulse to this city that beat a counterpoint to the American ones he knew, and it was resetting the rhythm of his heart, making him feel dangerous. Adventurous.
"Jim, you okay, man?"
Jim blinked, looked down at the man who had been his official partner for over a year now. Under his skin, the rhythm persisted, changed tempo slightly, picked up speed.
"Yeah," Jim said, a rusty grin flashing across his features. "I'm okay."
"You, uh, you want to go in here?" Blair squeaked.
Jim's eyes remained riveted to the window of the studio, or rather to the paintings he could see beyond its barrier of glass. Something in the stark simplicity, the smooth transitions from light to shadow, the big, square subjects appealed to him.
None of this, of course, he said aloud. Blair would think he'd been possessed by the Pod People. Sure, Blair knew Jim read Sun Tzu and Kerouac and Faulkner, but Blair also enjoyed being the brains of the outfit to Jim's grunting muscle, and it didn't pay to fuck with a formula that worked.
Although today, Jim felt like fucking with it.
"Sure," he said, mounting the stone steps. "Why not?"
The space inside was warm and welcoming, with plenty of polished hardwood floors and exposed brick walls. Absently, Jim placed his hand on one of the bricks, only to pull it away abruptly when the jagged roughness of it assaulted his senses.
Man, he was dialed up to the roof. He contemplated coming down a little, then vetoed it.
The paintings were sensual, though in a controlled way, as if the artist were trying to distill perception and emotion down to its essential components. This kind of vision was something a Sentinel could appreciate. And despite Blair's muttering about the work being "derivative of Colville", Jim could tell he was appreciating it too, at least if his elevated heart and breathing rates were anything to go by.
At first Jim was drawn to the images of isolation: the man curled almost grotesquely over the chair, as though even his shape would never again be what it had once been; the lonely gaze of the man staring at the phone, itself alone and waiting. When he contemplated the other paintings-the blatant sexuality of the men in the bar or the pair seeking their destiny across the transom of an elevator-Jim felt Blair's expectant presence at his back. Once or twice he went so far as to open his mouth to offer the comforting Jim Ellison brand of sarcasm, but found he could not force his larynx to give up sound, even for this. Blair would not receive reassurance from him today.
Exactly what Blair would receive instead, he hadn't the faintest idea.
Then he turned and saw it. Slowly, pulled by the gravity of recognition, he approached it.
Jim knew by the soft sound of Blair's gasp that he'd seen it too.
When the case had wrapped, Jim and Blair had gotten in the truck and driven until they reached the sea wall outside of Cascade. The day had been unseasonably cold, the wind scouring their skin as they stared out at the Pacific. But Jim hadn't cared; that wind made him feel clean, the first time in weeks he could say that. Though they hadn't talked about it, he suspected Blair felt the same way, because he always loved to bitch about the cold, and this time he didn't even mention it.
And if the tears were shining in their eyes when they turned away from the ocean's unforgiving winds, well, they didn't talk about that, either.
As Jim's hand reached out and touched the painting, his fingers charting the jagged, honest edges of each careful brush stroke, it occurred to him that there would, one day, be a time to talk about it.
But this wasn't that time.
"You buying it?" Blair asked, though it wasn't truly a question.
"Yeah," Jim said, though it wasn't truly an answer.
"Okay," Blair sighed, like he was agreeing to this, to everything, and they both knew he was.
The first time Jim fucked Blair, Blair screamed. Jim didn't know if it was a good scream or a bad scream. He didn't think Blair knew either, so he didn't ask.
The first time Blair fucked Jim, Jim didn't scream, but when it was over he held Blair loosely in the circle of his arms while Blair held him back and the two of them shook with the silent storms of loss and fear and hope.
They ordered Chinese and when it came Blair answered the door in a hotel bathrobe that was two sizes two big for him and Jim watched him carrying the near-to-bursting bag back to the bed and thought about how grateful he was that Naomi was a nut.
They ate until they were stuffed and then they lay around and watched a French comedy show. They didn't understand one single damned joke but they laughed anyway because there was a laugh track just like there used to be on M*A*S*H.
"Maybe it's the same one," Blair mused. "I mean, laughter is universal, right?"
And then Blair unwrapped the painting carefully and they stared at it for a long time. Finally Jim closed his eyes and buried his face in Blair's exuberant hair, and when he did he heard the faint sound of a tenor saxophone creating a rhythm that found its match in the beat of Jim's blood.
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