torch, flambeau@strangeplaces.net
July 15, 2005

Disclaimer: Merry made me do it. Written for the getting a sense of clichés challenge on ts_ficathons. Concept, encouragement, and editing by elynross. Do not archive without permission.

Finders, keepers

i,

It was late when Jim came home, and as he went up the stairs he planned a nice quiet evening in his head — leftovers from whatever Blair had made for dinner (unless it involved that goat's cheese from the organic farmer's market that smelled like the entire goat had crawled in there to die), a little peace and quiet, maybe a little TV. In the best of all possible worlds, there would also be a footrub, but he had a feeling he might have to make do with a beer.

When he walked in, he found the loft dark and completely quiet, a total-absence-of-Blair kind of quiet, which wasn't really the kind of quiet he'd been hoping for. Jim turned the lights on and made a quick survey of the kitchen. No leftovers. It didn't look as if anyone had cooked anything there, and he couldn't smell food of any kind, homemade or takeout or—

What he could smell was the scent of roses. Jim wrinkled his nose. That probably explained it. He walked over to Blair's room and looked inside, and yes, the scent was much stronger there, and in the center of Blair's bed lay a single rose and a note. Ah, romance. Jim sighed and went to get himself a beer. He opened the fridge and reached in, and where the beer had been was another rose and another note.

Jim picked the note up and looked at it. It said, He deserves champagne.

"What the hell," Jim said, closed the fridge, and put the note down on the counter. He went back to Blair's room, turned on the overhead light, and looked at the note on the bed. Finders, keepers. "What the hell?"

The smell of roses was strongest here, by Blair's bed, and it led from the bed to the back door, which was open just a crack.

Jim cursed some more, checked that he had his gun, and followed the scent. Out on the fire escape, down the fire escape, and he thought about calling Simon. Coming down into the alley, he found rose petals on the ground, as well as one of Blair's hairs. Jim tracked the rose scent around the building to an empty parking space. He stared down at the asphalt, wondering if he could track the exhaust of a single car across the city and if that was anything like tracking a falcon across a cloudy sky, when there was a squeal of brakes, and a black BMW narrowly avoided hitting either the car in the next parking space or Jim's knees.

ii,

"—fucking city is full of fucking idiots," the driver said, getting out of the car and slamming the door. "You! Have you seen a man with long blond hair, about this tall, dressed like a complete fucking freak?"

"No," Jim said, frowning. Maybe someone across the street had seen something — seen Blair, that was.

"Or wearing a black catsuit," the driver added, pushing his own long black hair behind his ears and looking down at a piece of paper in his hand. "This is 852 Prospect, yes?" Without waiting for an answer, he went towards the door, walking so fast he was almost running, and as he went past, Jim caught a whiff of rose scent coming from the paper, almost drowned out by the smell of cigarette smoke coming from the man himself.

"Wait!"

"I'm in a hurry."

"So am I," Jim said, unholstering his gun. "Someone smelling of roses just kidnapped my partner. I'm Detective Jim Ellison, Cascade PD, and I want you to tell me what the hell's going on here."

The man stopped, then slowly turned around. "Fucking great," he said. "I knew this couldn't be something as simple as a goddamn art museum. Eberbach, NATO. I'm looking for a thief." He handed the note to Jim, completely ignoring the gun. The note said, Don't worry, Klaus, I won't interrupt your conference — 852 Prospect isn't that close to the Sheraton. Or the docks.

Jim put his gun away again. "International law enforcement in the 21st century?"

"Completely useless waste of tax money." Eberbach got his ID out, flipped it open and shut, and put it away again. "The conference, not law enforcement," he added.

"The docks," Jim said. "You think that's where he's taken Blair?"

Eberbach was already heading back to his car. "Yes."

Jim dug into his pocket and realized he'd left the keys to the truck back at the apartment. He got into the BMW. "I'm going with you."

iii,

Jim rolled the window down and leaned out, sniffing at the air. Dirt, car exhaust, dust. Wood, glue, lacquer. Dirt, car exhaust, rotten fruit. Oil. Dirt, car exhaust... and a faint whiff of roses. "Stop the car."

"What the hell for?" Eberbach drove very fast, which had been a good thing up until now, when they were leaving the scent of roses behind again.

"They've been here. They've got to be close. Stop the car, dammit."

Eberbach stepped on the brake, and they were nearly rear-ended by a semi. "How do you know that?"

Jim got out of the car and took another deep breath, fixing the direction in his mind. "This is my city," he said absently. "And your thief took my partner."

"He's not my fucking thief." Eberbach slammed the car door shut and came around to Jim's side of the car. "Don't say things like that." He fished a pack of cigarettes out of his pocket and shook one out.

Jim plucked it out of his hand. "You can't smoke right now." Eberbach closed his hand around Jim's wrist. Jim thought he could feel his bones grind together, but he just glared back. "Your fucking thief," he said very deliberately, and now he couldn't feel his fingertips, "is going to smell you coming a mile off. And if a German NATO officer breaks the arm of a Cascade police detective, international law enforcement really is completely useless."

The grip around his wrist tightened fractionally, and then Eberbach let go. "Which way?"

iv,

It looked like any other warehouse from the outside, but it was oddly clean on the inside, and the smells were unexpected: not just the dust, and the roses, but something sharp and yeasty that Jim identified after a moment as champagne. He could hear them now, hear Blair's agitated voice, and he focused on that. "—can't judge different cultures by the same old art appreciation 101 standards, man, you've got to try to step outside your aesthetic comfort zone, be a bit more open-minded."

"But it's all so terribly clunky," and there was a voice right out of Masterpiece Theater. "Why would anyone want to look at those angry little idols with heads too large for their bodies instead of a divine Renaissance angel?"

Jim blinked. "Up there," he said to Eberbach, nodding at the closed door at the top of the metal stairs. Jim drew his gun. "Let me—"

Eberbach stomped up the stairs, metal treads ringing under his feet, and yanked the door open. Jim rolled his eyes and ran after him. The center of the room was covered with piles and piles of very expensive-looking carpets. Blair was sitting cross-legged, glass of champagne in one hand, caught mid-gesture with his free hand reaching out. Across from him lounged Mr. Masterpiece Theater, a blond man with his own champagne glass, who smelled of roses and looked like he'd watched Pirates of the Caribbean about a hundred times too many. "Major Eberbach," he said with a smile that made Jim wonder what drugs he was on. "How nice of you to join us."

"You fucking lunatic!" Eberbach yelled, and then started swearing in German. At least, Jim assumed those were swear words. "What the hell do you think you're doing!"

"Hey, Jim," Blair said, grinning.

v,

Jim walked over to where Blair was sitting and dropped to one knee, patting Blair's shoulder and back. "You okay?"

"I'm fine. Okay, no, I've got a bit of a headache, and I really don't think the champagne is helping with that." Blair rubbed at his forehead. "I wouldn't have had two glasses if I'd known I had to defend primitive art afterwards. I swear, that guy is worse than Professor Morrison, my freshman year."

"He kidnapped you to talk about art?" Jim said incredulously, and then Eberback finally stopped shouting to draw a breath.

"But Klaus, darling," the kidnapper said, and Jim turned his head in time to see a look on Eberbach's face that by rights should have peeled the paint off the walls. "You said I shouldn't even think about bothering you while you were at your conference. I just wanted you to know that I was keeping myself amused."

"Why don't you try renting a movie next time," Jim said. "What the hell made you decide to kidnap Blair?"

"Well, he's very pretty," the kidnapper said, blinking large blue eyes at Jim. "Of course, he does seem to have the most appalling taste in certain matters."

"Hey," Blair said, turning and gesturing and spilling champagne on one of the carpets. "It's not my fault you're still locked into a conventional mindset that values the pretty-pretty over—"

"Conventional?" Eberbach stared at Blair. "You think he is conventional?"

The kidnapper pouted. "Of all the unkind things to say."

"Just your taste in art," Blair said with a grin. "Your clothes, man, they're something else." He drained his glass. "Listen, Dorian, it was a pleasure to be kidnapped by you, but I think maybe Jim and I should get back home now."

"Appalling taste," the kidnapper murmured, with a smile that made Jim consider shooting him after all.

"Look who's talking," Blair shot back, and Dorian's teasing smile widened into a grin of genuine amusement. "Sorry, man, but I like beer better than champagne. Next time you and your major are in town, give me a call and I'll take you to this exhibition of South American—"

"What the hell have you been saying to him!" Eberbach looked murderous, but he only managed two steps towards Blair before Dorian tripped him and sent him sprawling on the pile of carpets. "Damn thief, fucking pervert, I swear I'm going to shoot you and bring you back to life so I can shoot you again!"

"Appalling taste," Blair said, and Jim hadn't known he could do that voice so perfectly. Dorian raised an eyebrow, and then threw something to Blair, which he caught neatly and tucked into his pocket. "Jim?"

Jim nodded and tugged Blair to his feet, keeping a steady grip on him as they went to the door. He considered saying something to Eberbach, but it seemed like too much trouble to try to make himself heard over the long list of Dorian's crimes. "Let's go."

vi,

"Where's the truck?" Blair said.

"We got here in Eberbach's BMW." Jim looked up and down the street. "Which apparently got stolen in the five minutes since we left it."

"We could call a cab."

"My phone is still in the loft." Jim turned his head and looked at Blair instead. "Please don't tell me you had your cell phone in your pocket while you were kidnapped."

"Okay." Blair grinned. "No, I didn't have my cell phone in my pocket. I guess there should be a bus stop over on Allenby, right?"

"I don't have my wallet, either," Jim said, going through his pockets. "I don't remember taking that out." He checked his back pocket for the third time. We might have to walk home."

"Well, actually," Blair said. He took Jim's wallet out of his pocket. "I've got it. Come on, the buses probably don't run that often this time of night, we should get going."

Jim got going, and realized he still hadn't taken his hand off Blair's arm. He put his arm around Blair's shoulders instead and kept it there until they got to the bus stop. Squinting down along Allenby, Jim saw a pair of headlights that appeared to be a bus, miracle of miracles, rattling their way. "So," he said, "what was all that about your appalling taste?"

"Oh, man." Blair grinned. "To listen to that guy, you'd think art history started and ended with the Italian Renaissance. He thinks the Impressionists are too modern, can you believe it?"

"I can believe it," Jim said. "But that wasn't what he was talking about, was it?"

And then the bus pulled up.

vii,

"Look, Jim, it's not like I planned to get kidnapped," Blair said, settling across two seats with his back against the window and looking earnestly at Jim over the seatbacks. "I was just having coffee at Borders and reading art books I can't afford, and this guy starts talking to me about how he never really got modern sculpture."

Jim tried to fit his legs between the bus seats somehow. "And then he kidnapped you."

"No, then I invited him back to the loft so I could show him some of the stuff I have back there, some really good tribal work, and—"

"You invited a total stranger into the loft to talk about art." Jim put his arms on the back of Blair's seat so he could lean forward and glare.

"Right, and then we talked for a couple hours, and then he kidnapped me." The streetlights played over Blair's face and hair, bright and dark, bright and dark.

Jim rubbed at his forehead. "You talked about art. For a couple of hours. So tell me, was that before or after you showed him your etchings?"

Blair drew himself up, a picture of wounded dignity. "There were no etchings. Okay, no, there were etchings, but they were actual etchings."

"And based on your etchings, this guy decided you had appalling taste and he was going to kidnap you anyway because you're so pretty. Only you, Sandburg."

"You know, I think maybe," Blair leaned his head back against the glass and closed his eyes, "maybe he just kidnapped me to make me stop talking about you."

"Oh."

viii,

"I can't believe you left the door unlocked," Blair said, walking into the loft as though he'd only stepped out for ten minutes to pick up milk and bread at the grocery store.

Jim went into Blair's room and closed and locked the door to the fire escape. Everything seemed to be in order, nothing missing. They'd have to go back out for food at some point, because Blair hadn't been to the grocery store for milk and bread or for anything else, but right now he wanted to lock the doors with both of them on the inside.

He turned around to find Blair standing right beside him. "You complaining about that? Next time you're kidnapped maybe I'll take the time to call a housesitting service."

"No, no, no complaints." Blair put a hand on Jim's chest and looked up at him, half smiling and half serious. "If it weren't for you I'd probably still be drinking champagne and hearing all about Botticelli."

"And your appalling taste?"

"For the record," Blair said, "I don't think there's anything wrong with my taste."

"So." Jim cleared his throat. "That's good to hear. Can I get you a beer to celebrate your faith in yourself?"

"Thanks, man," Blair said, sliding his hand up Jim's chest and around the back of his neck, "but not right now," and he dragged Jim down into a kiss that didn't end until Jim was backed up against the door and one of Blair's hands was under his shirt.

Jim pulled back, not that he could get very far, and wound his fingers more securely into Blair's hair. "Yeah," he said, smiling slowly. "Nothing wrong with your taste at all."

"Right." Blair wriggled closer. "Some people just can't appreciate the primitive— Hey! Jim!"

"Quit while you're ahead, Chief," Jim said, and kissed him again.

* * *

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