Okay, I wrote this for [info]charchall , and I thought I was writing a stand-alone. I might have... I might have written a first chapter. I swear, what the hell is wrong with my short-fiction muse?? Anyway, the whole point of charchall is to create memorable original characters. I give you Aliah--a woman who doesn't feel a need to pull her punches.

Playing God


Aliah rolled her chair through the double doors of Major Crimes, looking for her target. "Blair!" she called, raising a hand to catch his attention. The boy was simply was not taking care of himself. She might even feel guilty about getting him to volunteer with her dance group, except he clearly needed someone to drag him out of this soul-sucking void that was the police station. She planned to be that person.

She gave her chair a good push and let it roll to a stop in front of his desk.

"Aliah, hey. Wow. Am I that late?" Blair looked up with this expression of confusion. She smiled at him.

"I just thought I'd save some time by assuming you'd be late," she shrugged. She rolled her chair forward and back by inches as she studied the room that had become another of the foci for Blair's life. A man in a truly hideous green and yellow shirt had looked up when she called Blair's name, but now he was carefully studying his paperwork. Another man, younger, dressed in a suit, was also carefully not looking at her. She missed the days when every man would watch her stride through the room on long legs that made them think of sex and sweat as they wished her fingernails were running down their backs. Well, she could still get a little male attention, even if she had to work harder.

"Oh man, I've been late a lot lately, huh?" Blair asked, shoving his books into his worn bag.

"Oh sweetie, I like a man who takes his time, who loses himself in a project and gets that single-minded focus that makes the rest of the world vanish. I'd like it even better if you'd focus all that energy and those cute eyes of yours on me." She twitched her body. Her white shirt slipped down over one shoulder to show a perfectly formed, dark arm and she gave Blair a wicked smile. He stopped shoving books long enough to look up at her.

"You are totally not playing fair. How am I supposed to resist that? Male anatomy is not made for resisting the charms of beautiful dancers."

She laughed. "I never promised to play fair. When I asked for your help with this community project, I always planned to seduce you." She flashed him a wide smile. She was beautiful; not even the chair could dim her sexual appeal. Dark eyes, long curling black hair, dark skin, white teeth and lithe muscle formed from years of dancing—even now she could get most any man—or woman—in her bed, but Blair had become a special challenge.

Blair's eyes lit up, and Aliah arched her back invitingly at the evidence that he was finally paying attention to what she had to offer.

"Jim!" Blair called out. Well, shit. Aliah pivoted on one wheel so her chair turned. A large man with a dark expression was walking into the room. So this was the infamous Jim. He was definitely not what she would consider appropriate friend material for Blair. Blair's spirit was too creative for a man who had obviously wrapped himself in the stereotype of a cop like a familiar coat. His shirt was rumpled, and he wore a deep frown.

The man finally looked up from the file, his eyes going to Blair for half a second before they moved to Aliah. He studied her, not flinching from the chair. That was more than Aliah had been able to do for months after the accident. She gave him some credit for that. Then again, this man had to have more going for him that it first appeared or Blair would not be so damn loyal to him. He had turned down expeditions and cut back on his volunteering in order to make himself fit into Jim's life, and Aliah didn't think Blair was stupid. He wouldn't have done that unless Jim had something to offer other than a frown and a seriously broad and well-muscled set of shoulders.

"Jim, this is Aliah Wilkerson, the director of the community dance project I told you about. We're going to go recruit over at Central High this afternoon."

"You're the dancer?" Jim didn't even bother to hide his disbelief.

"Jim!" Blair hissed desperately.

Jim just continued to stare at her.

"I manage to get around," Aliah answered. She rolled back a little so she wouldn't have to crane her neck to watch him. "I still perform on stage in the chair. It's an athlete's model, which is why the wheels are angled outward. I don't like the chair to slow me down in any of my pursuits." Then she gave him a look to make it clear just which pursuits she still enjoyed. The chair's back was so low that it allowed her to stretch and show off cleavage that had brought dozens of lovers to their knees. Jim just stared at her harder. The man had suspicion and disapproval down to an art.

"So, Chief, am I going to be bailing you out for facilitating the corruption of Cascade's youth?" He dropped the file on the desk next to Blair's and crossed his arms.

"What? Man, that is so not fair. Aliah has a great reputation, and she's one of the best choreographers on the west coast. The university is sponsoring her program because she gets results. She gets inner city kids off the streets."

"Just as long as they don't end up in her bed."

"No way. No fucking way did you just say that," Blair almost growled the words as he came around the desk and stood toe to toe with Detective Ellison. "Your attitude is way out of line."

"I'm not the one dressed like a slut." Jim leaned forward a little, and Blair didn't back up at all so that the two of them were nose to nose. Aliah had on black dancer's tights with a shirt that certainly showed a little more cleavage than strictly necessary, but looking good was not about what was necessary... it was about showing off the beauty you had. Aliah had worked hard to regain much of her physical beauty after the accident, and she would not hide that because some Neanderthal with Victorian morals thought she should wear a dress down to her ankles.

"You take the cake. You really take the cake." Blair held up his hand, nearly shoving the palm into Jim's face. He turned back to his desk and started pulling out drawers and slamming them violently. Aliah expected some sort of response—a shove or curse. After all, a man would defend his personal territory, and there was little that a man considered more personal than his face. Instead a look of near-panic flashed across Jim's face, a lightning strike of emotion that flared and left behind only that façade of implacability. One only hid emotions when they were so great or so terrible as to overwhelm the world. Of course, the world would be a much better place if people would simply let loose and overwhelm it from time to time. Blair understood that. Blair was one of the only souls she had ever met who called to her on that level. He knew what it was to release inhibitions. He'd stripped naked and danced under the moon in a drum circle. He'd lost himself in the sounds of a visiting troupe of musicians playing tribal rhythms on native instruments. He'd heard the universe.

"Perhaps he is afraid that it is you and not the students who will end up in my bed," she said with a smug smile. She was poking at this Jim, trying to find that storm of emotion that had flashed so temptingly across his face. Instead he glared at her with wintry eyes.

"Man, I don't give a shit what his issue is. No way should he talk to you like that," Blair huffed and slammed another drawer. He was such a defender. In response, Jim gave a derisive snort.

"Don't start," Blair said, poking his finger toward Jim.

"Considering your record with women, maybe I should run a background check," Jim said as he finally walked around his desk, but instead of sitting, he stood beside his chair and continued to watch Blair.

"Look who's talking. Man, when you go on a date, I take out life insurance. I don't date murderers."

"Only drug runners." Jim looked smug.

Blair looked up, a file in his hand. "At least I never let Simon fucking take you in for questioning like a suspect. Hey, you get sucked in by some jewel-stealing killer, and that's okay. But if I get kidnapped by a psycho with a drug habit, then we have to do things by the book. Then I have to be questioned."

The tone in the room turned suddenly dark. The detectives who had been trying so hard to not stare were now openly gaping at the tableau in the middle of the room: two men glaring at each other with thinly varnished anguish and a woman in a wheelchair. Even after a lifetime of not fitting in, Aliah suddenly felt remarkably out of place.

Aliah expected more anger to follow the anger. While she hadn't expected to see Blair so upset at all, Jim was all machismo so she waited for the explosion. If she'd had any idea Blair was harboring so much pain, she wouldn't have poked at this sore spot, but his strongest emotions were always love or awe, not anger and hurt. She rolled her chair backwards, not wanting to get in the middle. In her younger days, she would have sailed into the middle of a fight, waving her hands to distract the men, like a flock of birds mobbing a hawk, distracting it with motion. But now, with her spine damaged, any bruise or mark on her lower body would take forever to heal. She couldn't take that risk; she could only hope that Jim's colleagues would step in to protect Blair.

Instead of anger, Jim seemed to fold in on himself. "That wasn't my choice." His voice was little more than a whisper.

Blair sucked in a fast breath. "Yeah, I didn't see you arguing."

"Oh Hairboy, he argued," the badly-dressed African American detective offered. "He went way over the line arguing with Simon over that one."

Blair frowned at Jim. "You did?"

Aliah stretched her back and watched this display in confusion. These men were certainly not playing by the rules she knew... and she thought she knew most of men's rules.

"Yes, I did, Darwin," Jim snapped. He turned his glare on the other detective, and the man fairly well scurried out of the room.

"Oh man, why didn't you say something? You knew how pissed I was."

"It's better for you to be pissed at me than say something stupid to Simon." Jim sat in his chair and turned his back on Blair.

"No way would I..." Blair stopped. He looked over at Aliah, and even she had to give him a disbelieving look. Blair was many things, but he did not even approach subtle. "Okay, maybe I would have," he admitted with great reluctance.

"Exactly, so drop it. I don't even know why we're talking about it." Jim turned on his computer and very carefully did not turn around to face Blair. Oh, only one emotion made men this twitchy.

Aliah turned to the last detective, the well-dressed man with the dark eyes. "Are they always like this?" She offered him a conspiratorial smile.

"Definitely." He smiled back. "Brian Rafe." Leaning forward, he offered his hand across his desk.

"Aliah Wilkerson." She offered her own hand, and then smiled when Brian's eyes darted down her body before returning, with some guilt, to her face.

"They should just get that energy out by having sex, and then they would not feel the need to bottle up so much emotion." She offered the words airily, as though she were announcing the time. But she watched Blair and Jim. Jim's fingers froze over his keyboard, but it took Blair as second longer. He was swinging his backpack up to his shoulder so he could leave when the words finally registered.

Brian was clearly unprepared for such truths. "I... uh... I'm sure that's...." He stopped and shook his head. "I've got nothing." Brian focused on the papers on his desk. She laughed at his honesty.

"Aliah, that's way over the line," Blair warned her.

"The truth often is. You're angry that he didn't put your needs in front of his boss, his duty. He's jealous that you're going out with someone with whom you might have sex."

"Shove it, lady. I just don't trust you," Jim interrupted.

She waved him off. "You are close enough to be honest, but you refuse to show each other your real emotions." She looked at Blair again. "Well, he is afraid to show real emotions. Blair, you are delightfully emotional. Naomi did a remarkable job raising you."

That earned another derisive snort from Jim, and Blair glared over at him.

"You even have this non-verbal language you share. You live together, work together, play together. If you two don't sleep together, it can only mean that you're both world-class idiots who can't see what is obviously in front of your face."

"Oh, they're idiots," Brian said so softly that even with her chair next to his desk, Aliah barely heard him. Jim still turned to glare, as though he had heard the comment from across the room.

"We so need to get going," Blair hurried toward the door, ignoring the entire conversation. Jim gave his attention back to his computer and finally started typing, his back stiff.

Aliah shook her head. It wasn't often that she was wrong, and she knew she wasn't wrong this time. She hadn't heard any angry denials or homophobic rants, but Blair was walking out of the room without having anything resolved. She definitely needed a little more time to work on this. Turning her wheelchair toward Brian, she reached out and rested her fingers against his arm. He was an attractive man, willing to accept love in all its forms—even between two of his male friends—and he was wise enough to still desire her. If it weren't for his job, he'd be perfect. He looked up at her with his dark brown eyes.

"Next Friday we have early rehearsals. I'll be done by four. If I were to come by here, would you be available to escort a beautiful woman to dinner?"

He swallowed and didn't answer right away. She started getting that unsettling feeling of rejection, of knowing that someone else didn't like you well enough to even spend a few hours with you. An immediate response that he had a girlfriend wouldn't hurt, but this lingering silence as he constructed excuses was torture. Her smile froze in place. Then he gave her a small grin. "Um, yeah. That'd be great. That'd be really great... if you don't mind having to wait around some. I don't always know when I'm going to be able to break away." He sounded desperate and apologetic all at once.

She smiled as she realized he was only shy, not hesitant about taking the disabled woman or the black woman or the strange woman out to dinner.

"Waiting around will not be a problem at all. I'm sure you're well worth the wait," she agreed, her face stretching into an even wider smile. Blair always did bring her luck. She could hang out at the police station, work on chiseling away the stupidity Blair and Jim were showing, and have a date with a handsome man. Today was a good day. Now it was time to remind some young people that there were things other than drugs that could make a person feel like they were flying.

Aliah gave Brian one last smile before spinning the wheels on her chair and gliding toward the exit. Blair would be waiting for her by the elevator. She had time to work on him a little bit before next Friday when she would have a chance to work on that partner of his. Her own love life might be fodder for the gods of comedy, but she was going to make sure that Blair got everything he deserved.

The End

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