Valentine's Day-Jim


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"OK, Jim, we've shared, now it's your turn." Simon Banks insisted.

"I'd rather not." Jim replied, his stoic expression hiding his thoughts, or so he thought.

"Come on, man. We've shared ours, what's your most memorable moment?" Rafe encouraged.

"Well," Jim's expression showed that he was trying very hard to find something he would be willing to share, after a few more moments of anticipatory silence, he continued. "I guess it was just after I transferred into Major Crime, when I first met Carolyn," he began. Everyone settled back to get comfortable. Stoic, reticent Ellison, was about to come forth with something very private, something he probably would never have shared, had not others spoken, first. "I had picked up some evidence at a crime scene and, after tagging and bagging it, I took it down to forensics. She was arguing with Walters, you remember him? He retired about five years ago?" Those who knew the man in question nodded, the others, Blair and Rafe, shook their heads in puzzlement, "Well, he was something of a character," Jim explained, only to be interrupted by Joel.

"Oh, yeah. A real character. If you told that man that the sky was gray, he'd say it was orange. Possibly the most contentious, obnoxious, infuriating..."

"Come on, Joel, tell us how you really feel," Simon laughed, "He was all that, and more. If you think Cassie was bad, she had nothing on Mr. Contentious. Of course, he thought we were all mispronouncing 'Mr. Conscientious', and no one wanted to correct him."

"Yeah, well, Carolyn was reading him the riot act," Jim continued, smiling at the memory. "He looked like he was going to have a heart attack, he was purple with rage, but she wouldn't let him get a word in edgewise. She was magnificent," his expression, even after so many years was one of awed wonder, "When she saw me, she stopped and told him to get out. He actually left without saying anything," those who had known the man shook their heads in amazement.

"I handed in my evidence and got her to sign off the transfer. I couldn't help myself, I had to ask her out," the others glanced at each other, knowingly. With the exceptance of Rafe and Megan, who had never met her, they all knew Carolyn, and those who had known Jim back then knew how hard it had to have been for him to ask her out. "I was a little surprised when she looked me over and said yes." Jim's expression was reminiscent of how he must have looked and felt when it happened, part delight, part surprise, part fear... although, most of those present didn't recognize the fear portion. "We arranged to go out after work on the following Friday. Unfortunately, I got caught up in a homicide investigation, a really messy floater. I was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and it blew up all over me. Man, it was my first floater, too. I did some serious contamination of the scene, I gotta tell you," those who had had similar experiences chuckled dryly, those who had managed to avoid floaters merely grimaced in disgust. "Yeah, I was pretty rank by the time I got back to the station. Simon banned me from the bullpen until I went down and showered and changed into my sweats."

"Which he'd worked out in for the previous week, every night after shift, he'd be in those sweats, down in the gym, working out." Simon explained, grinning.

"Yeah. But it was still better than the DB, you gotta admit," Jim countered.

"Oh, yeah, much better, as long as you stayed down wind," Brown agreed. The others laughed.

"Well, Carolyn came upstairs to meet me, of course I had forgotten all about our date, the look on her face..." even now, he blushed from the embarrassment he still felt from the incident. "You can imagine her reaction. I figured that I'd completely blown any chance I had, but she'd heard about the floater and was remarkably forgiving, considering."

"So? What happened?" Megan asked.

"So, she followed me home and let me get a shower and changed, again. Then we went out for dinner. Unfortunately, I hadn't quite recovered, and I ended up..." he blushed from the remembered embarrassment.

"Oh, man," Brown chortled, "don't tell me you upchucked on her?"

"Uh, yeah. Ruined her dress," hearing the laughter, he added, "it was the marinara sauce," he admitted, which turned the laughter into howls. He sat back and watched his friends laughing at his expense. Before Sandburg, he would have become annoyed and angry, now it was just a little bit of embarrassment, nothing to worry about.

"Oh, man, Jim. I'm surprised she ever spoke to you again," Blair managed, through his tears of laughter, "What happened, next?"

"She forgave me. Realized that ordering cioppino and pasta marinara might not have been such a good idea after I'd had a floater explode on me." He couldn't avoid his own grin, now that it was so long ago, it really was kind of funny, in a grotesque, cop kind of way. His response sent the others into further gales of laughter.

"Oh, Jim," Megan crowed, "Just like a rookie... I can just imagine..." her hysterical laughter punctuating her words.

"Yeah, well, we both apologized and eventually, she forgave me." He waited until the others could gain control, once more. He couldn't keep the grin off his face, as he watched his friends practically lose control at their mental picture of cool, calm Jim Ellison tossing his cookies all over his date, and in a fancy restaurant, to boot.

"How embarrassing. What about the other patrons at the restaurant?" Rafe asked.

"Let's just say we cleared the place out, OK?" Even Jim couldn't keep the grin from his face.

"Surely, you have a nicer story than that, Jim?" Joel asked, wiping his own tears of laughter from his broad face. It wasn't that he didn't find the story funny, only that he suspected that Jim probably had a softer streak in him, that may have come out at some other time, but had certainly appeared since he'd been teamed with Sandburg.

"Oh, I suppose," Jim thought again, "Well, the first Valentine's day we were together? Right before we got married?" The others nodded, regaining control of their hilarity. "Well, I'd planned for everything to be perfect. Reservations at her favorite restaurant, roses, candy, I was going all out. The roses were delivered to her at the station, there was a dinner invitation in the card. She met me at the restaurant. I was in a suit and tie," he missed the expressions of surprise on his colleagues faces, as they generally only saw him in a suit when he had court or a funeral to attend, "She was wearing a red dress..." he recalled, a gentle, melancholy smile on his face. "Dinner was perfect. For desert, I'd ordered something special, Raspberry cheesecake. It was served under cover. When the waiter set it in front of her and removed the cover, there was an engagement ring set in the middle of it, with a sprig of mint through it to help keep it in place."

There were various muted noises of surprise from his friends, none of whom had ever guessed at the romantic heart that he'd managed to keep so well hidden from them all these years. The only one not surprised by this revelation, was Blair Sandburg, who had lived long enough with his friend to have seen through the tough outer shell to the tender and sensitive man inside.

"That has to be one of the most romantic things I've ever heard of." Megan breathed in misty-eyed wonder. The others hand nothing to add to her observation.

Jim had to clear his throat to continue, "Yeah, well, she saw the ring and looked at me, kind of surprised, and I asked her to marry me. She said yes," he cleared his suddenly tight throat, "End of story."

As the others made comments and continued the round of storytelling, Jim looked off into the distance, tuning them all out. He blinked and refocused on Blair when his friend gently reached out and grasped his arm. Jim couldn't help but see the expression of sympathy in the dark blue eyes as they met his, the knowing in the depths that told him that his friend knew that there was a lot more to the story. Jim smiled a little sadly and shook his head slightly to indicate that he didn't want to talk about it any more. Blair nodded, giving Jim's arm a squeeze to let him know that any time he wanted to talk... Blair would be there for him.

There really wasn't anything to talk about. The way his dreamed of 'perfect marriage/perfect love' had turned out. Both of them were strong willed, stubborn, opinionated, and controlling. Unfortunately, compromise hadn't been big in either of their repetoirs. It still saddened him to think back to the ending of his marriage, the accusations and recriminations. Carolyn telling him that he was cold and unfeeling, that she couldn't stand it any more, that she had tried, but he simply wasn't willing to meet her half-way... his own feeling that she simply wanted him to change and was unable to accept him for who and what he was and that she was pushing him away. Looking back, he recognized that they had both rushed into the relationship, each thinking that the other would nurture and comfort them, without realizing that neither of them had any skills in it. Maybe if they'd waited a few more years, until they'd gotten to know each other better... but that hadn't been how it worked. Instead, she had turned cold and demanding, while he had simply closed himself off, turning inward and away from the pain. Carolyn hadn't felt that he was worth trying to save, and his history told him that she was right, that he wasn't worth saving. He had to fight back the tears that welled up at the feeling invoked by those hurtful memories. The gentle hand that once again grasped his arm brought him back; back to someone who had decided that he was worth saving, that he was worthwhile. Who did love him, myriad faults and all. Someone who didn't demand constant attention, who didn't mind being ignored, on occasion; although, those occasions had become fewer and farther between, as time went on. A friend who had been willing to accept him for who and what he was; who had been there and stayed with him, through every single disaster that had come upon them. A friend who was closer than a brother, who gave him meaning to the word 'partner'.

Blair had done a lot for him. Not just the control of his senses, but he'd pried a hole in his defenses, as well. He'd battered his way in and made himself at home. And, in the process, had brought healing to his broken and aching heart and taught him that he was someone who was worth loving. That he was worthy of the care and concern of others. Looking at this man who was his friend, he couldn't keep a contented smile from his face as he covered Blair's hand with his own, patting it and then pressing his friend's hand to his arm. Blair returned the smile, satisfied to have chased the sad expression from his friend's face. Jim let go and Blair withdrew his hand, both men turning their attention back to the current speaker.

Simon looked over at his best detective and smiled, as well. Jim had come a long way from the cold, unfeeling, taciturn man who had hidden his tender side from all and sundry behind walls that Simon had thought had become impenetrable, particularly after Carolyn. He was happy to see that one young, over-exuberant grad student turned cop, had been able to breach the barriers and coaxed the man within to come out and play. Helping to turn a good cop into a great cop and decent human being, a man he was proud to call friend... OK, two men he was proud and honored to call friend.

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