Masks: Part 28

Laughing, Blair dropped his keys into the basket. "One glass, man, I swear!"

"Sure, Chief." Smiling indulgently, Jim closed the door and put the chain on. "And just how big was this glass?"

Blair laughed again. "Jim, I am not drunk. I'm just happy. We've been to a great party. The food was fantastic, the setting was incredible, and there were some fascinating people. Did I tell you I met Torvald Lindstrom?"

Jim rolled his eyes. "Three times, Chief. And I still never heard of him."

"Trust me, Jim, it would be like you meeting Elliot Ness, or Sherlock Holmes." Blair opened the refrigerator. "You want a beer?"

"No, and neither do you. Sherlock Holmes wasn't a real person."

"I know that." Blair shut the refrigerator. Okay, fine. Jim thought he was drunk. He'd have tea, then. That should make The Man Who Would Be Dad happy. "Come on, Jim, I'm making a point here. You want tea?"

"No, thanks. I'm gonna go up to bed."

"Oh, man, how can you sleep now?"

"I dunno, Sandburg. Maybe because it's 2 A.M.?"

Blair shook his head. "Tough to get old, huh, Jim?"

"Keep it up, Junior, and you'll never find out."

Blair just grinned. Jim headed for the stairs, but Blair wasn't ready for quiet yet. "So, Jim, you're dating a doctor now, huh?"

Jim stopped on the stairs to scowl down at him. "I just met the woman, Sandburg, we're not dating."

"But you got her phone number?"

"Yes, I got her number."

"And you're gonna call her?"

"Maybe. How'd it go with Toni?"


And it had. He'd told her about Ponytail's attack, about the rape, shaking the whole time with a fear he'd thought he was over. Toni had been shocked, but she hadn't drawn back, or looked at him in disgust. Instead, she'd tightened her hold on his hand. And she'd cried. For him.

"We're going out tomorrow night. What do you mean 'maybe', Jim?"

"What I said. Good night, Sandburg. Try to keep the noise down."

Blair watched his friend climb the stairs, and shook his head. He'd never understand how Jim could come home from a party or a big arrest or something equally exciting and just go to sleep. He could never do that. He needed time to wind down, to get everything straight in his head, to sort memories and emotions and come down from the adrenaline to a state where sleep was possible. The way he felt now, it was going to be at least an hour before he reached that state. So he might as well get some work done.

The teakettle whistled. Blair poured water into the pot and went to his room to get out of the tux and into a pair of light sweats and a t-shirt. He grabbed a notebook and his discman and returned to the living room, where he settled himself on the couch with a cup of mint tea. Chris Smither's Happier Blue cd was already in the player. Blair put the headphones on, pressed play, and leaned back, flipping his notebook open to a blank page.

Nine minutes later, the page was half-filled and "The Devil's Real" was playing. Movement caught the corner of his eye. Fear flashed, and Blair looked up, to see Jim standing behind the couch, his face set in the "worried about Blair, but don't want to come out and say it" expression it had worn so many times in the past nine months. Blair took off the headphones.

"What's up, man?"

"I thought you weren't going to play that song anymore."

"Oh. Yeah, I wasn't, Jim, but y'see, there's more to it than just the depressing stuff." Blair pulled out the headphones jack. Jim didn't need him to, but he wanted to hear it himself. "Listen."

It was hard luck and trouble, bad times too.
I know I had it comin', but I got through.
It was advice that you gave me
In a dream that saved me.
You said "Get a new life-contract that spells out your dues."
Took good will to find it, a clear conscience to sign it,
Now I dream about the good times and they all come true.

Jim shook his head. "You didn't have it coming, Blair."

"I know, man," Blair said softly. "But that's not the important part. The important part is that I got through it, and I did it with your help. That's what this says to me, Jim. That's why I like to listen to it."

A slow smile spread over Jim's features. "Okay, Chief." One large hand reached down to press Blair's shoulder. "Okay."

Yeah." Blair answered Jim's smile with one of his own. "I am."


The End