Disclaimer: Pet Fly's guys.

War of the Roses



It started innocently enough, as these things usually did. Midmorning on a fine sunny May Sunday in Cascade. Blair Sandburg was dusting the loft's living room and Jim was half under the kitchen sink, clanking and cursing. After a while, Jim sighed and climbed to his feet, wiping his hands on a rag, and looked over at the younger man.

"You get the grocery list finished?"

Blair glanced over at the slip of scrap paper on the table. "Yeah, more or less. You going out?"

"Need a washer," Jim said vaguely. "Might as well go out once."

Blair nodded. Gas prices had skyrocketed recently, with no end in sight, and one of the conservation guidelines was to avoid making multiple short trips. "I've got a couple of errands I've been putting off, how about we take my car, it gets better mileage, do some running around, and break for lunch before getting back to work?" he suggested.

"Get your keys, Chief, and let's go."

Their first stop was a stripmall that contained Blair's favorite deli, independent bookstore and health food store. Jim went into the deli for a dozen plain bagels while Blair ran into the bookstore to see if the new novel by one of his favorite authors was out yet. It was, and he purchased a copy, then went into the health food store. Algae shake mix, chamomile tea, and Burt's Bees Bay Rum Aftershave Balm.

Next was a stop at the hardware warehouse. Blair wandered out to the garden area while Jim picked out the right size washer and paused to look at power tools. By the time he got back to the check-out, Blair was already through one of the registers with a rosebush.

Jim looked heavenward for strength, absently tracking a sparrow to its nest in the girders overhead. Going out in public with Sandburg was like babysitting an inquisitive five year old, he couldn't go four feet without seeing something he absolutely had to have and couldn't live without. Unfortunately, Blair was an inquisitive five year old with his own paycheck, so he kept dragging numerous objects of short-lived obsession back to the loft.

Plants die, Jim consoled himself, remembering the bonsai tree which had lasted six months. Plants could be quietly disposed of, unlike the candle making and lapidary equipment, the unfinished steamer trunk, the tag sale wing chairs and upholstery material, and the ski machine currently cluttering up the storage space. Plants had a lifespan that matched Blair's attention span well.

Although this was a healthy specimen. Tea rose, Jim's memory supplied from a childhood spent on the front lines of Sally's war against the Japanese beetles. Tall shoots, heavy with yellow buds barely swirled with pale pink. Jim sniffed discreetly and was rewarded with a light, not cloying scent.

"And what do you think you're going to do with that?"

Blair was bouncing on his toes. "It was only ten bucks. You know how much roses cost? We keep this on the balcony, then when we're going over to see a lady, snip snip, what she doesn't know won't hurt her." He carefully lowered the black plastic pot into a plastic bag, and hissed, raising the heel of one hand to his mouth to suck at a bloody scratch, hefting the bagged pot.

"Nice plan, but you don't just get roses, that little white stuff... baby breath."

Blair shrugged. "Gotta be cheaper than roses. Or there's Queen Anne's Lace growing in the empty lot down the street."

Jim laughed. "Cheapskate."

"I'm not cheap. I'm thrifty. And inventive." Blair carefully wedged in the rosebush on the floor on the backseat.

Then they went to the grocery store. Soda was on sale, so Jim loaded up the cart with 24-can cases and sent Blair back for another one. He produced the list, where he had noted down the staples they were short on or out of completely, and they started down the aisles. There was always something that caught your eye, that wasn't on the list, that looked good. The two men pushed the carts out to the Volvo and began to unload them. Then they saw the problem.

The trunk was the first to fill up. When they had finished unloading the carts the only free space was the driver's seat and a small section of the rear seat. They'd never taken Blair's car to go shopping before, they always took Jim's trunk, and the difference in cargo space had become evident.

"Okay," Blair bit down on his bottom lip and surveyed the problem. Bags in the front passengers' seat, one of those empty-gallon drums of laundry detergent in the footwell. Bags in the backseat, the rosebush and watermelon in the rear footwells. Crowded.

"Okay. Um. You drive, I'm not sadistic enough to try to fold you into the backseat here. And I'll just move the rosebush up beside me," he matched action to words, huffing under his breath as a rosebud smacked him in the eye and blindly reaching around to get a grip set thorns raking the inside of his wrist. He got the pot settled onto the seat and climbed in, Jim handing him the last bag.

"Eggs and your coconut cream pie," Jim explained, shutting the door for him and jogging back around to the driver's side to get in. Blair was beginning to think this wasn't such a good idea. He was wedged into a narrow space, sitting canted on one hip, pressed against the side of the car, with one hand keeping the fragile contents of the bag upright. Jim backed out of the space, turned to get out of the parking lot, and the rosebush slid.

Blair reached out, trying to shove the plastic-wrapped pot back and got a handful of thorns for his trouble.

Jim glanced into the rearview mirror at every turn and pothole, at every yelp and muttered curse. "How you doing back there, Chief?"

"This rosebush is trying to kill me, man! It's like organic barbed wire or something."

"Well, hang in there. We'll be home soon."

They reached the loft, unloaded the groceries from the car, and started putting things away. That was when Jim got his first good look at Blair's hands. Both hands and wrists were covered with shallow gashes, about am inch long. Jim counted up to twenty when he stopped.

"Go take care of that. You're bleeding all over my Sports Illustrated there." Jim put a hand on the younger man's shoulder and gently steered him toward the bathroom. "Peroxide and Neosporin. Now."

By the next day, when Blair came into the station, the scratches had scabbed over, fading into a fine webbing of red lines.

"How are the hands?" Jim asked him.

Blair looked down, flexing them at waist-level. "Better. Sore as hell, but better."

As the day progressed, Jim noticed others noticing Blair's hands. It wasn't until Blair left for a coffee-and-sandwich run that ever so casually Brown got up and went over to his partner's desk, and Joel came over with a file. Jim smiled to himself, listening in.

"... academic society hazing ritual. It's called 'The Death of a Thousand Papercuts,' I saw it on 60 Minutes," Rafe was insisting.

"Nah," Brown shook his head. "Freak blender accident."

Taggart laughed. "I bet he and Jim went camping over the weekend and discovered a lost Indian tribe in the mountains. You know how friendly Blair is, he had to become blood brothers with all of 'em."

Rafe looked thoughtful. "Or he found a stray cat and tried to give it a bath so Jim would let him keep it."

Jim just shook his head. Life with Sandburg was a lot of things, but at least it was never boring.

~ End ~

(Healing nicely, thank you! — B)

E-Mail Besterette at Besterette@aol.com
Return to Besterette's Fan Fiction for The Sentinel
Return to Besterette's Basement

Problems with the page? Contact the Pagemaster.
Page last updated 8/15/03.