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The Start Of Something Real

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The Start Of Something Real

by Ankaree

Author's website: http://www.almostpuresentinel.popullus.net/

Thanks to Kat and Elaine for the beta. And an extra thanks goes to Kat for all her help with this story. She always does such a fantastic job whipping my stories into shape!


This story originally appeared in the My Mongoose Ezine Many Movies Of The Sentinel 4.
This story is a sequel to:


This is my Sentinelized version of the movie It Could Happen To You starring Nicolas Cage and Bridget Fonda.

Blair Sandburg stood before a judge in the small courtroom, hoping that the man would find some sympathy for his situation and let him off easy.

"Mr. Sandburg, according to your records, you owe twelve thousand dollars on your MasterCard." The judge peered down at Blair over his reading glasses.

"Your Honor, those charges were acquired by my ex-boyfriend, Eddie Biossie, after I threw him out," Blair explained.

"Mr. Biossie is the secondary card holder, is he not?"

"Yes, sir, he is, but we've only recently separated and I didn't have a chance to have his name removed. I did tell him that he had to destroy his credit card and he promised that he would."

"I'm sorry, Mr. Sandburg, but as the primary card holder, you are still liable for any and all debts that Mr. Biossie has incurred."

"But-"

"It's the law," the judge interrupted.

Blair stepped a little closer to the judge's bench. Lightly resting his fingertips on top of the dark wood, he looked up with wide blue eyes and implored, "Haven't you ever been wrong about someone? I mean, totally thought they were one way when they were, in fact, the exact opposite? I admit, I should have never gotten involved with Eddie, but I met him at a time in my life when I was lonely and vulnerable. Your Honor, he swept me off my feet, said all the things I needed to hear, everything just seemed so perfect." He lowered his head, shifting his gaze to his feet and continued quietly, "But he turned out to be this pathological liar, and I was stupid enough to believe every word he said because I used to have all this faith in people, you know?" Blair swallowed hard, tamping down his emotions, but when his gaze returned to the judge, his eyes were filled with sadness.

"I understand, Mr. Sandburg, and I do sympathize, but if the MasterCard is in your name, it is still your responsibility."

With a deep sigh, Blair nodded. "So what are my options?" He watched as the judge picked up a rubber stamp, dabbed it on an inkpad then pressed it down on the legal paper, which showed Blair's name and credit card information. Blair frowned and looked at the judge. "Bankrupt?" The official simply responded with a nod. "Oh, man," Blair groaned, running his fingers through his long hair.


Detective Jim Ellison parked his truck next to the curb. When he got out and walked around to the sidewalk, his partner, Henri Brown, who had also exited the vehicle, was anxiously waiting for him.

"Come on, my man, let's go. I gotta eat." Brown started making his way down the street.

"I'm coming, I'm coming." Jim chuckled. As he passed a small outdoor newspaper stand, he stopped, automatically picking up a lottery form and moved to stand behind the six people waiting in line.

"Aw, you can't be serious," Henri said, eyeing the paper Jim was holding.

"It'll only take two minutes."

"I'm starving, man." Brown gave Jim a devilish grin before shifting his attention to the people in the line ahead of them. "Okay, people, this is police business," he shouted, moving people aside while making his way up toward the front of the crowd. "Just step aside, it'll only be two minutes, step aside-"

"Brown," Jim hissed. "Brown would you stop that." Stepping out of line, Jim grabbed his partner's arm and hauled him back down the sidewalk. "Sorry," he apologized to the annoyed looking men and women he passed as he walked to the end of the line again.

"This is going to take forever," Brown complained. "And the Burger King is another five blocks."

"So, we'll eat over there." Jim pointed to a small, slightly run down diner across the street. "We've never gone there before."

"What? That place?" Henri looked on in disbelief. "Oh, come on, I need real food, man."

Jim smirked and shook his head. "It'll be fine, H. If you don't like it, then I promise to stop by the Wonderburger near the station and get you something."

"Okay, whatever. Why are you buying a lotto ticket, anyway? Oh no -- Don't tell me you let Carolyn move back in again?" When Jim didn't answer, Brown accused, "You did, didn't you? Aw, man, Jim."

"We're just trying to work a few things out and to see if getting a divorce is what we both want. She asked me to buy a ticket today and I said I would. Hey, you never know," Jim tapped the ticket against his partner's chest and smiled. "I might just win this time."

"Yeah, right." Henri chuckled. "You know you have a better chance of having space debris fall out of the sky and land on you than you do of winning the lotto."

Jim's only response was a deep laugh.


Blair rushed down the street, dodging around people as he went. He was late and he knew that his boss, Saul Sherman, was going to be pissed. Approaching the diner where he worked as a part-time waiter, he quickly pushed open the door and hurried inside.

His boss was seated at the cash register and as Blair passed by he gave Blair a disapproving glare. "You're late," Saul said in an annoyed voice. "Where the hell were you?"

"I told you five times yesterday that I had a personal matter that I needed to attend to this morning," Blair explained, moving behind the counter. "Hey, Megs," he greeted his good friend and fellow worker, Megan Conner.

Saul looked at his watch then at Blair. "Well, you're two hours late, so it comes off your paycheck."

"What?" Blair asked in disbelief. "Do you know how many sick days I have owed to me?"

"You wanna sick day? Then get sick. You're healthy, you work." Saul pointed to two men who had just entered the diner and were seating themselves at a window booth. After exchanging a roll of his eyes with Megan, Blair headed toward the new customers.

He first looked at the black man before his eyes drifted over to the other man and his heart skipped a beat when he gazed into the most amazing blue eyes he had ever seen. The instant attraction he felt caught him so off guard that it stole his breath and he had to clear his voice before speaking. "Um... would you guys like some coffee?"

"Yes, please," the blue-eyed man said with a smile, his gaze never leaving Blair's face.

Blair returned the smile. "Okay, I'll be right back." He walked behind the counter and began filling two cups with coffee.

Megan stepped up behind him and whispered, "He's gorgeous."

"Who?"

"Don't play dumb with me, mate. I saw the way you were staring at him."

Blair peered back over his shoulder toward the man in question, but quickly looked away when he noticed the man was watching him.

"Okay, I admit, he's nice looking. What do you want me to do? Ask him out?" When Megan smiled and raised her eyebrows, Blair shook his head. "No. No way am I falling for another pretty face again. And besides, there is no way that guy is gay. He just screams straight." He picked up the coffee cups but as he moved away Megan's soft laughter reached his ears.

"Here you go." Blair set the cups down on the table. "Do you guys know what you want?"

"Burger Deluxe, medium rare, and a large fry," the black man said, a friendly smile lighting up his face.

"Okay." Blair nodded and turned to the other man. "And you, sir?"

"Well..." he paused, his eyes filled with mischief, "Would you recommend the... uh... Lobster Thermador?" the man said in a joking manner, his gaze wandering over Blair's face.

Blair couldn't help but laugh. The closest thing that the diner had to a seafood dish was fish fried in batter. "That's really funny, man. With the kind of day I've had so far, I needed a good laugh."

The handsome face that had been watching him so attentively quickly showed concern. "You've had a bad day?"

"Yeah, well, you know how it is sometimes. Just a run of bad luck. So, have you decided what you'd like?" Blair felt his cheeks flush when he saw a look of lust flash across the blue eyes.

"Yes, I have," the man said huskily, an easy smile slowly spreading across his face. Blair suddenly realized that he had been wrong in his assumption that the guy was straight because there was no missing his flirtatious manner.

"And what would that be?" Blair tilted his head and gave a sexy smile, deciding to flirt back. His heart sped up as the man gazed at him intently, those eyes seeming to see right into his soul. Beginning to feel a little uncomfortable now, Blair had to look away.

Having seemed to sense Blair's discomfort, the man changed his mannerism from flirty to friendly. "I'll have the meatball sandwich."

"The meatball sandwich? Boy, you are one brave man." Blair could feel his insides turn to mush when the other man grinned brightly, the laugh lines crinkling the skin around his eyes. "Okay," Blair smiled. "One meatball sandwich and one burger deluxe coming right up." He stepped away to place the order with the cook.


Jim sipped his coffee and watched his waiter walk away. He wondered what the hell he was doing, flirting with a man when he was married. But then again, it wasn't really a marriage anymore. This was the second time he and Carolyn had separated and it was the second time Jim had let her back into his life. He wasn't sure exactly why he did it, but he was damn sure it had a lot to do with guilt for the marriage failing. Guilt because he was no longer in love with her and probably never was. And guilt for not sooner facing the fact that it was a man's body he longed to touch and hold. He never should have gotten married in the first place and within a few months, he knew it was a huge mistake. He and Carolyn were in no way compatible; they were exact opposites and he wondered why he hadn't seen it at the beginning. Although he had never said anything to Carolyn about being bisexual, he was sure that she had somehow found out. And maybe that was the center of a lot of the petty fights that she had picked with Jim. He suddenly sighed inwardly. He never should have denied that his feelings -- his need -- to be with a man were so much stronger than the need to be with a woman. Then maybe, just maybe, he could have saved both himself and Carolyn a whole lot of heartache.

There was no denying the attraction he felt for the waiter, and if it had been at a different time in his life, he probably would have asked the man out. But unfortunately, at the moment, his life was a mess and until it was straightened out, his personal life had to be put on hold.

"What?" Jim asked Henri when he noticed his partner staring at him with a goofy grin on his face.

"You like him, and I'd say the feeling is mutual." Brown wiggled his eyebrows

"I was just trying to cheer him up," Jim said with a straight face.

"Mmmhmm, sure you were."

"Well, I was," he defended, then his face broke into a grin.

"You should ask him out," Henri said before he took a long drink of coffee.

"H, you know I can't do that. I'm married."

Brown shook his head and lowered his voice. "I don't understand you, man. Why did you let her come back again? She treats you like shit, Jim. You deserve so much better than that."

Jim was about to reply when his cell phone suddenly rang. He pulled it out of his jacket pocket and hit the 'talk' button. "Ellison... Yes, okay, Simon. We'll be there in fifteen minutes." Hanging up, Jim sent Henri an apologetic look.

Henri dropped his head in his hands and complained, "Oh man, I'm gonna starve to death."

"Sorry, partner, but we've got a dead body over on Wentworth," Jim explained as they both slid out of the booth. "Here, take my keys and get the truck started while I get the check." After handing over his keys, Jim headed to the counter where the waiter was filling someone's coffee cup.

"Hi," his waiter greeted.

"I'm sorry, Chief, but we've got to run. I'll just need the check," Jim said.

"Oh, okay. Well, you just owe me for the two cups of coffee then, so that'll be two dollars even."

"All right." Jim pulled out his wallet but when he opened it suddenly remembered that he had spent the last of his money to buy the lotto ticket. "Oh geez. I'm sorry. I forgot I don't have any cash on me. Um... I'll have to go get my partner." Jim saw the look of surprise cross the other man's face. He knew it was because of the use of the term 'partner' and for some reason felt compelled to explain. "We're police detectives." The bright smile that graced the waiter's face was blinding and Jim found himself smiling back.

"Oh, uh... right... Well, don't worry about it, Officer. There's no charge."

"No, that's not right, plus I wanted to leave you a tip."

"That's not necessary."

"I can't not leave you a tip." Jim fumbled with his wallet for a second then pulled out a piece of paper and held it up. "How about a lotto ticket?" he teased with a grin.

The waiter chuckled. "With my luck? Be serious."

"Listen, I've got an idea. What's your name?"

The man eyed Jim for a second before saying, "Blair."

"Okay, Blair, I'm Jim Ellison and we're going to be partners. If this ticket wins tonight, I'll come back tomorrow and split the proceeds with you, and if it doesn't, I'll still come back and pay for the coffee and your tip. What do you think?" Jim asked enthusiastically.

"I think," Blair replied, suddenly becoming serious, "that I'm never going to see you again."

"You'll see me tomorrow."

"Well, I know I'll be here." Jim didn't miss the sadness in Blair's voice, and he wondered what was the cause of it.

"I promise, Blair. Is it a deal?" Jim held out his hand waiting for the waiter to shake it. When Blair hesitated, Jim didn't think the gesture would be returned, but Blair smiled suddenly and took Jim's hand in his.

The heat that passed between them at the contact of their skin did not go unnoticed. Their eyes met and locked and at that moment, Jim was grateful that there was a counter separating them because he wasn't sure he'd be able to stop himself from pulling Blair into his arms and kissing those incredible lips. Reluctantly, he pulled his hand away and stepped back a little. "I've really got to go, but you will see me tomorrow."

"Okay." Blair nodded, still not sounding totally convinced.

With a smile, Jim turned and hurried out the door.


When Jim entered his loft apartment later that evening, the strong scent of Carolyn's perfume hit him full force as he stepped through the front door. He had to lean against the kitchen counter and close his eyes while the room started to spin and his head began to pound. It took a few seconds of deep breathing before he felt he could safely open his eyes again. He sighed in relief when the room seemed to stay still and although his head still hurt, the pain was bearable.

Ever since his week long stakeout in the woods during the Switchman case a month ago, Jim had started having problems with his senses. At first it had begun with just his hearing. It was as if someone would suddenly turn the volume up and he could hear things from a great distance. Sight was the next of his senses that started to become sensitive, followed by touch, then smell and taste. He thought he was being drugged somehow or maybe going crazy but when he had approached his captain and good friend, Simon Banks, and told him what was going on, his friend told him to see a doctor immediately. Unfortunately, the doctor found nothing physically wrong and suggested it was probably stress from the job. He had tried talking it over with Carolyn, but all she said was that if the doctor thought it was stress related then Jim should probably think about taking a desk job or finding another line of work. He knew that the latter was never going to happen. He loved his job too much and loved being out on the street, protecting and watching over the people.

He looked over at Carolyn, who was sitting on the sofa filing her nails while watching the evening news. She hadn't noticed his little episode and he was glad because it would have just made her annoyed with him.

Jim was about to say 'hello' when Carolyn glared at him and said in a stern voice, "I hope you remembered to get the lotto ticket today. They'll be announcing the numbers in a few minutes."

"Hello to you, too." Jim couldn't hold back the sarcastic tone as the words came out of his mouth.

"Don't start with me, Jimmy, I've had a bad day."

"You always have a bad day," Jim mumbled to himself.

"What was that?" Carolyn asked.

"Nothing," he said, approaching her and handing over the ticket.

Sitting down on the sofa beside his wife, Jim removed his shoes and socks, relaxed back into the cushions and placed his feet on the coffee table.

"Why do you always do that?" Carolyn asked, annoyed.

"Do what?"

"Put your bare feet on the table."

"Since when did that bother you?"

"Since now."

Jim sighed. "Fine." With his head still throbbing, he really wasn't in the mood to argue, so he got back up and headed into the kitchen for a beer. When he returned, he sat down on the other sofa and stared at the television, watching a commercial about breast implants.

"Think I should get mine done?" Carolyn asked, looking down at her chest, glancing from one breast to the other.

"Done?" Jim frowned.

"Yeah, you know, have my breasts enlarged."

"What? Are you nuts?" Jim stared at her. "That's a little extreme, don't you think?"

"Just forget it. You wouldn't understand."

No, he didn't understand and that was another one of their problems. Jim never seemed to understand her, never seemed to be able to please her. And again he wondered why in the hell he let her come back and why, if she wasn't happy being with him, did she want to be here.

"They're going to announce the lotto numbers after this commercial," Carolyn stated. She leaned forward, picked up the ticket and looked at the numbers then frowned. "You got the numbers wrong." Her voice rose in anger. "Our anniversary is on the twenty-seventh, not the twenty-sixth."

"I know that but you always want to celebrate it on the twenty-sixth, so I picked that number."

"We got the license on the twenty-sixth and got married on the twenty-seventh," Carolyn explained as though talking to a child.

Jim glared at her and said through clenched teeth, "Why in the hell do we celebrate it on that day instead of the twenty-seventh?"

"Because it's a custom in my family, you know that. God, you never listen to me, do you? But that's not the problem right now. It's that I specifically told you to use the number of our anniversary."

"Look, I'm sorry, okay." His apology went ignored and Carolyn shushed him when the announcer came on the television and began to read off the lotto numbers.

Suddenly, Carolyn jumped up from her seat and began to scream.

"What? What is it?" Jim asked and stood up.

"We won!" Carolyn cried, jumping up and down. "We won the jackpot!"

"Oh, my God." Jim smiled as Carolyn flung herself into his arms. "That's unbelievable."

"We're rich!" Carolyn laughed, squeezing Jim tightly.


"Come on in, Megs." Blair opened the door, letting his friend into his warehouse apartment.

"Hi, Sandy. I brought Fosters." Megan grinned and held up a small case of beer.

"Great! The game should be starting soon. Make yourself comfortable." Blair gestured to the sofa before walking into his little makeshift kitchen. "What would you like on your sandwich?"

"What are you making?"

"BLT, with turkey instead of bacon." Blair grinned.

"Do you have any Miracle Whip?"

"Of course I have Miracle Whip." Opening the small fridge door, Blair pulled out a bottle. "No matter how broke I am, there's just certain things, certain..."Blair shrugged, "standards -- you have to have things in your life that are stable, permanent, like Miracle Whip, Oreo cookies or chocolate ice cream."

"Or Tim Tams!" Megan exclaimed brightly.

Blair laughed. "Exactly!" Picking up the two plates of sandwiches, he moved to the sofa, handing Megan's to her before placing his own on the wooden crate that was used as a coffee table.

"Thanks, mate."

"You're welcome." Before Blair sat down he asked, "Will there be anything else?" When Megan shook her head, he plopped down beside her and with a sigh, repeated quietly, "Will there be anything else?" Seeing his friend sending him a curious look, he said, "There'll never be anything else. God, I hate this. I feel bankrupt. I am so broke, Megs."

Placing her arm around Blair's shoulder, Megan gave him a comforting squeeze. "It will all work out, you'll see."


"What?" Carolyn yelled into the phone and Jim had the urge to put his hand over his ears as the sound pierced his eardrums, making his head hurt even more. Once the initial shock of winning had worn off, Carolyn had called the lotto officials trying to find out their total winnings. "Okay, fine!" She angrily slammed the phone down and turned to address Jim. "A bowling team from Albany had the same numbers, they get nine million. So far there are sixteen people who picked the winning numbers. Which means that only leaves us with four million," she said, her voice filled with disappointment.

"That's still a lot of money, Caro. And... uh... we could even live on less than that."

"Let's just pray to God that no one else calls in so we don't have to split any more of it."

Biting the inside of his bottom lip, Jim shifted in the kitchen chair until he faced Carolyn.

"What?" she asked when she saw him staring at her. "What?" she repeated, sounding annoyed.

Reaching out, Jim took her hand in his, trying to figure out the best way to explain what he had to say. But he figured that no matter how he said it, she was still going to be extremely pissed, so he braced himself and said, "I don't know how to tell you this -- but earlier today I promised a waiter that if I won, I'd give him half of the winnings."

"You what!" Carolyn bellowed, snatching her hand away. "How the hell could you do that?"

Jim stood up and began to pace. "I owed him for two coffees and a tip."

"A tip!" Carolyn cried incredulously. "A two million dollar tip? Are you stupid? Why didn't you just give it all away, Jimmy?" she said in disgust.

"I didn't think we'd win, all right!" Jim yelled back.

"But we did win, just like I told you we would one day!"

"But if we used your numbers, we wouldn't have won," Jim elucidated.

"Don't do that," Carolyn stood up and pointed a finger at him. "Don't you dare do that, because you know and I know that it was me who picked all the other numbers. We wouldn't have won if it wasn't for me! So you can forget about giving that waiter half. Just pay him what you owe, that's all."

Jim stopped in front of Carolyn, placing his hands on her upper arms. "It's not the right thing to do, Caro," he said, trying to be reasonable.

"The right thing?" She took a step back and Jim allowed his arms to fall to his sides. "Jimmy, you've been doing the right thing your entire life for everybody else. Just this once, please, please do the right thing for us. For me."

Jim shook his head and said firmly, "I gave him my word."


On the drive across town the next morning with Henri beside him, Jim quietly told his partner about winning the lotto, and also about his argument with Carolyn regarding his promise to Blair.

Searching for advice, Jim asked, "What would you do?"

"Well, I'd buy season tickets for the Jags. Hell, I'd buy the Jags."

Jim laughed lightly. "I mean about the waiter. Do you think giving him half is crazy?"

"The way I see it," Henri shifted in his seat and faced Jim, "a promise is a promise."

"You're right." Jim nodded and made a quick u-turn in the middle of the busy Cascade street. A few cars blared their horns as Jim cut them off, but he just waved and pressed on the accelerator.

"Whoa, my man, where are we goin'?" Henri gripped tightly onto the dashboard when the truck picked up speed.

"To keep my promise."


"Here you go," Blair said, placing two plates of food down on the table in front of the customers. "If there's anything else just let me know." Moving to another table, he asked, "Everything okay here?" When the woman acknowledged that everything was fine, Blair moved across the diner picking up dirty dishes as he went.

Placing the pile he was holding on the counter, he jumped slightly when a voice directly behind him said, "Good morning." He felt his heart race with excitement when he realized it was the police officer from yesterday.

Blair turned around and smiled. "Hey, you're back." He stepped around the cop, making his way behind the counter.

"I said I'd be back."

"Would you like some coffee?"

"Uh -- no, thanks. Actually-"

"Hang on a second, I need to get this to a customer." Grabbing a plate full of hot food, Blair quickly delivered it to a pale looking young man. "Here you go, Frankie. Now, make sure you eat it all." He exchanged a few more words with Frankie, making the man laugh before returning to stand in front of Jim.

"He's sick, isn't he?" Jim asked.

"Yeah." Blair nodded. "He's got AIDS. Comes in twice a week. He's really starting to go downhill though and he doesn't have any family. We've become friends over the past few months, so I do my best to look out for him." He sighed sadly. "What a world, huh? It really makes you want to appreciate every moment and not be petty or spiteful."

"I know just what you mean." Jim smiled softly at him. Their eyes met and held, and Blair felt his breath quicken.

"Blair!" Saul's yell broke the spell that seemed to be weaving itself around the two men. When Blair looked over at his boss, the man motioned him over.

"I'll be right back," Blair said to Jim and walked to where his boss was seated in his usual spot at the cash register. "What is it, Saul?"

Saul held up a check, waving it in front of Blair's face. "What I have here is a check for $9.53. What I do not have," his voice rose loudly, "is the $9.53."

"The guy went to go get his wallet out of the car," Blair explained, "He said he'd be right ba-"

"Never let them out the door!" Saul yelled. "What am I running here? A soup kitchen?"

"I'm sorry. I made a mistake." Blair felt his face flush in embarrassment at being chastised in front of the customers and Jim.

"You sure did and the $9.53 will be deducted from your pay. Now get back to work."

"Yes, sir." Turning away, Blair walked back to where Jim was standing next to the counter. "Sorry about that," Blair said, looking down at his feet. "I wouldn't put up with his crap if I didn't need this job so badly."

"It's okay." When a warm hand lightly squeezed Blair's arm, he slid his eyes up to meet Jim's face. Seeing the understanding in the cop's eyes, Blair gave a little smile. "Can you take a break for a minute? I'd like to talk to you."

"Uh -- sure." Blair turned to address Megan as she passed by. "Megs, can you watch my tables for a minute?"

"Sure thing, mate," she replied with a little smirk, her eyes shifting back and forth between the two men

"Thanks." Blair turned his attention back to Jim and asked, "Would you like anything to eat? The strawberry danish is really good, or how about a sandwich?"

"No, I'm not hungry, but thanks anyway. The thing is -- I have something for you." Blair watched Jim reach into his leather jacket, pull out a small box and hand it to him.

"For me?" Blair frowned slightly and tentatively reached out to take the box.

"It's just a little something I saw displayed in a store window this morning."

Pulling off the lid, Blair gasped and became momentarily speechless as he gazed down at a beautiful silver ankh attached to a black leather cord. "It's- It's beautiful."

"May I put it on you?" Jim asked softly.

"Yes, please." For the few seconds it took for Jim to place the necklace around his neck and attach it in place, it felt, to Blair, like they were the only two people in the diner. It was as if all other sound and movement around them stopped and the only person that existed for Blair was Jim. He couldn't stop the shiver of excitement from flowing through his body at the feel of the detective's fingers on his skin while he fastened the clasp at the back of his neck.

"There -- all done." The sound of Jim's voice started the world in motion again and Blair looked up to see those amazing sky-blue eyes watching him intently. "I noticed you wearing something similar yesterday, so when I saw this," Jim lightly touched the ankh, "I thought you might like it.

"Like it? I love it. This is the nicest thing anyone has ever gotten me. But I don't understand. Why would you do this?"

"Well, yesterday you said you had a bad day, so I thought maybe a little gift would cheer you up."

"Thank you so much, Detective."

"It's Jim."

"Thank you, Jim." Blair smiled warmly.

"You're very welcome. It suits you perfectly." Blair felt his face flush slightly at the comment.

"Are you sure I can't get you something? Coffee or some tea maybe?"

"Okay. Maybe some decaf coffee. I've already reached my target heart rate for the day." Jim grinned.

"Decaf it is." Blair laughed and went about getting the detective a cup of coffee.

"You've had some bad luck recently?" Jim asked before picking up his cup and taking a sip.

"You could say that. The short story is I became involved with the wrong guy. He maxed out my credit card after I threw him out. He disappeared, so now I'm responsible for the debt -- which, of course, I can't pay -- so yesterday I had to declare bankruptcy."

"You went bankrupt?" Jim frowned, his voice sounding concerned.

"I had no choice." Blair sighed.

"I'm sorry."

"Yeah, well, things could be worse." Blair shrugged a little. "I guess I'd better get back to work. Thanks again for the necklace."

"Wait!"

Blair stopped and turned back toward Jim. Curious, Blair moved to stand directly in front of his new friend. "What is it?"

"About our little agreement yesterday?"

"Agreement?"

"I come back and pay the check and your tip or give you half of what I won on the lottery. Remember?"

"Oh, right."

"How about I make it your choice." Jim paused for a second before continuing, "Door number one, I'll pay the check and double your tip or door number two, half of what I won on the lottery."

"My choice, huh?" Blair grinned. Thinking Jim was joking around, he played along. "Okay, I'll take... ummm... door number two. I'll take half of the lottery." He looked at Jim with a smirk. "Pay up, man."

"You're sure?" Jim asked, raising his eyebrows.

"I'm positive," Blair responded jokingly.

"I was hoping you'd say that."

"I bet you were. Better luck next time, right?" replied Blair in a teasing manner.

"Well, actually, we were pretty lucky."

"Oh really? Did you win something?"

"We won something." Jim smiled brightly.

"Okay, I'll play along, what did we win?" Placing his elbow on the counter, Blair leaned a little closer to the detective.

"Four million dollars," Jim said, his tone serious.

Blair shook his head in surprised denial and took a step back, not being able to conceal the hurt expression on his face. Was he really that bad a judge of character? He truly thought the detective was different. That he was an honest and caring man. "Why are you doing this?" he asked accusingly.

"What?" Jim said, sounding confused.

"This... this sick joke! Why would you do this to me?" Blair demanded, his voice angry now.

Reaching out, Jim grabbed a hold of Blair's wrist. "No, Blair, I promise you, this is not a joke."

Swallowing hard, Blair asked hesitantly, "Not a joke?" He eyed Jim suspiciously, still not sure if he was being told the truth.

"No." Jim shook his head and began to grin. "It's not a joke. We won."

"The lottery?" Blair asked, needing to be one hundred percent clear on what Jim was telling him. "The actual Washington State Lottery?"

"Yes," Jim said with a chuckle. "The actual lottery. We won four million dollars.

"And you're really going to split it with me?" he asked, stunned.

Blair watched a soft, tender look fill Jim's face and the detective stared into Blair's eyes. "Yes. A promise is a promise."

A small smile began to spread across Blair's face before it turned into a huge grin. "Oh, my God," he whispered. The enormity of what was happening began to hit him and he started to laugh and bounce in place, his gaze never leaving Jim's. "Oh, my God," Blair said a little more loudly. "Oh, my God!" This time he yelled out happily then threw himself into Jim's arms, hugging him tight as they laughed together. "This is unbelievable." Blair moved back a little, but still remained within Jim's embrace. Blinking back the moisture that had formed in his eyes, he looked up at Jim and said quietly, "Thank you, thank you so much."

"You're very welcome." Jim smiled softly. He reached out and tucked a wayward curl that had escaped from Blair's ponytail behind his ear. The detective began to lean forward and Blair was sure Jim was going to kiss him, but they were suddenly interrupted by Megan's voice.

"What's going on, Sandy?"

Reluctantly, Blair pulled out of Jim's reach and turned to face his friend. After quickly explaining to Megan what had just happened, she screamed, jumped up and down and suddenly Blair was being embraced by his excited friend.

"I'm so happy for you," Megan said once she released him. "I told you things would get better, didn't I?"

"Yes, you did." Blair laughed. "After all the lousy luck I've been having recently, I never imagined anything like this ever happening to me. Man, it's like an incredible dream..." Blair trailed off, and quickly turned around to face Jim again. "That's what this is, isn't it? A dream. I can't accept this, Jim. I mean, I want to -- so desperately -- but how can I?"

"Accept it, Blair." Jim stepped closer, and Blair felt warm hands come to rest on his shoulders and give a little squeeze. "Please. I want you to have it. With all my heart."

"Oh, Jim," Blair said softly. "Thank you. This is such an incredible gift." Not being able to stop himself, he slid his arms around Jim's waist and hugged him closely. Strong arms returned the embraced and Blair found himself wanting to stay this way forever.


Jim paced the loft and found himself repeating for the hundredth time, "Carolyn, two million dollars is still an enormous about of money."

"You're crazy, you know that, Jimmy. You should be committed to an insane asylum for the rest of your life!" Carolyn yelled angrily. "I can't believe you gave him half of my money after I explicitly asked you not to do it!"

"Look, you weren't there, okay. Blair needs the money more than we do."

"Why did you stop at half? Why didn't you just give it all to him?" Carolyn said in exasperation. "Can't you see? He's playing you, Jimmy."

"Blair's not like that." Jim defended, "He's a nice man who's had a run of bad luck. You'll see when you meet him." Wanting to take the spotlight off Blair, Jim decided that the only way to get out of this particular conversation was to turn it around and make it all about Carolyn. She had always loved to be the center of attention. "We're doing the right thing here. And you know what? The whole city will admire you. Everybody will know you. You'll be a celebrity. A hero."

Carolyn's face brightened immediately. "You think so?"

"Sure, why not."

"You're right," she giggled. "I can see the headlines now. Carolyn Plummer: The woman with the heart of gold." Suddenly, her manner changed and she gave Jim a hard look. "Well, I'd better get something out of it after what you did. I still can't believe you gave away almost all of the money."

Jim didn't answer, but simply walked away and went to sit on the bed in the small room under the stairs where he had been sleeping ever since Carolyn had moved back in. Dropping his head into his hands, Jim sighed wearily. He couldn't live like this any longer. All he and Carolyn ever did now was fight and bicker. This wasn't a life. He wanted someone that he could love, respect and share his life with and have all that returned. Somehow he knew that someone could be Blair. He felt it deep in his soul. Even his senses knew it. They practically hummed when he was near Blair -- God, he felt whole when he was near Blair. He wasn't sure how it was possible to fall so easily for someone he hardly knew but he was no longer going to question it nor deny his feelings.

Reaching over to open the bedside table drawer, Jim pulled out a small business card with the name and number of a lawyer. When he had had lunch with his brother Steven last week, he had given Jim the card and told him that anytime he needed to use it, to do so and his company would pick up the bill. With his mind made up, Jim decided that after the press conference tomorrow, where all the lotto winners would receive their checks, he would call the lawyer about divorce proceedings and begin to get his life back on track. Once he was no longer married, he would be free to pursue Blair.


Blair stood off to one side of the busy, noisy banquet hall that the lotto officials had rented for the check presentation ceremony. Champagne was flowing and a huge table of food was set up near the back of the room. The Press was there in full force, interviewing each of the winners, trying to find the best story. So far, Blair had been lucky and no one had bothered him. His eyes scanned the room looking for the one person he wanted to see, but so far couldn't find. A light touch on his shoulder made Blair jump and he glanced sideways to see the detective standing beside him.

"Jim." Blair grinned brightly.

"Hi, Chief," Jim returned with a warm smile. "How are you?"

"Okay. It's all a little bit overwhelming. Isn't it?" Blair nodded toward the large gathering.

"Yes, it is."

When a series of flash bulbs went off, Blair saw Jim wince. "You okay?" he asked with concern, placing a hand on Jim's arm.

"It's all the noise and lights. They bother me."

"Maybe you should step outside until the ceremony begins."

"Would you come with me?" Jim asked.

"Of course. Come on." Taking the detective by the elbow, Blair began to lead Jim toward a side exit but before they made it to the door, a reporter shoved a microphone in their face.

"You're the police officer who won four million dollars. Detective Ellison, right?" the reporter asked.

"That's right," responded Jim.

When the reporter realized that the detective wasn't going to continue, he turned his attention to Blair. "Are you one of the winners?"

Blair replied, "No, I'm not." And officially he wasn't, so he didn't feel compelled to explain why he was here.

Suddenly, a woman pushed her way in between Blair and Jim. "I'm Carolyn Plummer, Mr. Ellison's wife. And this young man here," she tilted her head in Blair's direction, "is Mr. Blair Sandburg. A waiter to whom my husband and I graciously gave half of our winnings."

"Let me get this straight," said the reporter, sounding a little skeptical. "You gave a waiter two million dollars?"

Blair stood there stunned while the reporter and Carolyn chattered on. He couldn't get the thought that Jim was married out of his head. If the detective was married then why in the hell had he been flirting with Blair? And he had been, Blair was sure of that. All the signals had been there. He sadly wondered why he always fell for the men he couldn't have or the ones who wanted to use him. "God, I am such an idiot," Blair muttered to himself.

"Hey!" the reporter suddenly yelled so the rest of the room could hear. "We've got a guy here who gave a waiter a two million dollar tip!"

In a flurry of excitement, they were surrounded by cameras and reporters all wanting a piece of the story. Risking a glance, Blair looked over at Jim and saw him grimace while holding a hand up to his eyes trying to block out the glaring lights that were focused on them. Jim's wife was oblivious to what was happening to her husband, seeming more interested in the attention and telling their story. Even though Blair felt hurt by the thought that Jim had been leading him on, he wished there was something he could do for the man's obvious discomfort.

A news reporter standing in the middle of the crowd called out, "Mrs. Ellison, do you have any trouble with the fact that your husband split the four million dollars with a stranger?"

Hooking her arm through Jim's, she replied, "Not at all. It's our pleasure to help those in need." Carolyn smiled sweetly.

"Mr. Ellison, do you plan on leaving the force?" a woman journalist asked.

"No, I don't," Jim replied.

A question was directed at Blair this time. "What about you, Mr. Sandburg?"

"I intend to continue my studies."

"Mr. Sandburg, is this the biggest tip you've ever received?" joked another reporter.

Wishing all this attention would soon end, Blair put on a little smile and answered, "Yeah, you could say that."

"Ladies and gentlemen," said an official standing on the stage speaking into a mike. "I need all the winners on stage for the ceremony, please."

As the crowd dispersed, Blair began to move away, but Jim calling his name made him stop.

"Carolyn, this is Blair Sandburg." With a nod toward Carolyn, he added, "Blair, this is -- Carolyn."

"It's nice to meet you, Mrs. Ellison. I'd like to thank you for your generosity." Blair kept his voice neutral and even though the smile he plastered on his face was fake, his thanks was genuine. Politely he held out a hand, but Carolyn purposefully ignored it and walked away.

"I'm sorry, Blair. I should have told you I was married," Jim said quietly.

"Yeah, you sure as hell should have." Blair didn't hide the hurt in his voice. "I thought... never mind. I have to get out of here." When he moved to leave, Jim's hand on his arm stopped him.

"Blair, wait. We need to talk. Please," Jim pleaded.

"No." Blair shook his head. "Not here. Not right now. I have to go."

"Take this." Jim shoved a business card into his hand. "Use the cell number and call me. I really want to explain things to you."

"Jimmy," Carolyn called, interrupting them. "I need you over here. Now."

"You'd better go. Your wife is calling you." Blair's voice broke. He turned away and without a backward glance, quickly left the building.


In his office at the university, Blair sat quietly, fiddling with an invitation that had arrived by courier earlier that morning. It was from The Millionaire's Club, inviting him to a special dinner aboard a luxury yacht tomorrow evening. He was having a hard time getting past the thought that he was now a millionaire. But what good would all that money do if the one person he wanted to share it with couldn't be part of his life? He glanced over at the business card that had been sitting untouched on his desk all week and once again felt tempted to call the number and give Jim a chance to explain. But all the explaining in the world wouldn't change the fact that the man was married.

"Dammit," Blair hissed, throwing the invitation on his desk and running his fingers through his hair.

"Is it that bad, mate?" Megan asked, entering the small office.

"Yes. No. Oh, hell, I don't know." Blair flopped back in his chair.

After closing the office door, Megan moved to sit in a wooden chair next to Blair's desk. "Okay, what's happened?" she asked in concern. "You've been distant and quiet all week."

"It's Jim. I really like him."

"So, what's the problem? He seems to like you too. Each time I saw you two together, there was definitely sparks."

"He's married," Blair stated quietly.

"What!" Megan hollered and jumped up out of her seat. "I'll flog the twit!"

"It's okay, Megs. Calm down," he said to his agitated friend.

"How can you say it's all right? Who in the hell does he think he is, leading you on like that?" She asked, sitting back down in her seat.

"I admit, when I first found out that he was married, I was hurt, but now that I've had time to think about it, I realize that something else is going on. I just have to decide if I want to find out or not."

The sudden ringing of the phone interrupted them. Blair picked it up and said, "Blair Sandburg."

"Hello, baby, it's me," said a happy male voice.

At the sound of that voice, Blair's world suddenly came to a standstill. "Eddie," he replied brusquely. Looking over at Megan, he saw her sit up straighter and frown.

"I know, I know, you're mad at me for maxing out the credit card, but, baby, I can explain," Eddie said sweetly.

"Stay out of my life, Eddie. I mean it," Blair said, keeping all emotion out of his voice. At the confused state that his life was in at the moment, he sure as hell didn't need Eddie coming back to complicate things even further.

"Come on, sugar, don't be mad. You know I'm sorry."

Blair knew how Eddie was -- he'd learned that lesson -- and wasn't about to fall for the man's sweetness and nice routine. "The only reason you're calling is because you heard about me and the lottery, and you want a piece of it."

"What?" Eddie said, sounding amazed. "You won something?"

"Don't play dumb with me, Eddie."

"No, baby, I'm serious. I haven't heard a thing. I've been out of town. So, you won the lottery, huh? That's fabulous. You did good then?"

"I did all right," Blair said quietly.

"That's great, Blair. Nobody deserves it more. I mean that, from the bottom of my heart." Eddie's silky smooth voice sounded very sincere.

"Hang up," Megan hissed.

"Please don't ever call me again," Blair said into the receiver before quickly hanging up.

"Please, do not let him get to you, Sandy," Megan begged.

"Don't worry, Megs, I learned my lesson. God, I can't believe he had the gall to call me. I don't need this right now."

"You want some advice?" At Blair's nod, she continued, "I think if want to move forward, you need to talk to Jim. I know you, Sandy. If you don't, it'll just eat away inside of you."

Blair sighed. "Yeah, maybe you're right."


Having finished questioning a witness in their latest case, Jim and Henri walked down the street toward where Jim had parked his truck.

"So, when are you retiring?"

"I'm not retiring."

"Oh, come on. With all that money, why work?"

"I said I'm not retiring." Jim's tone came off sounding more gruff than he had intended.

"Hey, where's your sense of humor, my man? I was just teasing." Henri lightly punched Jim in the arm.

"Sorry," Jim apologized. "I'm just tired. I got a phone call at three this morning from some guy who says that he's holding a gun to his head, tells me his life is in ruins and if I don't give him $10,000, he's pulling the trigger."

"If he called me at three o'clock in the morning, I'd tell him to go ahead." Henri grinned.

"I don't know, H, this lottery thing -- from one day to the next it's like you become this whole other person. It's just weird, man."

"Oh yeah, I feel so bad for you, babe," Henri teased, stopping next to the truck.

Pulling out his keys, Jim unlocked the passenger door before moving to the driver's side. Sliding in behind the wheel, he replied. "Hey, I'm not bad mouthing it. All right? I'm just saying that it's a big adjustment."

"Did you read in the paper that Blair bought the diner?"

"Yeah, I did."

"Want to go there and grab some chow?"

"No," Jim replied quietly. The day after the ceremony, Jim had sent Blair a check for his share of the winnings and a day later, a thank you note had arrived in the mail. But since then, he hadn't heard a word from Blair and figured that it was Blair's way of saying he wanted nothing to do with him.

"Come on. I know you're dying to see him," Henri pushed.

"I said no, H. Now drop it. Okay?" Jim snapped.

"Okay, fine. No need to get all testy." Turning away, Henri looked out the side window.

"Shit, I'm sorry, H. Didn't mean to snap."

"Whatever, man."

After a full minute of silence, Jim finally spoke up. "Look in the glove compartment."

Henri turned to him and said, "What?"

"Look in the glove compartment," Jim repeated.

Leaning forward, Henri pushed the button on the compartment, allowing the door to drop open. Inside was an envelope on which Jim had written his name.

"What's this?" Henri asked after taking the envelope and closing the glove compartment.

"Open it and find out, dummy." Jim chuckled.

Henri flipped opened the flap and looked inside. "Oh, Shit! Season tickets to the Jags!" he exclaimed excitedly. "For me?"

With a laugh, Jim said, "Of course, for you."

"Thanks, man." Reaching across the cab, Henri patted Jim on the shoulder.

"So, am I forgiven?"

"Hey, do I ever stay mad at you?" Henri looked at Jim with a big silly grin and wiggled his eyebrows.

Jim just smiled and shook his head at his friend's playfulness. There was just no staying in a bad mood when in the company of his partner.


Leaning his arms on top of the railing of the luxury yacht, Blair looked out over the water. Behind him he could hear the chatter and laughter of the Millionaire's Club partygoers but he felt no urge to join in. The boat was going to be setting sail soon, for an evening of dining and dancing out on the bay. He wondered again why he had come here -- no scratch that -- he knew exactly why he had come. He wanted to see Jim again.

"What the hell am I doing? This isn't right," Blair whispered to himself. "He's a married man. You're just setting yourself up for a whole lot of heartache."

A sudden presence at his side made Blair glance next to him and his heart skipped a beat when he saw Jim casually leaning against the rail.

"Hi," Jim said.

The sound of Jim's voice sent shivers down his spine and Blair had to take a calming breath before replying, "Hey. Nice night."

"Yeah, it is." The detective shifted to face him.

"Why aren't you inside enjoying the party?"

"I'm not a big fan of crowds." They were silent for a few minutes before Jim spoke again. "I'm glad you came."

Blair could feel the sweep of Jim's gaze as it raked over him and he closed his eyes when a warm sensation washed through his body. "I'm not sure I should have."

"Come with me, please." Jim touched Blair on the arm.

Stepping back out of the detective's reach, Blair shook his head. "I don't think that's such a good idea, Jim. You're married."

"That's what I want to talk to you about, but I'd like to do it some place a little more private -- and quiet," he added.

"But what about your -- umm -- you know -- your wife?" Blair forced out the words.

"Don't worry about her. She's in her element here. Trust me, she won't even know I'm gone."

Blair knew he had to make a decision, so he decided to go with his heart and give Jim the chance to explain. "Okay. Let's go."

"Okay." Jim smiled. He placed a hand on Blair's back, guiding him to the exit that led to the pier.


It was a rare, warm evening in Cascade and Jim had brought them to a fancy, intimate little restaurant overlooking the bay. They were seated outside on the terrace at a private table for two. The low lighting, soft glow of candles on the tables and lights reflecting off the water all made for a very romantic atmosphere. Blair thought that the ambiance would have made for an amazing first date and he found himself wishing that things could be different; that he and Jim were actually here as a couple.

A waiter appeared, placing menus in front of each of them. "It's a pleasure to have you here this evening," the man said. "May I get you a cocktail or some champagne?"

"Champagne?" Jim asked Blair.

With a nod, Blair replied, "Sure."

Jim turned to the waiter. "Bottle of your best champagne, please."

"Very good, sir. I'll be back in a moment." The waiter quietly slipped away, leaving the two men alone again.

"So," Jim started the conversation. "I read that you bought the diner."

"Yes, I did. You should come by and see it. I've had it fixed up. It doesn't look so run down now. And I added a special table where people who can't afford a meal can sit and get a bite to eat for free."

"That's a wonderful idea."

"After what you did for me, I felt like I should give something back."

"What I did? I just kept my promise, Chief. Most people would have done the same."

"No." Blair shook his head. "Nobody would have done the same, Jim," he said gently. "Are you kidding? What you did -- it was like a fairy tale that came true."

Leaning forward, Jim stared directly into Blair's eyes, his features soft. "And everybody gets to live happily ever after?"

Not sure how to answer that, Blair just smiled and picked up his menu pretending to look at the food choices. Did happily ever afters ever happen to people like him? He wondered. If they did, then he prayed that his would be with this amazing man sitting across from him.

After the waiter delivered their drinks and took their food orders, Jim picked up his champagne flute gesturing a toast. The detective waited until Blair did the same then said, "To friendship."

"To friendship," Blair repeated, and clinked his glass against Jim's before they both took a sip. "So, you wanted to talk."

"Yes," Jim cleared his throat before continuing. "First I want to apologize. I never intended to hurt you. I admit, I have feelings for you and I know you have them for me as well." Not wanting to interrupt, Blair simply nodded when Jim looked at him. "Carolyn and I have been married for three years and it's been a pretty rocky marriage, but this past year has been the worst. All we ever seem to do now is argue. We've separated twice, but because I feel so damn guilty, I keep letting her back in."

"Guilty?"

"I feel responsible for the marriage failing. For not being the husband that she needs. For denying who I am."

"Oh, Jim, that's a whole lot of blame for one person to carry on their shoulders. Just remember, you're not the only one in this marriage. Not all the blame is yours. Do you love her?" Blair asked quietly.

"No, I don't. God, help me, Blair, I don't think I ever did." Jim looked away suddenly, but Blair didn't miss the moisture that brightened his eyes.

Reaching across the table, he placed his hand on top of Jim's and squeezed gently. "It's okay, Jim. Feelings change and can cause us to fall out of love. Sometimes our life's path can take an unexpected turn, and something beyond our control happens that actually puts our life back on the right track again."

"You really believe that?" Jim asked.

"Yeah, I do. I mean, look at me. I had a run of bad luck for a while and then suddenly I met you and now my life has totally changed. And it's not the money I'm talking about. It's you, Jim. I've been trying to deny what I'm feeling for you, but I can't. I feel like there's this bond connecting us and no matter how much we might fight it, it's still pulling us together."

Jim flipped his hand over and laced their fingers together. "I feel that, too and I want to act on these feelings, but before I do, I need to be free of this marriage. I can't be with you intimately and still be attached to Carolyn. Do you understand?"

Blair nodded. "I understand, Jim. But I'd like us to remain friends and get to know each other a little better. Maybe just hang out. Catch a Jags game, do lunch or something."

"I'd like that." Jim smiled brightly. "You're willing to wait for me?"

"You bet." Blair's grin turned into a soft smile before saying, "You're definitely worth waiting for." The incredibly happy look on Jim's face was priceless, and Blair felt himself wanting to be the person to always keep it there.

"Thank you, Blair."

"You're welcome." They sipped their champagne for a few seconds before Blair asked a little hesitantly, "So -- um -- have you ever been with a man before?"

"Yes, but it's been a while. I never told Carolyn that I was bi, but I think she knows."

"She never said anything to you?"

"No." Jim shook his head. "But I think that she thought I was sleeping with men while married to her. I never did. Never wanted to, until now." His head shot up and he stared at Blair with anguished eyes. "What does that make me?"

"You're only human, Jim. And you're a man trying to get out of a failed marriage. Believe me, I understand what it's like being with someone you no longer love. It's like living a lie."

"How do you always know exactly what to say?"

"I don't know but I did do a psych course for a semester." Blair grinned, his answer causing Jim to laugh.

They were interrupted by the waiter bringing their food and refilling their glasses. For a few minutes they ate in comfortable silence until the sound of glass breaking rang out. Blair looked up to comment about the noise when he saw Jim covering his ears with his hands, his face reflecting his pain.

"You okay?" Blair asked, his forehead wrinkled in a frown. When he got no response, he touched Jim's arm and felt him jump. "Jim?"

"Sorry. That glass breaking caught me off guard. My hearing is a little sensitive," Jim replied, shaking his head a little.

Blair glanced toward the back of the restaurant where the sharp sound had occurred. His eyes narrowed in thought for a moment before he returned his attention to Jim. "Wow, it must be quite sensitive since the noise wasn't that loud." Suddenly remembering the other day, Blair mused aloud, "You had a problem at the lotto press conference, but it was your eyes, not your ears, that were bothering you there, weren't they?"

Jim hesitated a moment before quietly confessing, "It's all my senses. I've been having problems for about six months now. They'll suddenly spike out of control before going back to normal again. I've seen a doctor about it, but he couldn't find anything. Just thought it was stress related."

"You never had trouble before?" Blair asked after taking a bite of his food.

"No. Wait, that's not right. Six years ago, when I was in the Army, my helicopter was shot down over Peru. I was the only survivor. I was stranded there for eighteen months before being rescued. While I was there I remember having sensory problems but the Chopec, that's the tribe that took me in and cared for my injuries, had a shaman who taught me how to gain some control over my senses. He called me a sentinel."

"A watchman," Blair said slowly, thoughts flying through his mind. "Two years ago, I went on an expedition to Borneo to study a tribe called the Murut."

"Expedition?"

"Yeah. I'm studying anthropology at Rainier University. Anyway, the Murut had a tribesman there whom they called Minangka, translated that means watchman or guardian -- or sentinel."

"So you've heard of this before? You know what's happening to me?" Jim asked incredulously.

"I think I may have an idea, yes. The Murut's 'sentinel' used his senses to help find food, or to listen for enemy tribes who might attack. He also could predict changes in the weather. Which was really cool. He'd walk into the village, say "nias" and two hours later it would be pouring with rain." Blair laughed.

"Did he ever have these -- sensory spikes -- like I'm having?"

"No, well, at least not that I ever witnessed." Blair contemplated for a minute. "Wait, oh man, how could I forget that?"

"What?"

"There was another man who was with the sentinel almost all of the time. What did they call him?" Blair stroked his index along his lower lip as he thought. "Ah, got it -- Mentawai, which means companion or guide. I guess he kind of helped the sentinel keep his senses tuned, watched out for him when he used them, that sort of thing. I always wished that I had had more time to study the two of them, but the research team I was with was only there to study the tribe as a whole."

"Blair, do you have any idea how amazing this is? I was really beginning to believe that I was going crazy."

"Oh no, Jim. I can assure you that you're not." Blair smiled. "You just need to learn how to control them again."

"But if they were under control in Peru, why am I having problems now?"

Blair thought about that for a minute before he said, "I think it's because in Peru the shaman acted like your guide. He was there to help you keep control. I guess every sentinel needs a guide. What happened to you that caused them to start up again?"

"I was on a week long stakeout in the woods alone. The first three days I was fine, after that I started hearing things that weren't there."

"When you came back from Peru you probably suppressed your senses somehow but once you were isolated again, they came back online."

"You know what you said about a sentinel needing a guide?"

"Yeah."

"I think you're a guide."

"I don't know about that, Jim." Blair shook his head, causing the long hair to brush across his shoulders.

"I do. Every time I'm around you, my senses are better. They feel right. On the yacht, all the sounds and lights were getting to me. I could feel a major headache coming on, but as soon as I stepped next to you, it vanished. You're my guide, Blair"

"Oh, man, this is so wild," Blair quietly exclaimed.

"Will you -- help me? I know it's a lot to ask... You're busy..." Jim's voice trailed off and he glanced away.

Blair couldn't miss the note of vulnerability in Jim's voice, so he quickly assured, "Of course, I will." He smiled when he saw the look in Jim's eyes change quickly from hesitant and embarrassed to pleased. "When I go to the University tomorrow, I'll do a little research and see if I can find anything that can help us."

"Thanks, Chief. I appreciate it."

"You're very welcome, Jim. It's my pleasure." Their eyes caught and they smiled at one another.

They had both just finished their meal when a small, live band inside the restaurant began to play soft music. The sound travel outside and Blair turned to watch through the large windows as couples got up to dance.

"How would you feel about dancing?" Jim quietly asked.

Blair turned and smiled softly. "Oh, I'd be in favor of it."

They both stood up, and Jim took Blair by the hand, leading him to a slightly more open spot on the terrace. Slowly, Blair was pulled into Jim's arms and he slid his hands up the strong chest to wrap around the detective's neck. He reveled in the feel of those powerful arms as they wrapped around him to draw him even closer. As they began to sway to the music, Blair rested his head against Jim's shoulder and closed his eyes, savoring the closeness. Nothing in his life had ever felt so right than it did at this exact moment being held by Jim. When a soft kiss was pressed against the top of his head, Blair looked up into Jim's face, and the love he saw shining in those incredible eyes took his breath away.

"I don't know how, or why, but I'm not going to question it any more," Jim whispered. "I love you."

"Oh, God, Jim," Blair softly said. "I love you, too." When Jim began to dip his head down, Blair knew that the sentinel was going to kiss him. He stopped the motion by gently placing a hand on Jim's cheek. "We can't."

"Just this one time." Jim's hand moved up to lightly caress Blair's hair. "Please, I need to taste you."

Without replying, Blair lifted his head, allowing his mouth to be taken in a sweet, gentle kiss. The joining of their lips only lasted a few seconds, but that brief touch left Blair breathless and weak in the knees. They gazed into each other's eyes and smiled, sending the other a knowing look -- a look full of promise and desire.

"As much as I hate to say this, I think we'd better go." Jim's warm breath ghosted over Blair's face and he closed his eyes, remembering the kiss all over again.

"Yeah, I guess we should." Reluctantly, he unlocked his hands from Jim's neck, moving them down to the detective's chest where he paused and lightly caressed.

Wrapping his hands around Blair's, Jim gently removed them. "Soon, Blair."

"Yeah. Yeah, okay."

Jim paid the bill and soon the two men were heading for the detective's truck. Blair waited as Jim unlocked and opened his door for him. Once seated, Blair leaned across the seat and lifted the lock to the driver's door.

"Thanks," Jim said when he got in. "Should I drop you off at home or is your car back at the marina?"

"I took a taxi, so I could use a lift home if you don't mind. It's not far from here."

"Sure thing," Jim grinned, his eyes sparkling.

Blair gave Jim the directions and ten minutes later, they were pulling up in front of his warehouse apartment.

"You know, Chief," Jim said, looking around at the darkened building, "I think you can now afford to live in an area a little more safe than this one."

"Yeah, I know. I've been meaning to look around, but I haven't had the chance."

"Well, you just be careful."

"I will." Blair opened the truck door, then turned and said, "I had a nice time tonight."

"Me too," Jim said with a smile. "When would you like to get together again?"

"Well, tomorrow's Friday and I'm at the university most of the day. How about Saturday?"

"Okay, it's a date." Jim's eyes grew wide when he realized what he said. "Well, not a date, date, just a -- I mean-"

"Hey, Jim, it's okay." Blair laughed a little. "I knew what you meant. Why don't you come by the diner around noon and pick me up?"

"Sure." Jim nodded. "I'll be there."

"Great. See you then." Blair slipped out the door, closing it behind him. He smiled and gave a wave before heading into the building. Once inside, he moved to look out the small window in the kitchen and saw Jim's truck begin to pull away. Knowing the detective had waited until he was safely in his home before leaving caused a warm feeling to wash over Blair. It had been a long time since someone cared about him.


The past week had been amazing for Jim. Every day he and Blair managed to spend time together. Sometimes it was for several hours while they talked and learned more about each other. And on the days when they had more time, Blair had run Jim through tests to teach him how to control his senses. Yesterday had been one of the best days. They had planned on spending part of Sunday together and when Jim had arrived to pick Blair up, he had been waiting outside, a giant picnic basket sitting on the ground near his feet.

They had driven to the park and after a few more series of Blair's tests, they had spread out a large cloth on the ground and dove into the basket of food. All the items that Blair had prepared had been geared toward Jim's senses and nothing had ever tasted so good in his life. Well, except for that one kiss that they had shared a week ago. Tasting Blair's mouth had been nirvana and he couldn't wait to be able to do it again.

They had both been true to their word and even though they had been spending so much time together, not once had it turned intimate. Blair had been extremely patient and understanding, and Jim found himself falling more and more in love with him. It was only a matter of time before the divorce came through. Then he would be free to finally love Blair the way he wanted.

Jim had visited the lawyer two days ago, and the man had begun to write up the papers. He hadn't told Carolyn yet, he was waiting until all the papers were in order, but once they were, they would be delivered to her. When that happened, he could start getting on with his life.

Unlocking the loft door, Jim was met by a very angry soon-to-be ex-wife.

"What the hell is this!" she yelled, flinging a newspaper at him.

Jim bent down and picked it up, shuffling the papers back together until they were in order. The picture on the front page was one of himself and Blair at the park yesterday afternoon. The photographer had captured the moment where the two men had sat cross-legged, facing one another. Jim's eyes were closed and Blair was leaning forward slightly, a hand resting on Jim's shoulder. This was when Blair had been guiding him through some tests and had been teaching him about using dials to control the level of his senses. There had been nothing intimate about it at the time, except now that it was captured on film, the scene looked as though Blair was leaning forward about to kiss Jim.

"Are you having an affair with him?" Carolyn demanded angrily.

"No. We just hang out together, that's all," Jim explained. He shut the door before moving into the room to put the newspaper down on the kitchen table.

"You should have heard that stupid bitch downstairs: 'Oh, your husband and that waiter, you must be devastated.' Do you know how embarrassed I was, Jimmy!"

"What's the real issue here? Huh? What's happening between us or what some idiot neighbor thinks? It's been like a cold war here, Carolyn. Every time I try to talk to you, you brush me off or start another fight."

"All I've done is try to make you happy!"

"No, you haven't. I used to come home at night and you'd throw your arms around me and kiss me and ask me how my day was. When was the last time that happened?" Jim asked quietly. "Three years ago?"

"I have no idea," Carolyn snapped. "That's not important."

"But it is important. Because that's what I want. I want to live my life with someone who makes me happy, who laughs with me -- who loves me."

"Are you telling me you're getting that with this waiter? It's disgusting, Jimmy! How dare you carry on with him like that! God, I'm just so sick of it!"

Not letting her anger get the best of him, Jim kept his tone neutral when he spoke, "I'm not going to change, Caro."

"I know. That's why I want a divorce. As soon as possible."

"I agree," Jim said. "I'll give you twenty four hours to pack up your things and get out."

"Fine," Carolyn agreed and turned her back on him.

Before she could say anything else, Jim left the loft.


Blair arrived home late that night from the diner. He unlocked his door and kicked it shut behind him as he walked through. Placing his backpack on the floor near the sofa, he paused when he heard a noise coming from his bathroom.

"What the hell are you doing here!" Blair demanded seeing a man standing in the bathroom doorway.

"Hi, baby. Aren't you happy to see me?" Eddie asked, pretending to sound hurt.

"You can't stay here." Blair took a step back when Eddie moved toward him. Thankfully, Eddie didn't try to touch him, but walked past him to flop down on the sofa.

"Why not?" Eddie questioned, raising his eyebrows. "Are you expecting company?"

Shifting from foot to foot, Blair shook his head. "No."

"Really? Not Detective Ellison? Your saintly cop friend."

Blair placed his hands on his hips and glared. "Leave him out of this, Eddie."

"Is something going on between you two?"

"Not that it's any of your business, but no, nothing is going on, we're just friends. And he's not a saint, he's a decent human being, something you couldn't possible understand."

"Come on, baby, don't be mad. I've got some news. Remember that all-natural food store we wanted to open up? Well, I got a tip on a great piece of property. It's the perfect location for a store like that."

"You want money," Blair said with a quiet sigh of understanding, sitting down on the chair across from the sofa. "Of course you do."

Eddie jumped up and knelt in front of Blair, resting his hands on Blair's knees. "Just eighty grand to get things started," he said excitedly.

Blair began to shake his head but Eddie reached a hand up, taking hold of Blair's arm to pull him closer. "Please, baby. You know I'd do the same for you."

"No, Eddie." Pushing him away, Blair rose. "I want you out of here."

"I'm not going anywhere." Eddie replied stubbornly, also rising. He crossed his arms over his chest and glared.

"Well, then. I am." Turning around, Blair grabbed his backpack and headed for the door.

Eddie chased after him, snagging Blair by the arm "Where are you going?"

"None of your business." Blair tried to pull his arm free, but the hand held on tighter. "Let go of me. Now, Eddie!" When his arm was finally released, Blair opened the door. Turning, he said firmly, "If you're still here when I get back, I'm calling the cops." Slamming the door behind him, Blair quickly made his way out the warehouse and to his car.


Jim stepped through the doors and into the lobby of the luxurious Windsor Court Hotel. Immediately, he picked up the sound of Blair's voice and zeroed in on it. He saw his friend standing at the front desk talking with the clerk. He dialed up his hearing and sight, and listened in on the conversation.

"Good evening," Blair said. "I'd like to get a room for the night."

"Of course, sir." The woman paused, her eyes going wide as she looked at Blair intently.

"Oh, I'm not that waiter, if that's what you're thinking."

"Oh. I didn't think so." She winked and gave an understanding nod. "Single or double?"

"Single, please."

"Smoking or non-smoking," she asked politely.

"Non-smoking."

No longer able to keep his distance, Jim slowly moved to where Blair was standing. The clerk noticed him and looked in his direction. "Sir, can I help you?"

Blair turned around and smiled the instant he saw Jim. "Hey."

"Hi, Chief."

"What are you doing here?"

"I could ask you the same thing." Jim laughed.

Blair threw his hands up in the air. "Long story, man."

"Same here." Jim stepped up to the counter. "I need a room, also."

"Very good, sir." The clerk took down their information and after they refused the offer of a bellman, she handed over their keys. They were alone in the elevator and as they made their way up to the eighth floor, they each gave a short explanation of why they were at the hotel. When the doors slid open they both stepped out into the hall and looked at one another.

"So," Blair said.

"So," Jim replied, his eyes never leaving Blair's face.

Holding up his key card, Blair declared, "I'm room 802."

"804." Jim smiled.

"Well, I'm just going to -- uh..." Blair paused and pointed to his hotel room door. "See you later?"

"Okay, Chief." Sliding the card into the lock, the door clicked open and Jim stepped through. He listened as Blair did the same, then turned his hearing down. It still amazed him how much control he had over his senses now and it was all thanks to Blair.

Moving into the spacious room, Jim was about to sit on the bed when he was surprised by a light knock on the room's adjoining door. He grinned when he opened it to find Blair standing on the other side, a big smile on his face.

"Did you check your bathroom yet?" Blair asked, doing a little bounce on the balls of his feet. "There's a robe in it."

"Really?" Jim did his best to sound surprised.

"Yeah, it's made out of terry cloth. And you can even buy it for a hundred bucks."

"I'll buy it then." Jim smiled.

"Hey, how about I split it with you. That way we can share it. You can have it one month and I'll have the next. Or -- you know -- like every other day or weekends."

"Or we could get two."

Blair fidgeted with a button on his shirt and replied, "Uh, yeah, we could do that."

"Why don't you come in?" Jim stepped aside to allow his friend to pass by. He couldn't stop himself from inhaling Blair's scent and his senses reveled in the aroma of sandalwood and spice.

"Wow, this is unbelievable. Your room looks exactly like mine," Blair teased, looking around. "Only it's a different color."

"Hey, would you like some fruit?" Jim pointed to a fruit basket on table. "Never mind, you probably have some in your room also." For some reason he couldn't shake the feeling of being nervous. This was Blair, for God's sakes. They had been seeing each other every day for a week. But it had never been like this, just the two of them, alone, in a room together.

"Are you okay? I mean, about what happened with Carolyn?" The concern in Blair's voice touched Jim's heart.

"I'm fine, Chief. You know it's what I've wanted. Actually, it feels like a huge weight has been lifted off of me."

Blair nodded and said softly, "I know the feeling."

"What about you? Are you all right?"

"Yeah, I'm good. I just can't believe that I fell for an idiot like Eddie."

"We all make mistakes." Jim gave Blair a small smile.

"Well, you're definitely not one of them." Blair's voice trailed off. Jim looked up to see big blue eyes watching him intently. "Why do I feel so nervous all of a sudden?" he asked with a little laugh.

"I don't know. I feel the same way. We've spent so much time together that you'd think we'd be relaxed by now."

Feeling something pulling at him, Jim took a step closer to Blair. Before he knew what he was doing, he was drawing Blair into his arms. He bent his head and caught those incredible lips, gently caressing his own against them as he had dreamed of doing since the first kiss they shared at the restaurant. Blair seemed to melt in his arms and opened his mouth to allow Jim to slide his tongue inside.

Jim felt Blair shudder at the intimate invasion and they both moaned when their tongues touched for the first time. Gently, Jim began a hot exploration of the inside of Blair's mouth, learning and cataloging the texture and taste. Under the intoxicating flavor, he forgot that they shouldn't be doing this, that he was going back on his word to not touch Blair until his divorce. He forgot everything, everything except the man in arms and the hunger that drove him to claim his guide.

"Jim." Blair sighed against his mouth.

He broke the kiss and lifted his head away a little. Blair moaned in protest and clutched at the back of his neck, trying to pull Jim back down.

"I love you," Jim said in a hoarse whisper. This time when he took Blair's mouth, the kiss was not so gentle, instead it was rough and demanding. Blair clung to him, opening his mouth wider, allowing Jim's tongue to probe and explore.

Jim slid one arm from his lover's waist, moving it between them. His hand crept up the flannel-covered chest to rub against a peaked nipple causing Blair to arch his back and gasp loudly. Breaking the kiss, Jim pulled back and looked into his guide's eyes, feeling himself drowning in the blue, desire-filled depths. He leaned a little closer, stopping only an inch from the kiss-swollen lips.

"I want to make love to you," Jim whispered, moving his thumb against the nipple.

Blair closed his eyes and groaned. "God, yes, Jim. Please. I don't want to wait any longer."

Moving his head the remaining inch, Jim claimed the incredible mouth again, not roughly this time but possessively. Jim surrendered his lips to Blair when his lover took over the kiss. He moaned at the caress of warm lips on his and at the hot wet invasion of Blair's tongue as it slid into his mouth.

Placing a hand at the top of his guide's shirt, he slowly began to undo the buttons, gradually revealing soft chest hair. His mouth left the alluring lips and traced a path down the side of his Blair's neck to the hollow of his throat where he sucked gently. When his fingers finished with the buttons, Jim pulled the bottom of the shirt out of Blair's jeans. Once it was free, he slid it off his shoulders, letting it fall to the floor.

Without a word, Jim took Blair's hand, led him to the bed and lowered him to the mattress. Kneeling next to him, Jim placed a tender kiss on his lips before his hands returned to their work. Quickly and efficiently, he stripped away the rest of the clothing, tossing them onto the floor next to the shirt.

He saw Blair watching him, his hungry gaze roaming over Jim's body. With a knowing smile, he moved off the bed and swiftly removed his own clothing. When he was done, he looked at his lover and wordlessly, Blair lifted his arms. Jim immediately moved into them, answering the silent invitation. His large body blanketed the slightly smaller one and once again Jim took Blair's mouth in a passionate kiss.


The mouth that possessed Blair's was ravenous in its passion. His arms went around Jim's neck as he responded to the kiss with wild desire. Large, warm hands moved to his chest, caressing and pinching his nipples, turning them hard. The weight of Jim pushed him into the mattress but instead of being a discomfort, Blair reveled in the feeling, the heaviness exactly what his body craved. A knee slid between his legs, nudging his thighs apart and Blair parted them willingly, allowing Jim to lie between them. His lover's hand moved to his chest, rubbing and pinching his nipple before sliding down to his stomach then lower to stroke through curly pubic hair. Blair's breath quickened when Jim's hand finally touched his hardened penis. He cried out as he was gripped tightly and the hand began to slide up and down. Thrusting into the fingers, Blair felt Jim's lips suddenly leave his and burn a path across his cheek to his ear.

"We need something," Jim said in a husky whisper.

"Huh?" Blair mumbled, his mind lost in the sensations flowing through his body.

"Lube." Jim smiled softly and leaned forward to place a light kiss on Blair's lips. "I'll be right back."

Blair watched his lover roll off the bed, coming easily to his feet. As he walked into the bathroom, Blair licked his lips in appreciation at the sight of his sentinel's magnificent, naked body.

His lover returned a few seconds later with a bottle of oil. "What?" Jim asked when he noticed Blair staring at him.

"You're amazing." The words were spoken in a hoarse whisper. Blair slid his gaze down the length of Jim's body then up again, making no effort to hide the heated desire in his gaze.

Jim smiled softly, hot passion flashing in his blue eyes. "Close your eyes."

Blair did as asked and waited, his body trembling in anticipation of his lover's touch. The bed dipped and he hissed when the flutter of Jim's lips caressed his stomach, the light touch burning his skin. Blair moaned his sentinel's name, clutching at him as a tongue suddenly licked across a hard nub. Teeth caught the straining nipple, punishing it with a gentle nip before taking it into his mouth and sucking hard. Blair opened his eyes and gasped, his breath coming out in ragged pants at the sensation that radiated from the captured nipple.

"Jim." Blair moaned. "Please, I need- "

"Shhh. It's okay, love, I know what you need," Jim whispered, claiming Blair's mouth in a deep kiss before moving to the end of the bed to kneel between his legs.

Hands were placed at the back of his knees and gently pushed upward. Without hesitation, Blair reached down and pulled his legs toward his chest, exposing himself to his lover. A finger, slick with oil, lightly stroked over his pucker and he groaned loudly as it brushed back and forth a few more times before it slowly pushed inside. Soon two then three fingers were moving inside of him, stretching him. When a teasing finger pushed against his prostate, Blair cried out, the incredible feeling rendering him mindless as a tight, pulsing coil started in his belly and radiated downward into his cock.

"Now. Please, Jim," Blair begged. "Need you in me."

Jim moved over him, hands coming to rest on either side of Blair's head and their lips met in a beautiful, loving kiss. When they broke apart, they stared into each other's eyes and Jim quietly said, "I want you to know that I'm clean. I haven't been with... anyone, in a long time."

"Not even Car-" Fingers touched his lips, stopping him before the name could be spoken.

"No, not even."

"I'm clean, also and I've always used condoms."

"We don't have any protection," Jim stated quietly.

Blair rose up on his elbows and kissed Jim gently before lying back down. "We don't need any."

Jim smiled softly. "Are you sure?"

"Positive." Blair smiled back.

Jim swooped down and claimed Blair's mouth once again before kissing a path down his throat and across his chest to a nipple. A kiss was placed to first one nipple and then the other. He arched his back when Jim sucked a nub into his mouth, the sensation causing flames to shoot along his nerve endings.

"Please." Blair panted breathlessly.

Silently, his lover moved to kneel between his thighs and Blair pulled his legs back up to his chest. He watched in anticipation as Jim coated his cock with lube and shifted into position. The soft head brushed against his center before slowly pushing past the ring of muscle, making him groan loudly. Jim took his time entering Blair, only sliding deeper when he seemed sure that Blair was relaxed and ready for more. Once his sentinel was fully sheathed, both men were sweating and panting for air.

"Move, lover," Blair said, his voice husky.

Blair's words appeared to encouraged Jim, who pulled almost all the way out before plunging back in again, making Blair gasp in pleasure. He wrapped his legs around Jim's waist, undulating his hips in a steady rhythm. Grasping Jim's forearms tightly, he used his heels to press against Jim's backside, further impaling himself on the slick cock.

"Faster. Harder," Blair urged, the guttural mutter labored. Jim shifted his body over him, thrusting harder and faster until at last his lover was pounding into him, rushing him away on a fierce ride of sensations.

"So, good." Jim moaned Blair's name into the curve of his neck, pressing lips against his heated skin.

Blair's hands grasped Jim's back, frantically caressing up and down his shoulders. He hissed in pleasure when a hand slipped between them to close around his cock, the fingers tantalizingly sweet and hot against his swollen shaft.

Feeling his orgasm building, Blair rolled his hips upward into the fingers then pushed down hard onto Jim's cock. The cry wrenched from his throat as his orgasm exploded, taking him over the edge. He felt Jim stiffen, poised above him, then his lover pushed deep inside him with a hoarse groan. Jim shuddered, pouring his seed into Blair who tightly held onto his sentinel, holding him close. Slowly, their bodies ceased their wild trembling and they limply clung to one another.

It was a few minutes later when Jim propped himself up on an elbow, their bodies still joined, and lovingly looked down at Blair. Gently, Jim smoothed Blair's tangled hair away from his face and leaned in for a sweet, tender kiss.

"That was incredible," Jim said quietly.

Blair lightly caressed his lover's face with the tips of his fingers, gazing into the endlessly blue eyes. "I love you." Blair sighed happily, his eyes bright.

"And I love you." Jim carefully slid his softening penis from Blair and rolled to his side. Snagging a box of tissues from the nightstand, Jim quickly wiped Blair's semen from their bodies.

Once his lover was finished, Blair reached toward the end of the bed, snagging the folded comforter and as he lay back down, covered them both. Snuggling against his sentinel's side, Blair rested his head on a broad shoulder and slid an arm across his lover's waist, relishing in their intimate closeness. He felt Jim's hand brush along his arm to his wrist and after intertwining their fingers, kissed the top of his head. Blair closed his eyes at the contact of the soft lips and slowly began to drift to sleep, feeling safe and secure in the arms of the man he loved.


It was still dark outside when Jim heard Blair begin to stir. He turned away from the window he had been staring out of for the past half hour and looked toward the bed. He smiled when he saw his lover languidly stretch and slid a hand across the bed as though searching for something. Sleepy blue eyes opened and noticing that the spot next to him was empty, quickly searched the dark room. Jim heard Blair's heartbeat spike and he softly reassured, "I'm here, Chief."

"Jim." Blair sighed in relief. He leaned toward the nightstand and turned on the lamp. "For a second there I thought..." his voice trailed off.

Jim walked over to the bed and sat down beside his lover. Reaching up, he caressed the soft curls before gently cupping Blair's face. "I would never have just left without a word."

"I'm sorry." Blair closed his eyes and nuzzled into the palm of Jim's hand. "Old habits die hard, I guess."

"You've had that happen to you before?" Jim asked with a frown.

"Yes. A few times actually," Blair replied quietly.

"They're idiots. All of them." Jim smiled when Blair looked at him. "I don't know how the hell any of them could have given you up so easily. You're an amazing man, Blair, and an incredible lover." That last comment caused a blush to break out across Blair's face and he ducked his head. "How am I suppose to kiss you if you're head is down there?" Placing a finger under Blair's chin, Jim tilted his head up and swooped down for a long, passionate kiss that left each of them breathless when it was finished.

"I see you're testing out one of the robes." Blair smirked, running his hands across Jim's terrycloth-covered chest.

"Yep, and I've put yours in the bathroom if you want to get cleaned up."

Blair gave him a sexy smile. "Would you join me?"

Jim's hungry gaze roamed over Blair's exposed chest. "Definitely."

Together, they walked into the bathroom, Jim discarding his robe while Blair turned on the shower. They took turns washing each other and Jim's senses delighted in the feel of his slick, wet guide. Using soap-covered hands, Jim ran them over Blair's peaked nipples, causing a moan to escape from between his lover's lips. Moving his hands to Blair's shoulders, he turned his lover around to face the tile and pressed his hardened cock between the mounds of Blair's ass.

"I want you again," he whispered huskily.

"Yes," Blair hissed and spread his legs wide.

Grabbing the baby oil that was in the shower, Jim coated his cock liberally before lining it up with Blair's center. In one long, slow thrust, Jim slid into his guide. He leaned forward and grabbing Blair's hands, he pinned them to the wall. Blair groaned in pleasure, and pushed back against Jim causing him to go deeper and push against his prostate.

"Oh, God!" Blair cried. "More!"

Jim shifted his hips so that each time he thrust into his lover, his cock would massage the little nub. "I'm going to make you come without touching your cock," Jim hissed into Blair's ear, the words seeming to excite his lover even more. His wet head dropped back onto Jim's shoulder, seeming to give himself over to their intense lovemaking.

A moment later, Jim could sense Blair's orgasm as it rushed through his body. "That's it. Come for me, Blair. Let me hear you. Let me smell you."

"Jiiimmm!" Blair screamed, his semen spilling out over his cock.

"Oh, yeah!" Jim cried out, the tightening of the muscles surrounding his cock and the smell of Blair's semen dragging his orgasm out of him. Feeling Blair's knees give out, Jim quickly wrapped his arms around his waist and held his lover against him tightly.

"Oh, man, Jim, that was intense." Blair placed his hands on top of Jim's and gently caressed the wet skin. "Just like last night," he avowed quietly.

Jim placed a kiss against the side of Blair's head. "Yes, that was pretty intense, too."

"I wonder if it'll always be like that between us."

"I don't know." Jim thought about it for a second. "I do know that I felt something pulling at me to claim you the moment I had you in my arms. Maybe it has something to do with us being sentinel and guide."

"Yeah, could be." Blair gave a little shiver as the water temperature cooled slightly.

"Let's rinse off and get back into bed."

Jim lovingly rinsed off his lover first before doing the same to himself. When he turned off the faucets and stepped out of the shower, Blair was waiting there for him, holding out his robe. With a smile, Jim slipped into the soft material and his lover wrapped it around him and tied the belt. Jim thanked Blair by pulling him into his arms and kissing him thoroughly.

"I don't think I'll ever get enough of you." Jim nuzzled his face into the damp curls.

"Come on." With a smile, Blair took Jim's hand in his and led him back into the bedroom. "Want to try some of that fruit?" he asked, indicating the large fruit basket on the table.

"Good idea, Chief. Check and see if the bar has some red wine." Straightening up the bed, Jim fluffed up the pillows before placing them against the headboard. He slipped into bed, sitting back against the pillows and waited for his lover.

"I found some," Blair declared, carrying a wine bottle and two glasses. He handed them to Jim and went back for the fruit basket.

They sat in bed, feeding each other fruit and sipping at the wine. As a piece of strawberry began to make its way to his guide's mouth, Jim snagged Blair's wrist and guided it to his own lips instead. Sucking on both the fruit and a finger, Jim hummed in appreciation of the flavor.

"Mmmm, I don't think I'll ever be able to eat fruit the normal way again. This way is much, much better." He grinned and licked some juice from Blair's thumb.

Picking up on a slight increase in Blair's heartbeat, Jim looked at him. "What is it, love?" he asked, taking his lover's hand and lightly kissing the palm.

"This night has been so incredible. I don't want it to end."

"We'll have more nights like this."

"Promise?" Blair asked, his big blue eyes searching Jim's.

"Promise." Leaning forward, Jim sealed his vow with a sweet, loving kiss.


Jim sat in his lawyer's office, watching as Carolyn and her attorney entered the room and were seated across from him at the large wooden table.

"Jim," Mr. Lobell, his lawyer, said as he introduced Carolyn's attorney, "this is Mr. Hartwick."

Carolyn interrupted the introductions by asking, "Can we please hurry up and get this over with?"

"Okay, gentlemen," Mr. Hartwick folded his hands on the table and addressed Jim and Lobell. "It is our contention that there be no division of the lottery monies. After all, this was Ms. Plummer's ticket after all."

"That is unacceptable," Lobell said.

"It's all right," Jim interjected.

"What?" His lawyer looked at him dumbfounded.

"She can have my million."

"Jim, I strongly urge you to change your mind. Why are you giving this away without a fight?"

"She can have it. Period. I don't want to discuss it," Jim answered in a stern, sure voice.

"Okay." His lawyer did a great job of concealing his bafflement, and his voice was even when he turned to Hartwick. "We concede the point."

"That's a very mature attitude." Hartwick smiled slyly. "It'll certainly help speed things right along."

"Now, as to their pre-lottery holdings..." Lobell flipped through a document on the table in front of him. "We have a bank account totaling ten thousand dollars. I insist that this be spilt equally."

Carolyn smiled callously at Jim and gave a little snort. "That's chump change. He can keep it."

Watching her, Jim shook his head in disbelief; he couldn't believe that he had married such an uncaring, selfish woman.

"Well, that's basically it. There's some furnishings and personal items that Mr. Ellison has agreed to allow Ms. Plummer to remove from his home." Lobell added.

At that moment, Jim was enormously grateful that he had purchased the loft two years before his marriage, and that it had remained solely in his name. He was positive now that if it had been in both their names, Carolyn would be trying to take it away from him and then spitefully turn around and sell it. She had always hated the loft, saying it was too open and drafty, and many of their fights had been about selling the place so they could move into a large house. But Jim loved the open airiness of loft; it had always helped him relax, especially after a hard day on the job. He loved the floor-to-ceiling windows that looked out over the bay, and had spent many hours since purchasing it, sitting out on the balcony in a lounge chair, sipping on a cold beer, reading or enjoying the view.

"There is one more thing." Hartwick slid a legal document across the table toward Jim and his lawyer. "We are also attaching the two million dollars given by Mr. Ellison to Mr. Sandburg."

"What?" Jim sat up straight and looked to his lawyer.

"No. That is completely out of bounds," Lobell insisted.

Hartwick leaned forward, placed his arms on the table and interlocked his fingers. "Mr. Ellison volunteered his wife's earnings from the lottery without her consent or previous knowledge."

Gripping the handles on his chair, Jim glared at his wife. "That's horrible, Carolyn. For God's sake, please think about what you're doing."

Carolyn didn't say a word, just gave a bored sigh and looked at her manicured fingernails.

"We have every reason to believe," Hartwick continued, "that Mr. Ellison and Mr. Sandburg have had a long standing sexual relationship that he has deliberately deceived his wife about. And toward that end, we have drafted this letter to Mr. Sandburg-"

"Oh, come on!" Jim cried and shot up out of his chair.

Ignoring Jim's outburst, Hartwick resumed, "demanding that he return the money immediately and in full, or face substantial penalties and punitive damages." The lawyer sat back and folded his arms over his chest.

"I can't believe this!" yelled Jim and took step toward Carolyn. His lawyer quickly rose and placed a hand on Jim's arm, stopping him.

"I can't listen to this screaming." Carolyn slid her chair back and stood up. She then turned to her lawyer, saying, "Our whole marriage was like this."

Jim knew he was losing his cool but couldn't stop himself from breaking away from Lobell's grip to walk swiftly over to Carolyn. He grabbed her by the arm and turned her to face him. Jim hissed through clenched teeth. "Why are you doing this? Just to get even with Blair? He didn't do anything wrong, you know that."

Carolyn pushed away from him, her voice becoming hard. "I'm getting tired of this physical abuse from you." She turned to her lawyer. "Did you see that?" she asked, rubbing at the arm that Jim had held.

Hartwick nodded his acquiescence while he placed his files in his briefcase, snapping the lid closed. "We'll be in touch." Taking Carolyn by the elbow, he opened the office door and guided her out.

"Is it true, Jim?" Lobell asked in a none accusing tone. "About what Hartwick said regarding you and Mr. Sandburg?"

With a shake of his head, Jim rubbed at his forehead, feeling a headache coming on. "It was a purely platonic relationship," Jim paused, "up until two nights ago."

"Dammit, Jim, do you know how much that complicates things?" His lawyer sighed. "Look, I know you're not going to like this, but I think it would be best to not have any contact with Mr. Sandburg until the trial."

Jim dropped into a chair and placed his head in his hands. He couldn't believe what was happening. Honestly, he didn't give a shit about his share of the money; he was perfectly happy with the way he was living. It was Blair that he was upset about. He knew that his friend, and now lover, had already used some of the money to pay off his debts. If the court decided to side with Carolyn then Blair would be right back to where he started -- in debt and unable to pay it. Jim decided that he would do everything in his power to fight for the money for Blair's sake. And although he knew Lobell was right about he and Blair not seeing each other, everything in him screamed against it.

"How in hell am I going to tell Blair?" Jim said quietly, closing his eyes.


Blair lay in bed wide-awake, holding a piece of slightly wrinkled notepaper against his chest. The past week had been hell not being able have any communication with Jim. The only thing that had made it at all bearable was a letter that Jim had written him the day after his meeting with Carolyn and the lawyers. He had found the envelope on his desk at the university and the instant that Blair had noticed his name on the front written in Jim's hand writing, he had torn open the flap and absorbed every word his lover had written.

Thinking about Jim, Blair wondered what he was doing at this moment. How he was feeling and how he had been handling his senses without Blair to help guide him. Blair missed Jim desperately and wondered if the detective missed him as much. Was Jim upset about losing all that money? Did he blame Blair for it? Was he angry at him? Did he still love Blair? Did he regret what happened between them at the hotel? Squeezing his eyes shut, Blair tried to stop the flow of thoughts teasing his mind, making him doubt every thing that had transpired between them. Since the lawyer's meeting, he had only talked with Jim briefly over the phone. The detective had relayed to him what had happened and what his lawyer had said about them not seeing each other until the day of the trial. Even though Blair's heart had been breaking, fearing that he might be losing Jim, he had done his best to let his lover know that he had his love and support. But Jim had sounded so sad - so distant - and now Blair wasn't sure where he stood in Jim's life - he wasn't sure of anything any more.

Opening his eyes, Blair lifted up the letter and began to read the words again, holding onto them as a drowning man would do to a lifeline.

Blair,

I am so sorry for how things have turned out. Please know that I'm not upset about the money. That's not what is important to me. You are what's important. Please don't think that any of this is your fault, because it isn't. I hate the fact that we can't be together. It's only been one day and already I miss you. All I want is for you to be beside me, to be a part of my life. I want us to be together for always. Remember that, please. Remember that I will be thinking about you every day. Remember the incredible time we shared at the hotel. Remember that I love you -- and know that you're in my heart.

Love, Jim

Once he finished reading, Blair placed the letter over his heart. He couldn't let his doubts take hold of him. He had to be sure of Jim's love for him, just as he was sure of how much he loved the detective. The trial for the lotto winnings would begin in two days at the civil courthouse and they would finally get to see each other again.


Blair and Jim sat side by side in the courtroom. They hadn't had a chance to talk when Blair had arrived earlier at the courthouse. He had hurried passed the hordes of reports on the front steps of the building and was met inside by Jim's lawyer, who ushered him into a small room where they had gone over what would be asked of him once he was put on the stand. Jim had arrived a little while later, smiling brightly when he had seen Blair, but before they could say much to one another, they were being ushered into the courtroom.

Now, Blair watched as Carolyn was called to the stand. After being sworn in and seated, Mr. Lobell rose and walked the short distance to the witness bench.

"Now, Ms Plummer, what are the numbers of your birthday?" Jim's lawyer asked.

"Twelve, sixteen, sixty-four," Carolyn replied, looking around the room and smiling sweetly.

"Okay. And what is the date of your anniversary?"

Carolyn's smiled faltered and she paused a moment before answering. "Six, twenty-six, ninety-two."

Lobell tilted his head slightly and frowned. "Did you say twenty-six?"

"Yes." With a hesitant smile, Carolyn sat up straighter and adjusted her suit jacket.

Moving closer to the witness box, Lobell cleared his throat and said, "As a matter of fact, Ms. Plummer, isn't it true that you were married on the twenty-seventh?"

Looking uneasy, Carolyn responded, "Well... yes."

"Ah, so then it was your husband who picked the number twenty-six on his own-"

"Objection," Hartwick interrupted. "What is the point of this?"

Turning around, Lobell addressed the other lawyer, "The point is, Counselor, I am demonstrating that Mr. Ellison is responsible for the winning ticket."

"Overruled," the presiding judge announced.

Lobell turned back to Carolyn and stated, "So, Ms Plumber, your husband picked the number twenty-six on his own, correct."

"No," Carolyn replied immediately.

"No?" Jim's lawyer asked, his eyebrows raised.

"You see, we always celebrate our anniversary on the twenty-six. I like to use that date because it's the day we got our marriage license. It's a tradition that I started. So, it was really my idea," Carolyn declared with a sure nod.

A few more questions were asked by Lobell, and then by Mr. Hartwick before Carolyn was asked to step down and Jim was called to the stand.

Hartwick was the first one to start the questioning. "Mr. Ellison, have you ever purchased nail polish remover for your wife?"

Chuckles could be heard through out the courtroom and Blair jumped a little when the judge banged his gavel down loudly, calling for quiet.

Once the room was silent, Jim asked with a frown, "Nail polish remover?"

With a nod, Hartwick answered, "Yes."

"A couple of times, I guess."

"And you paid for it?"

"Yes."

Hartwick smiled surreptitiously. "Did you, therefore, consider it yours?"

Jim shook his head slowly. "No, I guess I didn't."

"Isn't it true that you forced your wife to split the ticket with Mr. Sandburg?"

Blair felt his heart quicken when his name was mentioned. When he looked at Jim and saw him glance his way, Blair sent him a look that he hoped was encouraging.

"I only said that we should do the right thing," Jim replied.

"Were you wearing a gun at the time, Mr. Ellison?"

Blair felt himself gasp along with the rest of the room at the question, but Jim's voice rose over the noise that had erupted. "What? No, of course not!"

Lobell shot out of his chair and yelled, "Objection, Your Honor!"

"Order in the court," The judge shouted while banging his gavel. Once there was order again, he looked at Lobell and stated, "Sustained. That question will be removed from the records. Do you have any further questions, Mr. Hartwick?"

"Yes, just a few more, Your Honor."

Blair's gaze followed Hartwick as the man pace back and forth a few times before he returned to Jim and glared at him. "You've hit your wife before, haven't you Mr. Ellison?" he accused.

"I have never hit-"

"You are under oath, Mr. Ellison."

Jim looked to his wife in disbelief. Seeing the hurt flash across his face, Blair found himself gripping his chair to stop himself from jumping up and rushing to his lover's side.

"No, I have never hit my wife."

"You've never pushed her or -- grabbed -- her in any way when you were angry."

Blair's heart quickened when Jim hesitated, looked down at his lap and close his eyes briefly. "Okay, once I grabbed her arm, but that-"

"No further questions, Your Honor." Hartwick returned to his table and sat down, giving Carolyn a smug grin.

Trying to do some damage control, Lobell stated that he wanted to ask his client a few question. Once that was finished, Jim returned to his seat and Blair shifted a little closer to the detective. Placing an unobtrusive hand on Jim's knee, Blair gently squeezed in reassurance, hoping that his lover would understand that he was trying to comfort him. Looking at Jim out of the corner of his eye, Blair saw a little nod and he knew that the message was received.

It was Blair's turn at the stand next. As he pushed his chair back and got up, he heard Jim whisper, "Everything will be okay, Chief." But as he walked across the courtroom floor, Blair wasn't so certain. At the moment, things didn't seem to be going well for their side and he couldn't shake the feeling that it was going to get a whole lot worse once he was questioned by Hartwick. He didn't want to screw things up for Jim. He wanted to do a convincing job answering his questions in hopes that the judge would side with them and the detective would get his money.

Mr. Lobell was the first to question him and they basically went over what he did for a living, how he and Jim met and how the giving of the lottery winnings had transpired. The lawyer did his best to show that Blair was an honest, admirable man who wasn't out to trick Jim out of his money.

"No further questions, Your Honor." Lobell said, returning to his seat.

Blair watched in apprehension as Hartwick approached him. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't stop the feeling of dread that gnawed at him and he felt his gut tighten into a huge knot.

Slowly moving toward Blair, Hartwick cleared his throat a few times before saying, "Mr. Sandburg, could you please describe your financial circumstances before Mr. Ellison was kind enough to offer you the money from his wife's winning ticket."

"I was struggling to makes ends meet," Blair replied.

"Isn't it a fact that you owed twelve thousand dollars on your credit card?"

Swallowing hard, Blair took a deep breath and answered, "Well, that was because my ex-boyfriend- "

"Please just answer yes or know."

"Technically, yes." The dread in Blair began to rise and he quickly added, "But that's not because I had over spent- "

"And isn't it also a fact," Hartwick said, interrupting him again, "that you filed for bankruptcy on the very day that Mr. Ellison offered to split the ticket with you?"

"Yes." Blair nodded then looked at Jim with a little smile and said quietly, "But that was just fate."

With a roll of his eyes, Hartwick gave a portentous little grunt. "Yeah, right. Fate."

"I believe it was fate that Jim walked into the diner that day- "

Hartwick cut Blair off yet again when he asked, "What was your relationship with Mr. Ellison at the time he offered to -- uh -- share his wife's ticket?"

"I had never met him before."

"Oh really," the lawyer replied, purposely sounding unconvinced.

"Yes, really."

"Well, then describe your relationship with Mr. Ellison today."

Blair frowned and shifted in his seat. "We're friends."

Moving closer, Hartwick leaned both hands on the witness box and glared at Blair. "Mr. Sandburg, do I have to remind you that you are under oath?"

"No."

"Answer the question," the lawyer demanded.

Biting his lower lip, Blair glanced at Jim and felt a calm wash over him when he saw the detective smile slightly and nod. Not looking away, Blair smiled softly and answered. "I love him more than anything in the whole world."

"Which is why you went running off to the Windsor Court Hotel with him on the very day that he separated from his wife."

"Objection!" Lobell quickly interrupted and demanded, "What is the relevancy of this?"

"Motivation," Hartwick quickly answered.

"What motivation?" asked Lobell. "Ms. Plummer was the one who demanded a divorce and when asked to leave the home, she agreed. Besides, the marriage was in complete disarray."

"Overruled," the judge declared.

Not being able to keep quiet any longer, Blair spoke up, "If you're implying what I think you're implying- "

"Mr. Sandburg..." the judge warned, giving Blair a stern look.

Blair turned to the judge and avowed, "Well, he's trying to make me into some kind of gold digger, which I'm not."

"Mr. Sandburg. Please, control yourself," Hartwick said, sounding annoyed.

Looking back to Hartwick, Blair glared at him, his voice angry, "I've worked most of my life, since the age of sixteen, and finally something wonderful happens. I met a man," his voice suddenly softened, "a man who is intelligent and kind and full of compassion. Just the experience of knowing him has changed my life and it's not because of the money. It's because he made me believe again that people are fundamentally decent." His voice rose, sounding angry again when he added, "and I'll be damned if I'm going to sit here and let some lawyer make our relationship look ugly- "

Once again Hartwick interrupted Blair. "No more questions, your honor."

"You may step down, Mr. Sandburg," the judge told Blair and once he was seated, announced, "Court will adjourn for thirty minutes."

Blair stayed in his seat while the courtroom emptied. He knew he shouldn't have spoken out of line, but he just couldn't sit back and ignore that Hartwick was turning what he and Jim had into something awful. Unfortunately, his outburst probably really screwed up Jim's chance of winning. Blair groaned. Damn it! He should have kept his mouth shut!

"Blair?" A light touch to his shoulder brought him out of his thoughts and he looked up at Jim, who was standing beside him. "Come on. Let's go get some coffee while we wait."

"Yeah, okay." Jim helped Blair slide his chair back and when he got up, the detective took him by the hand. They followed their lawyer out a side door and into a small room.

"Can we have a few minutes alone?" Jim asked Lobell.

"Sure," Lobell agreed. "I'll be back in ten minutes."

When they were alone, Jim walked over to a table that was set up along one wall, poured them each a coffee and returned to Blair's side.

"Here, Chief." Jim handed Blair his cup.

"Thanks." Lifting the coffee cup to his lips, Blair took a small sip. "Thirty minutes doesn't seem like a very long time for the judge to make a decision."

"He may have already come to a verdict, but wants some time to go over everything."

"I ruined everything, haven't I, Jim?" When the detective moved toward him, Blair took a little step back and shook his head.

"Hey." Placing his cup down on the small round conference table, Jim reached out, removed Blair's cup from his hand and put it next to his own. "Come here." Jim opened his arms and after a brief hesitation, Blair fell into them, sighing heavily. "God, I've wanted to hold you since the second I walked through that door this morning and saw you sitting there." Hugging Blair a little tighter, he said, "You haven't ruined anything. As long as I have you, that's all that matters."

Snuggling into the strong chest, Blair soaked up the warmth from the man who held him; it felt so incredibly good being in Jim's embrace once again. "But all that money. It's not fair that you have to lose it because of me."

Jim grasped Blair by the shoulders and moved him back a bit, giving him a gentle shake. "We've been over this before. I don't care about the damn money. I thought you knew that."

"I do." Blair nodded. "But -- there's a part of me that thinks you'll hate me if you lose it all. Think of all the things you could do with that kind of money."

"Chief, enough about the money, please." Jim turned away and began to pace. "God, I'm sick of it."

A knock on the door interrupted them. Lobell opened the door and walked into the room. After pouring himself some coffee, he sat down at the conference table, indicating that Jim and Blair should do the same.

"What do you think Jim's chance is at winning?" Blair asked.

"Judge Cassell is a fair and honest judge. He'll make his best decision based on the facts and what the law requires. All we can do is present our case to the best of our abilities," Lobell replied.

The door that led to the courtroom opened and a bailiff stuck his head inside. "Please come back in and sit down. Court is about to resume."

The three men stood and quietly made their way into the courtroom. Once the room was full and everyone seated, the bailiff announced. "This court is now in session. Please rise."

Blair got to his feet with the rest of the people and watched as Judge Cassell entered, stepped up to his bench and sat down. "Please have a seat." He waited until everyone was seated before he continued, "Although I do sympathize with both parties, I am ruling in favor of Ms Plummer."

Tilting his head back slightly, Blair closed his eyes, rubbing his hands across his face.

"This court is dismissed." For the final time, the judge picked up his gavel and banged it down on the wood.

Blair could hear Carolyn cry out in happiness. Something inside of him snapped and he had to get out of there immediately. Jumping up from his seat, Blair rushed past Jim and Lobell. As he pushed his way through the crowd to the main courtroom door, Blair could hear Jim calling him, but he didn't stop. Not thinking clearly, he irrationally believed that he had ruined Jim's life. How could the detective ever want to be with him now?

He was met with a mass of reporters and flashing cameras when he entered the hall. Ducking his head, Blair quickly pressed through them, ignoring the questions that were thrown his way. Making it outside the main courthouse doors, Blair hurried down the stone steps toward a waiting taxi. He heard Jim call out again as he was shutting the car door. When the taxi pulled away from the curb, Blair risked a glance back and saw the detective standing on the sidewalk, frantically waving his hands. Turning to face the front, Blair rested his head back against the seat and dug his fingers into his eyes to forestall the tears that threatened to fall.


It had been two days since the trial and Jim hadn't seen Blair. And it wasn't from lack of trying on his part. Jim desperately wanted to see him, talk to him, but the waiter just seemed to have disappeared. He had gone to Blair's warehouse and the university but no one had seen him. Many times he had driven by the diner, parked out front and listened for the familiar heartbeat, but the only sound he was met with was silence. He had even gone so far as to look up Megan's home address while he was at the precinct. When he had driven to her house, he found out that Blair wasn't there either. After speaking with Megan, he discovered that Blair hadn't made any attempts to contact her and she was extremely worried.

Having felt restless all evening, Jim could no longer stay at the loft. Grabbing his keys, he headed out the door to his truck. He drove aimlessly around for a few hours and somehow found himself back at the diner once again. Earlier it had started to rain heavily, so it took a few seconds for a familiar sound to suddenly catch his attention over the drum of the rain on the truck roof. Quickly, he dialed up his hearing to confirm that what he heard was correct. Tilting his head to the side, Jim filtered out the sound of the rain and concentrated on the other source, praying that his senses weren't playing tricks on him.

"Oh, thank God." Jim released a heavy sigh and wearily dropped his head against the fingers that were clutching the top of the steering wheel. Removing the keys from the ignition, he hopped out of the truck and ran across the wet street to the diner. The inside was dark, but when he pushed on the front door, it opened easily.

Slowly, he walked inside, his ears picking up the beloved heartbeat. Dialing up sight, Jim could see Blair sitting in one of the window seat booths.

"Blair," Jim said softly.

For a few seconds, there was no response. Finally a quiet voice whispered, "Go away."

Reaching toward the wall, Jim flipped on a light switch, casting the diner in a soft glow. He took a few steps in Blair's direction but stopped when his friend quickly got up and moved to the other side of the room.

"No," Blair held up a hand before turning his back on him, "you don't want to be with me."

"What are you talking about?" Jim asked incredulously, taking a few steps closer. "I love you. Of course I want to be with you."

Blair spun around, his voice loud when he said, "Don't you get it? I ruined you're life."

"Are you crazy?" Jim shook his head. "These past couple of days without you -- it felt like half of me was missing."

"You won four million dollars. Do you know what an amazing gift that is? Now, because of me, you have nothing." Blair's voice broke.

"Because of you..." Jim paused, "I have everything." He made the final step to position himself in front of Blair, placing his hand on the waiter's arms. "Why can't you understand that? If you don't want me then that's different. If you don't want me then I'll walk out that door," he nodded toward the exit, "and you'll never see me again. But please -- please stop talking about the money. It means nothing to me," he said desperately, his voice cracking as he spoke. Jim released Blair's arms and took a step back. He sucked in a shaky breath before releasing it and asking, "Do you want me to go?"

There was a slight pause then Blair slowly shook his head. "No," he whispered before clearing his throat and repeating more firmly, "No!" Taking a small step forward, he threw himself at Jim, wrapping his arms around his neck. "Never want you to go," he said into Jim's ear before kissing it lightly. They pulled back a little and Blair looked up into his eyes, a warm smile creeping across his lips. "No one has ever loved me the way you do. I love you so much, Jim."

Cupping Blair's face in his hands, Jim dipped his head and kissed him lovingly. Pulling his lover closer, Jim trailed his mouth down his lover's neck to his shoulder, reveling in the taste of the salty skin. Burying his nose in the soft curly hair, the sentinel inhaled deeply, cataloguing the wonderful smells of shampoo and Blair's natural scent. With a contented sigh, he said, "I love you, too."

Sliding his hands up Blair's arms, Jim rested them on his shoulders and stepped back so he could look into the dark blue eyes. "No more running away! We're in this together, for better or worse! It's too painful for me to be apart from you, Chief. I can't do this again-"

"Okay, okay." Blair blinked rapidly, and pressed a hand against Jim's cheek. "I'm sorry. Sometimes I'm so -- emotional. I do love you but I felt so guilty for me being the cause of the trouble. But I understand now. I'm sorry, Jim, and I swear it won't happen again. For a moment, after the verdict, I felt so -- unhappy about how unfair things were. For you, not for myself. But..." Blair smiled softly, "I understand," he repeated. "I haven't felt that miserable in my entire life, being separated from you and it won't happen again. I promise."

Returning the smile, Jim ran his knuckles along Blair's cheek. "Good, because I don't want to ever be without you again."

"You won't," Blair responded and turned his head to kiss Jim's hand.

"Will you move in with me?" Jim asked a little hesitantly

Blair's smile lit up the room and Jim grinned as well. "God, yes!" He laughed happily.

Sliding his arms around his guide's waist, Jim took his lips in a long, passionate kiss. Finally parting, he said, "I want to help you with your debts. I have some money put away, so we can use that to get you back on your feet again."

"Oh, Jim, I can't let you do that."

"Yes, you can. Your problems are my problems now, Chief. We'll tackle them together."

"I don't know what to say."

"Just say yes."

Blair paused for a moment, gazing up at Jim with bright eyes. "Yes," he replied and hugged Jim, snuggling against his chest.

Embracing Blair tightly, Jim's hands gently stroked up and down his lover's back.

Suddenly, there was a knock at the door and they turned to see a black man in old tattered clothes standing shivering in the rain, motioning with his hands that he'd like something to eat.

"He looks hungry," Blair said.

Jim nodded. "Why don't we invite him in?"

"Okay. I'll go warm up some soup." Blair hurried into the kitchen while Jim walked to the door to let the man inside.

"Come in, please." He led the man to a table and gestured for him to sit down. "It's a nasty night out there."

"It sure is," the man replied. Drops of water dripped from his long tangled hair and onto his baggy clothes and face. Lifting a hand, he brushed the moisture away from his eyes.

"Let me go and see if I can find something to help you dry off." Jim checked behind the counter, finding some hand towels on one of the shelves. He grabbed a handful and with a smile, handed them to the man. "Here you go."

"Thanks, buddy." He took a towel and began wiping away the rain from his skin and clothes. A few minutes later, Blair returned with a tray filled with bowls of steaming soup plus crackers and coffee for three.

"This should do the trick," Blair said, placing the hot steaming food in front of the hungry man.

"What's your name?" Jim asked once he was seated between Blair and the now slightly dryer man.

"Angel," the man replied.

"It's nice to meet you, Angel," Blair responded. "I'm Blair and that's Jim." He pointed his spoon in Jim's direction and they exchanged friendly smiles.

"Nice to meet you, too," Angel said. "Thanks for letting an old man in. I know it's past closing. Appreciate the food."

"Hey, don't worry about it. It's no problem." Seeing the man shiver slightly, Blair said, "Why don't you take off that wet coat and let me find you something dryer to wear. There are a few jackets in the storage room that customers have left behind, and were never claimed." Blair left the room and a few minutes later returned with a large rain jacket.

Angel stood up, slipped off his wet coat and pulled on the jacket. "Thanks, man."

They ate and over hot cups of coffee, the three men talked for a long while. Angel finally rose and started to leave. Blair bid him good night and began clearing the table. When Jim rose to help him, Blair nudged Jim's arm and cocked his head toward their new friend. Jim looked confused for a moment before Blair elbowed him again.

"Jim, man. It's a crappy night out."

"Oh! Right!" Jim hurried toward the door, calling, "Hey, Angel, wait a sec." Pulling out his wallet, he pressed a twenty into the man's hand. "Get yourself a bed over at Sunny's on Eighteenth and Grover. Tell them Ellison sent you. Ernie will let you have a room for ten bucks."

Angel's face brightened and he smiled. "You're a good sort."

Jim shrugged and after Angel left with a final wave, he locked the door. He sighed happily when arms slid around his waist from behind to squeeze him gently.

"Softy," Blair said approvingly.

Jim shrugged and turned in the embrace to kiss Blair gently.


It had been three days since Jim had found Blair at the diner and during that time they had moved Blair's stuff into the loft. Jim had suggested that they turn the room under the stairs in to a space where Blair could study and work on his computer. Blair loved the idea and had thanked Jim by kissing him thoroughly then he'd pushed him down onto the small bed to show him just how grateful he was.

Having spent most of the morning in another lovemaking session, Blair now sat next to Jim at the kitchen table, sipping coffee and staring at the front page of the Cascade Journal daily newspaper.

"Can you believe it?" Blair asked with a little shake of his head. "I never would have guessed he was a reporter."

"He had me fooled, too, Chief."

"I wonder why he did it," Blair said in a voice that held no trace of resentment, just curiosity. Unable to resist the article once again, Blair put his glasses back on and read:

Award Winning Reporter Admits Failure! By Francoise "Angel" Dupuis

*Amidst the pouring rain and freezing cold, this reporter discovered that there are still Good Samaritans left in the world. Trying to expose Cascade's newest celebrities as frauds and/or gold diggers, I disguised myself as a homeless man, an "urban outdoorsman" if you will. It was well past closing time when I knocked on the darkened doorway of The Cozy Kitchen Caf, I was admitted by a rather daunting gentleman who ushered me into the warm, dry eating establishment and bid me to sit. Another gentleman who had been present when I knocked had disappeared when I entered, so I wasn't sure what to expect. The first greeter, a man of few words to whom I later was introduced to as "Jim", found me a few towels with which to attempt to dry my rather damp countenance.*

To my surprise, the second fellow joined us a few minutes later, bearing a tray burdened with steaming bowls of food and strong, black coffee. Nirvana to this chilled reporter after several hours in the cold rain. After introducing himself as "Blair", the friendly man sat down with us and we all enjoyed a bit of repast.

Two hours later, after several pots of good coffee, I took my leave. As I put on my newly acquired, dry jacket that was given to me by the kind gentleman named Blair, and walked to the door, my new friends had a nudging contest while clearing the table. A few moments later, Jim approached me and pressed a modest sum of money into my palm, along with instructions on where to find a dry haven for the night. I bid my dinner companions adieu and disappeared into the stormy blackness.

Of course, all of my faithful readers recognize about whom I write. Detective James Ellison and Blair Sandburg made headlines for several days during and following Mr. Ellison's fortuitous lottery award when Mr. Ellison revealed that he'd pledged half of his winnings to a waiter at The Cozy Kitchen. Seems Mr. Ellison was short on cash and unable to pay his bill. After explaining that he had spent his last readily-available cash on a lottery ticket, he made a handshake agreement with his waiter, Blair Sandburg, to share any funds that he would be awarded should he win that night's large drawing. As fate would have it, Mr. Ellison did indeed possess one of the lucky tickets and was awarded four millions dollars.

True to his word, Mr. Ellison did share his good fortune with the lucky waiter, who was presented with two million dollars for his faith in his fellow man. Unfortunately for Mr. Ellison, who was suffering through divorce proceedings at the time, his former wife was successful in having the judge set aside Mr. Sandburg's claim and return a decision that awarded the entire sum to the former Mrs. Ellison, now known as Carolyn Plummer. Ms. Plummer refused to honor Mr. Ellison's pledge in spite of the fact that Mr. Ellison waived his rights to any portion of his legal half of the winnings in open court to Ms. Plummer, thereby granting Ms. Plummer a tidy sum of two million dollars. Perhaps because of the shortness of Ms. Plummer's skirt that afternoon, Judge Arnold Cassell saw fit to award Ms. Plummer the entire sum of four million to her on the grounds that Mr. Ellison had purchased the lottery ticket for Ms. Plummer, and further found that Mr. Ellison not entitled to anything for his time and trouble. Being an honorable sort of fellow, Mr. Ellison has decided not to appeal Ms. Plummer's somewhat one-sided claims and disappeared into the everyday man's working world.

Curious about Mr. Ellison and Mr. Sandburg's claims in open court, I conducted my own investigation into the character of these two men, the results of which the reader was informed earlier in these paragraphs.

Not one to present personal observations in my reporting, I find I must do so under these circumstances. I was pleasantly surprised to find not a pair of unscrupulous con artists trying to squeeze wealth from an unsuspecting, guileless victim, but a pair of fine, upstanding citizens who honestly presented their case in court, and were meted out justice of the foulest kind. Rather than submit to the legal system's sometimes unbalanced decisions, Mr. Ellison and Mr. Sandburg went back to their humble lives, and are working hard to make their own way in this world. As for Ms. Plummer, the fates will decide.

Just as Blair finished reading, there was a knock at the door. Jim motioned for him to stay put while he got up to answer it. "Yes?" Jim asked the uniformed postal carrier.

"Mr. Ellison?" the man asked.

At the mention of Jim's name, Blair hurried to his partner's side.

Jim nodded and replied, "Yes, that's me."

"These are for you." The postal worker slid two large canvas bags toward Jim.

With a frown, Jim pointed at the bags and asked, "What is this?"

"Mail, sir." The postman smiled.

"There must be some mistake," Jim stated, glancing at Blair, who shrugged and waved a hand to indicate that he had no idea what was going on.

"You are Mr. James Ellison?" the man asked again.

"Yes."

"Then there's no mistake. Have a good day." With a grin, the postman turned and left.

For a few seconds Jim and Blair stood, staring at the stuffed bags until Blair spoke up. "Well, I guess we should open one and see what's inside."

"Uh -- Yeah, good idea, Chief." Jim chuckled and Blair playfully swatted at his arm.

Together they dragged the bags inside and Blair helped Jim lift one onto the kitchen table. After untying the string at the top of the bag, Blair pulled it open. They both picked it up and dumped the contents out onto the table.

"Whoa!" Blair exclaimed when he saw all the envelopes. Upon closer inspection, he noticed that they were addressed to both he and Jim. "There must be hundreds of letters here."

Picking one up, Jim tore it open. "There's five dollars in here and a note."

"What?" Blair asked, astounded.

Jim passed him the money, then read the note out loud. "There should be more people like you in the world." Sending Blair a stunned expression, Jim reached into the pile and pulled out another envelope. "This one has ten dollars in it and the note says -- You are an example to all of us."

"Oh, man." Blair ran his fingers through his hair. "What is going on?"

"I don't know, but it looks like all of these are for us." Jim waved a hand over the pile of letters.

"Oh, my God." Bair began to laugh. "This is unbelievable."


For the next four days, mail for Jim and Blair arrived at the loft. When they had finished opening every envelope and had added up the total of cash and checks, the citizens of Cascade had given them a $600,000 tip.

They didn't feel right about keeping all the money and wanted to somehow help the citizens that had opened their hearts to them with such generosity. They used a portion of the money to pay off Blair's debts and to buy the diner. With the remainder, they donated it to various men's and women's homeless shelters and other community charities that they both thought were in desperate need of help.

Earlier in the day, they had agreed that they wanted to thank everyone who had so graciously helped them. Knowing that it was impossible to send each person an individual thank you note, Jim and Blair wrote one note and had gotten in touch with Angel Dupuis asking if he'd post it in the Cascade Journal. The journalist happily agreed and let them know it would be in the next day's paper.

The rest of the afternoon was spent at home snuggled on the sofa watching a Jags game and enjoying one another's company.

Just around dinnertime, Jim disappeared upstairs to his bedroom and when he returned, he was dressed in his best dark blue suit. Blair couldn't stop his jaw from dropping open at the sight that his gorgeous lover presented in the suit and tie. He questioned his lover about what was going on, but Jim simply gave Blair a tender smile and asked him to change into his own suit. Once Blair was ready, Jim took him by the hand and led him out to the truck. Twenty minutes later, they were pulling up in front of the same intimate restaurant that Jim had brought Blair to the night they had met on the yacht. Sliding out of the truck, Blair walked up to his sentinel and kissed him tenderly, telling him how he wished it had been a first date all those weeks ago. Jim gave him a sexy smile and told him that his wish had just come true.

It was a magical evening of dinner, dancing and conversation -- an evening that Blair would never forget. When they returned home, Jim silently guided him up to their bedroom, removed both of their clothing and made slow, passionate love to Blair.

Lying in bed afterward, feeling totally sated and surrounded by Jim's loving embrace, Blair's heart burst with happiness. A few weeks ago, he never imagined that he could be as happy as he was at this moment. When a gentle kiss was placed on the top of his head, Blair smiled and suddenly realized that fairy tales could really come true for people like him. Especially if they had a partner as wonderful as James Ellison beside them.


End

The Start Of Something Real by Ankaree: ankaree@gmail.com
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