By Audra Rose
Summary: There are all kinds of courage.
Note: I don't know where this came from *g*. I did use the phrase. And for the record, the 1000 word limit is. killing. me. :-)
Simon nudged Blair with his elbow and pointed down at the bar with his beer bottle. "I think you're trying to get drunk," he said, conversationally.
Blair followed the beer bottle pointer to the line of empty bottles in front of him and thought that for a police captain, Simon could be surprisingly unobservant.
Obviously he wasn't trying to get drunk; he was trying to get Spectacularly Drunk. Drunk at the competitive level. The kind of drunk where you wake up and think, "Okay, this hangover isn't so bad," but that's only because you're still wasted, and the real hangover - the one looming over you with the power of a fucking tsunami - that hangover won't hit until 2:30 that afternoon when you start making deals with God and begging for death. That kind of drunk. As quickly as possible.
"It's understandable," Simon continued. "Guys on the force ten, twenty years still have this reaction to the kind of crap that happened this afternoon."
"I screwed up, Simon." Blair figured he'd better get used to saying the words.
"Sandburg, the situation was screwed up when we got there. It takes balls to admit you made the wrong call, but you did the best you could. Stop wallowing."
"Sorry," Blair mumbled, and took a long drink.
Simon shook his head. "If it makes you feel any better, it could have worked. You tried. No one blames you for what happened. And IA won't, either."
"No he doesn't," Simon scoffed, a little too quickly for Blair to believe him. "Jim's fine. He'll be fine. Look at him, for god's sake."
This time Simon's beer bottle swung in an arc down the bar and when Blair followed it he saw Jim leaning casually against the rail about ten feet away. Though he'd only been paying half-attention to his partner's tequila consumption, he could see that Jim had his eyes on the prize as well.
Jim seemed to be having more success, however. While so far Blair had only managed to give himself a headache, it looked like Jim was already Confidently Drunk - that delusional stage where you're convinced you're irresistible and can go home with anyone in the bar. Except, of course, in Jim's case where the delusion was actually true. All this charm was currently directed at one of the bartenders, a tall, blonde knock-out who was somehow managing to fill drink orders and look like she was paying total attention to Jim at the same time.
When Jim tossed down another amber shot without the benefit of lime or salt, Simon muttered, "On the other hand, that could get ugly fast."
"You're right," Blair sighed, and took a drink of his own beer.
"Well?" Simon asked after a few seconds.
"Go!" Simon said. "Go talk to him. Stop him. Something."
"It's my responsibility to stop Jim from dropping a hundred bucks on over-priced alcohol?"
When Simon ignored him as if he'd already gone Blair rubbed his eyes. Of course it was. Except tonight his head hurt and now it seemed like the bar was too loud and too crowded and the only thing he wanted to do was finish his beer and go home. He most emphatically did not want to talk to Jim. Maybe it took balls to admit to himself that he screwed up. Admitting it to the guy who paid for the screw-up was a whole different ball game.
Not that he had much choice.
Turning away from the bar and plunging into the crowd was like joining a colony of amoeba - Blair combined and divided in a fuzzy haze until he emerged somewhere near Jim's vicinity, where the crush of people standing near the bar halted any forward motion. He plastered on a pleasant grin and tried to elbow his way through the crowd.
"Excuse me," he mumbled, making little progress until Jim looked up with a suddenly razor-sharp glance and reached out, grabbing the front of Blair's shirt in his fist and tugging him up to the rail.
"Sandburg," Jim said calmly, as if he were greeting Blair at the station instead of in a loud, smoky bar. As if they weren't being pressed into each other by the people around them. As if Jim weren't hanging onto the open collar of Blair's shirt so the backs of his fingers burned against Blair's skin.
"Jim." Blair responded, trying to focus on something other than Jim's hand on his chest. "Hey, do you think we could -"
"Sandburg," Jim said, as if Blair weren't speaking, "This is Rhonda."
"Rachel," the bartender corrected.
"Right. This is my partner, Sandburg," Jim informed Rachel seriously, "and he needs a shot." Only Jim's careful diction showed Blair how messed up Jim really was.
"No, that's okay, I -"
"You need a shot. Trust me."
"Jim - "
"Come on. It's better than being shot, isn't it?" Jim said, with a smile that was a little frightening. Apparently Jim's comment was a lot funnier than Blair thought it was, because Rhonda-Rachel-Right was laughing it up.
Actually, the more he thought about it, Blair didn't think that comment was funny at all. Obviously he needed to do some serious catching up, or leave them to it. He had the start of a head-ache worthy of Spectacularly Drunk proportions, so he was leaning toward calling it a night when Jim removed his hand from Blair's shirt and thumped him on the chest hard enough to hurt. "You owe me. Do the fucking shot."
"I owe you?" Maybe that was true; well, of course it was true, but god, it hurt - a sharp, hot-steel jab to his heart - to hear Jim say it. How the hell doing a shot would make things even, Blair couldn't even begin to guess, but he didn't feel like arguing with the vaguely wild look in Jim's eyes.
"Fine. I'll do a shot. But I need a lime."
"Great! Rhonda -"
"Make it a double."
"Now wait a minute," Blair began but Rachel was rubbing a lime on his hand while Jim was dumping salt on his sleeve, and the next thing he knew he was holding what looked like a tumbler of tequila.
"Go for it."
Deciding tequila might actually help at this point he threw his head back and tossed it down. The only problem came when Jim decided to deliver a congratulatory slap on the back at the precise moment Blair started to swallow. Through a hacking cough and burning eyes Blair reflected that absorbing 80-proof alcohol through the walls of your sinus cavity could become a popular way of getting Spectacularly Drunk if it weren't also Spectacularly Painful.
"Okay. We're done." Blair wheezed, as soon as he could speak, and closed his hand around Jim's upper arm. "Close out his tab," he said over his shoulder while he dragged Jim away from the bar.
"What the hell, Sandburg -"
"You've had enough. This is about me anyway, so go ahead. Get it out of your system."
Blair had never seen Jim get so angry so quickly.
"Fuck you, Sandburg." With a two-handed shove against Blair's chest Jim turned, pushing through the crowd to stalk out of the bar.
Blair looked blankly at the door for a minute, thinking that he should have remembered how fast Confidently Drunk could become Belligerently Drunk. He thought about letting Jim go, maybe just letting him go for once. All the time Blair knew he'd follow, though, because outside the bar there were cars to drive and fights to get into. Besides, doing more than one thing he'd never forgive himself for in the space of a day was more than Blair could bear to think about.
It took him awhile to make his way through the crowd, and by the time he got to the street he'd begun to worry that Jim had already gone. Stumbling into the cool silence of the outside air was like hitting a concrete wall, and he had to stand still a minute, swaying while he waited for his head to clear. He looked down the street and saw that the truck was still parked where they'd left it, even if it was a little fuzzy around the edges. Blair wasn't sure where to start, so he picked a direction that led away from light and noise and started walking. He almost missed Jim, who was standing motionless in the darkened doorway of a closed storefront.
Blair backed up a step to look at him. Jim stood with his hands in his pockets, looking out at the street with a lost expression on his face.
"I can't drive," Jim finally said.
"Yeah, I know. Me neither." Blair moved to stand next to Jim in silence, waiting for whatever was going to come next.
"He was going to shoot you," Jim murmured, not looking at Blair.
"I thought I could talk to him," Blair blurted, before Jim finished speaking, thinking he could stop the words before they had a chance to take him apart.
"He had a gun in your face and he was going to shoot you," Jim repeated, still looking out at the street. "Right in front of me. I had no choice."
"Because I didn't give you one. I know that." Blair took a deep breath and then the words came pouring out in a rush. "I had the drop on him and I didn't take it, so now there's gonna be questions and IA's gonna make you jump through hoops. And, oh yeah, I almost forgot - now you have that stupid, strung-out kid's death on your conscience instead of me because I didn't have the fucking balls to pull the trigger. I know all of that. I just don't know what to do about it."
Somewhere during Blair's speech Jim had closed his eyes and leant his head back against the door frame. Blair started wondering if Jim was planning on just passing out right there when he whispered, "I can't do this anymore."
Jim's grief was Blair's, hopeless and tight in his chest, and Blair had to bend his head down against the ache. "I thought I could talk -"
But then he couldn't talk, not with Jim's mouth hard and hot on his, not with Jim's tongue sliding deep and sweet against his own. Jim's taste was lime and tears and god, so good that Blair didn't want to breathe or move or think about the fact that they were making out in the doorway of a pawn shop.
Jim shoved Blair harder against the door and deeper into the shadows, moving his mouth to slide over Blair's jaw, and the sudden rush of oxygen let Blair's brain focus, just enough for him to whisper, "This isn't just Horny Drunk, is it?"
"W-what?" Jim stuttered, but he bent closer to answer Blair with his hands and his lips and Blair thought no, this is No Other Way Drunk. This is It's This or Nothing Drunk.
So he kissed Jim back, his mouth open and wet, and curved his hands around Jim's hips. He let his fingers drift over Jim's shirt, tracing the muscles of his sides until Jim moaned like it hurt, until he dragged Blair hard up against him and locked their bodies together from thigh to cock to chest. There was no arguing with the way Jim pushed against him, with the way he dug his hands into the muscles of Blair's ass and ground their bodies together. It was clear Jim wanted to make Blair come; that he wouldn't stop until he made Blair come while standing in the shadows without ever once touching skin to skin.
When it was over, when they were anchoring each other in the darkness, Jim's whisper was hurt and ragged against Blair's hair. "You've got to be able to take the shot, Chief. The next time there's a whacko with a gun - you can't do this if you can't take the shot."
Blair searched for something to give him. "I could take it," Blair said, pulling Jim closer, groping his hand into Jim's hair, wrapping his arm around Jim's shoulders. "I can see myself taking it. If the whacko was aiming at you."
Blair knew from the helpless way Jim leaned into him that it was the wrong answer and the right answer and that tomorrow they would have to talk about it, but not tonight. Tonight they had this. And it was such a bone-deep relief to know that even after all the questions and consequences and decisions, they would still have this. Would always have this, maybe. Even if he could never take the shot.
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